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Picking Grapes with Ashwan Luckheenarain

This time around we hear from the Restaurant Manager and Wine Buyer at Main Street's beloved Spanish tapas spot, ¿CóMO? Tapería...

Picking Grapes with Ashwan Luckheenarain

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.

This time around we hear from Ashwan Luckheenarain, Restaurant Manager and Wine Buyer at Main Street’s beloved Spanish tapas spot, ¿CóMO? Tapería

What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with? Do you remember where you were? What were the circumstances?

It was during my time working at L’Abattoir, when they had the Bubbles at Brunch program. We were doing staff training and being taught about different methods of making sparkling wine. It was the first time I tried Blue Mountain’s Gold Label Brut. It tasted fresh and bright, with notes of apple tarte, bergamot, and coconut brioche. I never knew that BC had such amazing sparkling wine. Sensational!

Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars 2385 Allendale Road, Okanagan Falls MAP

Spring is here! Is there a local winemaker whose upcoming vintage you are most excited about, and why?

The team at Pamplemousse Jus are releasing their new wines over the next couple months. I had the chance to try their new fresh Alsatian co-ferment, a delicious bone dry sparkling Gewurztraminer and a plush Zweigelt. However, they do have one more trick up their sleeve saved for later. They released a Pinot Pinot Pet Nat awhile ago and it was a hit. This year they are making a traditional method sparkling wine of the Pinot Pinot. James, Jordan and Tyler are killing it, The new wines are cleaner, focused and even more delicious.

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?

Thorn & Burrow – Alex Thornley is the man behind this project located in Abbotsford, experimenting with skin contact Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and even Siegerrebe as a single varietal. I had never tasted a 100% Siegerrebe from BC before. It was delicious!

Moon Curser – Moon Curser deserves a shout out for making wines from grapes such as Arneis, Tannat, Tempranillo, and Touriga Nacional. It’s so fascinating to see these grapes getting a chance in the valley.

Terravista – They’ve been consistently making amazing white wines from Figaro, Viognier, and Fandango grapes. However, I have my eyes on their newly planted Mencia vines. It is predicted to be ready by 2026. SO CLOSE!

Thorn & Burrow Wines Abbotsford, BC MAP
Moon Curser Vineyards 3628 Highway 3 East, Osoyoos, BC MAP
Terravista Vineyards 1853 Sutherland Rd. Penticton MAP

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?

There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears behind every project. I’d love to see more events educating consumers about BC wineries, how they came to be, where they are going and who makes them happen. I understand there’s a lot of moving parts to consider before creating such events, but our wine industry is constantly evolving and there’s a lot of people out there who would love to learn more about it.

If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?

Tantalus! I had a chance to visit them last year and I love what they do in the vineyards and the cellar. They are huge proponents of regenerative agriculture and implement biodynamic practices in the vineyard. Working in the cellar can be very overwhelming, but I think Dave Paterson (Winemaker and GM) would really help to arm me with ample skills and knowledge by the end of harvest.

Tantalus Vineyards 1670 DeHart Road, Kelowna MAP

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?

Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Syrah – This wine hits all the marks. If this is the first ever wine you try from BC, you will be astonished. It is elegant, well balanced with darker fruits and a nice long peppery finish. Worth holding in the cellar for a bit.

Le Vieux Pin Winery 5496 Black Sage Road, Oliver MAP

What about a white?

Tantalus’ Old Vines Riesling – Off-dry, apple, honeysuckle, and lemon rinds. Riesling is one of the grapes that thrives so well in BC, and I would drink it every chance I get.

Tantalus Vineyards 1670 DeHart Road, Kelowna MAP

And finally, a rose?

Lock & Worth’s Cabernet Franc – Watermelon, salted red plums, and cranberry with hints of white flowers. Goes down too easy and is such a great value for money.

Lock & Worth 1060 Poplar Grove Rd, Penticton, BC MAP

We love the idea of supporting the local wine industry as much as possible, but if you were to recommend one wine from one international winery that you are currently pouring, what would you choose? What menu item should we pair with it?

Camino Real by Adegas Guimaro in Ribera Sacra! The vines are located on these majestic steep terraces similar to the Douro, Northern Rhone and Mosel, which means they are absolutely labour intensive. Winemaker Pedro Perez is resolved to traditional wine making; wild yeast fermentation, foot treading and low sulfur additions. The Camino Real is a blend of Mencia (aka the Pinot Noir of Spain) and other varietals such as Merenzao, Caiño and Sousón. The result is a wine that reflects its unique terroir; slatey minerals, forest moss and a pin bone tannin that assembles smoked cherry and purple fruits to a long aromatic finish. Hands down one of my favourites to serve at Como. This wine would be phenomenal with our new octopus dish: chargrilled Octopus with Roja sauce (Chorizo based red sauce) and Chickpea foam. They complement each other with great harmony without one overpowering the other.

Time for some prompts (imagine I’m a customer asking for your advice): “It’s Monday – what are we drinking?”

With some sunshine upon us, a glass of Marismilla by Luis Perez would be ideal to take the Monday woes off your shoulders. It is a rose wine from the Sherry region of Spain, made from Graciano grapes. Pleasant explosion of clementines, candied citrus, bruised apple and peach yogurt on the palate, with a saline finish. Just what you need to kickstart the week!

“Yahoo! It’s Friday! After a long and gruelling week, what are we drinking?”

Matsu La Jefa! A 100% Malvasia that comes from 100-year-old average pre-phylloxera vines. A brighter style of wine that we are accustomed to from the Toro region of Spain. Apricot, pollen, wild honey and tonka beans coating your palate, with a long, toasty finish. This wine has enough weight and alcohol content to make you forget your tedious workdays and happily focus on the oncoming weekend. Pair this delicious wine with the Iberico Cinco Jotas Jamon and it’s “game over”!

There is 1 comment

  1. Impressive interview, Ashwan has incredible knowledge and experience, thanks for opening my eyes to some new tastes I am going to try this year.

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