Tasting Fees and the Resulting Online Comments

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vinesanddesigns:

A few people have recently asked me to write some posts on tasting room etiquette as well as the subject of tasting fees. However, Luke from Wine Country BC beat me to the tasting fee subject and I think he has covered it beautifully so I would like to share it with you.

Originally posted on Wine Country BC:

Tasting fees, and the online comments that result from them, are becoming an “issue” here in wine country. Each year it seems more wineries start to realize how much wine they give away and how much customers are coming to expect (or vociferously demand) free wine to taste. I’d like to just go over a few things that I’ve noticed lately, both as a consumer and as a professional currently working at a winery that happens to charge for tastings.

I currently work at a wine shop that happens to charge tasting fees. There are 3 different tasting options at 3 different prices and the fees pay for the wines and the wine professionals to pour it for you, tell you about the wines, and answer any of your questions. This all happens while you sit relaxed at your own table just like in a restaurant. The total amount of wine poured…

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Wine Century Club: Varietals 81 – 90

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Here is the next segment of my tasting notes for some of the wines that I have included in my list of varietals for the submission for membership into the Wine Century Club.

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81. Chkhaveri, 2012 vintage, Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking LLC, Guria, Georgia: pale gold with a hint of pink, minerality on the nose with aromas of stonefruit. Dry with medium acidity and flavours of spice, herbal complexity and citrus, well-balanced with a medium finish.

82. Krakhuna, 2011 vintage, Winery Khareba, Imereti, Georgia: very pale gold, fruity nose, aromas of pear, crisp and dry with flavours of grapefruit and spice. Rich texture with a medium finish.

83. Khikhvi, 2011 vintage, Winiveria Wines, Chateau Mere, Georgia: pale lemon, clean fresh nose with aromas of floral and apple, dry with medium-plus acidity, flavours of apple and pear, medium-plus finish; tasty!

84. Kisi, 2012 vintage, Winiveria Wines, Chateau Mere, Georgia: dark gold, slightly musty aromas, dry, medium-minus aromas, medium-minus tannins, slightly oxidative character.

85. Friulano-Tokaj, 2010 vintage, Jakot, Azienda Dario Princic, Oslavia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy: medium amber, slightly cloudy, lovely nose of tangerine, dry with medium-plus acidity and medium-plus tannins. Complex palate of citrus, spice and orange blossom and a long finish – delicious!

86. Gringet, Vin de Savoie, Cépage Gringet, Domaine Belluard, Ayse, France: pale lemon, aromas of orange rind and lemon rind, dry with high acidity, flavours of citrus and minerality, crisp, complex, elegant, well-balanced with a long finish; tasty!

87. Reichensteiner, 2012 vintage, Bianco (blend), Mistaken Identity Winery, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada: dry, medium-plus acidity, flavours of citrus.

88. Petite Milo (Blattner), 2013 vintage, Evolution White (blend), Salt Spring Vineyards, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada: light nose, fresh citrus aromas, dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body, flavours of citrus, celery, white pepper, pear, stonefruit and apple with a medium finish.

89. Epicure (Blattner), 2013 vintage, Evolution White (blend), Salt Spring Vineyards, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada: see no. 88 (above) for tasting notes.

90. Carmenere, 2012 vintage, Sibaris Reserva Especial, Undurraga, Maipo Valley, Chile: deep purple, rich nose of cherry, cassis and spice, dry, medium acidity, medium-plus body, flavours of red fruits, chocolate, spice and hints of mint with a medium-plus finish.

A visit to Fairview Cellars

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I have finally begun to have some time to visit some Okanagan wineries this  season. It seems odd to be so far through the summer without having visited more but life is busy this year. I have recently visited a handful of wineries, new and old and will post on them in the upcoming weeks.

I stopped in at Fairview Cellars to taste through what was on offer and to visit with Bill Eggert and his brother Chuck. Bill showed off the newest addition to the winery building – a great mural on the side of the cellar by local artist Leza Macdonald. Fairview Cellars MuralBack in the tasting room we began with the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. It has a tropical nose with notes of tangerine, is dry with crisp acidity and ripe flavours of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon and green apple. It is well-balanced with a long finish.Fairview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc The 2012 Eagle Bluff Pinot Noir is pale ruby in colour with notes of caramel, raspberry and red plum on the nose. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-minus tannins and flavours of strawberry, raspberry, tart red plum and spice. It is well-balanced with a long finish.Fairview Cellars Eagle Bluff Pinot Noir The 2011 Two Hoots is a Cabernet/Merlot blend that is medium ruby in colour, with dried herbs, cherry, plum and liquorice on the nose. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity and medium tannins. It is still young and a bit closed but there are some nice notes of cherry, plum and spice.Fairview Cellars Two Hoots The 2011 Madcap Red is a Merlot-dominant blend with Cab Sauv and Cab Franc. It is a medium ruby in colour with aromas of cherry, liquorice and plum. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus-plus tannins and flavours of sour cherry, damson plum, cassis, spice, cocoa and espresso. It has lovely complexity, is well-balanced and has a long finish.Fairview Cellars Madcap The Bear, 2011 vintage, is a Cab Sauv-dominant blend, along with Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It is medium ruby-purple in colour with aromas of ripe cherry and liquorice on the nose. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and full ripe tannins. It has flavours of cherry, plum, cassis, spice and tobacco on the palate with a long finish – delicious! Fairview Cellars The BearThe 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is a medium-plus purple-ruby in colour with aromas of cassis, spice, violets and dried herbs. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity and big ripe tannins, with flavours of cassis, damson plum and the barest hint of green bell pepper and spice. It is well-balanced with a deliciously long finish. I was able to try the 2012 Premier Series Cabernet Franc but unfortunately it’s already sold out. I was quite enjoying the nose long before I even took a sip, with lovely plum and spice aromas. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus-plus tannins. It is still quite closed but already so very tasty; such a shame that it’s all gone.Fairview Cellars Cabernet Franc The library wine that is currently on offer is the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a medium-plus ruby in colour with a ripe nose of dark cherry and cassis with some savoury meaty notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins, flavours of cassis, smoky, meaty notes and candied plum with a long finish. This is drinking so very well right now although has plenty of life left in it.Fairview Cellars Library Cab Sauv We finished off with the 2009 Iconoclast (Cabernet Sauvignon). It is medium-plus ruby in colour with aromas of black forest cake, cassis, violets and dried herbs. It has a rich mouthfeel, is dry with medium acidity and full ripe tannins. It has flavours of cassis, hints of leather, spice, plum and cocoa. It is beginning to transition from full fruit flavours to some of the more savoury notes.Fairview Cellars Iconoclast

