MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE | Testing Tantalus Vineyards’ Experimental “Riesling Lab” 2013

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by Treve Ring | Here’s how wine geeks think: “Lessee what would happen if I took all my grape pressings leftover from the entire Riesling vintage and squeezed them together really hard to capture all the juice and good bits and then fermented it entirely with wild yeast…”

Tantalus Vineyards Riesling Lab 2013 | Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, BC | $19

Kiwi-Canadian wine geek and Tantalus winemaker David Paterson isn’t afraid to push – or in this case press – the envelope of experimentation. With Riesling Lab, the atypical results have proven so consistently interesting that the winery decided to slap labels on the bottles and sell them. The first Lab experiment (2011 vintage, #1) was tiny – just a handful of cases were produced. 2012’s Lab #2 was more of a purpose-driven exercise, with production bumped up to 70 cases or so. And last year, proven in method, Paterson produced 155 cases of Lab #3, sold solely out of their East Kelowna tasting room (also to a very few restaurants in Vancouver).

The playfully nerdy label is a clear departure from the norm (an indication that this ain’t your typical Tantalus wine), but the #03 Lab Results: Riesling is nevertheless a firm handshake. Pink and orange flowers, ripe peach and pear, apricot pit and a broad, solid, textured palate, amped up further through fermentation in old chardonnay-use barrels. Not shy on sugar, acidity or alcohol, the trio striking a chord that sounds like more, please. Especially at the price ($19!). Intrigued, I put the following 5 questions to Paterson…

Straight up – why did you make this wine? I originally created this wine in 2011, which was a cold growing season. I felt that the Riesling (Our biggest sku) would need some weight in a cold year and I did not want to use manufactured products to do so. I pressed all the Riesling really hard after making my original cut and took the resulting phenolic brown juice and fermented it wild in barrels. I did this to naturally oxidize out the phenolics. When it came time to put the 2011 wines together this new piece of the puzzle just didn’t fit but was really interesting and textural on its own…. so we bottled it. Since then we have made it every year and has been a really successful little wine in our tasting room with the general public and also with wine geeks because it has that different

Where are the grapes from? All the wines made under the Tantalus label come from our own 75 acre estate in SE Kelowna.

Your ideal pairing with this wines would be…? This wine is very versatile to pair with but I would say that something with sweetness and a little heat from the huge world of Asian food would go down pretty well. A classic Alsatian bacon and caramelized onion tart would be mighty fine, too.

What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? When I’m not making wine, I’m golfing in the summer and skiing in the winter, so I’m drinking German and Burgundian wines.

Favourite BC wine, other than yours? Blue Mountain stripe label Pinot Noir or any of their vintage bubbly wines. They are always consistently excellent from vintage to vintage and their pricing has remained low compared to the demand for their product. They are the benchmark that the rest of the Okanagan should look too when deciding pricing and quality parameters.

THE DRINKER’S ARCHIVE

DRINKER | On More BC Liquor Law Stupidity And French Wine Bars For The Terminally Ill

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by Treve Ring | CAMRA outlines the knee-jerk reaction that caused the BC Liberals to change minimum beer pricing not once, but twice, within a week. The result? Lower minimum price on pitchers of beer (from .25 cents an ounce to .20 cents an ounce – still Canada’s highest) but not pints. So basically it’s much more cost effective for you to down a pitcher of beer than a pint. Way to promote health and well-being BC Liberals! Not that anyone has any clue how much a pint is anyhoo.

If you really want to enjoy that beer, no matter the size, you had better be playing the right music.

A 22 year old Australian man was arrested after he was caught driving under the influence down the middle of a suburban street. The tip off? He was riding a motorised beer cooler. Full of beer.

Lest you think that all Aussies are riding beer coolers down the street, some are into serious business. Like the filmmakers who have successfully completed the world’s first documented shark cage wine tasting – Great White Wine with Great White Sharks.

Incentive for cleaning up that spilled wine in your car? A Warsaw military university has developed a laser beam that can detect alcohol vapours in a passing car, at levels as low as 0.1%. Just don’t drink and drive, or drive anyone who has drank. Or burp. Or spill.

Drink a beer, safe a life? Spanish scientists have developed a new biomaterial from waste discarded after beer brewing which can be used to regenerate human bones.

