Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival’

Tripping through Okanagan & Similkameen wineries in BC

Posted by Susan

Monday, March 7th, 2011
Share

I couldn’t resist yet another week in the Okanagan this year, with a day trip to the Similkameen. 

October is a lovely time of year to visit the area, with the brilliant autumn colors of the vines and fruit trees balanced by the subtle tones of the desert sage and antelope brush.  We stayed at the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa, which is co-located with the Nk’Mip Winery, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre and the Sonora Dunes Golf Course on a bench of Anarchist Mountain, just above Lake Osoyoos.  The resort provides a beautiful view of the vineyards of the southern Okanagan, stretching north toward the Golden Mile and the Black Sage Bench, and south to the Washington state border.  This area provides an ideal climate for red vinifera grapes, but is also home to the northern tip of the Sonoran desert as well as many endangered species.  We attended a very interesting presentation at the Desert Cultural Centre, where an interpreter discussed the research they are conducting to help preserve the endangered local snake species.  And, discussions with winery owners demonstrate their awareness of and sensitivity to the unique environment.

Once settled in, it was time to visit a few of the smaller, independently owned wineries in the Okanagan.  And a day trip to the Similkameen introduced us to some new and promising winemakers. 

After hearing Jack Fraser speak with great passion at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival about his winery in Summerland, Thornhaven Estates, a visit was in order.  I’d only had a chance to sample his Gewurtz, after all!  When we arrived, we were greeted by Jan, Jack and their daughter Courtney.  Jason, their son the winemaker, was in town on an errand.  The road to Thornhaven is a long and winding one, up the mountain overlooking Lake Okanagan, but it’s well worth it, for the view and for the great wines.  Jack’s cousin brought the property as a fruit farm in the early 1990s, began planting vines in 1996, and opened the winery in 1999.  The winery is a lovely southwestern-style adobe structure with an inviting walled terrace – given slightly warmer weather, we would have been sipping our wine there.   

After returning to Canada in 2000 from a series of expatriate assignments, Jack became involved in the vineyard and eventually took over Thornhaven from his cousin in 2005.  From there, the entire family became involved.  Jason, who has a great natural palate, was trained by Jack’s cousin and works with a consulting winemaker.  Jack is the resident viticulturalist, Jan handles all general management issues, and Courtney manages the wine shop.  A true family affair!

The Frasers produce a range of wines, including a fresh Pinot Gris, a wonderfully aromatic Gewurtztraminer, a fruity Pinot Meunier, a burgundian-style Pinot Noir, a Syrah (their first vintage) and a Merlot.  They also have two blends, Trinity, which includes a unique combination of Merlot, Gamay and Pinot Noir and Evolution, a typical Meritage blend.  We finished the tasting with two unique lip smacking late harvest wines, Nectar del Sol whic is made from Riesling, Viognier and Muscat, and Diosa, produced from Chardonnay fermented in barriques for 3 months.

With vineyards high on the slopes above the Okanagan, all grapes are hand harvested.  Jack credits two factors for the unique characteristics of his wines:  the soils, which are volcanic in origin hence packed with minerals, and the ‘lake effect’ of warm air moving up the slopes from the lake in the morning, then cooler air rolling back down in the evening.

The family was in great spirits as we left, as they had just learned they are among the 10 wineries selected as finalists for B.C. winery of the year award.

We also stopped to visit with Stefanie and Bernd Schales at 8th Generation Vineyard.  With a long winemaking pedigree in Germany, both Stefanie and Bernd wanted to establish their own winery.  After stints in South Africa and New Zealand, they found their dream on this property between Penticton and Summerland.  Not without resistance from the family!!  Stefanie’s father was convinced that the location would be too cold and that they would lose their vines.  When he finally visited a couple of years ago, the summer heat and fine soils convinced him they had potentially better growing conditions than in Germany. 

8th Generation has vineyards in Summerland, where they grow all their Pinot Noir, and near Okanagan Falls, where the whites are grown.  They feel that the local terroir produces rounder smoother more earthy Pinot Noir, while the sandy soils in Okanagan Falls retain the fresh flavors of the whites.  Their goal is to produce their grapes using organic techniques, although they use a minor amount of chemicals for weed control.

Their small production of 2800 cases includes a fresh fruity Pinot Gris, a classic German-style Riesling with great minerality, a citrusy dry Riesling as well as a rich sweet off-dry Riesling.  The reds include Pinot Noir, a Merlot aged 12 months in barrel, and a Syrah which had a palate redolent of spicy fruit, pepper and herbal notes.  What a wonderful selection!

If you are visiting the Summerland area, don’t miss tasting Thornhaven and 8th Generation wines.

Other exciting initiatives in the southern Okanagan include the complete renovation of Hester Creek Winery and the establishment of Cassini Cellars by Adrian Capeneata.

With substantial investment by the owner and the design skills of Rob Summers, the winemaker at Hester Creek, the winery now has a state-of-the-art cellar and winemaking facility to handle the grapes from its 85 acres on the Golden Mile.  Rob placed particular emphasis on the improved safety in the facility, the quality of the steel tanks newly installed, and the extensive barrel vault.  The new tasting facility, built with a dramatic cathedral ceiling and a fabulous view over the vineyards, includes a tasting bar, a tasteful shop stocked with unique items, a private dining room and a fully equipped kitchen.  This facility was built largely into the mountain to take advantage of the thermal mass and uses geothermal systems for heating and cooling.  It joins the lovely guest villas located just above the winery.  And the wines, of course, are wonderful.

Cassini Cellars is located just off Highway 97 between Oliver and Osoyoos in a ochre-colored adobe-style builing that blends beautifully with the desert landscape. From a winemaking family in Roumania,  Adrian was involved with the construction industry for many years.  However,  he and his wife fell in love with the Okanagan on a visit there, so he decided to return to his roots.  He purchased a local lavender farm in 2006 (all the plants were sold to eager buyers), planted mainly red varietals, with a few whites, and began construction, largely on his own, of the new winery.  When I visited this fall, the winery had just recently opened and Adrian was still hard at work in the winemaking facilities.   Working with consulting winemaker Phil Soo, he produced a Pinot Noir Reserve 2007 which won a silver medal at Intervin.  His Viognier had lush tropical fruit aromas, while the Gewurtz was dry and elegant.  I’m sure we’ll hear more about his wines.

Bill Eggert of Fairview Cellars was also a welcoming host at his rustic winery tucked away behind the Fairview golf course west of Oliver.  I had tasted his Cabernet Franc at the Vancouver Playhouse Winefest, only to discover upon arrival that it is sold out!  However, Bill was more than willing to share his other big reds, including Mad Cap Red–a lush blend of predominantly Merlot with the Cabernets–the BOS, made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Sam Baptiste, a legend in Okanagan viticulture, as well as his premium blend, the Bear, and a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Go to his website and, I’m sorry to say, all the wines are sold out.  While his reds are legendary, Bill offered a unique treat – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with intense characteristic aromas, a silky citrusy palate and a lingering finish.  Wow – one bottle wasn’t enough!

After being dazzled by the great wines of the Okanagan, we took a day trip to the Similkameen Valley to visit with some of the new winemakers helping to build that unique region’s reputation.  The newly established Similkameen Wineries Association has brought a small number of producers together to promote their terroir and unique wines.  Available on their website is a terrific little map that explains how to get to the valley, and then clearly illustrates where each winery is located – a recommended item should your travels take you there – and they should!

We visited three relatively new wineries, including Robin Ridge Winery, EauVivre Winery & Vineyards, and Cerelia Vineyards and Estate Winery.

