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? Do you remember where you were? What was the circumstance?
Stephanie: It was trip in the early 2000’s before I made the leap to move here permanently from Ontario. I was visiting a small boutique wine purveyor in Yaletown that appeared to sell exclusively BC wine. It was at the end of my trip, and I bought as many as I could stuff in my luggage. I remember getting home to my apartment in Ottawa, and popping the cork on an Arrowleaf bottle and was overcome by emotion from the complexity. I think that was definitely one of the moments that lured me out West.
Which local winery are you most looking forward to visiting now that travel is allowed, and why?
Because we are so connected with the Okanagan landscape from all of our fruit buying trips across the season. We have crossed paths with so many wine makers that we have fallen in love with, it would be really difficult to choose one. Making pies here in Vancouver takes us all across the Southern Okanagan for the tree fruit: cherries, apricots, peaches, plums. We have been fortunate enough to befriend through the pie shop Costa and Jody at Rigour and Whimsy, Aaron Goddard from his inherited fruit trees at Scout Vineyard, and Zoe and Keenan Thrussell of Kennan Wine on Matsu Drive out of Sage Hills. I think mixing business with pleasure and dropping a few pies off to these hard working farmers will be the first order of business, and picking up a few bottles while we’re at it.
Supporting small BC businesses has become especially important these days. We know it’s difficult to narrow it down, but if you had to choose just one local winery that you think is especially deserving of our attention, what would it be?
It’s really difficult to pick just one special winery that we love so dearly. I think a shout out to Mike Rathjen at his Cellar on Vancouver Island is appropriate for this spot. He has been practicing low intervention wine making with 100% Island grapes since 2011 from vineyards in the Cowichan Vally Region and Saanich Peninsula. The sparkling rose is mind exploding. These grapes are from a colder climate, and I get really excited about a unique climate with a story to tell — specifically this unexpected terroir.
What is the one versatile BC wine you recommend for dining al fresco all summer long?
We are very spoiled here in BC with a lot of very drinkable good young wines at our disposal. Andrea loves a Gamay and Pinot Gris. We are not so into the Piquettes, but we know a lot of people who are, and it’s a really affordable low alcohol summer beverage — we see that it has a lot of similarities to the popularity of the radlers, which took off pretty fast a couple years ago. We would recommend any of the Bella Winery ancestral methods – if you can get your hands on some. It’s the ultimate summer drinking vibe to enjoy at the beach or in a grassy park.
How have the pandemic months reshaped your approach to buying, serving, and enjoying wine? What lasting effects do you expect the pandemic to have on local businesses and wine lovers?
I think there is a wonderful opportunity to drink what is being made in our backyard. With travel opening up again, I think people will want to explore what is being produced in the region they are visiting. Personally, we have always enjoyed eating and drinking from the region we are staying in. I think many of the wine lists in Vancouver have drastically shifted from a broad global mish-mash to a very precious provincial wine list. I am happy to drink what is being made here while I am here. I know that the importers and warehouses are frustrated wth the broken system and delays, but I think this travesty has created a unique opportunity that has allowed many small regional BC producers to get the exposure they deserve here and into the hands of more wine lovers who wouldn’t normally be so keen to step away from the French or Italian “trusty and reliables.”
If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?
This is where we have to be completely honest with you: farm work is hard work. It is back breaking and exhausting. We are writing this right after a heat wave, where much of the Southern province hit record highs of 40+ degrees and so it would be hard for us to say we could actually handle the hard labour aspect of wine making. Dripping balls of sweat in the kitchen is one thing, but being in the hot sun tending to vines and harvesting grapes is a totally a different thing. What we would really love to do is show up at the vineyard during the harvest season and make the farmhands’ dinner. Sit outside under a tree, cook dinner, wash up the dishes, have the best conversations with the most amazing company. After a year of pandemic, I think we are all craving the healthy banter and dialogue of a family meal. I think as far as hard labour goes, we are pretty useless in the field or the winery — arms are more for decoration.
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?
The Borealis from Ursa Major — top shelf. The 2016 vintage is the tits.
What about a white?
The Wild Ferment from Anthony Buchanan is the best bubbles we have ever had. Hands down both our favourites.
And, finally, a rosé?
This is really harder to nail down one favourite, but the Rathjen Sparkling Rosé NV is the best gift anyone could receive for any occasion or just because you want to seize the day!