USA Today headline asks “Good Idea? Coffee-flavored Wine in a Can”. Intelligent humans everywhere answer “Hell no”

Dentists in Manhattan are offering free wine to patients to take the edge off before treatments. I’m wondering what dentists in Washington and Colorado will propose…

Sex is natural, so why not on the natural wine label? Punch Drink tells us.

Logical-not-so-logical warning: Do not buy booze from “an independent off-license at a discount price” in Britian, as “fake” spirits are laced with bleach, nail polish and anti-freeze.

Flyers spend more money on booze than any other in-flight purchase, according to GuestLogix, which tracked 8 million transactions across five U.S. airlines between November 2013 and March 2014. What – the $5 plastic headsets and $9 Rondelé® Peppercorn Parmesan Cheese Spread wasn’t raking in the dough?

The Best Beer Ad Ever? Totally in the running.

Where’s Mr. Floatie when you need him? Vancouver’s spike in microbreweries could be clogging our sewer system.

Leave it to the French to exit in style. A French hospital is set to open a wine bar for terminally ill patients. Says the doctor who proposed the idea, “”Why should we deprive people reaching the end of their lives of the traditional flavours of our land?” Santé et bon voyage!

THE DRINKER’S ARCHIVE

AWESOME THING WE DRANK #677 | A Rosé That Is Much Better Than Its Bottle Is Weird

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by Treve Ring | In my line of work I get to drink taste a boatload of wines, many good, most average, a lot of plonk, and a slight few, awesome

Commanderie de la La Bargemone | Cuvée Marina Rosé 2013
Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, France | $30 +650408

Yeah – I was skeptical too. I mean, just look at that bottle! Is it perfume? A marketing ploy? My skepticism is as finely attuned to wine BS as my palate is to Trichloroanisole, but then the aroma - savoury, stony, minerality, spice – and the colour! Its gorgeous gossamer pale peach salmon hue instantly conjures the warm, herb-laden winds of Provence.

Skepticism settled, tuck in and enjoy this bone dry and positively racy rosé. Stony spice throughout, with sun-warmed watermelon, Lilliputian strawberries, roses, mandarin and an undertone of a heady wild herb bouquet. The structure is quietly confident, acidity is vibrant and the pink grapefruit pith finish lingering. The sustainably farmed syrah, cab sauv and grenache in this blend are on a 150 hectare property that dates back to the 13th century, situated just outside of the village of Saint-Cannat in Aix-en-Provence. Only a limited amount of this striking wine found its way into our liquor stores, so find it while you can or befriend someone who has.

EVERY AWESOME THING WE DRANK 

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE | Sipping Summer In Orofino’s “Celentano Vineyard” Gamay 2013

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by Treve Ring | From the stony, steep sided Similkameen Valley comes this single vineyard Cawston Gamay from Orofino. Planted in 1999 on sloping Stemwinder soils and granitic shale (gamay crushes on granite), this pale cherry-hued red should be your summer go-to.

Orofino Celentano Vineyard Gamay 2013

Because it’s hot out! You don’t want a giant, chewy, sweat-beading, muscular, heavy, oaked red. Too much work! You want this bright, fresh, light red – tart and earthy rhubarb acidity to refresh you and your palate, and finely spiced tannins to take on your dinner. This savoury, lissom red is laced with cured meats, wild strawberry, a swipe of stony minerality throughout, and an alluring bitter cherry note on the finish. Serve slightly chilled, and this versatile wine will suit anything from grilled pizza to charcuterie to salmon. Only 100 cases produced, so get on it.

I put 5 questions in front of winemaker, sports coach dad, fellow ping pong advocate, outdoor pizza oven afficianado, Similkameen stalwart and co-owner, along with his equally active wife Virginia, John Weber.

Straight up – why did you make this wine? We started taking these grapes in 2007. This style came out in 2010. We just loved the freshness and unmasked fruit that comes from these grapes. We started drinking a lot of Cru Beaujolais and thought we might try to imitate that style and see what we could do in BC with Gamay.

Where are the grapes from? A little vineyard about a 5 minute walk from the winery. It is owned and managed by an Italian couple Antonio and Carmela Celentano. They grow mostly Riesling but have a tiny little section of Gamay that comes to us. Shale and rocks all over the place. It is a stunningly beautiful vineyard. We make around 100 cases a year.