Wine Century Club: Varietals 71 – 80

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Here is the next segment of my tasting notes for some of the wines that I have included in my list of varietals for the submission for membership into the Wine Century Club.

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71. Roussanne, 2012 vintage, Figaro (blend), Terravista Vineyards, Naramata, BC, Canada: pale in colour, ripe yellow plum and nectarine aromas, round mouthfeel, dry, complex flavours of citrus, pear and spice, long finish.

72. Torrontes, 2012 vintage, Crios de Susana Balbo, Mendoza, Argentina: pale lemon colour, aromas of peach, white floral, citrus, hint of sweetness, medium acidity, flavours of pear, white pepper and citrus.

73. Tsolikouri, 2012 vintage, Nikoladzeebis Marani, Nakhshirgele, Imereti, Georgia: pale amber/ dark gold in colour; can’t quite place the nose, but love it! Dry, medium-plus acidity, medium-minus tannins, complex savoury notes on the palate, long finish. Delicious!

74. Verdejo, 2012 vintage, Fandango (blend), Terravista Vineyards, Naramata, BC, Canada: pale lemon colour, aromas of orange blossom, spice and citrus, dry, crisp bright acidity, flavours of peach, pear, grapefruit, melon and spice, with a long finish.

75. Tsitska, 2013 vintage, Pheasant’s Tears Winery, Imereti, Georgia: pale lemon, bright, floral nose, citrus, complexity, apple and pear aromas, dry, high acidity, complex flavours, citrus, well-balanced, long finish.

76. Rkatsiteli, 2011 vintage, Qvevri Traditional Kakhetian, Alaverdi Monastery Cellar, Georgia: medium orange, aromas of floral, dried fruit, pears, walnuts, dry, medium-plus acidity, medium tannins, flavours of dried apricots, apples, pears and spice; elegant and complex with a long finish. One of my favourite amber wines!

77. Kakhuri Mtsvane, 2013 vintage, Antadze Winery, Kakheti, Georgia: pale orange with a watery rim; aromas of mushroom, pepper and savoury notes, dry, medium-plus acidity, medium-minus tannins, flavours of pepper and citrus, complex, elegant, well-balanced with a long finish. Another favourite!

78. Gruner Veltliner, 2011 vintage, Rudi Pichler Federspiel, Wachau, Austria: pale, aromas of pear and pepper, dry, bright acidity, steely minerality, flavours of peach, pear, apple and white pepper.

79. Prosecco, N/V, Villa Teresa Organic Prosecco, Veneto, Italy: small persistent bubbles, aromas of light floral, citrus and toast, dry, creamy mousse with flavours of apple, citrus and some nuttiness.

80. Chinuri, 2008 vintage, Bagrationi Finest Brut, Kartli, Georgia: persistent tiny bubbles, fine mousse, dry, crisp, flavours of citrus with some yeasty notes. Tasty!

 

2014 Similkameen BBQ King: And the winner is…

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For the third year in a row I have looked forward to – and thoroughly enjoyed myself at – the Similkameen BBQ King Competition. This is an event put on by the Similkameen Wineries Association and is a partial fundraiser for the historic Grist Mill & Gardens in Keremeos. This year’s sold-out event (425 tickets) took place on Saturday July 12th, one of the hottest days of the year; I do believe it was topping out at around 39 degrees (that’s 102 for those of you south of the border) and without much of a breeze. We headed down in time to take part in the first part of the evening, where each of the wineries were pouring a selection of their wines and appetizers were provided by Benja Thai (always a favourite), Tree to Me, and the Branding Iron (2013 winner). The food and wines were very tasty, particularly the chilled whites and rosés given the outdoor temperature! This year’s musical entertainment was provided by Ajna Jazz Trio, featuring hometown favourite Johnnie Bridgman, and joined by special vocalist Corinne Painter.IMG_8083IMG_8087IMG_8096IMG_8098IMG_8107IMG_8094IMG_8095