At Robin Ridge, Tim Cottrill and his wife purchased their property in 1996 and have been growing grapes since then, selling to local wineries.  In 2006, after training with winemaker and owner of Herder Estates, Lawrence Herder, Tim produced his first vintage and opened his own winery.  His 10 acres were planted in 1997 and include Chardonnay, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.  Thirty percent of the fruit for his 07 Chardonnay was aged in barrel, creating an aromatic rounded wine with a great fruit flavors and refreshing acidity.  The Pinot Noir, aged in French oak offers rich ripe berries, soft tannins and a spicy finish.  The 06 Merlot, which includes a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, was barrel-aged in French and American oak.  It has a lush nose of plums, ripe berries, vanilla and sweet spices.  Well-structured, it has a long finish with hints of cocoa and espresso.

Dale Wright and his wife Jeri are originally from Saskatechewan, but a visit to their daughter and their enjoyment of south Okanagan wines soon had them dreaming of a move.  When the property in the Similkameen became available, they didn’t hesitate.  They opened EauVivre just this August, and Dale introduced us to the wines from his first vintage.  This included a toasty Chardonnay, aged in 1 and 2 year old barrels for 14 months, his intensely floral Gewurztraminer, a berry-rich Pinot Noir with fine tannins, and a wonderfully expressive Cabernet Franc, redolent of dark summer fruits, cocoa, vanilla and spices – get it if you can!

Our last stop in the Similkameen was at Cerelia Vineyards & Estate Winery, where we met Megan Mutch, her husband Corey, and their children.  This venture is another family affair.  While Megan and Corey were living in Grand Prairie, his parents decided to convert their fruit farm to vines.  Would the kids come home to help out?  Of course, since Corey is an orchardist at heart, and Megan had a dream of becoming a winemaker.  They moved back and Megan began taking winemaking courses in Penticton and working with John Weber at Orofino while Corey worked with his family planting the vines.  The couple has just opened a small tasting room within the large farmhouse family farmhouse, where they offered us samples of their first vintage steel-fermented Pinot Gris and Chardonnay – only about 200 cases of these wines were produced.  But they have great plans – as evidenced by the winery and barrel cellars still under construction in the farmyard.  And Megan, working with John Weber of Orofino as her mentor, has produced some lovely white wines.   The Pinot Gris is fresh and crisp with ripe tree fruit flavors and a great balance of fruit and acidity on the finish.   The Chardonnay, unoaked but left on the lies, has an aromatic nose of pear with a hint of citrus, a smooth mid palate and a lovely fresh finish.  We also barrel sampled her 08 and 09 Merlot – very promising.  Watch for more from this aspiring young winemaker and her family.  There are great plans, including producing scrumptious wine jellies (our sample was delicious), and possibly establishing a B&B.

 We headed back to our suite at the Spirit Ridge reminding ourselves that we never manage to visit all the wineries we’d like to, as every year the scene changes.  Wineries expand, new ones open, winemakers move on and new varietals or blends are vinified.  It’s what makes this Canadian wine region so exciting, and keeps us coming back for more.

 If you’re thinking of taking a trip to the area, don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’d enjoy helping you plan your winery visits.  If not, consider visiting the LCBO Vintages Online Shop (search on Region), where there is currently a small but worthwhile selection of Okanagan wines from Road 13, Sandhill, and Sumac Ridge.

 Cheers!
Susan

Share

Tripping through Okanagan & Similkameen wineries in BC

Posted by Susan

Monday, March 7th, 2011
Share

I couldn’t resist yet another week in the Okanagan this year, with a day trip to the Similkameen. 

October is a lovely time of year to visit the area, with the brilliant autumn colors of the vines and fruit trees balanced by the subtle tones of the desert sage and antelope brush.  We stayed at the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa, which is co-located with the Nk’Mip Winery, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre and the Sonora Dunes Golf Course on a bench of Anarchist Mountain, just above Lake Osoyoos.  The resort provides a beautiful view of the vineyards of the southern Okanagan, stretching north toward the Golden Mile and the Black Sage Bench, and south to the Washington state border.  This area provides an ideal climate for red vinifera grapes, but is also home to the northern tip of the Sonoran desert as well as many endangered species.  We attended a very interesting presentation at the Desert Cultural Centre, where an interpreter discussed the research they are conducting to help preserve the endangered local snake species.  And, discussions with winery owners demonstrate their awareness of and sensitivity to the unique environment.

Once settled in, it was time to visit a few of the smaller, independently owned wineries in the Okanagan.  And a day trip to the Similkameen introduced us to some new and promising winemakers. 

After hearing Jack Fraser speak with great passion at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival about his winery in Summerland, Thornhaven Estates, a visit was in order.  I’d only had a chance to sample his Gewurtz, after all!  When we arrived, we were greeted by Jan, Jack and their daughter Courtney.  Jason, their son the winemaker, was in town on an errand.  The road to Thornhaven is a long and winding one, up the mountain overlooking Lake Okanagan, but it’s well worth it, for the view and for the great wines.  Jack’s cousin brought the property as a fruit farm in the early 1990s, began planting vines in 1996, and opened the winery in 1999.  The winery is a lovely southwestern-style adobe structure with an inviting walled terrace – given slightly warmer weather, we would have been sipping our wine there.   

After returning to Canada in 2000 from a series of expatriate assignments, Jack became involved in the vineyard and eventually took over Thornhaven from his cousin in 2005.  From there, the entire family became involved.  Jason, who has a great natural palate, was trained by Jack’s cousin and works with a consulting winemaker.  Jack is the resident viticulturalist, Jan handles all general management issues, and Courtney manages the wine shop.  A true family affair!

The Frasers produce a range of wines, including a fresh Pinot Gris, a wonderfully aromatic Gewurtztraminer, a fruity Pinot Meunier, a burgundian-style Pinot Noir, a Syrah (their first vintage) and a Merlot.  They also have two blends, Trinity, which includes a unique combination of Merlot, Gamay and Pinot Noir and Evolution, a typical Meritage blend.  We finished the tasting with two unique lip smacking late harvest wines, Nectar del Sol whic is made from Riesling, Viognier and Muscat, and Diosa, produced from Chardonnay fermented in barriques for 3 months.

With vineyards high on the slopes above the Okanagan, all grapes are hand harvested.  Jack credits two factors for the unique characteristics of his wines:  the soils, which are volcanic in origin hence packed with minerals, and the ‘lake effect’ of warm air moving up the slopes from the lake in the morning, then cooler air rolling back down in the evening.

The family was in great spirits as we left, as they had just learned they are among the 10 wineries selected as finalists for B.C. winery of the year award.

We also stopped to visit with Stefanie and Bernd Schales at 8th Generation Vineyard.  With a long winemaking pedigree in Germany, both Stefanie and Bernd wanted to establish their own winery.  After stints in South Africa and New Zealand, they found their dream on this property between Penticton and Summerland.  Not without resistance from the family!!  Stefanie’s father was convinced that the location would be too cold and that they would lose their vines.  When he finally visited a couple of years ago, the summer heat and fine soils convinced him they had potentially better growing conditions than in Germany. 

8th Generation has vineyards in Summerland, where they grow all their Pinot Noir, and near Okanagan Falls, where the whites are grown.  They feel that the local terroir produces rounder smoother more earthy Pinot Noir, while the sandy soils in Okanagan Falls retain the fresh flavors of the whites.  Their goal is to produce their grapes using organic techniques, although they use a minor amount of chemicals for weed control.

Their small production of 2800 cases includes a fresh fruity Pinot Gris, a classic German-style Riesling with great minerality, a citrusy dry Riesling as well as a rich sweet off-dry Riesling.  The reds include Pinot Noir, a Merlot aged 12 months in barrel, and a Syrah which had a palate redolent of spicy fruit, pepper and herbal notes.  What a wonderful selection!

