An Introduction to Finger Lakes Wine Country: Wine Bloggers Conference, Part 1

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This past Wednesday evening I set out on a trek across a large part of North America to get to the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference which was being held in Corning, NY, in the Finger Lakes wine region. In order to reach the conference it took me an hour and a half drive on either side, plus three flights (including one in a plane so small there was only one seat either side of the aisle, and it was open to the cockpit)20150813_100449 and layover time in airports for a total travel time of about 16 hours. Not the easiest conference to attend, but not the longest travel time either (that goes to last year’s IWINETC)! Once I arrived though, I was very glad to have made the effort. My attendance was also due to the wonderful efforts of the WBC Scholarship Fund, which paid for my registration fees, hotel accommodation as well as a generous sum toward my flight costs. Without that, I would not have been able to attend this year’s conference.

Corning, New York, is somewhere that I never really knew existed, or I had certainly never put much thought into it. However, in some way it’s been a part of the majority of my life. Anybody who has spent any time in a kitchen is familiar with CorningWare and Pyrex glassware; my grandparents and parents always had them as a part of their kitchens and they’re a part of mine now too. These have all been produced in Corning for over 100 years now. Also, the vast majority of our television screens and smartphone screens these days are all manufactured there as well. I wish I had had more time to explore the Corning Museum of Glass. I took part in a quick tour of the museum just prior to the Opening Wine Reception on the Thursday evening. The recent expansion of the museum is architecturally stunning, providing a naturally lit space that allows the sunlight to play with the glass exhibits, particularly in the “porch” of the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries.IMG_1975IMG_1976IMG_1977IMG_1981IMG_1986IMG_1993IMG_2001IMG_2005IMG_2016IMG_2018 The museum boasts a collection spanning over 3500 years of history from around the world on display, as well as an innovation gallery, live hot glass shows (which we were all treated to as part of the Saturday evening conference program), and workshops to make your own glass! IMG_202220150813_140303IMG_2263IMG_2258IMG_2077Corning is a quaint small town in upstate New York. I noticed a real sense of community and everybody pulled together to make us wine bloggers feel welcome. Almost every business along Market Street had posters in their windows welcoming us to town. There seemed to be a sense of pride in the community as well; the streets were all clean and the buildings were kept up nicely, maintaining their heritage feel.

The Conference kicked off with the Opening Wine Reception in Riverfront Park, “Taste of the Gaffer District”, co-sponsored by the Keuka Lake Wine Trail, Finger Lakes Wine Country and the Corning Area Chamber of Commerce.IMG_2028IMG_2025IMG_2033IMG_2034 It featured the restaurants of Corning’s Gaffer District and the wines of the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. This offered many of us our first ever sampling of wines from the Finger Lakes region. I know that, certainly in BC, I haven’t come across any. Particular stand-out wines that I found included the Dry and Semi-Dry Rieslings from Dr. Konstantin Frank, the Gewürztraminers & Vignoles from Keuka Spring.IMG_2040IMG_2042 The tasty white wines didn’t come as any particular surprise to me as I knew that the Finger Lakes Wine Country is a cool climate growing region, however some reds really did surprise me. I would have thought that there might be some nice Pinot Noirs (comparing simply to the not-so-distant Niagara region), however that was not what impressed me most. The Reserve Blaufränkisch from Heron Hill and the Blaufränkisch from Vineyard View Winery, the Cabernet Francs from McGregor Vineyards and Ravine’s Wine Cellars, and to my biggest surprise I found some the Georgian varietal Saperavi in McGregor Vineyards’ Black Russian Red – so delicious!IMG_2069IMG_2071IMG_2066IMG_2070 In between wine tastings I sampled some of the delicious bites provided by the Gaffer District restauranteurs. Hand + Foot made up some delicious (and visually pleasing) sandwiches with chèvre, mango, jalapeno chutney, carrot and radicchio on rye-sourdough bread.IMG_2050IMG_2058 Wegmans offered some fabulous cow’s milk & goat’s milk cheeses. The Site Cyber Bar & Grill had the most decadent-yet-light chocolate mousse cake, which I ended up devouring rather than photographing. Poppleton Bakery & Café made bite-sized red wine chocolate cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting.IMG_2073

