The folks at Dirty Laundry are marketing geniuses.
They have their own unique story — namely, that the current site of the winery used to be home to a laundromat that illicitly doubled as a brothel during the Gold Rush era — and they stick to it with rigorous discipline in absolutely everything they do, from their wine names to their label art, winery decor to gift shop souvenirs (yes, there’s a gift shop). All of their production and sales efforts are relentlessly to brand, and the secretly naughty tale of the brand generates a lot of interest; before my recent trip to the Okanagan, DL was one of the places I was told I absolutely had to see. So one day we ventured out to Summerland, a half hour southwest of Kelowna, and drove up (and up, and up) a series of winding backcountry roads until we found it, high up in the hills above the town overlooking the Lake. We were treated to a thoroughly modern tasting room, with a brand new gorgeous outdoor patio (complete with giant clothespins and lingerie gently swaying in the breeze) and an amazing view of the surrounding area. However, amidst all the winks to its shady past and seamless self-promotion, Dirty Laundry got slack about one thing: the wine.
I was a little disappointed to discover that the grand majority of DL’s vines aren’t actually grown anywhere near the winery; all their reds are grown much further south, right near the US border, to benefit from the warmer temperatures. I didn’t get to taste a Gewurztraminer while I was there, but I bought a bottle to take home for two reasons: first, because the grapes were actually grown on the estate (which for some reason mattered to me more than it probably should), and second because Gewurz appeared to be a Dirty Laundry specialty. DL makes three different Gewurztraminers in varying styles: the Threadbare Gewurz is a lighter, crisper rendition of the grape (as oxymoronic as that sounds), the Woo Woo Gewurz is somewhere in the middle, and tonight’s wine, the Madam’s Vines Gewurz, is DL’s richest, fullest, sweetest incarnation of the varietal. I picked the Madam’s Vines because Gewurz to me is the ultimate “go big or go home” grape — it’s built to be lush and full and in your face, so I thought it was the best way to see what this producer had to offer.
On first pour I was immediately worried: unlike most Gewurztraminers, which more often than not are a deep lurid golden colour, this one was a pale, thin lemon/straw. If this was the Madam’s Vine, I have no idea what the Threadbare would have looked like. Also operating against type was the nose, which was not overly intense or aromatic — I had to sniff hard to pick up aromas, which is extremely odd for Gewurz (compare that to this prior review of an older Gewurztraminer from Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, France, where I could literally smell flavours leaping out of the glass when it was a foot from my nose). The aromas I got included the grape’s trademark lychee and floral notes, as well as tropical fruit, a smell I can best describe as “seashore” and a slightly soapy (though not in a bad way) aroma on the tail end. On the palate, the Madam’s Vines was noticeably disjointed: it started out very quiet, with little flavour or texture presenting itself, and then partway through each sip the wine’s viscosity, alcohol and sugar suddenly kicked in and made themselves known with authority before fading away just as quickly at the finish. It wasn’t a total runaway due to the presence of some balancing acidity, but it was still a bit of a rollercoaster. The alcohol (a huge 14.6%, super big for a Canadian white) also heated up the finish after the other flavours had dissipated. Those flavours included the same tropical/briny mix showing on the nose, mixed with a strong banana flavour that stood out from the pack.
I can’t decide whether this Gewurz was a near miss that didn’t quite come together or a total train wreck. It’s like everything necessary to make it a good wine was almost there, but nothing was settled and everything was just a touch out of place. It wasn’t that the whole of the wine wasn’t the sum of its parts; it’s that there WAS no sum of its parts. There were just parts. And at the end of the day, that’s not good enough.
$20 to $25 CDN