Wine Century Club: The final 10!! (Varietals 91 – 100)

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Yippee! I finally got my Wine Century Club Membership Certificate in the mail! Here are my tasting notes for the final ten wines that I included in my list of varietals for the submission for membership into the Wine Century Club. It has been officially recognized that I have tasted 100 different varietals, and I did it in under a year. Now to continue on with the next hundred and more…

WineCenturySeal91. Aladasturi, 2013 vintage, Makaridze Winery, Terjola, Georgia: pale salmon-pink with a watery rim, citrus, red berries and yeasty notes on the nose, dry, medium acidity, complex flavours of lemon, cranberry, with some nuttiness and a medium-plus finish. Well-balanced.

92. Tavkveri, 2013 Rosé, Pheasant’s Tears, Sighnaghi, Georgia: medium fuschia pink, clear, berry aromas, dry, medium-plus acidity, light tannins, flavours of citrus and red currant. Pleasant and well-balanced.

93. Otskhanuri Sapere, unknown vintage, Winery Khareba Monastery Wines, Georgia: deep ruby-purple in colour, ripe dark fruit on the nose – very fragrant, dry, medium-plus acidity, medium tannins, medium body, flavours of cherry, plum and berries with a medium-plus finish.

94. Shavkapito, 2011 vintage, Chateau Mukhrani, Kartli, Georgia: medium ruby with a hint of garnet, jammy red fruit with plum and spice on the nose, dry, medium-plus acidity, medium-plus ripe tannins, flavours of red cherry, plum, spice, cedar, dried herbs and dried fruits with a long finish.

95. Boudeshuri, 2007 Kakhetian Royal Red (blend), Kindzmaruli Marani, Georgia: medium-plus ruby in colour, ripe jammy aromas of cherry and plum – very fruity, dry, medium-plus acidity, medium-plus tannins, medium-plus body, flavours of cherry, dried fruit and plum.

96. Leon Millot, 2012 vintage, Pinot Rosé (blend), Mistaken Identity Winery, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada: pale salmon in colour, aromas of citrus and cranberry, dry, high acidity, flavours of cranberry and citrus.

97. Cabernet Libre (Blattner), 2010 vintage, Evolution Red, Salt Spring Vineyards, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada: medium ruby in colour, aromas of plum, raspberry and spice, dry, medium-plus acidity, medium tannins, flavours of plum, cherry, cedar, earthiness and a hint of tar, with a medium-plus finish.

98. Nebbiolo, 2009 vintage, Barolo DOCG, Batasiolo, Piedmont, Italy: pale ruby-garnet in colour, aromas of dried cherries with hints of spice, dry, medium-plus acidity, high tannins, medium-plus body, flavours of cherry, dark berry, plum, liquorice and hints of tar.

99. Goruli Mtsvane, 2013 vintage, Atenuri, Giorgi Revazashvili, Ateni Gorge, Kartli, Georgia: complex nose with aromas of apple and citrus, dry, medium body, medium-plus acidity, flavours of citrus and yeasty notes with a medium-plus finish.

100. Saperavi, 2011 vintage, Vita Vinea, Telavi, Georgia: medium ruby with hints of purple, meaty nose with pepper, dark berries and pomegranate, dry, medium acidity, silky medium tannins, flavours of dark berries and spice with a long finish – delicious!

 

Garagiste North: The Small Guys Wine Festival

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Last weekend, I attended a fantastic event that I hope will be repeated annually (if not more often). Garagiste North is “The Small Guys Wine Festival”, organized by Jennifer Schell and Terry Meyer Stone and hosted by Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls. The term garagiste (Gar-aH-jeest) was coined in France in the 1990s, referring to a group of winemakers in Bordeaux who were making wines that did not conform to the strict regulations on varietals used and wine styles dictated by the appellations. They produce small lots of wines that come from previously unknown estates without proven track record or pedigree. Garagiste North showcases many of the artisan producers of wine in the South Okanagan. All of the garagiste wineries have an annual production of less than 2000 cases, and many are only around the 500-case level or fewer.IMG_9262

