Picking Grapes is a new series that asks wine professionals to map out their complex relationships with British Columbian wines by citing the ignition point of their interest and some of their favourite wineries.
We begin this new column with award-winning sommelier Jason Yamasaki, who won the 2015 “Best Sommelier in BC” title when he was running the wine program at Chambar. He is now the Group Sommelier for Joey Restaurant Group.
What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with? Do you remember where you were? What was the circumstance?
Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc…eating a solo lunch at Feenie’s…just getting into wine so it was a shot in the dark. I remember it being totally quenching and acid-driven. Something my palate was not used to! [ed. note: see more on Feenies in Vancouver’s Restaurant Graveyard]
What are three local wineries that fly somewhat under the radar?
Daydreamer, Rust Wine Co., and Skaha Vineyard.
If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?
Orofino. For so many reasons: The chance to work with a ton of different wines and styles (How do they do every wine so damn well!?); The chance to live in the remoteness and stillness of the Similkameen Valley; The chance to work with the brilliant talents of John and Virginia Weber.
Can you recommend one local, emblematic-of-BC red wine for someone who didn’t even know wine was made here? What would it be and why?
Nichol Vineyard’s ‘Old Vine’ Syrah. The oldest Syrah in the country. Grown on granite. All the smoky, rocky and meaty complexity that is emblematic of Syrah from the best sites in the world.
What about a white?
Tantalus ‘Old Vines’ Riesling. A completely inimitable wine that has tons of aging potential. It introduces a new flavour and texture to the already vast Riesling library.
And finally, a rose?
Unsworth Pinot Noir Rosé. It’s bright – it’s chilly – it’s absolutely crushable. The flavours are a veil of delicate and pure Pinot character. It introduces people to the fact that BC is not just the Okanagan Valley.