Following the reception, the Canadian contingent opened up an invitation to anybody (particularly the Americans in attendance) to sample some Canadian wines from most of the regions within BC, plus some from Ontario as well, that we had all brought with us from home. I had brought a few wines myself, plus the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country had sent me with a selection of wines. This particular evening I brought out a Chardonnay from Burrowing Owl Vineyards, a Merlot from Nk’Mip Cellars, and a Viognier from Liquidity Wines. Other wines on offer included some from Haywire Wines, Time Estate, Serendipity, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Lighthall Vineyards, Blue Grouse, Monte Creek Ranch, and Rosehall Run. Based on how overcrowded the room was, and that the bottles were all drunk dry, I would say that the Canadian wines were a hit and that we need a bigger room next year!20150813_21595920150813_22012920150813_22115420150813_22013520150813_224550 By this point I had been awake for the better part of 36 hours, so it was off to bed to rest up for the next few days full of wine, conference sessions, and more wine again. Stay tuned for upcoming posts.

Westside Wine Trail’s Newest Winery

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En route to Kelowna last week, after my stop at Evolve Cellars, I popped into see what’s happening with The Hatch, located next door to Quails’ Gate Winery on Boucherie Road. 20150729_152745This is the latest winery opened by the Terrabella Group, that also owns Perseus Winery in Penticton. After I unsuccessfully tried to enter the tasting room through the gorgeous old double doors (FYI, the entrance door is the glass one to the right of the ornate doors),20150729_152900 I was greeted at the tasting bar by the Chief Steward, Andrew Melville, and he led me through a tasting of several of their wines. The Hatch is home to a few different series of wines: The Hatch, Hobo Series, Screaming Frenzy, and then their premium wines that are labelled as Black Swift.

The Hatch includes Dynasty White (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier), Dynasty Red (Merlot, Syrah, Malbec), Brut Rosé, and The Hatchchild (Cabernet Sauvingon), B. Yanco (67% Pinot Blanc, 33% Viognier), Ross O. (Pinot Noir with a touch of Gamay), and Flipping the Bird (Zweigelt Rosé). The Hobo Series includes a Semillon, a Muscat and a Gamay. The Screaming Frenzy (which is a what a group of black swifts are called) Series is made up of single vineyard wines, including a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir & a Meritage blend. All of the labels are quite interesting, featuring the art of Paul Morstad.

The first wine I tasted was the 2013 B. Yanco. It has aromas of pear, apple, which peach and hints of citrus. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium body, with flavours of citrus, apple, pear and peach with a medium finish. It is pleasant and not overly complicated.20150729_153039The 2014 Screaming Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc has a New Zealand-style nose of citrus, gooseberry and some grassy notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium body, with flavours of citrus, lime, and some tropical notes. 20150729_153503The Hobo Series 2014 Semillon has a ripe nose of red apple, pear and melon. It is dry with medium acidity and body with a round mouthfeel. It has flavours of apple, pear skin and some citrus notes. It is pleasant but the finish drops off.20150729_153917 I next tasted two Chardonnays from different tiers. The Screaming Frenzy 2013 Chardonnay has aromas of peach, pineapple and toasty notes. It is dry with medium acidity and body and flavours of apple, citrus, oak notes and clove with a medium-minus finish. The Black Swift 2013 Chardonnay has a nose of apricot and citrus with a light intensity and some hints of floral. It is dry with medium acidity and body, flavours of citrus and spice and a short finish.20150729_154651 The Hobo Series 2013 Gamay (fruit from Secrest Vineyard in Oliver) has a nose of cherry and raspberry. It is dry with medium acidity, medium body and medium-minus tannins. It has flavours of berry and cherry with a short finish.20150729_155405 The Screaming Frenzy 2013 Pinot Noir (fruit from two vineyards in the Similkameen) is light garnet-ruby in colour with aromas of raspberry, cherry, spice and a hint of herbaceous notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium tannins and medium-minus body with flavours of cherry, raspberry and pepper with a medium-plus finish. The 2012 Pinot Noir (fruit from the Reimer Vineyard in Kelowna) is a pale-medium ruby in colour. The nose kind of threw me because it didn’t smell like a Pinot Noir – it smelled like a fortified Port-style wine with stewed fruit and notes of fruitcake, cherry and raspberry. It was dry with medium-plus acidity, medium tannins and medium body with flavours of tart red currant, cherry and raspberry with a long but slightly disconcerting finish. 20150729_160907I finished off my tasting with the Screaming Frenzy 2012 Meritage, a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, all of it Similkameen fruit. It is a medium ruby in colour with chocolate and hints of liquorice on the nose. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus tannins and medium body. It has flavours of ripe cherry and black forest cake with a medium finish.20150729_152752