I had previously had the chance to try wines from several of the garagistes but there were plenty of new wines for me to try! Some standout wines of the day (for me) included the 2012 Chardonnay and the 2012 Wildfire Pinot Noir from Anarchist Mountain Vineyard in Osoyoos. The Chardonnay has amazing flavours of pineapple, clove, lemon and spice with bright acidity and a very long finish. The Pinot Noir is elegant and well-balanced, with silky tannins and flavours of cherry, raspberry, damson plum and herbes de Provence.IMG_9293 Roche Wines is one of the newest producers at the event. Dylan Roche is currently the winemaker at Intersection Winery in Oliver. His wife Penelope grew up in Bordeaux (her family owned Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion) and is a viticultural consultant and instructor in the South Okanagan. Their 2012 Chardonnay and 2013 Pinot Gris are both elegant food-friendly wines that I would happily enjoy drinking again and again.IMG_9273 I think my favourite Pinot Noir of the day was from Carson – a beautiful Burgundian style with great earthiness. Chris Carson & Jacqueline Kemp certainly make some phenomenal Pinot Noir from the Naramata Bench!IMG_9284 Vindication Cellars is the label from Jeff Del Nin who, by day, is the winemaker for Church & State Wines. He had a Cabernet Franc Rosé and a Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blend called Blind Tiger on offer. The Rosé was nice and dry with bright red fruit and spice and the Blind Tiger was delicious, with great structure, soft ripe tannins and flavours of dark fruit and spice. I look forward to trying his Teroldego (a northern Italian red varietal) once those vines start producing fruit in his vineyard.IMG_9281 Tightrope Winery, owned by viticulturist Graham O’Rourke and winemaker Lyndsay O’Rourke, from the Naramata Bench consistently makes great wines. I have yet to try one that I don’t like. On this day, they were pouring their Riesling – crisp, dry, with lots of bright citrus and a hint of petrol, their Viognier – 50% oak-aged with lees stirring, with crisp acidity, great mouthfeel and lovely ripe apricot flavours, and their elegant Pinot Noir, with lovely earthiness and flavours of cherry, raspberry and spice.IMG_9279 Money Pit Wines does things a little differently that some of the other wineries. Owner/winemaker Scott Stefishen decided to go for a commercial winery license which, unlike a Land-Based Winery license, allows him to source fruit from wherever he chooses. He has decided to source his fruit from whichever location offers the best growing conditions each year. Some vintages that may mean the South Okanagan, other years (such as 2012) it meant Washington State. Both red wines that I tried – College Fund, a blend of Syrah & Malbec, along with Catch 22, a blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc and Malbec, were made from grapes that came from Yakima and Oroville, WA. Both have nice ripe fruit flavours and good structure and are at the bargain price of $16/bottle.IMG_9268 Vin Perdu was another standout at the event. They are so new that they had to draw some wine from the barrels and bottle them by hand specifically for the festival. They had a delicious 2013 Cabernet Franc available for tasting, with lovely structure and flavours of plum, raspberry and spice. (Note: I have since visited them and had a barrel sample of their Chardonnay, which is phenomenal and I can’t wait until it’s bottled and for sale!) Vin Perdu Cellars is owned by Ray Coulombe and run by him, his wife Wendy and their daughters. It will be opening on Highway 97, south of Oliver, next spring – watch for them!IMG_9297 Although I am very familiar with Bella Wines, BC’s only sparkling wine-exclusive winery, I can never pass up bubbles so stopped by their barrel to try the new releases. This year Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose released their 2013 Sparkling Gamay Wines in the spring but held onto the 2013 Sparkling Chardonnays until the fall, allowing for some longer lees contact (10 months). I think this was a brilliant move as it really lends to some delicious toasty notes, particularly in the 2013 Oliver West Sparkling Chard (sourced from Secrest Vineyard). I compared this to the 2013 Sparkling Chardonnay sourced from Keremeos which is far fruitier, despite the exact same vinification. Love what terroir can do!IMG_9288IMG_9302IMG_9301IMG_9300IMG_9290IMG_9289Sadly I was unable to try all the wines at the event as I was on a very short timeline (I took advantage of a quiet period in the tasting room to sneak over!) but I was able to get a very positive impression of a well-planned event, where everyone was enjoying themselves (garagistes and wine-samplers) in a relaxed atmosphere and thankfully under bright sunny skies and with fabulous wines! All of the participating garagistes are listed below with links to their websites.

Anarchist Mountain Vineyard, Andrew Stone & Terry Meyer Stone

BC Wine Studio, Mark SimpsonIMG_9292

Bella Wines, Jay Drysdale & Wendy Rose

Black Cloud, Bradley Cooper & Audralee DaumIMG_9285

Carson Pinot Noir, Chris Carson & Jacqueline Kemp (contact via email: carsonpinot (at) gmail (dot) com)

Cana Vines, Mindy & Lisa Elgert

Corcelettes Estate Winery, Charlie BaesslerIMG_9271

Daydreamer Wines, Marcus & Rachel AnsemsIMG_9270

Lariana Cellars, Dan & Carol ScottIMG_9269

Money Pit Wines, Scott StefishenIMG_9266

Nagging Doubt Wines, Rob WestburyIMG_9264

River Stone Estate Winery, Ted & Lorraine Kane

Roche Winery, Dylan Roche & Penelope Furt-RocheIMG_9274

Sage Hills, Rick ThrussellIMG_9272

Seven Directions, Daniel Bontorin & Kristine WitkowskiIMG_9276

Stable Door Cellars, Dave & Susie Tebbutt, Scott & Danielle RobinsonIMG_9278

Squeezed, Michael, Christina & Nicole Ferreira

Tightrope Winery, Graham & Lyndsay O’Rourke

Vindication Cellars, Jeff Del Nin

Vin Perdu Cellars, The Coulombe Family (Ray, Wendy, Catherine & Nathalie)IMG_9277

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!

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