Willow Hill Vineyards2005 Merlot Icewine
Willow Hill is the smallest of the three Canadian wineries that make icewine exclusively, except when mild winters force them to make late harvest wines instead. Since its first vintage in 2001, Willow Hill has succeeded with icewine every year but 2002.
As if that business plan is not tough enough, Lanny Swanky and Patricia Venables, the owners of Willow Hill, set themselves another challenge by planting five acres of Merlot and only 100 vines of Riesling. Merlot is not a traditional icewine grape because, unlike Riesling, Vidal or Cabernet Franc, it tends to fall off the vines when harvest is delayed. Fortunately, the icewine harvests in British Columbia often occur before Christmas and seldom later than mid-January.
The 2005 icewine harvest was before Christmas. Willow Hill (and its compatriots) picked grapes that were sound and healthy. That shows in the exceptionally clean aromas and flavours of this wine. It begins with an appealing garnet hue in the glass. There are aromas of crabapples and strawberry jam. The palate is rich, with flavours of black currant jam that coat the palate. There is enough acidity to balance the significant sweetness – 243 grams of residual sugar per litre. The wine coats the tongue and the finish is quite seductive. 91 points.
Reviewed January 8, 2007 by John Schreiner.
John Schreiner has been covering the wines of British Columbia for the past 30 years and has written 10 books on the wines of Canada and BC. He has judged at major competitions and is currently a panel member for the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards of Excellence in Wine. Both as a judge and as a wine critic, he approaches each wine not to find fault, but to find excellence. That he now finds the latter more often than the former testifies to the dramatic improvement shown by BC winemaking in the past decade.