If you are visiting the Summerland area, don’t miss tasting Thornhaven and 8th Generation wines.

Other exciting initiatives in the southern Okanagan include the complete renovation of Hester Creek Winery and the establishment of Cassini Cellars by Adrian Capeneata.

With substantial investment by the owner and the design skills of Rob Summers, the winemaker at Hester Creek, the winery now has a state-of-the-art cellar and winemaking facility to handle the grapes from its 85 acres on the Golden Mile.  Rob placed particular emphasis on the improved safety in the facility, the quality of the steel tanks newly installed, and the extensive barrel vault.  The new tasting facility, built with a dramatic cathedral ceiling and a fabulous view over the vineyards, includes a tasting bar, a tasteful shop stocked with unique items, a private dining room and a fully equipped kitchen.  This facility was built largely into the mountain to take advantage of the thermal mass and uses geothermal systems for heating and cooling.  It joins the lovely guest villas located just above the winery.  And the wines, of course, are wonderful.

Cassini Cellars is located just off Highway 97 between Oliver and Osoyoos in a ochre-colored adobe-style builing that blends beautifully with the desert landscape. From a winemaking family in Roumania,  Adrian was involved with the construction industry for many years.  However,  he and his wife fell in love with the Okanagan on a visit there, so he decided to return to his roots.  He purchased a local lavender farm in 2006 (all the plants were sold to eager buyers), planted mainly red varietals, with a few whites, and began construction, largely on his own, of the new winery.  When I visited this fall, the winery had just recently opened and Adrian was still hard at work in the winemaking facilities.   Working with consulting winemaker Phil Soo, he produced a Pinot Noir Reserve 2007 which won a silver medal at Intervin.  His Viognier had lush tropical fruit aromas, while the Gewurtz was dry and elegant.  I’m sure we’ll hear more about his wines.

Bill Eggert of Fairview Cellars was also a welcoming host at his rustic winery tucked away behind the Fairview golf course west of Oliver.  I had tasted his Cabernet Franc at the Vancouver Playhouse Winefest, only to discover upon arrival that it is sold out!  However, Bill was more than willing to share his other big reds, including Mad Cap Red–a lush blend of predominantly Merlot with the Cabernets–the BOS, made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Sam Baptiste, a legend in Okanagan viticulture, as well as his premium blend, the Bear, and a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Go to his website and, I’m sorry to say, all the wines are sold out.  While his reds are legendary, Bill offered a unique treat – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with intense characteristic aromas, a silky citrusy palate and a lingering finish.  Wow – one bottle wasn’t enough!

After being dazzled by the great wines of the Okanagan, we took a day trip to the Similkameen Valley to visit with some of the new winemakers helping to build that unique region’s reputation.  The newly established Similkameen Wineries Association has brought a small number of producers together to promote their terroir and unique wines.  Available on their website is a terrific little map that explains how to get to the valley, and then clearly illustrates where each winery is located – a recommended item should your travels take you there – and they should!

We visited three relatively new wineries, including Robin Ridge Winery, EauVivre Winery & Vineyards, and Cerelia Vineyards and Estate Winery.

At Robin Ridge, Tim Cottrill and his wife purchased their property in 1996 and have been growing grapes since then, selling to local wineries.  In 2006, after training with winemaker and owner of Herder Estates, Lawrence Herder, Tim produced his first vintage and opened his own winery.  His 10 acres were planted in 1997 and include Chardonnay, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.  Thirty percent of the fruit for his 07 Chardonnay was aged in barrel, creating an aromatic rounded wine with a great fruit flavors and refreshing acidity.  The Pinot Noir, aged in French oak offers rich ripe berries, soft tannins and a spicy finish.  The 06 Merlot, which includes a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, was barrel-aged in French and American oak.  It has a lush nose of plums, ripe berries, vanilla and sweet spices.  Well-structured, it has a long finish with hints of cocoa and espresso.

Dale Wright and his wife Jeri are originally from Saskatechewan, but a visit to their daughter and their enjoyment of south Okanagan wines soon had them dreaming of a move.  When the property in the Similkameen became available, they didn’t hesitate.  They opened EauVivre just this August, and Dale introduced us to the wines from his first vintage.  This included a toasty Chardonnay, aged in 1 and 2 year old barrels for 14 months, his intensely floral Gewurztraminer, a berry-rich Pinot Noir with fine tannins, and a wonderfully expressive Cabernet Franc, redolent of dark summer fruits, cocoa, vanilla and spices – get it if you can!

Our last stop in the Similkameen was at Cerelia Vineyards & Estate Winery, where we met Megan Mutch, her husband Corey, and their children.  This venture is another family affair.  While Megan and Corey were living in Grand Prairie, his parents decided to convert their fruit farm to vines.  Would the kids come home to help out?  Of course, since Corey is an orchardist at heart, and Megan had a dream of becoming a winemaker.  They moved back and Megan began taking winemaking courses in Penticton and working with John Weber at Orofino while Corey worked with his family planting the vines.  The couple has just opened a small tasting room within the large farmhouse family farmhouse, where they offered us samples of their first vintage steel-fermented Pinot Gris and Chardonnay – only about 200 cases of these wines were produced.  But they have great plans – as evidenced by the winery and barrel cellars still under construction in the farmyard.  And Megan, working with John Weber of Orofino as her mentor, has produced some lovely white wines.   The Pinot Gris is fresh and crisp with ripe tree fruit flavors and a great balance of fruit and acidity on the finish.   The Chardonnay, unoaked but left on the lies, has an aromatic nose of pear with a hint of citrus, a smooth mid palate and a lovely fresh finish.  We also barrel sampled her 08 and 09 Merlot – very promising.  Watch for more from this aspiring young winemaker and her family.  There are great plans, including producing scrumptious wine jellies (our sample was delicious), and possibly establishing a B&B.

 We headed back to our suite at the Spirit Ridge reminding ourselves that we never manage to visit all the wineries we’d like to, as every year the scene changes.  Wineries expand, new ones open, winemakers move on and new varietals or blends are vinified.  It’s what makes this Canadian wine region so exciting, and keeps us coming back for more.

 If you’re thinking of taking a trip to the area, don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’d enjoy helping you plan your winery visits.  If not, consider visiting the LCBO Vintages Online Shop (search on Region), where there is currently a small but worthwhile selection of Okanagan wines from Road 13, Sandhill, and Sumac Ridge.

 Cheers!
Susan

Share

Making wine around the world with Paul Hobbs

Posted by Susan

Monday, March 7th, 2011
Share

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival seminars are always engaging, hosted by well-known wine personalities, featuring the presence of principals from the featured wineries as well as pioneering individuals from the global wine industry. One such individual is Paul Hobbs, renowned global consultant, and owner/winemaker at Paul Hobbs Winery in California and Viña Cobos in Argentina, .

 

Paul Hobbs grew up on a farm in upstate New York, one of 11 children in a family that produced fruit from its orchards but drank no wine. His first wine tasting experience occurred when his father brought home a bottle of  1962 Château d’Yquem, which he served in paper cups around the dinner table. Paul’s path was cast. In 1969, his father put him in charge of a section of apple orchard which he planted with vines. He then went on to complete a degree in viticulture at Notre Dame, where he attended the weekly wine–tasting seminars of one of his professors, a former winemaker. He pursued further studies in oenology at UC-Davis in California, where he completed a thesis on oak extraction.

 

 An inspired speaker and great storyteller, Paul recounted his experiences working with Mondavi in California, including as head oenologist for Opus One, at Simi Winery, and at Catena Zapata in Argentina, where he was involved with the creation of Catena Alta. In 1991, he established Paul Hobbs Winery in California. Says Paul, “I set out to produce small lot, hand-crafted, vineyard designate wines.” In 1999, he and his 2 Argentine partners, Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud, created Viña Cobos. In addition, Paul is in demand as a consulting winemaker around the world, from established regions such as Chile, France and Canada, to ancient emerging areas such as Armenia.