Impromptu Tasting & Lunch at Evolve Cellars

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I have been trying to get out wine touring this year and haven’t been overly successful yet. However, I have now promised myself that each week, on one of my days off, I will go out and visit at least a couple of wineries, particularly some of the new ones! Last week J and I decided to head up to Kelowna and made a couple of stops en route. The first one was at Evolve Cellars in Summerland.20150729_134246

For those of you not familiar with Evolve Cellars, it is in the former location of Bonitas Winery, at the north end of Summerland; but the location is where the similarities end. Evolve Cellars comes under the umbrella of Encore Vineyards (along with Time Estate Winery & McWatters Collection) from Harry McWatters and his daughter Christa-Lee McWatters-Bond, who have been involved in the BC wine industry for the past few decades. I was very happy to hear that they had taken over the building and the vineyards with the stunning views over Okanagan Lake20150729_135104 and had been looking forward to visiting and trying the new wines (they did NOT purchase existing wines with the building). We met up with a friend of ours at the winery and were persuaded to stay for lunch on the patio after our tasting. I chose four wines to try: two whites, a rosé and a red. I started with the 2014 Pinot Blanc. It has aromas of apple, pear skin, peach and citrus. It’s dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium body and a round mouthfeel with flavours of apple peel, pear, melon, grapefruit and peach, with a medium finish. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc has tropical aromas, along with some apricot and peach notes. It is dry, with medium acidity and body. If has flavours of melon, tropical fruit and nectarine, with a lingering finish – quite tasty. The 2014 Rosé is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Syrah and Merlot. It is slightly off-dry, with flavours and aromas of berries and candy apples. The 2013 Cabernet Merlot (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot) has aromas of dark cherry, berry, cassis, spice and caramel. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins with medium body. It has flavours of rich ripe fruit, plum, cherry and berries with a medium-plus finish. This is a very easy-drinking red wine that I think I’ll enjoy come winter, but that day was too hot to really enjoy reds. The prices are very reasonable here too – all of the wines in their portfolio (six whites, a rosé and two reds) are in the $15-20 range.Evolve-wine list_2

20150729_135001I highly recommend lunch on the patio at Evolve Cellars. The views are fabulous and the food from Chef Telea Bremer is delicious. We shared the baked riblettes to start and the meat just melted off the bone. I had a salad with fresh greens, apple, blueberries and blue cheese and a lovely vinaigrette. (Note: the blue tinge in the photos comes from the umbrella providing lovely shade from the 38-degree heat!)20150729_142638 I also had a couple of bites of the Buffalo Mozzarella with tomato & basil on baguette – yum!20150729_142633 I think the best was the pulled pork sandwich that J ordered. It wasn’t your typical pulled pork with coleslaw. On one side of the bun was some provolone and the pulled pork, and on the other side was an olive tapenade, artichoke hearts and roasted red pepper.20150729_142626

Heading to the Finger Lakes Region

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I received some exciting news this past week – I had been named as one of the Wine Blogger Scholarship recipients, enabling me to attend the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes Region of New York next month! I am very thankful to all the donors of this scholarship program as I would otherwise not be able to attend this upcoming conference.images

In 2013 I attended my first ever Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Penticton, BC, followed a few months later by the Wine Tourism Conference, held in Portland, OR. At these two conferences I met many interesting people, learned a lot about the industry, and explored wines from new (to me) regions. I very much look forward to reconnecting with several of these people, meeting new friends and continuing to learn more about wine regions, new varietals and gaining more insight into wine blogging.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Finger Lakes AVA, it is located to the south of Lake Ontario, east of Niagara, running between and south of the cities of Rochester & Syracuse.

map image from newyorkwines.org

map image from newyorkwines.org

It encompasses eleven glacial lakes, with most of the vineyards being located around four of those lakes: Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca & Cayuga. The latter two have their own AVAs within the overall AVA. The Finger Lakes region is similar in size (as far as acreage planted) to BC, with between 10,000 and 11,000 acres planted to vine. Riesling does very well in the area, and many wineries produce a few different styles of Riesling, from dry with bracing acidity to sumptuous fruitier styles. Other varietals such as Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Lemburger (aka Blaufränkisch) are also planted, along with hybrid varietals. Sparkling wines, still wines, and Icewine are all produced in Finger Lakes.