This year, the winery and chef pairings were as follows:

Shayna Merritt from Shayna & Shulman Culinary Adventures (Penticton), paired with Orofino – 2013 Home Vineyard Riesling

Jason Hartl from the Delta Grand Okanagan (Kelowna), paired with Clos du Soleil Winery – 2013 Rosé

Chris Boehm from Burger 55 (Penticton), paired with Forbidden Fruit Winery – 2011 Merlot

Jeff Van Geest from Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek (Oliver), paired with Eau Vivre Winery – 2012 Riesling

Brent Pillon from Hillside Winery & Bistro (Penticton), paired with VineGlass Winery – 2013 Why Knot White

Adair Scott from Watermark Beach Resort (Osoyoos), paired with Rustic Roots Winery – 2013 Apple Pear

Justin Paakkunainen from Walnut Beach Resort (Osoyoos), paired with Robin Ridge Winery – 2012 Gamay

Lee Humphries from Local Lounge & Grille (Summerland), paired with Seven Stones Winery – 2009 Pinot Noir

Natasha Schooten from the Grist Mill (Keremeos), paired with Sage Bush Winery – 2012 Pinot Noir

Each chef was given the exact same ingredients with which to work:IMG_8092

65 lb Round Hog (Two Rivers Meats), 20 bunches Certified Organic Rainbow Carrots (Similkameen River Organics), 20 lbs Certified Organic Zucchini (10 lbs from Harker’s Organics, 10 lbs from Belly Achers), 20 lbs Certified Organic Lambert Cherries (Crockett Farms), 2 lbs Certified Organic Mixed Sorrel, Lemon and Red Veined (Harker’s Organics), 1 x 100 gram shaker of Country Pepper (made by Canadianna Spicery in Keremeos).

From this, the following dishes were created:

Shayna & Shulman Menu

Shayna & Shulman Menu

Shayna & Josh getting the food out

Shayna & Josh getting the food out

Jason Hartl's menu

Jason Hartl’s menu

Jason Hartl's dish

Jason Hartl’s dish

Ingredients on display at Burger 55

Ingredients on display at Burger 55

An alternative burger menu from Chris Boehm

An alternative burger menu from Chris Boehm

Burger 55's dish

Burger 55’s dish

Jeff Van Geest's menu

Jeff Van Geest’s menu

Chef Jeff in action

Chef Jeff in action

Brent Pillon's tent

Brent Pillon’s tent

Brent Pillon's menu

Brent Pillon’s menu

Brent Pillon's dish

Brent Pillon’s dish

Adair Scott's menu

Adair Scott’s menu

Adair Scott's dish

Adair Scott’s dish

Justin Paakkunainen's menu

Justin Paakkunainen’s menu

Justin Paakkunainen's dish

Justin Paakkunainen’s dish

Lee Humphries menu

Lee Humphries’ menu

Lee Humphries dish

Lee Humphries’ dish

Natasha Schooten's menu

Natasha Schooten’s menu

Natasha Schooten's dish

Natasha Schooten’s dish

Judging was a little bit different this year. There was the People’s Choice Award, and then the media/judges voted for the Similkameen BBQ King Award. This year there was also a runner-up announced for each award.

The runner-up for the People’s Choice Award was Chef Natasha Schooten from the Grist Mill, with Sage Bush Winery. The runner-up for the Similkameen BBQ King was Shayna Merritt from Shayna & Shulman Culinary Adventures, with Orofino Winery. I also think there should have been a special mention of the best choice for use of the cherries: Jason Hartl’s Cherry& Rosé Sour Cream Ice Cream. This was the most delicious thing ever, particularly given the hot temperatures. It was made with the assistance of dry ice and had to be gulped down pretty quickly, but it was awesome!

Ross Derrick serving the ice cream

Ross Derrick serving the ice cream

There was a double winner this year, taking both the People’s Choice and the title of 2014 Similkameen BBQ King: Chef Lee Humphries from Local Lounge & Grille, for his Three Way Pork Taco: BBQ Pulled Pork, Pork/Sorrel Sausage, Piggy Puffs, Pickled Zucchini, Carrot/Sorrel Salad, Cherry Hot Sauce. This was paired with the Pinot Noir from Seven Stones Winery, poured by owner/winemaker George Hanson.

Chef Lee Humphries, Chef Damien Mischkinis, Rhys Pender, George Hanson

l-r: Chef Lee Humphries, Chef Damien Mischkinis, Rhys Pender, George Hanson

Congratulations to the winners, all participants, and to the organizers of such a fabulous event! See you again next year!

