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.
Today we put our Picking Grapes questions to Michael Hiram and Scott Mitchell, the duo behind the wine program at one of Vancouver’s best restaurants, Annalena. Except in the case of the first question, they wrote the answers to our questions together…
What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with? Do you remember where you were? What was the circumstance?
Michael | When I first began to work at AnnaLena in 2016, we were pouring Little Farm’s Cabernet Franc rosé by the glass. All of the staff seemed to be in love with it and once I learned the full story of the winery and the great people who had a hand in making the wine, I was hooked as well. It’s still on the list today.
Scott | I’m not from here, so I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to discover that BC actually made any wine whatsoever. The first BC wine that I totally fell in love with was Synchromesh Riesling. Not a particular bottle, but rather, just how differently each of their single vineyard expressions presented themselves. I’ve always loved Riesling, and it was at a portfolio tasting of theirs, when I realized that BC can truly stand alongside other wine producing regions of the world. Not to mention, Alan Dickinson is just a really cool, honest and inspiring guy.
What are three local wineries that fly somewhat under the radar?
A Sunday in August — Reminding us not to take wine too seriously, while still producing seriously delicious wine. Roche Wines — The essence of Burgundy, right here on our doorstep. TH Wines — Not just a pretty face, Tyler Harlton’s wines are so honest and characterful.
If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?
The entire team at AnnaLena would love to work with Sea Star Winery on Pender Island. At the restaurant, we all have a love for these Gulf Island wines and just how well they work with our food. We were fortunate enough to have six of our staff harvest some of their Siegerrebe grapes back in September 2017. Since then we’ve been yearning to get back and help make the wine itself.
Can you recommend one local, emblematic-of-BC red wine for someone who didn’t even know that wine was made here? Why would you choose it?
Le Vieux Pin ‘Deadman Lake’ Syrah. One of the most amazing things about BC is that in one small region you can witness a range of climates as wide as the whole of France. In the South Okanagan you can find Syrah that is ripe and dark fruited, yet beautifully elegant, with this real savory complexity that you often find in wines from the Northern Rhone; Le Vieux Pin’s ‘Deadman Lake’ Syrah offers the perfect example.
What about a white?
Summerhill Grüner Veltliner. It’s always interesting to find local wineries experimenting with more unusual grape varieties. In this case, Summerhill, who are pioneers of biodynamic viticulture here in BC, deliver their own expression of Grüner Veltliner. Showing all of that citrus and spice that you’d expect from this grape but presented in such a unique and thought-provoking style. We’re currently pouring this by the glass at AnnaLena and it continues to be a show stopper!
And finally, a rose?
A Sunday in August Pinot Gris. With just a little bit of skin contact, Pinot Gris brings on this beautiful peachy pink colour. Is this technically a rosé? a white wine? an orange wine? We don’t know. But frankly, we don’t really care! All we do know, is that this is what we’ll be bringing to the beach this summer. It’s fruity and delicious, with bags of peach, rhubarb and grapefruit character.