Your ideal pairing with these wines would be…? Summer. We chill it down just a bit and barbeque some sausages or roast a chicken in our cob oven. It is also a terrific Thanksgiving turkey wine with savoury stuffing.

Favourite BC wine, other than yours? Our friends Rhys Pender and Alishan Driediger from Little Farm Winery just down the road from us are making delicious Rieslings and Chardonnays – wines that have Similkameen Valley written all over them.

What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? Can I say BC craft beer? Our cellar has a good mix of old world stuff. Chablis, Cru Beaujolais , Loire. We have a soft spot for dirty Spanish wines. Things with a little bit of funk are always fun to try and talk about. We drink Rieslings from Australia too.

THE DRINKER’S ARCHIVE

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE | Dissecting “Lock & Worth” Winery’s Cabernet Franc Rosé 2013

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by Treve Ring | Lock & Worth is a new Naramata partnership between Matthew Sherlock and Ross Hackworth, longtime colleagues and comrades from Nichol Vineyard, which is further up the Naramata Bench. The duo’s low interventionist winemaking philosophy shines again here, with this whole cluster, unfined and unfiltered (yes, there are harmless floaties in the bottom, get over it) cabernet franc rosé from a single vineyard. There’s a whisper of orange pink peach, but what this rose lacks in colour it makes up for in acidity. It’s bone dry, with ripping mineral and citrus pith-laced acidity, light smoked stone, green apple, Anjou pear and delicate mandarin and floral notes. Honesty and vibrancy – more of this please. I recently talked to Matt about this characterful and uncharacteristically BC rosé…

Straight up – why did you make this wine? Firstly, we felt that the vineyard material was best suited to making a rose. Something with very little extract and that trades on delicacy and nuance instead of power. We also wanted to push our hands-off approach here so we started with a natural ferment (which didn’t finish) then did nothing else to the wine really. No fining or filtering or stabilization or any adjustments of any kind. It is what it is.

Where are the grapes from? Naramata Village, below the road, lake side.

Your ideal pairing with this wine would be…? Ceviche.

Favourite BC wine, other than yours? I think Dave at Tantalus, Matt at Blue Mountain the team at Le Vieux Pin and Alan at Synchromesh are really starting to change the game here. Oh and Jay at Bella and Richard Kanazowa as well. I’ve heard very good things about Tyler Carlton too but have yet to visit.

What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? Champagne, Loire whites and reds, Beaujolais, Jura, German Riesling, Sherry, whites from the Marche in Italy, bourbon and good rye. Mostly Old World wines but pretty much anything that speaks of vineyard and vintage and isn’t made in a lab. Beer when it’s super hot. I’m very fortunate that my neighbours in Naramata are oenophiles so we have a chance to pop a lot of corks between us.

Lock & Worth Winery | Cabernet Franc Rosé | 2013 | Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley. $20.

THE DRINKER’S ARCHIVE

AWESOME THING WE DRANK #676 | Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Branco 2012 (Portugal)

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by Treve Ring | I drink/taste a boatload of wines, many good, most average, a lot of plonk, and a slight few, awesome

Luis Pato | Vinhas Velhas Branco 2012 | +403881 | Beiras VR, Portugal | $25.99

I appreciate obscure, curious and off-the-beaten-track wines, and I value tradition and time in practice and patience. This wine epitomizes both traits. Luis Pato’s family has been producing wine since the 18th century, and his father, Joâo was the first to bottle wine in Bairrada DOC after it was officially demarcated as an appellation in 1979. “Bairrada” is from “barros” (clay) and due to the clay-laden soils throughout the area. Though the region was relatively recently recognized by the rule books, it is an ancient area for grape growing. Viticulture in Bairrada has existed since at least the 10th century, when the area gained independence from the Moors. Recognized for its deep, full and tannic reds, the wines of Bairrada were sought after during the 17th century when the Douro’s illustrious Port houses – pressed to satisfy the growing British tastes for Port – would blend in wines from the region to ramp up quantity.

Together with his father, Luis is credited with bringing Bairrada back to life, legitimately. Though the Pato name (Portuguese for duck, and referenced by the bird in flight on the label) is rockstar synonymous with Bairrada, this brand new-to-BC-wine is sourced from the neighbouring and lesser-known Beiras region, just outside of the demarcated Bairrada borders.