As usual, the conference organizers, Zephyr Adventures, have a full agenda planned for the 3-day conference and I look forward to sharing my experiences here, as well as on Twitter and Instagram.

Touring the Kamloops Wine Trail

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What started as an offhand comment about a road trip during one week’s #BCWineChat on Twitter, ended up as a spectacular 24-hour whirlwind trip to Kamloops with my friend and colleague, Jeannette Montgomery, of Okanagan Writing & The Third Glass. Next thing we knew, with a great effort from Tourism Kamloops, we had a winery tour schedule arranged, accommodation and some meals lined up as well. Many people seem to think of Kamloops as a place to stop on the way to, or from, somewhere else. Perhaps it’s the place to buy groceries on the way to ski at Sun Peaks Resort, somewhere for some fuel and road trip snacks on the way to the Lower Mainland, or the overnight stop-over between Vancouver and Alberta. It hasn’t always been considered as the holiday destination, unless you’ve been attending one of the many sports tournaments in Canada’s Tournament Capital. But that is all changing these days, and particularly when it comes to Wine Tourism. The newest winery association in the province is about to launch – the Kamloops Wine Trail! Yes, Kamloops has wineries; four of them actually.

We arrived in Kamloops, only a 2.5 – 3 hour drive from Penticton via the Coquihalla Connector. and found our accommodation downtown at the Plaza Hotel. This is a heritage building, built in 1928, that has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation a few years ago. It is a gorgeous boutique hotel that is in a prime location. The renovation has kept the heritage charm, not to mention the fabulous old elevator, but has made everything updated, clean and comfortable. We were made to feel very welcome at the Plaza, and I actually had a good sleep in my bed (rare for me in hotels)!IMG_0105IMG_0097IMG_0077IMG_0076IMG_0083IMG_0093

We met up with Monica from Tourism Kamloops for dinner at Terra Restaurant. This restaurant is located in a building on Victoria Street that used to house a vaudeville theatre back in the early 1900s. According to local legend, Boris Karloff may have gotten his start in acting in that very same theatre! The edge of the stage is still visible in the basement, under the kitchen. But I digress. Terra Restaurant is a fabulous dining spot in Kamloops. Chef David Tombs and his wife Andrea, who runs the front of house, source local meat and produce, keeping with the seasons. We left the food and wine selections to David and were not disappointed. I started with the Spring Salad with Sunflower Cream & Pink Balsamic. The flavours melded beautifully and I loved the bright hit from the thinly sliced fresh rhubarb that was included. This was paired with the Pinot Gris from Ex Nihilo.IMG_0113 My second course was a roasted sunchoke purée with duck confit, drizzled with truffle oil and presented on a bed of thinly-sliced radishes and brussel sprout leaves. Sadly my photos of this dish leave something to be desired and can’t convey how fabulous the flavours were. This was paired with the Pinot Noir from Ex Nihilo. IMG_0120My main course was a perfectly-cooked Pacific Halibut with a smoked beet risotto, basil beurre blanc, green beans and some lightly roasted carrots, paired with the Chardonnay from Burrowing Owl.IMG_0123 For dessert, we all pooled our dishes and shared as they were each so different and divine: Chocolate Bar, Strawberry Fields & Bananarama. The chocolate bar was perfectly paired with the Fortified Foch from Quails’ Gate.

