The food and drink industry is nothing new to the Riga’s. They opened The Port Bistro-Pub in Matt’s hometown of Trenton in the summer of 2011. The restaurant quickly became popular with both locals and tourists. Having always enjoyed a nice glass of wine, the two made day trips to the Prince Edward County region regularly on their days off. The more they observed and helped in the wineries and vineyards the more they began to dream of one day owning their own winery, tending to their own grapes, and making their own wine. After three years of restaurant life, the pair decided it was time to make a change.
Longing to return to Vancouver Island and wanting to start a family, Matt and Natalie Riga sold their restaurant and purchased Chateau Wolff Estate in January 2014. Moving to Nanaimo in August of 2014 after the birth of their daughter Siena, they hit the ground running for the harvest that year. Luckily their time spent in Prince Edward County brought about a connection with their winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois. Mackenzie is a graduate of the University of Guelph and Niagara College who has worked with Pinot Noir in South Africa, New Zealand and Ontario. She had been an assistant winemaker at Norman Hardy Winery, Matt and Natalie’s favourite Prince Edward County winery. Mackenzie saw the couple through their first year, teaching them the ins and outs of vineyard management and winemaking. 2015 saw the couple’s first harvest as a husband and wife team and they are excited for what is to come.
Chateau Wolff Estate Winery and Vineyard is located on Maxey Road in the Jingle Pot area of Nanaimo. The five-acre organic vineyard boasts some of the oldest vines on Vancouver Island. Planted by Harry Von Wolff in the early nineties, Chateau Wolff grows predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. About 70 percent of the estate’s vines are Pinot Noir. A sub-section vineyard located across the road contains Viognier, Siegerrebe and Bacchus. The protection of Mount Benson, a south facing slope, and large rock face help to contribute to the unique micro-climate.
The boutique winery produces Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, a White Blend and a fortified red called Rouge. The winemaking approach is focused on growing high-quality grapes that speak for themselves. Minimalist intervention and traditional old world methods see it through to bottle. The 2014 vintage was about 300 cases and is sold out. In 2015, they have raised production to about 550 cases.
Matt and Natalie were very positive about the 2015 vintage wines. “We were blessed with a phenomenal growing season in 2015. We doubled our yields in every single varietal that we grow on our property, which was wonderful. The challenge lay in the fact that we almost ran out of tanks during fermentation! ”
- Chateau Wolff Estate 2014 Chardonnay. The wine is mineral driven in the style of Chablis, but reinforced by rich new French oak. 11.5% alcohol, only 25 cases produced and almost sold out.
Chateau Wolff Estate 2015 Viognier Blend. A medium bodied Viognier with notes of white peach, grapefruit, honeysuckle and melon on the nose with round, mouth filling texture. A touch of Siegerrebe and Bacchus grapes adds complexity and fruit to the palate. A very versatile wine that pairs especially well with seafood. 11.5% alcohol, 110 cases produced.
- Chateau Wolff Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Light to medium body, medium tannins, and a bouquet of berries, plum and violet. Aged in French oak for nine months, the Pinot has good intensity on the palate and the fine tannins give it a silky texture.5% alcohol
- Chateau Wolff Estate 2014 Syrah. The Syrah grapes were purchased from Naramata Bench vineyards. Medium body, medium tannins, crisp acidity, a bouquet of dark fruit, floral, eucalyptus and leather. 13.5% alcohol 67 cases produced
- Chateau Wolff Estate 2014 Rouge. Fortified wine made from estate-grown Dornfelder grapes 18.5% alcohol 45 cases produced.
Plans for the future
I recently had the opportunity to discuss their plans for the winery with Matt and Natalie. “We are just completing a major renovation to our production facility. We have also purchased the property adjacent to us for the possibility of planting new vines in the future. Other than that, we plan on focusing on perfecting the five products that we currently produce. We plan to keep Chateau Wolff as a family run boutique winery.”
If you are on Vancouver Island near Nanaimo, please take the opportunity to check out Chateau Wolff Estate.
Source: The photos and wine notes are courtesy of Chateau Wolff Estate.