Unoaked and raised in stainless steel, this bright trio of indigenous Becal, Cerceal and Sercialinho grapes highlight their pure-fruited nature and chalky clay soils like a mirror. Smoked stone, herbal white grapefruit, pear skin and lemon pith on the nose carry to a creamy, oily, leesy texture with ripe bitter melon, white peach, Asian pear, quince, wild honey, pine nuts and a perfumed elderflower blossom. Beautiful freshness and energy, tempered by a bitter edge. The pretty girl with the ugly sweater reading The Book of Disquiet in the corner at the party. I love the unapologetic authenticity of this wine, in a “yeah, I don’t care what you think about me because this is what I am and if you don’t like it then zarpar.

EVERY AWESOME THING WE DRANK 

DRINKER | On Drunk Fish, Firing A Gun With A Drink In Hand, And The Geography Of Beer

by Treve Ring | Regarding the video above, it’s an oldie but a goodie and it remains true that you either 1. Know these people, or 2. Are these people.

There’s no point auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance when you could apply for So You Think You Can Drink. A new Irish show, Drunk, is looking for 18+ year olds to “get drunk” on camera in an attempt to “explore, explain and illustrate” the effects of alcohol. Mom will be so proud!

How to make a night at the movies a hella lot more fun? Alcoholic popcorn, of course.

Battle of the Scots. In this corner, BrewDog and their Dead Pony Club pale ale. Across the ring, the Portman Group Independence Complaints Panel. Portman comes out swinging, deeming the packaging of the “lower-than-average” strength 3.8% Dead Pony Club pale ale to encourage “anti-social behaviour and rapid drinking”. A swift rebuttal by BrewDog counters that they don’t give a shit about “a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants” who “treat beer drinkers like brain dead zombies and vilify creativity and competition” and will emerge TKO-victorious by “brewing awesome beer and treating our customers like adults.” Victory, BrewDog.

Relive your grade school drink box memories with the SpotWine Pouch, the adult version. Just don’t mix them up in the early-morning-school-lunch-packing rush. Because that would suck.

How to drink all night and never get drunk? Mr. Samuel Adams knows, shares all.

While Air Canada can’t figure out how to list a Canadian wine on any of its flights, craft beer has taken to the sky in American airlines like…er… people wanting decent booze on flights. And in a mind-boggling move of sanity, Alaska Airlines now allows a case of Washington wine to be checked for free for anyone flying out of the state’s three largest wine region airports.

Because butlers are so pedestrian, The Casa Madrona hotel in Sausalito, California will deliver Champagne to your $10,000 a night Alexandria Suite by drone. Yeah, that’s cool, I guess, but does it come Swiss Army-equipped with a corkscrew?

Drunk fish become leaders of the pack.

Screw you, Siri! Google adds the Drunk Train feature to its maps.

Take note, road trippers. If you’re in Colorado, chances are you’ll be inundated by Coors Light, and if you’re in the Midwest, Miller Lite will be the brand of choice. The scientists have tracked it as so, in a new book called The Geography of Beer.

Take further note, road trippers. In Oklahoma, you can now drink alcohol at the rifle range. Logical humans with functioning brains, you’ve been warned.

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE | Synchromesh Flies Down The Straightaway With ‘Tertre Rouge’

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by Treve Ring | You can tell this family-owned and operated winery is in it for the love of the craft. There is no way Alan Dickinson, his wife Amy and Alan’s parents John and Kristy would put this much time and effort into their micro winery if they didn’t live and breathe it. Focus and passion are nothing new for the Dickinsons; the winery is named for the gear shifting mechanism in a car that makes the driving and driven wheel revolve at a synchronized speed. The synchromesh system matches the speeds of gears that you are changing to the one that you intend to use, ensuring a smooth and quiet shift. John Dickinson used to race sports cars, and restoring and collecting classic and performance cars is a passion shared by several members of the family, including his two sons Alan and Stuart.

Synchromesh Wines Tertre Rouge 2011 | Turtle Rock Farms, Naramata Bench, BC | $35

Making well-crafted, terroir-driven, sustainably produced and low interventionist wine is also a shared passion. While primarily a Riesling-focused winery (perhaps it’s the petrol?), this wine, Tertre Rouge, is their flagship red.