 

 

 

Wine Tourism Done Well – Part 2: Wines, Hospitality & Culture of Kakheti

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Following the wrap-up of the two-day International Wine Tourism Conference (held at the fabulous Tbilisi Marriott) with the announcement that Champagne – La Marne would be hosting next year’s Conference, the media tour group headed out of Tbilisi en route to the wine region of Kakheti, to the northeast of the city. We had a bit of an adventure on the way there because in order to get to the town of Telavi (no, not Tel Aviv), where we would be having dinner and spending the night, the shortest route involves crossing the Tsiv-Gombori Mountain Range through Gombori Pass. Unfortunately Mother Nature was not on our side and due to a snowstorm we got turned around by police in the foothills and had to extend our trip by approximately 3-4 hours, arriving in Telavi quite late for dinner. Old Telavi Hotel Dinner 1Old Telavi Hotel Dinner 2Old Telavi Hotel Dinner ambienceOld Telavi Hotel roomOld Telavi Hotel room viewWe stayed at the Old Telavi Hotel, quite central to the historic district of this capital city of the Kakheti region. In the morning I was able to go for a brisk walk (there were snow-covered peaks not too far away and I only had spring-weather clothing) to check out the old fortifications before we headed out for our busy day of touring.Church of the Virgin Mary, TelaviOld Telavi Hotel, restaurant buildingIMG_5701groundskeepers at Batonis FortressBatonis FortressSnow-capped Caucasus Mountainsgrape vines & vineyard workers everywhereOur first stop was the Ikalto Monastery & Wine Academy, a site of learning that dates back to the 6th century. The original monastery was founded in the second half of the 6th century and there is still a small building on the site that dates back to that time. The existing church dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Ikalto Wine Academy, which is now in ruins, was one of two such medieval academies in Georgia, established in the 12th century. It is a very serene setting, with disused qvevris scattered around the grounds, some almost in a “qvevri graveyard”. Although the wine academy is in ruins, it is still possible to see where the grapes were crushed and the channels where the must would have flowed into the qvevris – some still buried in the ground.Qvevri Graveyard, Ikalto MonasteryIkalto MonasteryOur wonderful guide, Geo, at the Ikalto MonasteryIkalto Monasterydisused qvevris, buried at the Ikalto Wine AcademyOld wine press at the Ikalto Wine AcademyOld qvevris at Ikalto Monasteryruins of the wine academy at Ikalto MonasteryOur second stop was to another monastery a short drive to the north – Alaverdi – where the monks have been making wine since the year 1011, and still continue to this day. Here, as a sign of respect, all women must wear headscarves and long skirts; these are provided at the entrance if you are not prepared (wraparound skirts that can go on over pants etc). Although parts of the monastery date back to the 6th century, the current cathedral was built in the 11th century, when a giant wine cellar was also built to make qvevri wines. Since 2006 there has been an archeological team unearthing parts of this ancient cellar, including up to 50 qvevris able to hold a total of 60 tons of wine! Following our tour of the cathedral, we were led through to the monastery area where Father Gerasim, the winemaker, talked of the history and of the wines themselves, concluding with a tasting of an amber wine made from the Khikhvi grape (so delicious that I had to purchase a bottle for my cellar), a deeply crimson Saperavi which was also tasty and finally some chacha poured from a massive bottle. For those of you unfamiliar with chacha, it is the Georgian grappa (chacha is the Georgian word for the pomace – the skins and seeds of the grapes left after pressing) which is also sometimes referred to as grape vodka. Almost every feast ends with shots of chacha, and many of the wineries we visited had some on offer as well. We tried varying quality levels – some rough, straight from the still and others aged and beautifully smooth and fragrant. Most of it was too strong for me, but I could certainly appreciate the good stuff!Alaverdi MonasteryAlaverdi Monastery entrance

beehives at Alaverdi Monasteryin our headscarves & skirts at Alaverdi Monasteryour guide at Alaverdi MonasteryAlaverdi demonstration vineyard"Heart" pruning methodFather Gerasim showing us an ancient qvevriLarge qvevri, Alaverdi Monasteryinside the cellar at Alaverdi MonasteryAlaverdi Monastery Khikhvi wineWe left the monastery and headed south to Chateau Mere – a lovely hotel, restaurant and winery with lots of charm and the feeling of being well-loved by many people who have visited again and again. Here we were greeted by George Piradashvili, the owner, who led us through a tasting of some of his Winiveria wines prior to lunch. The 2011 Khikhvi was fresh and clean, with floral and apple aromas and flavours of pear and apple with crisp acidity and a lingering finish. The 2010 qvevri-made Saperavi was a deep inky purple with chocolate and dark fruit on the nose. It was dry, with medium-plus acidity and tannins, with flavours of plum and prune. We feasted on quail, a delicious baked cheese dish, beans, salads and of course the ever-present khachapuri (cheese pie) before taking in a tour of the cellar and the gardens. Prior to our departure, George very generously gave each of us a bottle of his chacha, in a unique flask-shaped bottle.Chateau MereWiniveria wine tasting, Chateau Merewine tasting at Chateau MereGeorge showing us his qvevristools to clean the qvevri, Chateau MereChacha from Chateau Mere

