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.
What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with?
In 2004 I had the good fortune of tasting a 1992 Pinot Noir from Blue Mountain. I didn’t know much about BC wines at the time – the general consensus among my tasting group was that BC wine was mostly plonk and wouldn’t age well. I thought this wine would have fallen apart, or soured; however it was fresh and lively, it had brilliant acidity, with bright fruit and fresh mushroom notes. It had a lot of depth and elegance. I didn’t want to like it; yet, I couldn’t help but fall in love.
What are three local wineries that don’t get as much recognition as they deserve?
Fairview Cellars – Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan | For 20 + years, winemaker Bill Eggert has made big Bordeaux inspired reds. They age extremely well. There are only a handful of wineries in the Okanagan who can successfully grow Cabernet Sauvignon – Fairview Cellars is certainly one of the best.
Pentâge Winery – Skaha Bluffs, Okanagan | Paul and Julie have been quietly plodding along, making exceptional wines for nearly three decades. They hold back their wines until they feel they’re ready to show. Try their rosé, a field blend of six varieties, co-fermented and lightly fined and filtered. It’s a gem.
Ricco Bambino Urban Winery and Crooked Crown Organic Vineyards – Downtown Kelowna and Okanagan Falls respectively. I think what Jason is doing is super cool. He’s taken the négociant ideal from the French and applied it here in BC. He was formally in fashion so, of course, labels, bottles, and fixtures are all important. The package is highly stylized. His wines are typically varietals from single vineyard sites, spontaneously fermented, and vinified in concrete. He’s had a ton of help from Okanagan Crush Pad. However, I think the ingenuity of the entire project is commendable.
If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?
I would love to work a harvest with Painted Rock Estate Winery. If not just for the view, I would love to glean their scientific techniques. The amount of data driven research Painted Rock compiles for each vine, from each row, in each block is staggering. Degree-days, wind, precipitation; I’d love to see how all of that accumulated information is used during harvest.
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?
Whenever we have a winemaker, or global export manager visit our restaurant, and we talk about winemaking and the importance of terroir from where ever they’re from, I love showing them Martin’s Lane Naramata Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir. With just over 1200 bottles produced in 2014, no expense was spared to ensure the wine showed its true expression of the vineyard’s site. The entire winery was designed to have as little intervention of the wine as possible. Saying it’s incredible is an understatement.
What about a white?
When I think of BC Wine, a common descriptor for me is fruit. It smells like fruit, it tastes like fruit. Some confuse the fruit nose or taste for sweetness. Aromatic whites have always done well here; whether it be the Germanic hybrids planted in the early 80’s or Rhône varietals planted a little later. I’ve always loved JoieFarm’s ‘A Noble Blend.’ Winemaker Heidi has tipped her hat to the German varietal blends of Alsace and used Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc and Muscat. You can really drink this wine any time.
And finally, a rosé?
I think rosé is measurable by how it compares to Provençal rosé. Is it dry? Is it pale in colour? Does it have bright minerality, and fresh acidity; with flavours of grapefruit pith, light berries, and garrigue, et cetera? While every rosé producer may try and emulate these things, it’s very difficult to succeed. This year, Vanessa Vineyard Rosé hit it out of the park. Winemaker Howard Soon, who was recently awarded the Order of Canada for his contribution to the Canadian Wine Industry, made just 200 cases of rosé from Similkameen Syrah and Merlot. It ticks all of the boxes I mentioned earlier and more, it captures the essence of the Similkameen Valley.