From a single vineyard tucked up above the Naramata Bench comes this expressive red. Cab Franc dominates the blend with beauty black cherry, spicy cassis, sun-ripened tomato and dusty thorns, while Merlot plumps up the balance, all dark chocolate, roasted coffee and fragrant ripe blackberry. Acidity is brisk, tannins are confident and the vanilla essence on the finish lengthy. After a 15 month stint in French oak, plus a further yearlong repose in bottle, the wine is ready for release.

Tertre Rouge takes its name from an iconic corner of France’s Le Mans racing circuit. After you clear the tricky, high-speed Le Tertre Rouge bend, you’re straight sailing onto one of the longest, most rewarding straightaways in motor racing. Time and experience is key for a skilled racer; and time in the cellar is what this wine was built for.

I asked Alan Dickinson to share his message in a bottle of Tertre Rouge 2011…

Straight up – why did you make this wine? And what’s in the name? I love Cabernet Franc, it does amazing things in the Okanagan when grown on the right site and cropped appropriately. It can be as transparent as Riesling or Pinot Noir and brings a wonderful greenness and funkiness that kills with food. The name… Tertre Rouge is one of the most famous corners in motor racing and commands balance and patience to execute cleanly… I think this sums up Cabernet Franc and its intricacies.

Where are the grapes from? Tertre Rouge is a single vineyard wine from Turtle Rock Farms above the Naramata Bench. A unique site in soil make up and excellent exposure made more interesting by a late day ‘second sun’ from the lake reflection. We lease the entire vineyard and work closely with the Britton family to farm and produce the best Cabernet Franc and Merlot possible. We use the Merlot in careful doses to flesh out and soften the Cabernet Franc while allowing it to capture the aromas and flavours.

Your ideal pairing with this wine would be…? Tertre Rouge is very versatile because of its acid and aromatic intensity but I love what it does to lamb the most. Lamb happens to be my favourite meat and grilled lightly with rosemary and garlic scapes it wrangles the best out of this wine.

Favourite BC wine, other than yours? Tough one, it really depends what I’m eating. Meyer Family for Chardonnay, Painted Rock for Syrah, Blue Mountain for Pinot Noir or Fairview’s unabashedly big Cabs. I do seem to drink more from Okanagan Falls than any other areas, though.

What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? German Riesling! Bordeaux (a special love for Magdelaine), but really all over the map. It is important to understand the best wines in the world in order to try and achieve the best you can with your own vineyards.

DRINKER | On Beer Spas And How To Be A “Savvy Girl” Sommelier In 5 Hours Or Less!

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by Treve Ring | Looking to up your brunch game? The world’s priciest pancake includes Dom Perignon Rosé Champagne hollandaise sauce and sells for £800.

It turns out that the hippest winery in Mexico is made of recycled boats.

The email below was edited marginally because it exceeded the exclamation point allowance for this column…

Becoming a Sommelier Overnight With Savvy Girl

Hi! Hope all is well. I wanted to reach out to see if you’d be interested in featuring my newest client, Savvy Girl: A Guide to Wine in an upcoming feature!

With a passion for learning and desire to be savvy, author and entrepreneur, Brittany would crave the knowledge how-to books promised to offer, but found them painful to complete… Savvy Girl produces beautiful 100-page guidebooks that readers can finish in 5 hours or less… Savvy Girl believes in cutting through the clutter by delivering guidebooks that help women get savvy and get back to their fabulous life… even throw out words like “terroir” and “tannin” like WineSpeak is your first language.

Damn. If I had only known about this before! I could have saved years of study and thousands of dollars!

Unlike the parties at your house, this bathtub full of beer is actually therapeutic. The Schloss Starkenberger brewery in Tyrol, Austria is reputed to be the world’s only beer-based spa, located in its 700-year-old castle brewery’s underground vaults. Here in the old fermentation room, guests can immerse themselves in a bath of warm water and Biergeläger (translation: beer making leftovers). The only benefit/drawback? Guests are advised not to drink from the pools. Yeah, that’s probably good advice for every pool.

Meanwhile, in Canada: Uberfist. A Canadian-based company is “revolutionizing the drinking experience” with their invention of Uberfist, a cup holder with “unique thermal properties” inside a giant Hulk-like foam hand, allowing fans to “cheer on their favourite team while simultaneously supporting their beverage. What more could a sports fan want?” I am left answerless.

Meanwhile, in the USA, powdered alcohol is now for sale. Here you go kiddies – kool aid, pop rocks and Palcohol. Previous versions of the Palcohol website reported that the flavoured powder could also be snorted.

