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Picking Grapes with Lisa Cook

The GM at Bufala River District walks us through her very first BC wine crush, the perfect pour for spring, and a wine myth she’s itching to bust.

Picking Grapes with Lisa Cook

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’re catching up with Lisa Cook, GM at Bufala River District, who walks us through her very first BC wine crush, the perfect wine for spring, and some wine myths she’s itching to bust.

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

Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc. I was a young cook hanging out with a group of waiters after work one night. My experience with wine at that time was rather limited, and I hadn’t even heard of Chenin blanc, let alone tried one. What stood out most for me at the time was the acidity, which was so vibrant and mouth-watering. It’s a wine I still enjoy to this day and recommend others to try.

Quails' Gate Winery 3303 Boucherie Road, West Kelowna MAP

What was the last pour of wine that inspired you to seek it out and purchase for personal consumption? What were the circumstances?

Poppyshake Sauvignon Blanc. My friend Lindsay, at Bar Tartare, is always introducing me to fun and interesting wines. One night she poured this for me and it hit all the right notes – fruity, creamy and delicate with well balanced acidity. Also, she sells everything retail, so I didn’t have to search very hard to bring some home.

Bar Tartare 54 Alexander Street MAP

What wine myth, from production and practice to service, do you want to set the record straight on / want to see done away with, and why?

In most cases, we drink our white wines way too cold. If I could get away with it, I would get rid of chillers and ice buckets. They take up so much space on tables and drip water everywhere. Besides, you can taste so much more in the wine when it isn’t ice cold!

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

Roche Winery in Naramata. Dylan and Penelope are such lovely humans, who happen to make incredibly delicious wines. I respect their commitment to winemaking tradition and also to the land they farm. I’m proud to serve their wines, and it would be an honour to contribute to one of their vintages.

Roche Wines 60 Upper Bench Rd S, Penticton, BC MAP

Opening a new restaurant is a blank slate for building a wine list. What considerations or factors did you take into account when developing a list specific to Bufala River District?

I really wanted to be able to offer great value and variety to the guests in this neighborhood. The focus of the list is mostly Italian, with some other countries speckled throughout. I thought about what guests generally ask for and made sure those styles were represented. The bulk of the list are wines that I have worked with before and are known to be hits, while the rest are wines that are new and exciting to me. I also love that we arrange the wines in flavour categories because it allows the guest to navigate on their own if they wish.

Bufala (River District) 3489 Sawmill Crescent MAP

What wine made the cut that you are most excited for diners to experience?

Dominik Held Cuvee Weiss, Domaine de l’R Chenin Blanc, and Covert Farms Amicitia – which are some fun, non-Italian wines that I have enjoyed recently, and was excited to put on the list.

Covert Farms 300 Covert Pl, Oliver, BC V0H 1T5 MAP

Seasons are changing! Which local vintage most embodies the spirit of Spring to you, and why?

BC rose of course! As much as I am an advocate for rose all year, Spring really sets the tone. It’s also when the newest vintages are released here, so we get to taste the freshest expressions. If you manage to find some of the 2023 Bella Wines Mariani 509 Gamay Ancestrale Sparkling, enjoy it with some good friends and warm sun!

Bella Wines 4320 Gulch Road, Site 15A Comp 2, Naramata MAP

The Bufala River District patio is going to get some nice sun this summer. If you were able to plant a mini vineyard on your patio space, which varietal would you go for?

I’d have to pick a classic: Pinot Gris. It’s versatile, goes with a variety of dishes, and is always a crowd pleaser. I hope our version is aromatic, with a little texture, lots of length and some crisp acidity.

Bufala (River District) 3489 Sawmill Crescent MAP

Can you recommend one BC wine for someone who didn’t even know that wine was made here? Why did you choose it? What does it say?

Tantalus Flagship Riesling. This winery has some of the oldest vine plantings in Canada, dating back to 1927. Riesling is one of my favorite varieties because it pairs so well with a variety of food. This wine shows the history of our winemaking tradition in BC, and if you are lucky enough to taste some older vintages, you can also see the potential for the aging of our wines.

Tantalus Vineyards 1670 DeHart Road, Kelowna MAP

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