 

We had an opportunity to taste a range of premium wines from his properties: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Russian River as well as Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon from Viña Cobos. In addition, we were introduced to some of the wineries with whom he has consulted:  Pascual Toso (Magdalena 06), Viña San Pedro (Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc 09), Chåteau Haute-Serre (Cahors 09) and Stratus (Red 05).

 

Tasting Paul’s wines, whether from his own wineries or from those with whom he has consulted, you are struck by the consistently true pure quality of the fruit flavours. Paul discussed his philosophy of wine making: only native yeasts are used in a spontaneous fermentation; fruit is tested to ensure it achieves natural and optimal ripeness; grapes are harvested at night and quickly moved to the winery to ensure purity and freshness; wines are not filtered; barrel fermentation and aging is used to optimize the integration of oak and fruit, catalysed by yeast and bacteria. This approach—ensuring the true expression of the varietal in the context of its unique terroir–characterizes his wines.

 

Paul Hobbs and Viña Cobos wines are available in the LCBO, through Vintages releases.

 

Paul Hobbs Winery Russian River Chardonnay 2006 (Vintages #119073, $79.95)

The 2008 vintage featured at the Festival was a bright gold with lifted aromas of sweet tree fruits, toasty oak and floral notes. Rich and complex, with a full smooth texture, it displayed flavours of ripe pear and toffee apple with a balancing citrusy acidity. The finish was extended and reflected the great balance of the wine.

 

Paul Hobbs Winery Russian River Pinot Noir 2006 (Vintages #119081, $79.95)

The 2008 vintage featured at the Festival was fragrant with spicy floral and berry notes. On the palate, it’s fresh but rich with sweet red and black berry flavours, overlaid with earthy spicy notes. A fine complex wine, it’s well balanced with ripe tannins and fresh acidity. The finish is long and satisfying.

 

Paul Hobbs Winery Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (118695, $69.95)

The 2006 vintage featured at the Festival was opaque and inky, with intense aromas of cassis, cedar and vanilla . It’s dry, full-bodied, structured and layered with flavours of black berries, cassis jam, spice and pepper. Fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity complement the ripe fruit flavours. The extended finish replays the dark fruit flavours and offers a tantalizing note of dark chocolate.

 

The Stratus Red 2005 is available in magnum format from Vintages Online Exclusives (Vintages #90498, $113.00).
The Festival sample was a semi-opaque mahogany with complex aromas of red and black fruit, spice box, mint and cedar. The wine is structured with firm tannins and crisp acidity. Red and black berry flavours are underlaid with notes of dark chocolate, smoke and herbs that carry through on the lengthy finish. With this worthy cellar candidate, decanting is recommended if you wish to savour the wine now.

Share

What REALLY should be on the label?

Posted by Julie

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
Share

This year, my husband (and Savvy Sommelier) Doug Dolinski and I completed the Beer course at Algonquin College. On one of our field trips out of the classroom, we visited Heritage Brewery located in Ottawa and learned about the information that the LCBO considers acceptable (and required) to place on a label.  At this time, Heritage Brewery was applying for approval for their bitter brown ale now called Corporal’s Bitter Brown Ale. 

 

Beer maker and owner of Heritage Brewery, Donna Warner (and her husband Ron), explained that when the beer was first submitted to the LCBO, it was returned three times, for having an unacceptable label. Looking at the original design, I can only assume that it was too inhibiting a design as it showed a stern looking Corporal holding a cricket stick and the beer was named “Corporal Punishment”. A picture of this beer with the original label still appears on the Internet however it has now been re-named to Corporal’s Bitter Brown Ale.

http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/scotch-irish-corporal-punishment/23483/

 

This brought back to my mind a symposium I attended at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival in April, entitled, “What’s in your wine? Truth in Labeling.”  I found the seminar to be educational and somewhat entertaining when I listened to the facilitators, winemakers, lawyers and educators debate the value of placing all the ingredients on the back of the wine bottle.  I wondered if I wanted my wine bottle to look like the back of a box of dried scalloped potato mix and if as a consumer, I would be interested in reading the label before purchasing a bottle of wine. Or would the list of ingredients dissuade my purchasing a bottle of my favorite wine? Really, does the consumer want to know that the wine was refined by egg white or particles from a sturgeon’s stomach?  Yes you read that correctly and I don’t think so. (these are winemaking techniques thought)

 

While labeling can lead to more consumer confidence, I’m not sure it guarantees or provides more quality control in giving one label (or wine for that matter) more credence over another. Having said that, the number of governance bodies that would have to agree on labeling is a hiatus that would make winemakers go ‘arggh if this was to be in their future.

 

Months ago I read an article in the Ottawa Citizen entitled “Information Overload on a Wine label” written by wine columnist and educator Rod Phillips, (who also attended the same seminar with me in Vancouver). He reported that in a five ounce glass of wine, it contains something like 7 mg of sodium, 140 mg of potassium, 4 g carbohydrate, a gram of protein and traces of calcium, niacin, vitamin B6, etc, etc. All of this information raises the nutritional awareness of the ingredients.  He cautioned however, against terms typically used on the front of a wine label such as “Reserve” which are unregulated and said that labeling is complicated depending on the law in force, where it is made and that basically there must be more consistency on labeling before regulations are imposed.

 

As we know, marketing or labeling does not tell the whole story. Most consumers eyes draw to the country of origin of a wine before checking out the percentage of a particular grape varietal and after that, in my opinion, wine is largely cost driven.  Do we want (or for that matter, need) to know how much yeast goes into a barrique? When it states aromas of cherry fruit, to my mind, it makes the product seem so one dimensional although even I max out when I have more than a few descriptors to read.

 

Interestingly enough, what prompted this blog was a trip to Prince Edward County last month when Doug and I stopped at Bergeron Estates Winery, to meet up and chat with owner Dave Bergeron. Once again the topic of labeling came up. Dave shook his head when explaining that he wanted his new cider called ‘County Point Cider’ to have a small pistol on the label (an illustration of a Loyalist artifact he found in his apple orchard). The report back from the LCBO: not a chance. Baffled, Dave said, “How come its okay for the bottlers of Captain Morgan Rum to have a swashbuckler with a sword hanging from his waistband, on that label, but I can’t have a pistol on a bottle of hard cider?”

 

We are all guilty of purchasing a product based on clever marketing. Who cannot be lured by cute little animals and little black dresses. It also reminds me of an instructor of mine from the Sommelier program Algonquin College who said her husband would buy anything with a horse on the label.

 

All this to say that whether the grapes are organic or aromatic or if the beer smells like skunk or caramel, albeit with a rewarding label, what is placed on the back of a bottle, be it wine or beer, where real estate is of prime importance, for now remains in the hands of the maker.

 

For those of us who truly savour and enjoy their every day table wine or beer – do we really care what’s on or behind the label?

 

Share

Who drinks Rosé wines? Women & smart men!

Posted by Julie

Monday, May 31st, 2010
Share

A winemaker was recently asked who was drinking rosé and he replied “mostly women and smart men.”

 

As the curtain closed on Canada’s 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralymic Games, Canada’s largest wine festival, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival opened up last month, with the emphasis on wines from New Zealand and Argentina as well as shining the spotlight on rosé wines.  There were 45+ wines from different countries, with varying styles showing a kaleidoscope of colour from copper to cranberry. As that could make yet another wine wheel, the genre was indicative enough to show that rosé is more than wines that are “just pink with tastes of strawberries” (my reaction to this overused comment: argg!).