Because New Orleans doesn’t have anything else to worry about right now, the debate continues about allowing booze in ice cream.

If spring’s sunshine has you tuning up your bike, you might want to consider these accessories.

An Australian news example of turning lemons into limoncello, Adelaide Now reports that commuters were “treated to the bouquet of expensive white wine” after a truck carrying 11 tonnes of wine collided with a car, sending $500,000 worth of wine down the road. Also, much later in the story, no one was injured.

Leave it to Lithuania to make it hard for me to refute that Beaujolais Nouveau tastes like paint thinner with this new packaging.

Awesome Thing We Drank #675 | Domaine Baumard Clos Saint-Yves Savennières 2009

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by Treve Ring | In my line of work I get to drink taste a boatload of wines, many good, most average, a lot of plonk, and a slight few, awesome

Domaine Baumard | Clos Saint-Yves Savennières 2009 | AC Savennières | Loire, France | $35 

Old Vine Chenin Blanc. That’s enough to get my attention. Throw in this small, specialized Savennières, a sub-appellation of the Anjou AOC, and highly regarded for long-lived, dry chenin blanc and you’ve got enough for me to queue, screw in one hand and glass in the other. Domaine des Baumards is run by Florent and his recently retired father, Jean. The property has been in the Baumard family since 1634; let’s just say the Baumards know their land. The Domaine is regarded as one of the greatest producers in the Loire Valley and has been called one of the greatest producers of white wine in the world. Yields are low and the grapes are sustainably and organically harvested. In The World’s Greatest Wine Estates, Robert Parker pens “For decades Jean Baumard’s wines have been benchmarks for Savennières, Côteaux du Layon, and Quarts de Chaume – his wines have every component in place, so technically perfect and so polished they seem to be the product of a scientist. Florent, who is taking over from his recently retired father, has added some soul. There is no doubt in my mind that Florent Baumard is one of the shining lights in France’s winemaking present and future.”

The Clos de Saint-Yves is a bone dry Savennières, considered as the entry point of the house, and what an entrance. Chenin is a terroir-transmitting grape, and it’s signaling clearly the schist, sandstone and sand that these 35+ year old vines were grown on. This is not an easy wine, but it’s worth the effort. Expressive and wily temperamental, every few minutes you get something new in the glass.

Savoury schisty minerality, sea salt, wild honey, yellow pear, dried quince, citrus, chamomile and redux apple skin notes all jockey for position atop an oily, full and vibrant palate. I recommend decanting for a few hours before launching in. This is a complex wine – one that deserves contemplation, possibly grilled scallops or a fresh briny oyster. And definitely deserves awesome.

EVERY AWESOME THING WE DRANK 

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE | No Savage Beasts In The Stoneboat Vineyards 2010 Pinotage

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by Treve Ring | Black Sage Bench Pinotage. Who knew? This is no wild and savage beast (in the South African wildebeest vein), but rather a lush, ripe dark plum, wild raspberry, and black cherry example with massive structure, tobacco leaf vegetation, cedar earthiness and powdery-shaded tannins. Alluring baking spice and exotic flowered aromas add intrigue.

Stoneboat Vineyards Pinotage 2010 | Oliver, Okanagan Valley | $25

April Fools is coming up. Here’s how you own it, wine geek style: Pour this blind for someone, and then tell them to guess what it is. Kapow! Right? Ok – so perhaps not everyone has the same sense of humour as I do, but you don’t need a corkscrew license to realize that pinotage is not as common here as, say, merlot.

South Africa’s flagship red grape is a long way from home in Stoneboat’s Oliver vineyards. The grape was originally propagated by Lanny Martiniuk for the original South African owners of nearby Lake Breeze Vineyards. 35 years ago, Lanny and his wife Julie left the bustle of Vancouver to set up shop in the bucolic Okanagan Valley. They settled on a 15 acre orchard on Black Sage Bench, buying it on a handshake in 1979. During the formative years of the BC wine industry, Lanny served as director of the BC Grape Growers Association for a decade and was chair of the Grape Marketing Board. He was also a founding director of the BC Wine Institute and a pioneer in revitalizing the industry after free trade and the grape pullout of 1988. Lanny is well known as a successful grapevine propagator and has grown millions of vines for vineyards all over BC – including the 2 pinotage plants he kept for himself, which have now multiplied into 7 acres worth. 35 years and three wine-industry-working children later (Jay, Tim & Chris), the Martiniuks now practice “thoughtful farming” on nearly 50 acres of vines.

