The challenge with many people in the wine business is that they start treating wine as art and forgetting that it is a business. In and of itself there’s nothing wrong with viewing wine as art, but when it interferes with a business’ ability to remain fiscally viable then the vision needs to change. This has never been a problem for the wise folks at Haywire who manage to blend art and function in virtually every endeavor they create: Lunar New Year wines being the example today.

Haywire Winery label art

When I first heard that someone was crafting a special release for the Lunar New Year I thought “Capitalism at its finest; these folks are just chasing the market” which, really, isn’t such a bad thing if it’s done well. China is now poised to be the largest consumer of wine on the planet… who wouldn’t want a piece of that?!

But as my step-family is Cantonese I cringed inwardly. I had visions of ginger-infused syrupy sadness lacking depth beyond Beaujolais Nouveau and tasting more of my morning ginseng tea. I couldn’t have been any further from the truth. Here are wines that any winemaker would be proud to put his/her name to and showcase not only varietal correctness but also speak in sophisticated ways of their terroir. Truly finessed, each of them, I was a bit humbled and started my due diligence in researching just what this could portend: after all, it was only a few years ago that one of the most highly regarded houses of Bordeaux put a Chinese symbol on its bottle.

It caused a wave of sales that outstripped anything conceived.

So the savvy craftsmen at Haywire decide to follow, but, in an unexpected way; you see, this is one of their first releases and it’s for the “Year of the Sheep”. This is considered a very unlucky year by many Asians and this is especially true for children’s birth years and business. Creating a new wine is certainly like a kind of “birth” and this is most definitely business, so why do it? It wouldn’t be the first time a winery created a release on only certain years.

"Lucky Money" from Canada in the Year-of-the-Sheep

“Lucky Money” from Canada in the Year-of-the-Sheep

Well as I pondered this I looked at my 8-month old son who was helping me with this article *(all punctuation is his, not mine). Adam is half Italian and half Irish; his Italian family name actually meaning “sheep” in their dialect. It seemed to me, in that moment, that sheep were actually very lucky for some people like me. And I got past the nay-sayers who conjecture doom and gloom at every corner and found the beauty of the “Year of the Sheep”.

Loyalty. That’s a quality to those born in this lunar year. So is generosity. And kindness. Hard for me to imagine bestowing those traits just because of the month they’re born in, but, I’ve heard crazier explanations for the cosmos before.

And I went back to the wines I was making notes on: so filled with generosity of flavor, brimming with “loyal” representation of the grape and the land and with very “kind” pricing… and so it seems, to this writer, that 2015 will be one lucky “Year of the Sheep”.

Haywire 2012 “Lunar New Year Red”

Haywire 2012 “Lunar New Year Red”

Haywire 2012 “Lunar New Year Red”

A blend of Gamay Noir and a small amount of Syrah
89+ points, Very Good Value
$22.90 in BC (typically less in the US)

… to get this quality in Gamay Noir from Beaujolais in the south of Burgundy one would need to invest more then $23 CAD and invest it wisely. This wine carries rich aromas of warm earth, dark cocoa, stewing blackberry/plum/raspberry and the hint of Schezuan peppercorn on the finish (thank-you Syrah). The bright, full, fresh palate carries lively medium+ currant acids that titillate the tastebuds and are a brilliant way to start any meal or simply enjoy on their own as the guests are arriving. The medium fine/slightly grippy tannin carry their weight deceptively as they are finessed well beyond the price-point of the wine and deliver a performance more in line with wines twice the cost. This is a wine that at the same time will impress the ardent connoisseur in your midst and be perfect for the friend who “really is more of a beer person” – or so they say.

Food pairing options abound from ginger and lemongrass infused beef/pork to the salty treat of soya crispy skin duck; the bold red and black fruit tones will balance salt and yet the warm earthy/spice/pepper tones will delight in bringing balance to Asian flavors. Meant for consuming now (Stelvin enclosure) this wine can age well for several years but will not develop in bottle. Enjoy 2014-2017

Haywire 2013 “Lunar New Year White”

Haywire 2013 “Lunar New Year White”

Haywire 2013 “Lunar New Year White”

A blend of Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Viognier
$19.90 in BC

… this might be the prettiest wine I tried in 2014! Whilst normally this style isn’t a “go-to-wine” for me, this particular blend is impressive on many levels: aroma, balance, structure and value. The aromas are seductively layered with notes of lychee fruit, pink grapefruit, honey and exotic flowers… it’s an incredibly easy wine to want to drink which brings me to the palate. The balance and structure are absolutely flawless for under $20; bright/fresh/zippy medium+ lemon and grapefruit acid dance in unison.

This wine loves south Asian flavors: Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai… coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass and galangal all delight in the nuanced levels here. Which brings me to value: STUNNING. Want a blend like this from outside of BC? Firstly I don’t know any region blending these varietals but secondly something similar would start at $25 and work its way up… buy a few extra bottles as this gem will easily last a few years in the cellar/wine-fridge if you can resist.

Many thanks to Haywire Wines and their PR firm TownHall Brands (townhallbrands.com) for taking the time and expense to send these lovely wines to me.

As always you can find more recipes, free wine reviews and my notes

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About Author


Kristof Gillese: trained chef, certified wine steward, journalist and proud father. In these articles it is the human story that takes priority: to tell the tale of common people accomplishing uncommon goals. In the world of wine these tales are prolific. It has been Chef Kristofs privilege to have worked with luminaries such as Pierre-Henry Gagey of Maison Jadot, Nik Weis of St Urbans-Hof, Ray Signorello of Signorello Estates and Ezra Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery; leaders in the industry. With almost 3 decades of experience working with the synergy between food and wine, Chef Kristof is proud to share the stories of these amazing stewards of the land. These articles are written with a profound reverence for the family aspect to winery culture as, to this writers understanding, nothing has ever had a more far-reaching effect than the love and devotion for a parent to a child. All great wineries are built by parents for their children and it is because of this that Chef Kristof writes.
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