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.
If you’ve paid a visit to Bar Susu for a glass of wine, chances are good that Brittany Hoorne had her say about the good stuff being poured in your glass. Besides being largely responsible for curating Susu’s menu of small producers using low-intervention and biodynamic methods in their vineyards, Hoorne is an all-around rad human being – which is exactly why we wanted to hear her thoughts on the local wines/wineries currently getting her excited…
What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with? Do you remember where you were? What were the circumstances?
I think it would have been the Orofino Wild Ferment Old Vines Riesling – 2015 or 2016 vintage probably? It was years ago during a training session. I recall it especially stood out to me in a line-up, and it was one of the first times I tasted wines in that setting. I became curious about wild fermentation and wine production. Both wine and British Columbia were quite new to me at the time, so you could consider it a “gateway wine” for myself.
Autumn is here! Crush is happening. Is there a local winemaker whose upcoming vintage you are most excited about, and why?
Of course, it’s difficult to choose just one, but Keenan & Zoe are producing some honest wines in Summerland that are making people dance. I love the field blend duo that they released this year – one with directly pressed pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris, the other macerated on skins – such a great thing to share side-by-side. They do all of this all while making some very cool moves for Sage Hills.
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?
Scout Vineyard – their farming-first attitude and devotion to biodiversity is admirable. Doesn’t hurt that they are incredible winemakers with some stunning Georgian qvevri to work with, also. Cool people + integral farming + brilliant winemaking = wine you should drink.
Thorn & Burrow – a lo-fi, passion driven, guerilla project by Alex Thornley – so far, a focus on exclusively skin contact gems. It’s a challenging gig as an outsider without a winery or land, but he’s pushed through and now finds himself farming a two acre site in the unassuming region of Abbotsford. He’s been experimenting with the hybrid varieties that the site offers, and has made magic with the fruit. Typically using it as blending components with Okanagan grapes, but also allowing seigerrebbe to shine as its own single variety wine. He’s even given me a turn to play! There was a very small run of bubbles that I orchestrated with fruit from the site – a super lovable peaches and cream pet-nat (if you know, you know). Keep your ear to the ground for the label’s first ever red wine in the coming year – there’s a rumour that a carbonic syrah may be in the works…
Not a winery, but I choose it anyways – Twin Island. Great cider doesn’t receive enough attention and there is some wildly exciting stuff coming from them on Pender Island. They have created so many beautiful things, including their own vessels, hand built in a Georgian style with clay that they’ve dug themselves. Wow.
Have the last few years reshaped your approach to buying, serving, and enjoying wine in any way? If so, how?
The recent setbacks in our buying market have pushed me to explore more of our local producers, and I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been sleeping on some really nice things. It’s so easy to get excited about imports, it feels as if a wine can transport you to places you’ve never been, or bring you back to a region that you’ve once visited, I often found myself overlooking what’s produced closest to home. It’s truly incredible what we have happening so near. This puzzle piece of the globe is so fruitful and our proximity to such stunning wine regions is especially unique. The last few months have prompted me to have a stronger appreciation for our local talent.
What sort of changes, if any, do you think the local wine industry – from wine lovers and servers to the producers and distributors – might see over the next year or two?
I think that many of us living in this province value regenerative agriculture and food with less additives. I observe the same thoughtfulness that we apply to what’s on our plate transition to what’s also in our glass. I believe that more wine lovers are going to be drawn to wines that come from vineyards that are cared for with consideration of a whole ecosystem in mind, along with a less is best mindset in the cellar. Anticipate more fermented juice that doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into the wine or cider category. Why not make the most of your pressed skins by letting them hang out with some pear juice for a while? Go off. I’m looking forward to resourceful beverages that taste like fun.
I’m here for new low ABV options – the badass people of Rigour & Whimsy have some kegged piquette that is set to hit the market, keep an eye out! I think that zero proof is about to have its moment, I’m curious about some things that have been popping up… I’m crossing my fingers for more wine in cans though, so ideal for cycling to the beach.
If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?
I’m actually in the Okanagan for harvest now. I’ve been able to lend a hand here and there for the last few vintages of Thorn & Burrow and I’m back again for a little piece of harvest. If I were to switch it up, I’d love to assist the ever so lovely humans over at Bella. The “is it even real?” scene of the Naramata Bench accompanied by adorable farm animals and some bubbles to sip on would serve as a fine distraction from all of the heavy lifting.
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?
Harvest each year permits a trip or two to Le Vieux Pin, and if I’m thinking “emblematic-of-BC”, I’d say anything they’ve got in the realm of red wine fits the script. But it’s always worthwhile to peep what Raj has going on with Ursa Major. I just snuck a taste of the 2021 The Black Sage Rd Sessions – what he’s been up to is worth the hype.
What about a white?
Little Farm’s Pied de Cuve collection offers exciting examples of local, low-intervention juice. I’ve been pouring a lot of their 2018 Pied de Cuve Riesling recently – flinty and mineral driven, with intensity and acidity – yes please.
Hard to come by, but if you find yourself with a chance to taste some L-ST Projects’ chardonnay (still or sparkling), don’t you dare pass that up. What Alyssa has created is a hauntingly beautiful experience, spend some time with a glass and you will understand.
And finally, a rose?
Definitely Scout Vineyard’s rose – it should be made in magnums. Energetic, alive, juicy – cabernet sauvignon with a few fun aromatic white varieties proves to be beyond delightful.