Chocolate Bar

Chocolate Bar

Bananarama

Bananarama

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields

The entire meal was a delight, as was chatting with David and Andrea. It is very apparent just how passionate they are about the food that is produced, and where it is sourced as well. I look forward to a return visit sometime.IMG_0148-cropIMG_0146IMG_0137The next morning we met up with the manager of the Plaza Hotel, Shatha Al-Reihani, at the hotel restaurant, the Fireside Steakhouse & Grill, for breakfast. Over the Fireside Breakfast, 20150416_084355Shatha gave us some history on the hotel and its renovation, as well as some great insight into the kind of destination that Kamloops is becoming. After breakfast, she took us up on the roof of the hotel, which will hopefully soon be transformed into a rooftop deck area for events. The architectural details of the roof are fabulous, if in need of a lick of paint, and you get a 360 degree view of the city. Apparently Queen Elizabeth had tea up on the roof when she travelled through Kamloops back in the 1980s.IMG_0152IMG_015720150416_09121320150416_090954For our winery touring we were being driven by Maatje Stamp-Vincent, the owner of Tastefull Excursions, currently Kamloops’ only wine tour operator. Joining us on the tour was Trish Morelli of the Kamloops Wine Trail association.IMG_0186 Our first winery of the day was Privato Vineyard & Winery, located to the north of downtown Kamloops, along Westsyde Road. Owners John and Debbie Woodward greeted us and took us out to the vineyard, a small part of their 80-acre farm that they founded in 1987, where budbreak was just beginning, a couple weeks later than further south in the Okanagan.IMG_0162IMG_0167 Over the years John and Debbie have farmed Christmas trees, landscape trees, ginseng and hay. They planted their first vines in 2010 and now have four acres of primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with smaller amounts of Riesling, Ortega and Foch, all own-rooted. They currently produce 950 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and hope to grow to around 2000-3000 case production, gradually. Their tasting room is small but very well-appointed and opens up into the barrel room.IMG_0168IMG_0171 There is a very cozy, welcoming feeling in the tasting room with a nice contrast between the stone walls and the warm wood of the cabinetry, beams and barrels. The 2013 Silvio’s Chardonnay (unoaked) is a very pale straw colour, with citrus, apple and a hint of floral on the nose. It is dry, with high acidity and medium-minus body, with flavours of lemon pith, apple and a bit of spice on the palate. It is well-balanced with a long finish.IMG_0176 The 2012 Chardonnay (aged 7 months in oak) is pale gold in colour, with soft citrus, quince, baked apple, butter and baking spice on the nose. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity and medium body, with lovely flavours of lemon, apple, spice and some nice minerality. There is a great tension between the rounder mouthfeel and the bright acidity. It is very well-balanced with well-integrated oak. IMG_0177The 2011 Pinot Noir is a pale to medium garnet in colour, with an earthy nose with some raspberry and red cherry. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium body and medium-minus ripe tannins. It has flavours of cherry, raspberry and spice, with some earthy tones. This is definitely more old-world in style, well balanced with a long finish.IMG_0178IMG_0181After our visit at Privato, we loaded ourselves back into the Tastefull Excursions van and headed out east of downtown Kamloops, along the north side of the South Thompson River, to Harper’s Trail Winery. I had visited Harper’s Trail back in August of 2012, before they had built anything on the property. It was great to come back and see the developments! IMG_0183IMG_0190We were greeted in the new tasting room by Vicki Collett, who owns the winery with her husband Ed, and her tasting room staff, as well as their consulting winemaker, Michael Bartier. It was very fortunate that our trip coincided with his visit as he was able to share a bit of his wealth of knowledge up in the vineyard. 20150416_115929The clay soils have limestone running through them, which tends to lend some great minerality to the wines produced here. The 24-acre Thadd Springs Vineyard is planted to Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, and more recently Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. There is great care taken in the vineyard to farm in a sustainable way; no herbicides found here. When we were wandering though the vineyard, it was exploding with the yellow of dandelions and the tiny white flowers of Shepherd’s Purse, which is a great plant to have in your vineyard during cutworm season – the cutworms are attracted to it, eat it and die, therefore not damaging the vines. IMG_0204IMG_0201Back in the tasting room we went through the current flight of wines. The 2013 Pinot Gris is pale, almost clear, with aromas of pear, melon and spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and a round mouthfeel, with bright flavours of pear and spice, apple, citrus and some minerality. It is well-balanced and has a long finish.IMG_0206 The 2013 Field Blend White is made up of roughly equal parts Pinot Gris, Silver Mane Block Riesling and Chardonnay. It is pale lemon in colour with aromas of apricot, peach, apple, floral notes and citrus – very nice aromatics. It is slightly off-dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and flavours of apple, peach, citrus and spice.IMG_0207 The 2013 Gewurztraminer is pale lemon in colour with aromas of lychee, citrus and spice, with hints of floral. It is slightly off-dry with medium acidity, a round mouthfeel, and flavours of lychee, spice and citrus with a medium-plus finish. It is very fresh and clean.IMG_0214 The 2013 Pioneer Block Riesling is pale lemon in colour with a rich, ripe nose of citrus and peach with a hint of petrol. It is dry with high acidity and medium body, with flavours of lemon, peach, apple, and minerality, with a long finish. This is my kind of Riesling, reminiscent of a Rheingau Riesling. Conversely, the 2013 Silver Mane Block Riesling is done in more of a Mosel-style. It has aromas of peach, apple and citrus, not quite as intense as the Pioneer Block. It is off-dry with high acidity and a round mouthfeel, with flavours of lemon, peach and granny smith apple, with a medium-plus finish. IMG_0216The 2012 Chardonnay is pale lemon in colour and has aromas of smoky-grilled ripe pineapple. It is dry, with medium acidity and medium body. 15% of the blend was barrel-aged, giving it a bit of spice on the palate to complement the citrus flavours. It has a medium finish.IMG_0209 The 2013 Cabernet Franc is a medium ruby colour, with a hint of fuschia, and has aromas of raspberry, kirsch, jujubes, currants and pomegranate. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and medium-plus fine ripe tannins. On the palate there is ripe cherry, raspberry and spice, with a hint of earthiness and minerality with some cocoa on the back palate and a long finish. This is a beautifully elegant Cabernet Franc and I wish my budget would allow for a case! IMG_0210-cropWe finished off with the 2013 Late Harvest Riesling, from the Silver Mane Block. It is pale lemon in colour with an intensely aromatic nose. It is sweet, with high acid to balance the sweetness and has lovely flavours of citrus, apricot and honey – very tasty!