From Chateau Mere we travelled about 45 minutes east to the Kindzmarauli Marani winery, towards Kvareli. We were delayed slightly by the ever-present herds of sheep, goats, mules and cattle that were being led to higher pastures, blocking the highway periodically. In BC, we have to watch out for deer; in Georgia, it’s cows or sheep.Road block in Kakheti Upon arrival at Kindzmarauli Marani, I was very impressed with their demonstration vineyard which contains 400 indigenous Georgian varietals – very cool to see, even if I didn’t recognize most of them. The production facility is very much along the same lines as many North American wineries, with large stainless steel tanks, modern equipment and a large barrel cellar. They do however produce wines both in the European method (tanks/barrels) as well as the traditional method (qvevri). We were led up into a room at the top of a tower to taste through several wines. I was happy to be able to try a white wine again that I had first tried in class with some of my students prior to my trip – a 2012 Mtsvane from Kindzmarauli Marani. I hadn’t enjoyed it in Canada but now I know that it must have been improperly stored on its journey to the BCLDB, or after its arrival. It was a night and day difference, with the wine I tasted in Georgia being crisp, dry, with aromas and flavours of citrus, apple and pear, and some complexity – very pleasant. My highlight of the tasting was however a 2005 Qvevri Kakhetian Royal (White) – a blend of Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane and Khikhvi grapes. This amber wine was rich, complex and delicious, with aromas of dried fruit, fruitcake, prune and raisin. It was dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins and flavours of raisins and dried apricots – loved it!Kindzmarauli Maranidemonstration vineyard at Kindzmarauli Maranibarrel cellar at Kindzmarauli Maraniwinemaker at Kindzmarauli Marani2005 Kakhetian Royal, Kindzmarauli Marani2005 Kakhetian Royal, Kindzmarauli Maraniview north from Kindzmarauli Maraniview west from Kindzmarauli MaraniKindzmarauli Marani

A bit further up the road, in Kvareli, is the Winery Khareba where we would be staying for dinner. First we were given a demonstration of how to make the local bread, known as tonis puri, which is baked in an oven similar to a tandoor. Anybody who wanted to could try their hand at shaping the dough and slapping it to the inside walls of the oven. Following the baking lesson we trundled up the hill to their famous wine tunnels that are carved into the mountain. There are two long parallel tunnels and 13 smaller tunnels linking the two, for a total of 7.7km of tunnels. Needless to say, we didn’t explore all of them. We were led into one of the smaller ones to conduct a tasting of two of their wines a 2011 Khikhvi (white), with stone fruit and citrus flavours and crisp acidity, and a 2010 Saperavi (red), a medium-bodied smooth wine with flavours of dark berries and cherries. Our next stop was outside the tunnel at the chacha still. Here we were offered a shot glass of chacha, paired with pickles. After doing the shots, we were able to head outside where a woman was heating a large pot of grape juice over an open fire in order to make churchkhelas, or Georgian “snickers”. We were handed strings of nuts to dip into the thickened grape juice to cover them. We then took them out and hung the strings from a frame to dry to a fruit-leather-like consistency and turn into the delicious snack that they are. We were then directed to climb the hill to the restaurant. This must have been a ploy to ensure we would be hungry as it really was quite a seriously steep climb, topped by several flights of stairs to get to the top. We were once again provided with a delicious feast, this time culminating in a suckling pig with sparklers being wheeled into the room!baking lesson at Winery Kharebabaking lesson at Winery Kharebabaking lesson at Winery Kharebatunnel entrance at Winery Kharebatunnel at Winery Kharebamaking churchkhelas, Winery Kharebamaking churchkhelas, Winery Kharebamaking churchkhelas, Winery KharebaFeasting, Winery KharebaFeasting, Winery Kharebasuckling pig, Winery Khareba

After such a full day of touring, we were all happy to head to our hotel – the Kvareli Eden Hotel & Spa. Although several people met up to drink some more wine, it was time for me and Allison to sort through our accumulated bottles and plan a packing strategy for how to bring them all back to Canada in a few short days, and turn in for an “early” night. so much good Georgian wine, and brandy, and chachaEarly is a relative term on these chockablock tours. They are fabulous as so many things are crammed in to a short period, but sleep definitely falls down the list of priorities. Once again, this was a beautiful hotel and after I had a chance to wander around a bit in the morning, I was sad that I couldn’t stay longer and take advantage of the lovely spa facilities – a wine spa in fact! Many of the treatments include products made from wine or grapes, and this was carried through to the toiletries provided in each room. Once again, I was left with a need to return to Georgia for another trip!Kvareli Eden Hotel & Spa buffet breakfastKvareli Eden Hotel & SpaKvareli Eden Hotel & SpaKvareli Eden Hotel & Spa

Stay tuned for Part 3, with the continuation of the travels, food and wine in the Kakheti region of Georgia, including a preview of the first Qvevri Museum at Twins Wine Cellar in Napareuli, and the beautiful town of Sighnaghi.

Panorama

New Okanagan Spring Whites

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Over the past month or so I’ve managed to attend a few tasting events and visited a handful of wineries to sample the new spring releases; some have certainly surprised and delighted me.