 

Although rosé has long been associated with being born in the south of France and made largely from Grenache grapes, in the past year rosé it was reported that consumption in France has increased by 22%. Currently, every wine producing country now produces their own version. For every red grape varietal, a rosé is being made. I was amazed by the quantity and quality of many rosé’s at the Festival. Winemakers from Germany, Argentina, Spain, France, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S.A, Chile and Australia spoke of and promoted their respective rosés from how it was made, to the body of the wine and even to the time of day to drink it! 

 

When winemakers were asked when to serve their rosé, responses varied from breakfast to fore-noon, to afternoon to late evening; concluding that rosé was an any time of day refreshment and not just for the summer barbeque or picnic. Most agreed that rosé should be served just below room temperature as opposed to the boney cold which many, including myself are guilty.

 

On the pairing side with food, rosé frequently mates with the uninventive salmon along with an assortment of other seafoods that tend to put the mind in neutral, (depending of course on preparation). However, I experienced brilliant innovative pairings such as shredded lamb over polenta, and an orzo pasta with beets and greens, topped with a pink cotton candy – Executive Chef & Sommelier Tony Lawrence deserves kudos for this innovation – that complimented a myriad of dark cranberry coloured rosé’s especially those made from the Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz grapes.

  

This year more noticeably than others, all you have to do is walk into the LCBO to be overwhelmed with the variety of rosé wines. Although being a rosé lover, I have no need of a sales pitch to try yet another delicious dry rosé wine. But to say that rosé has now found its way into the international genre of the serious wine world is an understatement. We can no longer assume that if it’s cranberry or pink, that it is sweet and without the complexity of a full bodied wine. 

 

The time has come for us to stop looking suspiciously at these vibrant, fresh coloured wines since it is obvious we can no longer judge a rosé by its cover and that’s not looking at the subject through rosey rim glasses. 

 

Some Rosé wines that I recommend to try this summer:

de Venoge Brut Pink Champagne

M. Chapoutier Tavel 2008

Bastianich Rosato 2008

 

Santé,  Cheers,  Cin cin, Salute !

Julie Stock

Accredited Sommelier & newest member of the Savvy Team

 

You are invited!

Join Julie & the Savvy Team of Sommeliers at Clink & Drink Pink – a Rosé wine tasting on Wednesday July 14th. Click for more details about this fun wine & food event

We look forward to having you join us!

 

 

Share

A delicious week at Vancouver’s Wine Festival

Posted by Susan

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
Share

The Savvy Team has just returned from another great week at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. With over 170 participating wineries and almost 800 wines to taste in the International tasting room PLUS a variety of seminars, wine and food pairings and winemaker dinners – this was definitely the most extensive (not to mention delicious) festival that we have been to yet.

 

This Festival brings the wine world together to:  

– provide informative, educational and entertaining wine experiences for consumers and trade;

– be a premier marketing opportunity for the wine industry;

– be the primary fundraiser for the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.  

 

From humble beginnings in 1978, it has raised millions of dollars for the Playhouse Theatre Company.   During these 32 years, the Festival has grown into one of the world’s most prestigious wine events, offering education, tasting and purchase opportunities of interest to the general public, the trade and wine aficionados of all kinds.  Winemakers return year after year, telling us that they are impressed by the caliber of the event, and the welcome that they receive in Vancouver.  And this year, the event was held in the impressive new Vancouver Convention Centre, designed and built for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

 

Each year a featured region is the anchor of the Festival. This year, there was a twist…the region was the southern hemisphere showcasing both Argentina and New Zealand. What a delicious great duo – creating countless opportunities for participants like me to discover the breadth of varietals cultivated in both countries.

 

It was a revelation to learn that Argentina produces wines from cool-climate grapes, such as Pinot Noir, while certain regions of New Zealand are renowned for their Merlot and Bordeaux-style blends.

 

The signature wines were showcased:  New Zealand’s fresh Sauvignon Blanc and fine Pinot Noir, along with Argentina’s robust Malbec and aromatic Torrontés.

 

Complementing the theme wine regions, Rosé wine was the featured wine style.  What better way to drift into spring than to enjoy the widely varied styles of rosé wines from every corner of the world. 

 

From fine pale salmon Champagne to deep cranberry-colored rosé wines made from Malbec grapes, we had the opportunity to experience the unique qualities of saignée versus pressed rosé (different winemaking processes to make rosé wines), the lightness and intensity of rosé, truly a wine for all occasions.  Julie & I experienced that versatility in a number of food and wine pairing events. In What’s Behind Pairing with Rosé?, wines were paired with inspired classic dishes, such as smoked salmon with honeyed roasted pear – a creation by Executive Chef Julian Bond of Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Then there were the unexpected food creations such as sautéed shitake mushrooms with strawberry mastered by Personal Chef and Sommelier Tony Lawrence of A Chef for You. 

 

In the fun event named Rah Rah Rosé, wine and food writer Tim Pawsey and chef Dana Reinhardt created a tasting feast, with foods featuring such basic flavour characteristics as spicy, smoky, salty and sweet available to be paired with the wide range of styles of rosés. Participants discovered for themselves the versitality of rosé wines as they wandered from station to station.

 

The opening plenary –  Dare to Compare – presented a wonderful opportunity to taste a range of wines from both Argentina and New Zealand. As we learned, Argentina is a country of great geographical and climatic diversity, with some of the highest vineyards in the world in Salta to some of the driest in the southern Patagonian winegrowing regions. It benefits from natural barriers – the Andes Mountains which shelter the western vineyards – and soil conditions in many areas which mean that vines can grow on their native rootstock without risk of damage from the phylloxera insect. Unique microclimates abound, leading to a wide diversity of varietals and wine styles, ranging from intense Malbec, to the lesser-known aromatic native white varietal Torrontés, on to rich Chardonnay, weighty Cabernet Sauvignon and robust Bonarda, Argentina’s most-planted red grape.

 

The Argentinian wines we tasted in this session were a testament to the breadth of the industry:

Bodega Vistalba ‘Progenie’ Extra Brut N/V

O. Fournier ‘Urban Uco’ Torrontés 2009

Familia Schroeder ‘Saurus Patagonia Select’ Pinot Noir 2006

Viña Doña Paula ‘Series Alluvia’ Cabernet Franc 2007

Bodega Catena Zapata ‘Adrianna’ Malbec 2006

Bodegas Trapiche ‘Single Vineyard Vina Federico Villafane’ Malbec 2006

Xumek Syrah 2007

 

Then we learned in the plenary about New Zealand’s southern water-bound land mass that offers a mid-latitude environment particularly suited to the production of unique, quality wines. Not only is there diversity in the varietals cultivated – from the well-known Sauvignon Blanc to Syrah  and Vigoner – but there is great regional diversity – from the established regions of Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay, to the emerging Waitaki Valley. In addition, the New Zealand wine industry has made a firm commitment to innovative and sustainable viticultural and winemaking practices which they expect will reinforce their reputation for “vibrantly stylish wines”. In 2007, the New Zealand wine industry committed to having 100% of the country’s wine produced under approved independently audited sustainability standards by 2012. Currently, it is reported that over 85% of the vineyard areas and 75% of winery production are participating in the sustainability programs. The industry shares best practices in areas such as water usage, energy consumption, waste management and biodiversity.