I posed my stack of 5 questions to their winemaker, Alison Moyes…

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Straight up – why did you make this wine? Pinotage is an exciting grape to work with. It was an opportunity to work with a varietal rarely seen in the Okanagan and create a wine that is distinctly our own. The possibilities on the nose are endless! Tropical notes often come through, which I love, and find to be rare in red wines in general. Luckily for me, Lanny had the foresight to plant the pinotage in 1998 because of how well it is suited to the site and rocky soils.

Where are the grapes from? All Stoneboat wines are made from estate grown grapes, including the pinotage. The vineyards are located south of Oliver on the lower Black Sage bench. It is a unique site in that it rests on a gravel bar, rather than the sandy soils that surround us in both directions. These growing conditions are made for pinotage with large diurnal shifts from the hot summer days to cool nights.

Your ideal pairing with this wine? I’ve been doing some experimenting with pinotage pairings lately. Traditionally my choice has been rack of lamb with a cocoa rub. However, after trying a few vegetarian options my eyes have been opened to just how versatile this wine can be. Pasta with caramelized onions, kale and gorgonzola was an absolute winner!

What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? Considering how delicious a nice lager tastes at the end of a long day on the crush pad and how many great craft breweries there are in BC, beer is the obvious choice. I’ve been enjoying taste testing to find my favourites. Occasionally a gin & tonic hits the spot, too.

Favourite BC wine, other than yours? Tough to pick just one. There are so many great options to choose from. The Origin blend from Maverick really caught my attention this past year; an interesting combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. I’m expecting to see great things from them.

DRINKER | A Wine-Soaked Doc Series From The Same People Who Brought Us “SOMM”

by Treve Ring | From the folks who brought us SOMM comes a series of short, evocative vine vignettes, produced in conjunction with The Guild of Sommeliers. Others in the series include Piedmonte and Tuscany, but I was taken by the above profile of Alto Adige, a lesser-appreciated wine region in northeast Italy (a hop-skip from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia and Liechtenstein). The wines are distinctly Germanic and Austrian in approach due to Alto Adige’s long history under the Austria-Hungarian and Holy Roman Empires, and further evidenced by the predominance of German-speaking Italian winemakers. As the clip illustrates, the dramatic backdrop of the southern Alps and Dolomites makes for alluring, fresh and exotic wines from grapes not often associated with Italy. Think Müller-Thurgau, Schiava, Lagrein, Sylvaner, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. If the short documentary entices just one person to try Lagrein, eine Traube, die ich liebe, it deserves an Oscar.

DRINKER | On The Last Of The Whisky And Bidding Good Evening To The Wine Festival

by Treve Ring | While most of Vancouver was making snow tracks, watching an outdoor-indoor hockey game or getting a membership card for Vancouver’s Gin Society, I was taking on 1,750 different wines at the Vancouver International Wine Festival. Though I gave it my best college try, I didn’t get around to every booth. However, I did sample nearly all of the 110 sparkling wines on the tasting room floor – and most Champagnes a few times each. Bubbly was the theme after all. I’m just doing my job. France has now passed the sabre to Australia for the 2015 instalment, so listen for even more Aussie twang out Vancouver/Whistler way next February (if that’s even possible).

I spent some quality time with the infamous enological iconoclast, Michel Chapoutier. Now forever interred in my databank: “High acidity in wine is like love with a condom. You sacrifice pleasure for security.” And “You don’t need to be a gynecologist to make love. You don’t need to be a winemaker to enjoy wine.” And quite poetically, “Anyone who creates wines must be generous and festive. Without such qualities the creative act is doomed, sterile and vain.”

If you weren’t among 20,000 like-minded drinkers/tasters crushing 30,000 bottles of wine – ka-ching bottle depot – at wine fest (if you were, you might be in the gallery above), hopefully you were stocking up on good whisky before the barrels run dry.

Chalk one up for the little guys. Craft beer production is snatching up market share, while the big boys are sliding in sales. And that’s not even considering Vancouver’s newest source of brews, The Drug Users Resource Centre.