2011-natural-brutAt the trade tasting for the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival, I was able to sample wines from many producers within a few short hours within the same room at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna. A few of the standout whites for me included a couple of selections from Tantalus Vineyards. Their 2011 Old Vines Riesling Natural Brut is the sparkling wine made in the traditional method from the free-run juice from the fruit of the single block of 36-year-old Riesling vines, with 24 months en tirage. It has persistent tiny bubbles, crisp acidity and flavours of citrus, pear and apple with hints of toastiness and minerality. The Old Vines Riesling (still wine) is usually one of my favourites, and the 2011 vintage is no exception with its high acidity, little bit of residual sugar to balance the acidity beautifully with minerality, crisp lime and green apple flavours with a hint of stone fruit. St Hubertus Winery has come out with a great budget-friendly ($12.50) white blend of Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Chasselas. This is a tasty patio sipper, clean and fresh flavours of ripe fruit with a hint of sweetness. Gray Monk has always been consistent with their ever-popular Pinot Gris but I think they’ve really outdone themselves with the 2013 vintage. It has a clean fresh nose, a real zing from the acidity and delicious flavours of pear and melon. The Pinot Gris from relative newcomer Maverick Estate Winery has 5% Gewurztraminer added to the mix. It is clean, fresh and well-balanced, with tasty pear and citrus. The 2013 ‘The Spice Jar’ from Lake Breeze is a new blend for them, combining Gewurztraminer, Schonburger and Ehrenfelser. It has a clean nose of lychee fruit, is off-dry with flavours of lychee, rose and tropical fruit – a great patio sipper. Intrigue Wines‘ 2013 Social has a fun bottle and what’s inside is tasty too, with a blend of 74% Riesling, 20% Gewurztraminer and 6% Muscat Canelli. This off-dry aromatic wine has flavours of banana and tropical fruit is well-balanced with the acidity, and is clean and fresh. My favourite whites of the day included the 2013 Arneis (Italian varietal, originally from the Piedmont region) from Moon Curser, with its flavours of citrus and spice and wonderful complexity. Logo-colourAnother favourite was the 2013 Amicitia White from Covert Farm Family Estate, a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Semillon and 20% Viognier. It has nice acidity, good fruit flavours and again, nice complexity. I believe that my overall favourite came from Intersection Winery – the 2013 Reserve Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc has a toasty nose, is dry with great acidity, tropical fruit flavours and is wonderfully complex on the palate – delicious!

A few highlights from recent winery visits include the 2013 Amphora VRM from Laughing Stock Vineyards in Naramata. This is a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne that was fermented (whole cluster wild ferment) in clay amphorae. It spent approximately 6 months in the amphorae with full skin contact, producing a medium gold wine with an intensely perfumed nose with floral aromas and apricot. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium-minus tannins (yes, this is a tannic white wine), and complex flavours of apricot, citrus, spice with some oiliness and briney-ness and a medium-plus finish. I really enjoyed it, having become acquainted with the amber wines of Georgia, made in a somewhat similar method.LFNG Amphora

Last week, along with a couple of my colleagues from Liquidity Wines, I attended a tasting at Culmina Family Estate, hosted by Don & Elaine Triggs. We were introduced to their new releases including the first Gruner Veltliner to be produced in the Okanagan Valley. Its name is Unicus, from the Latin for “single” or “unique”. The 2013 Unicus is a clear bright pale lemon with a hint of green. It has a rich nose of citrus, celery and stone fruit with hints of floral. On the palate it’s dry with medium-plus acidity and a medium body with flavours of lemon, celery, white pepper and stone fruit with lovely minerality and a medium-plus finish. The 2013 Decora is their newly-released Riesling. The name again comes from Latin for “adorn”, or “add beauty to”. It is clear bright pale lemon in colour with a rich nose of white peach and citrus. It is dry, with high acidity and a medium-minus body. It has juicy flavours of lemon, lime, apple, greengage plums and peach with lovely minerality. It is very well-balanced with a long finish.Tasting at CulminaCulmina Unicus & Decora

I haven’t forgotten about blogging!

Sorry everybody, as I haven’t posted anything recently. I have a lot that I need to write about; including Part 2 of my Georgian adventure, some newly released BC wines, new Okanagan wineries, and just some tasty wines consumed recently. Unfortunately some other commitments have pretty much all of my time tied up. That will all change soon enough and I will get back to the fun of writing! Please bear with me. Cheers!

Wine Tourism Done Well – Part 1: In & Around Tbilisi

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Most people, when they’re on holiday, like to mix it up a bit with their activities. I admit that I do like my relaxing beach holidays where I don’t do much except move from the recliner on the beach, to the beach-side bistro, and back again. However, if I’m on a wine tour of a region, as much as I want to maximize my tasting time my palate (and brain) can only take so much. Last fall when I travelled in France, I would spend part of each day exploring towns, historic monuments and countryside, and stopping at wineries in between those other activities.

On my recent trip to the International Wine Tourism Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, the people who organized our media tour did an excellent job of ensuring that each day was a great mix of historical monuments (even though they were quite intrinsically linked to the long winemaking history of the country), wineries, museums and feasts. Whenever we had longer stretches of road to cover, our guides would also fill the time by telling us the rich history of Georgia – very interesting.

During our whirlwind trip, 2 full days were taken up by the conference itself, leaving 3 full days and two part days to be shown Tbilisi and its surroundings, as well as the Kakheti wine region to the north and east of Tbilisi (to be featured in part two of this blog post).