 

The New Zealand wines tasted in the opening plenary also reflected the diversity of their wine styles and growing regions:

Babich Family Estate Vineyards ‘Cowslip Valley’ Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) 2009

Mud House Chardonnay (Hawke’s Bay) 2008

Spy Valley Pinot Gris (Marlborough) 2009

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir (Marlborough) 2008

Ngatarawa ‘Alwyn Winemaker’s Reserve’ Merlot Cabernet (Hawke’s Bay) 2007

Crossroads Winery ‘Elms Vineyard Reserve’ Syrah (Hawke’s Bay) 2007

Stoneleigh Riesling (Marlborough) 2008

 

The winery owners and winemakers at the opening plenary displayed their deep pride and commitment to craft as each presented their winery, their terroir and their wine. The glass of Vistalba Progenie Extra Brut on arrival created a wonderful context for all the wines that followed. Owner Carlos Pulenta produced this fine sparkling wine from the fruit of vines planted by his father. Bottled in 2005, the wine was opened on his father’s 90th birthday in 2008. It was such a success, he has continued to produce it!   

 

Hard to imagine, but this outstanding start to our visit to this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. was followed by endless excellent seminars highlighting the featured regions, Argentina and New Zealand, as well as the theme wine style, rosé. The many rosé and food pairings demonstrated the wide range of styles and the versatility of this wine style. More about that later . . .

 

Now, don’t you want to join us next year at the Festival? The featured region is Spain – olé!

Susan

Share

Savvy Friends & Links

Posted by Debbie

Monday, July 6th, 2009
Share

Not only do our Savvy Sommeliers give you tips on good wines….count on us for tips on good web sites, blogs, authors and widgets that we find helpful in all things involving wine and food.

 

Award winning Wine & Food Writers…

Natalie MacLean – author of Red, White & Drunk all Over
Be sure to download her Food & Wine pairing matcher widget for your Blackberry or iPhone. Very useful…and fun too!
www.nataliemaclean.com

Tony Aspler – the Wine Guy
Reading all of the content on his web site, one wonders if Tony ever sleeps?  His ever popular ‘Wine Lovers Diary’ gives you insight to life as an acclaimed wine critic & wine writer. Tony makes it all look too easy!
www.tonyaspler.com

Vic Harradine – author of Wine Current
Vic always has a pen & pad in one hand with a glass of wine in the other.  He reviews every wines at LCBO & Vintages
www.winecurrent.com

Ron Eade – Omnivore Ottawa Blog
Ron has a pulse on Ottawa’s food scene.  His blog is one of the top sites read on the Ottawa Citizen online – make it your resource to what is going on in Ottawa.
www.roneade.com

Rod Philips – author of The 500 Best value wines at the LCBO 2009
Rod’s monthly newsletter – Worlds of Wine give you insight on wine industry issues, news on wineries and winemakers dotted with wine tips.
www.rodphillipsonwine.com

 

There’s wine in your mailbox…

VINES Magazine
Editor Christopher Waters & team of wine writers constantly taste and review wines.  In addition to their articles about all things wines, the Buyers Guides help you to create a (long) shopping list of wines to try.
www.vinesmag.com

 

Wine Access Magazine
Each month, this magazine takes you on wine soaked journeys across Canada and to every corner of the wine world to meet winemakers, chefs & wine industry personalities.
www.wineaccess.ca

 

Chefs & their talents…

Mary G’s Artisan Breads
It is easy for Jim to make you fall in love with homemade bread all over again! His trick: it is all in the equipment – his traditional woodfired brick ovens.  His seminars will convert you!
www.marygbread.com

Chop Chop Catering
Call on Ken to be your personal chef or to offer fun cooking classes in your home.
www.chopchop.ca

 

Savvy places to shop…

CA Paradis
Drop by the store and ask for Diane Paradis to provide you insight on buying Riedel wine glasses and stylish decanters…or to simply ooh and ahhh over her wine cellars & fridges.  
TIP: bring your knives and they will sharpen them while you shop for wine accessories
www.caparadis.com 

Wine Cellar Solutions
To buy a wine fridge? Or to build a wine cellar?  This big decision is easy when you call on Louis Titley to take you through your options or bring his team of professionals in to build a custom walk in wine cellar for your home.
www.winecellarsolutions.ca

 

Wine shows to add into your calendar…

Ottawa Wine & Food Show
THE wine show in Ottawa – don’t miss it!  Our team of Savvy Sommeliers organize the details of the wine competition – Cellars of the World – associated with the show.  We will see you there!
www.ottawawineandfoodshow.com

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival
The wine world comes to this event each year…and so does Savvy Company! There are seminars, tastings, lunches, dinners and a tasting room of 200+ wineries from every corner of the world.  Call on our Savvy Sommeliers to help you determine what to do at this festival.
www.playhousewinefest.com 

 

Wine clubs that the Savvy Team are members!

iYellow Wine Club of Toronto
The iYellow Wine Club is a free social wine club based in Toronto with exciting wine events, wine tours and monthly newsletters.
www.iyellowwineclub.com

National Capital Sommelier Guild
Established for over 20 years, this member-run organisation located in Ottawa has numerous wine events for those serious about wines.  After each of the Savvy Sommeliers graduated, we joined this club to help keep a pulse on the latest releases of wines and to network with other Sommeliers and those in the hospitality industry.
www.sommelierguild.com

 

We will continue to compile this list of Savvy Friends & useful links.  Bookmark this page…and share your tips too!

Cheers,

-Debbie
Follow me on www.twitter.com/savvydebbie

Share

Icewines…well thawed out

Posted by Debbie

Friday, April 24th, 2009
Share

 

One way to cool down on a warm day is to treat yourself to a delicious sip of icewine.  In fact…I was treated to a sampling of 15 different icewines at this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival offered for those of us who have a sweet tooth.  Rows and rows of glasses were readied as winemakers from Ontario, British Columbia, Washington and Germany shared with us stories about each sweet creation, their experiments, and tales of harvest in frigid temperatures (grapes need to be picked when -8C or colder to be labeled as icewine and command the high price point).  This seminar made my teeth sing as I sipped the sweet nectar. 

 

Celebrated wine author, John Schreiner explained that while researching his book, Icewine: The Wine of Winter, the Germans laid claim to making the first wine with naturally frozen grapes.  The Austrians perfected this art.  The idea grew to make icewine in Ontario in the early 1980’s when a group of Austrians grape growers and winemakers were involved in pioneering the Ontario wine industry. 

 

“After a number of years of experimenting, Ontario icewine was put on the map when Don Ziraldo, founder of Inniskillin took a bottle of icewine (made by winemaker Karl Kaiser) to a wine competition in Bordeaux, France in 1990.  Don casually served this novel wine to his peers to get their impression”, tells John Schreiner.  Encouraged by the impressive feedback, Ziraldo entered a bottle into the competition the following year and won top award in the sweet wine category. 

 

That was the legendary beginning spotlighting Canada on the world wine stage.

 

In 2008, Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) reports that 130 plus icewines were produced in Canada – mainly using Vidal grapes.  Paul Bosc, owner of Chateau des Charmes Winery explained, “Vidal has thick skins and strong stems that withstand the harsh weather while waiting for the magic temperature of -8 degrees to be harvested“.  Other grape varieties successfully used for icewine include Riesling and Cabernet Franc.  Recent experiments include icewine made with Viognier, Tempranillo, Shiraz and Pinot Noir grapes.

 

 

Savvy Sommelier tasting notes on icewines featured in this seminar:

Jackson Triggs Okanagan Grand Reserve Riesling Sparkling Icewine 2007 VQA, Okanagan, British Columbia

Sitting at my table on my immediate left was Derek Kontkanen, Jackson Trigg’s newest winemaker.  This wine is one of three sparkling icewines made in the world. Double fermented to create the elegant bubbles that seem to lighten the typical cloying texture of icewine.  Honey, mango & pineapple with a refreshing acidity – this wine is simply heaven in my glass!

 

Chateau des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2006 VQA, Niagara, Ontario

A classic – golden nectar that oozes aromas and tastes of a freshly cut sweet pineapple with flavours of dried apricots intermingled.  Smooth texture allows the wine to glide over your tongue with a finish that lingers long after your first sip.

