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Picking Grapes with Chef and Wine Pro, Vish Mayekar

The Head Chef of Caffe La Tana and Pepino's, and certified wine professional, shares his wealth of grape knowledge and passion for BC wines...

Picking Grapes with Chef and Wine Pro, Vish Mayekar

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.

Today we put our Picking Grapes questions to Vish Mayekar, Head Chef at Caffe La Tana and Pepino’s, and “certified wine professional with a passion for pairings”…

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

Without a doubt it would have to be the “Painted Rock Red Icon 2012” that I was able to enjoy at this dinner party back in 2015 in Kelowna, and was surprised to find out that this wine was from BC. I visited the winery the very next summer and ever since have enjoyed pretty much all of their reds.

Painted Rock Estate Winery 400 Smythe Drive, Penticton MAP

Now that travel is feasible/enjoyable again, which local winery are you most looking forward to visiting, and why?

I need to go back to Orofino as soon as time permits. Not only are the wines delicious, the location is perfect and the winery itself has this European flair to it. Sipping wine under the almond and walnut trees overlooking parts of the vineyard and the strawbale structures is a truly unique experience.

Orofino Vineyards 2152 Barcelo Road, Cawston MAP

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 three local wineries that you think are especially deserving of our attention, who would you choose?

This is a tough one; every sector of hospitality needs attention. Small cafes, restaurants, catering businesses and wineries; they all need to be shown some love now, more than ever. To only be able to pick only three is really a challenge, but without being biased:

1) French Door Estate Winery – mmm their Bordeaux blend is tasty!
2) Little Farm Winery – very interesting Cabernet Franc here.
3) Lightning Rock Winery – Pinot Noir Haven!

But again don’t forget to show some love to all the other wineries while you’re up there visiting, or just by buying a bottle of wine that you haven’t tried from one of the local wineries.

French Door Estate Winery 5462 Black Sage Rd., Oliver, BC MAP
Lightning Rock Winery 6611 Giants Head Rd, Summerland, BC MAP
Little Farm WInery 2155 Newton Rd, Cawston, BC MAP

What is the one versatile BC wine you recommend for pairing this autumn?

When I think autumn, I think hearty warm food, tons of stews and curries. Keeping that in mind, the one wine that comes to mind is Quails Gate’s Pinot Noir, (Richard’s Block – if I was being really specific). Pair this wine with a bowl of hot stew or roasted butternut squash salad with a smoked bacon dressing – it’s just so versatile.

Quails' Gate Winery 3303 Boucherie Road, West Kelowna MAP

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?

There are enough negatives about these gruesome long months of the Pandemic, but let’s talk silver linings here. People have really understood the importance of supporting local small businesses. I’ve seen friends and colleagues buying and drinking BC wines more than ever and it’s good to see that. The travel restrictions forced people to explore BC more, and I’m sure there are new fans and BC wine lovers that have emerged through these last few months of summer. More reservations instead of walk-ins for wine tastings, more interest in small BC wine producers and a new sort of attraction to explore local wineries are some of the lasting effects I expect to see in coming years.

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

Without a doubt it would be at Le Vieux Pin winery. Severine Pinte, in my opinion, is one of the greatest winemakers in Canada. It would be such an experience; she has an abundance of wine knowledge and the quality of wines from Le Vieux Pin is top notch. I might sound really biased here cause LVP is my personal favourite winery in all of Canada so working ‘just one’ harvest would have to be there.

Le Vieux Pin Winery 5496 Black Sage Road, Oliver 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?

Cabernet Franc has to be that grape variety that BC has been growing for a while now and is the 4th most planted grape in BC. I remember having this conversation with a group of people about wines in Canada, and how surprised they were to find out varieties like Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Gamay were grown in BC. The reason why I would choose Cabernet Franc as the red grape variety would be to spotlight the ever growing popularity of this wine in BC, and how there are wineries like Poplar Grove and The Hatch who are doing all the justice to this grape variety.

Poplar Grove Winery 425 Middle Bench Road North, Penticton MAP
The Hatch Wines 3225 Boucherie Rd., West Kelowna, BC MAP

What about a white?

Pinot Blanc would be the white variety I’d choose. Such a small acreage of this grape is grown here in BC, but it’s still mind-blowing to someone who doesn’t really know BC wines or the varieties that are grown here. Black Swift winery comes to mind right away whenever I think of BC Pinot Blanc… So good!

Black Swift Vineyards 2345 Boucherie Rd., West Kelowna, BC MAP

And finally, a rose?

La Stella winery’s ‘LaStella Rosato’ – a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese…yup Sangiovese from Osoyoos is so unique. You don’t often hear about Sangiovese growing in Western Canada, do you?

LaStella Winery 8123-148th Avenue, Osoyoos MAP

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