The day we arrived in Tbilisi, at the crack of 4am, after travelling for approximately 32 hours, we were pretty much left to our own devices. However, one of our group had asked about touring a particular market in the town and a guide was provided to assist with that. The invitation was extended to anybody else who was interested, and not catching up on sleep. I decided to join the tour and was rewarded with a beautifully colourful array of herbs, dried fruit, nuts, pickled veggies, honey, candies, cheese, fish and meat; not to mention the friendliest of people!Tbilisi Market veggiesTbilisi Market spicesTbilisi Market picklesTbilisi Market breadbakingTbilisi Market nuts & fruitTbilisi Market honeyTbilisi Market fruit leather & churchkhelas

That evening we had our first introduction to Georgian wines at a local wine bar/ cooperative shop for some small producers of natural wine – Vino Underground. IMG_4696Here we were able to start learning the names of some of the varietals (Tsitska, Tsolikouri, Chinuri, Goruli Mstvane, Aladasturi, Rkatsiteli, Tavkveri, Saperavi) that sounded quite foreign but became familiar over the coming days, as well as some of the winegrowing regions (Imereti, Kartli, Kakheti).IMG_4708 Following the wine bar we walked a few blocks to the Azarpesha Restaurant for our first official supra or Georgian feast. These feasts last for hours, with course after course of food arriving on the table, covering it – the word supra literally means tablecloth and it’s because all the plates cover the surface, to the point that new plates get piled on top of the earlier ones; plates will only be taken away if they’re empty. The supra is led by a tamada, or toastmaster, who will toast several subjects throughout the evening, including God, the event itself, Georgia, peace, women, the dead and children, and then will speak at length about that subject. The toast then continues to anybody who would like to say a few words on the subject and raise and drain their glass. At Azarpesha we were also treated to some traditional Georgian polyphonic singing by the owner, Luarsab Togonidze and several of his friends – the Zedashe Ensemble. We were also able to try drinking wine from a couple of traditional vessels – the azarpesha, which is a long-handle silver bowl and a horn that was intricately carved.John Wurdeman, our tamada, holding an azarpeshadrinking from the horn at Azarpesha Luarsab Togonidze, singing polyphonic songs

For our first full day of touring, we were taken to the north side of Tbilisi in the morning to visit a sparkling wine producer – Bagrationi 1882 and its neighbour, brandy producer Sarajishvili. Bagrationi 1882 is Georgia’s first sparkling wine producer. They were established in 1937, but their first vintage was not until after World War II, in 1945. The building had a distinctly Soviet feel to it, particularly beyond the grand entrance foyer. They have wines made both by the Traditional method, with the 2nd fermentation occurring in the bottle, and the Charmat Method, with the 2nd fermentation occurring in large pressurized tanks. Sadly, the riddling racks were all bare in the cellar, following a large order from Russia that pretty much cleared out their inventory. The primary grapes used in these sparkling wines are Chinuri, Tsitska and Mtsvane. We were able to sample three wines: Bagrationi Finest Brut, Bagrationi Rosé Brut (both Traditional Method) and Bagrationi Rosé (Charmat Method). I quite enjoyed both of the traditional method wines and brought a couple of bottles back to Canada.IMG_4839IMG_4900IMG_4919IMG_4924At Sarajishvili we were greeted by the most highly animated man – David Abzianidze, the Chief Technologist. With the help of our guide Mariam for translation (although I could understand much of what he said with the help of his gestures and enthusiasm), he toured us through his facility. Sarajishvili was established in 1884, with its first brandy being released in 1887. The founder, David Sarajishvili figured that with 525 indigenous grape varietals in Georgia, at least one should be able to compare with the Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano) that is used to make Cognac in France. By dividing the country into three regions they found the best-suited varietal in each region. From Imereti, Tsitska and Tsolikouri are used. From Kakheti, Chinuri and Goruli Mtsvane are used, and from Eastern Georgia, Rkatsiteli is used. The facility that we toured is used to age the spirit after it has been distilled off-site, closer to the origins of the grapes. There are 70 halls full of barrels containing spirits anywhere from 3 years old to 120 years old. The barrels that are used are primarily (80%) Georgian oak, with some Bulgarian and French as well. We tasted two brandies, the first being a 7-year-old VS from Imereti, using Tsitska and Tsolikouri. The second was a 10-year-old VSOP from Kakheti, using Chinuri and Goruli Mtsvane – this was my favourite of the two.IMG_4935IMG_4941IMG_4944IMG_4950IMG_4972IMG_4988IMG_5000

For lunch, we headed northwest to the ancient town of Mtskheta. This town dates back to 1000 BC and was the capital of the early Georgian Kingdom of Iberia between the 3rd century BC and 5th century AD, as well as being the site where Christianity was declared to be the state religion of Kartli in 337. Due to its historical significance and numerous monuments it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. We ate at the Gujari Restaurant, which treated us to yet another feast with multiple courses of salads, breads, khachapuri, grilled and fried veggies and cheese, grilled fish and meats.Gujari Restaurant khachapuriMedia group at Gujari Restaurantfreshly baked bread at Gujari Restaurantgrilled pork at Gujari Restaurant

After lunch we drove up onto a hilltop which overlooks the confluence of two rivers – Mtkvari and Aragvi, and the holy town of Mtskheta, to where the Jvari Monastery is located, one of the holiest sites in Georgia. The existing church was built in the 7th century and sits on ruin of a 6th century church. Its location is where King Mirian erected a sacred wooden cross after his conversion by St Nino in the 4th century. The church is very simple monastic architecture, sitting demurely among the stunning landscapes. arriving at Jvari MonasterySt Nino - patron saint of wineInside Jvari Monasteryview from Jvari MonasteryMtskheta from a window of the 6th century chapelruins and bells at Jvari Monastery