 

Peninsula Ridge Riesling Icewine VQA 2006, Niagara, Ontario

Founder Norman Beal told the story how over the years, his winemaker originally from Chablis, France, Jean-Pierre Colas, had never made icewine. “After I enticed him to move his family to Niagara and all of the contracts were signed, I slipped the comment ‘…and you will have to make icewine… Jean Pierre, just looked at me true to his French character, he shook his head at the ludicrous idea.  After several attempts, he has now warmed up to the idea and is making impressive icewines.”  This Riesling is butterscotch in colour with pear and marmalade aromas and tastes, this wine is refreshing with a long finish.  Perfect with blue veined cheeses or a slice of rustic tarte aux pommes.

 

Mission Hill Riesling Icewine VQA 2006, Okanagan, British Columbia

“Icewine harvest came unusually early in 2006”, recalled winemaker John Simes.  Picked on Nov 28 & 29th (a month early than previous years), the wine was all about caramel, butterscotch and toffee. Delicious!

 

Then the Germans showed their talent…

Erbacher Michelmark Riesling Eiswein 2001, Germany

Hard to believe that this is 8 years old, this elegant, light wine impressed us all.  “Smells and tastes like lemon drop candies – you know the hard ones dusted with icing sugar’, commented one of the participants. Refreshing with notes of lemongrass, chamomile flowers this wine showcased that there are many styles of icewines.

 

St Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein 1998, Germany

Vintner Nik Weis, explained that the biggest challenge of making this wine is keeping the deer from eating the frozen grapes before they are picked.  Very different from the other icewines, this one had delicate floral aromas reminding me of elderflower, lilac and rose with a mineral undertone.

 

We were then treated to an icewine made 25 years ago…

Hainle 1984 Riesling Icewine, British Columbia

Jaws dropped as we savoured the toffee coloured icewine that was pulled out of the winery’s library.  I have never had anything like this.  Reminiscent of Cognac aromas and taste, this wine was made with Canada’s first certified organic grapes.  “This was a classic case of roaming through the vineyards one wintery day only to discover – Oh my god, we forgot to pick this row of grapes,” recounted Tilman Hainle whose father was the original owner of the winery at the time (the current owners are the Huber family)

 

For something different…

Working Horse Pinot Noir 2007 Okanagan, British Columbia

 Tilman Hainle continued his presentation as he poured this interesting icewine made with Pinot Noir grapes.  Canada’s first organic winemaker and well known in Okanagan, was establishing his second winery – Working Horse Winery.  “A grape grower called me late one evening saying that he had organic icewine grapes available….what he meant was that they were available right there and then! This opportunity does not happen often. My winery was not built yet nor did I have any equipment.  After phoning around and calling in favours, I was thrilled to be able to make this icewine.” 

 

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Organic Pinot Noir Icewine 2003 VQA, Okanagan, British Columbia

I carefully sipped on this icewine appreciating that the grapes were grown only a few kilometers away from the devastating forest fires of 2003.  Looking like wild strawberry jam in my glass, there were delicate aromas of roasted coffee mixed with tastes of homemade strawberry jam.  A beautiful wine, “…one that I enjoy dunking a biscotti into my glass”, suggested winemaker Eric vonKrosigk

 

Inniskillin Tempranillo Icewine 2007 VQA, Okanagan, British Columbia

Sitting on my right was winemaker Sandor Mayer who immigrated from Hungary for the opportunity to work at Inniskillin in the Okanagan.  Sandor has been experimenting with small plantings of different grape varieties to see what will grow in Okanagan. His small section of Tempranillo grapes were left on the vine until frozen (on January 1st!) then crushed to make this novel icewine.  Garnet colour with cherry aromas with tastes of raspberries and red candied apples that you find in a country fair, every sip was both sweet and refreshing with lively acidity.  A neat treat.

 

The finish line…

Pillitteri Estates Shiraz Icewine 2006 VQA, Niagara, Ontario

 “A real prize”, states winery president, Charlie Pillitteri, whose winery claims that they are the world’s largest producer of estate icewine. Not only is Charlie proud of this unique wine, this delicious wine was ranked the 2nd top Syrah in the world at the Syrah du Mondes competition in France last year.  It had an interesting aroma and taste that I could not identify until Charlie suggested ‘a good German made black forest cake’.  Exactly – both the dry dark chocolate cake and the sweet red cherries were captured in my glass.  Outstanding.

 

My sweet tooth was royally treated in this tasting.  It was an impressive experience to hear from each of the winemakers and winery owners whose devotion to craft icewine despite the challenges of cold temperatures.  Their passion encouraged us all to showcase icewine to more wine lovers.  “We should not wait until after dinner to serve it,” remarked Charlie Pillitteri, “at this point we are often too full.  Why not open a bottle of icewine before a meal?”

 

I will certainly try this at my next dinner party with friends.

 

Cheers!

Debbie

Follow me: twitter.com/savvydebbie

 

Share

Fine BC Wines…

Posted by Susan

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
Share
 
This year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival provided me the opportunity to once again (lucky me!) to spend some time with Pascal Madevon, vineyard manager and winemaker for Osoyoos Larose.  He provided an entertaining and informative commentary alongside the tasting of the 2001-2007 vintages of Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin, as well as a component tasting of the 5 grape varieties that are blended to create the final masterpiece.

 

Osoyoos Larose is the result of a collaboration between Canada’s Vincor and Groupe Taillon of France, who have extensive vineyards and winemaking experience in Bordeaux.  Pascal, himself, spent about 15 years in the region, completing his wine-related education there and working at some of the major Chateaux.  As he led us through the tasting, he spoke about his family’s experience moving to the Okanagan, as well as the outstanding opportunity the terroir provides.

 

The vineyards which produce the grapes for Osoyoos Larose are located on the western slopes of the hills overlooking Lake Osoyoos, just to the north of the border with Washington state.  Blessed with a very dry and relatively windy climate, the region experiences intense sunlight and heat during the growing season.  However, the location in a mountain valley means that the shadow created as the sun sets cools key parts of the vineyard, creating exceptional growing conditions for the Merlot and Cabernet Franc in particular. 

 

Pascal commented on the remarkable nature of the terrain in his southern Okanagan vineyard.  “In 5 kilometres vertically, you have the same variations in climate that one may find over 500 kilometres in France.  The mountains create a very dry valley, and you have soils which are both sandy and rocky.  The relief is critical – it is very hot during a midsummer day, but the shadow on the mountain allows cooling at the end of the day.”  He pointed out that there is one plot of Merlot which is consistently outstanding year after year, and it receives the initial afternoon shadow. 

 

As Pascal narrated the history of the vintages from the initial one in 2001, we sampled the wines.  The first vineyards were planted in 1999, with each varietal matched to the soil, and irrigation systems installed.  “One of my greatest challenges was learning how to manage irrigation, as it was not required in Bordeaux.”  After testing revealed the high quality of the fruit, it was decided to proceed with a small vintage in 2001.  Special fermentation tanks were imported from France, along with 80 barrels.  Only 3,700 cases of 6 were produced.  On tasting at the Festival, this vintage of Le Grand Vin was complex and elegant, displayed intense flavors and a long finish.  As Pascal said, “When my Bordeaux colleagues and I compare wines, they are amazed at Osoyoos Larose, given the vines are so young.”

 

In 2002, more vines were planted and Pascal and his staff began managing vigor and practicing a form of trellising that ensured optimum exposure of the fruit to the sun.  Production almost doubled to 7000 cases.  The 2002 vintage is a very big wine with a hint of eucalyptus on the nose.  With firm tannins, the wine will benefit from further cellaring.  Pascal emphasized the outstanding growing conditions in the southern Okanagan.  “When I first saw the grapes, I couldn’t believe it – the fruit was perfect.  We pick by hand, but we didn’t need a sorting table because all the grapes were in excellent condition.”  2003 had a bit more acidity, but like the 2002 vintage, will benefit from longer cellaring.