With the west coast’s love affair with fragrant, green crops (hops, naturally), what are we going to do about the upcoming hops shortfall? I may have pinpointed the exact cause; Driftwood Brewery’s spectacular Fat Tug IPA taking Best BC Beer in the 2014 CAMRA Vancouver Awards.

Oh well, if we run out of hops, there’s always kegged SakeOne Momokawa Organic Junmai Gingo saké on tap.

The Scots and their inventions. First bagpipes, and now this. Scottish punk craft brewers BrewDog has teamed up with UK restaurant chain Honest Burger to birth the Brew Burger – a beef burger infused with so much beer it requires ID.

And if you didn’t have enough to occupy yourself now, what with worrying about high acidity and condoms and running out of Fat Tug, you might want to do some reorganizing of records, recycling and your storage locker, seeing as its illegal in some states to use milk crates for anything besides milk.

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE | “Oldfield Series” 2Bench Red With Tinhorn’s Sandra Oldfield

February 24, 2014 

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by >Treve Ring | There are people who have seen a lot in this industry, and then there are people who have seen it all. “When I arrived in the valley, ‘Okanagan Riesling’ and Marechal Foch were the most planted grapes” remembers Sandra Oldfield. Back then, the funky so-far-from-Riesling hybrid dubbed ‘Okanagan Riesling’ and the foxy, always-divisive Marechal Foch were ruling the vineyards. “They kept saying ‘Riesling this and Riesling that’ but I knew there was no possible way that stuff could actually be Riesling.” Thankfully, Sandra had the adventuresome pluck and foresight to put down roots, literally and figuratively. 2014 marks the 20th anniversary for Oliver’s Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, a golden milestone for CEO and Winemaker Oldfield and her Golden Mile winery.

Since harvesting their first grapes in 1994 in the southern Okanagan, the family-owned and operated Tinhorn Creek Vineyards has been a pioneer of carbon-neutral and sustainable winemaking and instrumental in introducing the world to BC wine (thankfully, not ‘Okanagan Riesling’). I joined Sandra and a handful of wine folks for lunch at Good Wolfe Kitchen & Bar recently as she cracked some screwcaps (all wines are under stelvin), reminisced (did you know Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Forrest Gump both came out in 1994?), and looked forward to the year ahead.

Her Vancouver visit kicked off a series of 20 events held this year to celebrate Tinhorn’s 20th birthday. Not content just to ponder what the next year or two will bring – though contentious sub-appellations were bandied about over the dozens of glasses on the table – the pioneering Sandra is “very excited about what the next 20 years will have to offer.” Us too, Sandra. Cheers to 20 more!

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2010 | OKANAGAN | $30

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The 2010 2Bench Red is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Big boned, with ample cassis, fine cedar spice, thorny leaf, black raspberries and blacker coffee, ending off with raspy grained tannins and faint tobacco smoke. The wine is held back and aged at the winery, released only when it’s ready to drink (because, of course, consumers don’t cellar).

Straight up – why did you make this wine? After making wine here from estate grapes for a dozen years we got a feel for what grapes grow well in what parts of our vineyard. We decided to make a big, bold red blend because we were in complete control of the quality from our vineyards, we knew what varieties would make the best blend and we were excited to release a well-aged red wine to our customers.

Where are the grapes from? Our grapes come from the heart of red wine country in BC — what I like to call the Okanagan Valley’s “Extreme South”. The majority of the blend comes from estate vines in our Diamondback Vineyard on the Black Sage Bench and the Petit Verdot vines are what I look out at from my bedroom window on the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench. The name “2Bench” comes from blending these estate grapes from both benches in the Oliver area of BC.

Your ideal pairing with this wine would be…? A winter hardy stew with fork tender beef (preferably from our own Okanagan’s Finest Angus Beef grown right in Oliver), some lovely rustic vegetables, potatoes and with a bit of the 2Bench Red mixed in.

Favourite BC wine, other than yours? I’d say my favourite BC wine that I’ve had recently (this week) was the Quails’ Gate 2012 Chardonnay; I had it on the weekend and it was just lovely. I also love the Rieslings from Orofino and the Pinot Noirs from Stoneboat Vineyards.

What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? We drink wines from all over the world and some of my favourite places are Alsace, California and Washington State, but lately it has been all I can do to just stay on top of all that BC has to offer. I put my focus recently on trying a new BC wine each week, and preferably from a winery I have not had from a while.

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