After admiring the views, playing with the on-site stray dog and taking many photos, we left for our next stop of the day, further northwest – Chateau Mukhrani. A wonderful mix of history and modernity, Chateau Mukhrani sits in lush grounds, a total contrast from the somewhat run-down surrounding village. This is a historical site dating back to 1512, when it was the estate of the prince of the governing royal family, Bagrationi. The Mukhrani region was the centre of several important trade routes and so became an important bastion, both economically and strategically. In 1876, Prince Ivane Mukhranbatoni, a great military and political figure, returned to Georgia after spending some time learning the art of winemaking in France and set about establishing a winery on the family estate, aiming to show that Georgian wines could compete with any great wines of the world. In 1898, after years of winning accolades, a Chateau Mukhrani wine took the top honour at the Paris Wine Exhibition. During the Soviet time Chateau Mukhrani was abandoned and fell into disrepair, becoming almost completely destroyed. Over the past 7 years, huge investment has been made by the current owners to build a new state-of-the-art winery facility and to restore and rebuild the underground cellar network and the castle itself. Following a tour of the renovated cellars we were walked through a tasting of some of the wines, including a 2012 Mtsvane, 2012 Tavkveri Rosé, a 2010 Saperavi and a 2011 Kindzmarauli Semi-Sweet Red (also Saperavi).Best winery guide ever at Chateau MukhraniChateau MukhraniRoyal Family at Chateau MukhraniRenovated cellars at Chateau MukhraniNew winery at Chateau MukhraniTasting at Chateau MukhraniWinemaking depicted everywhere Chateau Mukhrani

We hopped back on the bus to be driven back to Tbilisi for dinner at Restaurant Kopala. This has to be one of the most stunning vantage points overlooking old town Tbilisi, perched high up on a cliff. There were even sections of the floor that were made of structural glass, letting us see just how high up we really were – a bit unnerving for those of us who are not fans of heights. We enjoyed yet another feast with seemingly endless plates of food, although by this point we were beginning to sense an order in which dished were being brought out, so we knew that when the grilled meats were brought out, it would then be followed by fried potato wedges, and that would be the final dish. Unless there was dessert, of course. We waddled back to the bus, full of delicious wine and food, to get a bit of sleep before the start of the Conference the following day.View from Restaurant KopalaPeace Bridge View from Restaurant KopalaSt Nino standing watch over Old Tbilisi (View from Restaurant Kopala)Food at Restaurant Kopala

delicious veal dish at Restaurant KopalaIMG_5316

 

 

Wine Century Club: Varietals 61 – 70

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Here is the next segment of my tasting notes for some of the wines that I will be including in my list of varietals for the submission for membership into the Wine Century Club.

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61. Blaufrankisch, 2007 vintage, Last Chance (blend), Rustico Farm & Cellars, Oliver, BC, Canada: medium ruby with a hint of garnet colour, ripe berry aromas and flavours with hints of smoke and spice, nice acidity.

62.Cabernet Franc, 2011 vintage, River Stone Estate, Oliver, BC, Canada: deep ruby with hints of purple, raspberry, dark fruit, spice, cedar, medium-plus tannins, well-balanced acidity, long finish.

63. Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 vintage, Iconoclast, Fairview Cellars, Oliver, BC, Canada: deep ruby, ripe dark fruit, cassis, black cherry, hints of spice, smoke, and coffee, rich, full-bodied, well-integrated tannins, well-balanced, long finish.

64. Marechal Foch, 2011 vintage, Fortified Vintage Foch, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, Kelowna, BC, Canada: rich dark fruit, chocolate and coffee, sweet but well-balanced, long finish.

65. Montepulciano, 2011 vintage, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Vini La Quercia, Morro d’Oro, Italy: dark purple colour, dark ripe fruit and spice aromas and flavours.

66. Pinotage, 2010 vintage, Stoneboat Vineyards, Oliver, BC, Canada: medium ruby colour, red cherry, plum, mocha, smoke, spice, medium-bodied, medium tannins

67. Pinot Meunier, 2012 vintage, Thornhaven Estates, Summerland, BC, Canada: medium ruby, raspberry, cranberry aromas and flavours with a hint of spice, medium-plus acidity, medium-minus tannins, medium finish.

68. Sangiovese, 2010 vintage, Sandhill Estates Small Lots, Kelowna, BC, Canada: medium ruby-garnet, cherry, plum aromas and flavours with some dusty herbs, medium-plus acidity, medium tannins, medium-plus finish.

69. Primitivo, 2005 vintage, Luigi Leonardo, Scarzi Luigi, Puglia, Italy: deep ruby colour, ripe dark berries and spice on the nose and palate, full-bodied, medium-minus acidity, medium-plus tannins, long finish.

70. Fer Servadou, 2006 vintage, Argile Rouge (blend), Chateau Bouscassé, Madiran, France: medium ruby colour, cherry,dark ripe fruit aromas, dry, medium acidity, medium-plus-plus tannins, flavours of dark fruit and some dried fruit, long finish.

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