 

In 2004, Pascal felt he was beginning to understand the irrigation requirements of his vines.  In fact, he used 40% less water for the 2004 vintage than for 2001.  He was very pleased with the results of this vintage – “2004 is a turning point demonstrating the potential of Osoyoos Larose”.  The 2004 vintage is drinking well now.  It is complex and full-bodied, with layers of flavor and a persistent finish.  This vintage also marked the first production of the second wine, Petales d’Osoyoos, of which 4000 cases were produced.  2005 is very similar to 2004, but bigger and more tannic, requiring further cellaring or decanting to achieve its apogee.  As Pascal said, these are food wines – “In France, we may sip a white wine on its own, but we only drink red wine with food.”

 

Additional vineyards continued to be planted and, in 2006, when Pascal saw the great potential for fully ripening Cabernet Franc, a decision was made to increase the proportion of these vines under cultivation.

 

With the 2006 vintage and more mature vines, the wine is even bigger, with more volume and chewy tannins.  Said Pascal, “It has great potential”, as should a great Bordeaux-style red!

 

In 2007, Pascal produced 21,000 cases of Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin.  He now has 1,600 oak barrels, and each vintage Le Grand Vin is aged in 60% new French oak and 40% one-year-old barrels.  Racking is conducted every three months using gravity flow to avoid agitating the wine.  Like the 2006, the 2007 vintage has strong tannins and big volume.  Said Pascal, “It is showing some oakiness since it is so young, but it has great potential due to the age of the vineyards.”  He plans to add more Cabernet Franc to the blend in future vintages, as it provides great power to the wine without introducing any green or leafy notes.

 

After tasting these vintages, we sampled the five component varietals:  Merlot, the dominant varietal, contributes about 2/3 to the wine; Cabernet Franc, which Pascal sees contributing up to 10%; Cabernet Sauvignon, which contributes about 20%; and small portions of Malbec and Petit Verdot.

 

Pascal provided a wonderfully graphic description of how each grape contributes to the volume, depth and complexity of the wine.  Merlot, the base of Osoyoos Larose, contributes dense fruit, volume and big structure.  Cabernet Franc has a chocolate notes and contributes power and strong tannins.  Cabernet Sauvignon adds complexity and ageworthiness to the wine.  Petit Verdot has lovely aromas and intense chalky tannins, so a little enhances the nose and the finish.  Malbec has a big fruity, floral nose, but more acidity, so its contribution is largely to the nose.  “Too much Malbec thins the wine,” said Pascal.

 

Through the tasting, Pascal emphasized the quality of the terroir in the Okanagan.  Said he, “The success of Osoyoos Larose is the terroir!”  He spends 80% of his time in the vineyard.  Then, in the cellar, he applies the same “formula” each year to produce the wine (I think he’s a bit too modest about his winemaking!).  And an outstanding wine it is.  Eighty-five percent of Osoyoos Larose is sold in Canada, most of it in B.C. 

 

The 2005 vintage was recently released as a Vintages product in the LCBO  (#626325, $44.95).  There may still be a few bottles available.  So, be Savvy!  Purchase a few bottles of Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2005 for your cellar!  

 

Cheers & Enjoy,

Susan 
 

 
Share

BC Wines & Pinots: What a combo at the 2009 Playhouse Winefest

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
Share

Have I got you thinking about joining us at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival?  The Festival website now provides comprehensive information about all of the week long events planned from March 23 to 29, 2009.  Here are my ‘insider tips’ of some of the great opportunities available to all who participate – there will be over 180 wineries from 15 different countries pouring more than 1,600 wines at 61 unique events – heaven for any wine enthusiast!

This year, the Festival is an opportunity to showcase for the British Columiba wine industry to showcase it’s “coming of age”, showcasing over 150 grape wineries, several fruit wineries and thousands of acres planted to the vine.  The wineries of BC are driven to express the unique character of their terroir (winespeak for the microclimate, the soils, the vineyard aspect and the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of BC wines).  From Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley to the Okanagan – from north to south – you’ll find wineries and wines that suit your palate.  Unfortunately, if you live in eastern Canada, you won’t see very many BC wines on your local wine store shelf as many of the wineries are relatively small.  Over 70% of their wines are snapped up by appreciative connoisseurs in BC and Alberta.  All the more reason to join the wine lovers heading join the Savvy Sommeliers in Vancouver.

Did you see the movie, Sideways?  Did you wish you were there, sampling all those wonderful Pinot Noir wines?  Well, here’s your chance.  The featured varietal at the 2009 Playhouse Festival is Pinot.

To quote the Festival organizers, Pinot is “believed to be derived from the characteristic pinecone shape of the grape bunches, the name Pinot encompasses a cluster of different varietals. Led by Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc – the Big Three, as it were – each grape asserts completely different characteristics and can be produced in a variety of styles. Pinot Noir can range from restrained and earthy to full and fruity, with every incarnation in between. Pinot Gris’ name even changes when the style changes. Pinot Grigio is used to describe the dry, grassy, refreshing style of Pinot Gris created by the Italians. Pinot Gris is generally fuller bodied when developed in cooler climates like Alsace, Oregon and British Columbia, where it can take on completely different flavours and reach amazing depths of complexity. And don’t forget about Pinot Blanc, which also produces fresh, exciting wines in a wide variety of styles. BC Pinot Blanc is reminiscent of summer fruit, pinched from the roadside fruit stand.”

If you come to the Festival, there are many opportunities to taste many BC wines and to sample Pinot from around the world.  For instance, on Monday or Tuesday, you could attend a winery dinner.  Consider tasting Burrowing Owl wines at the Glowbal Grill & Satay Bar, or enjoying Cuisine de Terroir at DB Bistro Moderne, paired with premium wines from Mission Hill Family Estate.

Consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on Thursday, when you can attend the Osoyoos Larose Component & Vertical Tasting.  I will be there!  Last fall, I had a private visit with Pascal Madevon, the French-born winemaker of Osoyoos-Larose, who asserted that he spends 80% of his time in the vineyards.  An engaging and articulate individual, Pascal talked about his passion for the vines, and his great expectations of his Okanagan wines.  I think you’ll agree this is a great opportunity to try the individual elements of this classic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

The Pinot-Rama wine seminar on Thursday, led by Vancouver’s own David Scholefield, features an entertaining, educational tour of the world of Pinot, with a tasting of great pinots from around the world.  Friday and Saturday, join the thousands of people attending the International Festival Tasting, where over 180 wineries from 15 countries will be serving more than 700 wines.  Don’t worry, our Savvy Tasting Trails can help you find a path through the insanity.

Saturday, a wide range of lunch tastings are available, including:Our Land, Our Best (featuring BC wines), New Zealand’s Perfect Pairings, and Argentina’s Culinary Tango! 

You can also attend a wine seminar, Icons of British Columbia, which will feature benchmark examples of red and white BC wines.  Finally, if you sign up early, you might get a ticket to Sunday’s event-defining Vintner’s Brunch, where local chefs prepare delicacies artfully paired with a featured wine.  Or, if you prefer a Sunday evening event, consider the Great Estates of the Okanagan dinner, to be held at the Blue Water Café.

Excited?  Delighted?  Thrilled with the opportunity?  Don’t hesitate to contact Savvy Company for assistance with the planning of your trip to the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Tickets are selling fast.  Get ready to pack your bags – I will be providing you more insider tips on my blog about the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival!

Share