Picking Grapes is a Scout 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 catch up with Andrew Forsyth, Head Sommelier at L’Abattoir Restaurant…
What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with? Do you remember where you were? What were the circumstances?
Wow, this is a hard one. I think if I had to pin down a bottle that I fell in love with and really made me take a deep dive into BC wine, it was probably 2015 Le Vieux Pin Equinox Syrah. I had bought a bottle at Swirl in Yaletown, quite sometime before I wrote my Certified exam, and it played a big part in a wine dinner that I threw for my brother and my sister-in-law before they moved overseas for school. That bottle was absolutely stunning and paired so well with the food that we enjoyed that night.
Summer is approaching…is there a local winery you are most looking forward to visiting and, if so, why?
So many! If it had to be just one it would likely be Daydreamer. I’m a big fan of Marcus Ansems’ work, and Grant Biggs was one of the first winemakers that really sat down and talked about his process with me. I think that team would be really cool to watch, and I’m excited to see how their wines show.
Supporting small BC businesses has become especially important these days. We know it’s challenging to narrow it down, but if you had to choose just three local wineries that you think are especially deserving of our attention, who would you choose right now?
Kutatas on Salt Spring Island have been making some of the coolest wine in the province. Their Pinot Noirs are a fixture at L’Abattoir, and at a recent tasting I was very impressed by their Pinot Gris.
Echo Bay has quickly become one of my favourite red wine producers. Their single varietal wines are fantastic and Synoptic (Bordeaux styled) is one I would buy by the case!
Bartier Brothers! My goodness, if you haven’t tried their Semillon yet it needs to be on your radar. Their winemaking has been fantastic for years and they definitely deserve a visit the next time you head to the Okanagan.
Have the last two years reshaped your approach to buying, serving, and enjoying wine in any way? If so, how?
I have definitely seen a movement to carve out spaces that support local. At L’Abattoir it was the initiative of Nick Bertoia to have our Private Dining Room entirely devoted to BC wine, and that’s something that I am proud to carry on.
From a service perspective, I have seen a lot of guests that have been excited to jump out of their comfort zone and experience new wines, which has definitely influenced our program. It could be a grape that they’ve never heard of or a part of the world that they didn’t know made wine, but it is exciting for me because I love telling those stories and connecting people to new places!
What changes do you think the local wine industry – from wine lovers and servers to producers and distributors – might see in the future?
I’ll be very interested to see how packaging might change in the next few years. We’ve been hearing rumblings for months about glass shortages and, if that isn’t going to be a short term problem, we could see some innovation so that wineries can keep their wine moving.
Also, we are all keenly aware of how climate change is reshaping the wine industry, and I think we could see a lot of exciting new regions drawn up as a result. New appellations like we have seen popping up in California have certainly shown the advantages of coastal exposure so that winemakers can maintain freshness and vibrancy in their wines. Couple that with the drive towards sustainable farming that both winemakers and consumers are now invested in, and I think us Somms will have some fantastic stories to tell our guests.
What is the one versatile BC wine you recommend for pairing this spring/summer?
I just tasted the new release of Terravista Fandango and it was stellar! It’s a blend of Albariño and Verdejo that has the brightness and texture for food pairing and the fruit character that I want for warm days on a patio.
If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?
Without question it would be Le Vieux Pin. I love Severine’s work and I know that I could learn so much about making world class wine in that setting.
Can you recommend one local, emblematic-of-BC red wine for someone who didn’t even know that wine was made here? Why did you choose it?
I think one of the red grapes that we have excelled at growing is Pinot Noir, and Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls makes some of the best in the Province. It has a really cool interplay of red fruit and earthiness that goes so beautifully with west coast cuisine. If I were bringing wine home from the Valley, their Pinot Noir would be one at the top of my list.
What about a white?
Well, another grape that I think we have some incredible examples of in BC is Riesling (also one of my favourite grapes) and Tantalus Vineyards is a great standard bearer for this grape. Their winemaker, David Patterson, is an amazing talent making some of the best Riesling that Canada has to offer. In particular, I would seek out their Old Vines Riesling, sourced from a single block of grapes dating back to 1978 – and it shows!
And finally, a rosé?
Sperling Vineyards Vision Rosé is a great option for pairing with local seafood, and Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble are two of the coolest winemakers in the Province (seriously, read their bios). It’s vegan, organic and bursting with fruit and freshness.