We made a very quick stop at Sagewood Winery, located about 5 minutes east of Harper’s Trail. This is a small family-run winery that produces about 500 cases. They planted their 3.5 acre vineyard in 2005 with 17 varietals. Several of their wines have ties in with the family, a sparkling wine named after their family dog, and two wines named by their children. Unfortunately I don’t think I was able to really taste the wines at their best as the two that I did try seemed to have been open for quite awhile prior to the tasting.20150416_133315

We headed back into Kamloops for lunch at The Noble Pig Brewhouse & Restaurant, that had been recommended to both of us by various foodie friends. And I must say that those recommendations did not lead us astray! IMG_0240IMG_0237The Noble Pig is Kamloops’ first microbrewery combined with a scratch kitchen, owned by Chef Jared Summers and his wife Maeghan. As it had turned into a lovely sunny day, we asked to be sat out on the patio – a retro-style swimming pool that had been filled in to allow for bench seating around the lip of the old pool – quite fabulous! 20150416_140235IMG_0226IMG_0236Maeghan greeted us and gave us a bit of an introduction to the Pig. There is quite an extensive menu of both craft beers and delicious food. I chose one of the featured beers, a Dunkelweiss, and ordered the Lamb Burger, with roasted garlic and onion glaze, carmelized apples and brie, with a side salad. I also had to order their signature Crispy Pickles with Cajun-seasoned breading and spicy dill ranch dip, to share. IMG_0231IMG_0230The Noble Pig is definitely worth a visit anytime you’re in Kamloops! I will be returning.

After filling up on way too much delicious food, and feeling the need to walk it off, we hopped back in the van and headed east of downtown Kamloops again, to our final stop of the day: Monte Creek Ranch Winery, near the junction of Hwy 1 and Hwy 97.IMG_0241 Monte Creek Ranch is owned by the Sidhu family, but they tend to take a bit more of a backseat when it comes to the public face of the winery; they are more involved behind the scenes. It is in fact a working ranch, with hayfields, a herd of cattle and horses, and Haskap berry production, but there are also over 100 acres of vineyard, with just over 40 currently planted over two vineyards, one on each side of the South Thompson River. The Lion’s Head Vineyard sits below the shape of a lion’s head on the hills on the north side of the river.IMG_0295 The Monte Creek vineyard sits opposite, on the south side of the river, and is the location of the winery. There are some different varietals being planted here, some Minnesota Hybrid varietals chosen for their winter-hardiness, including La Crescent, Marquette, Frontenac Blanc, Frontenac Gris, and Frontenac Noir. There are also some more classic varietals being grown, including Marechal Foch, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.IMG_0296 Although their products have been on liquor store shelves since last year, the winery itself is just nearing completion (2013 & 2014 vintages were done at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna). The new tasting room and winery building is a beautifully modern interpretation of an old Mission schoolhouse, although somewhat larger in scale, and is due to be completed in mid-June. We were greeted by Eric Fisher, general manager, and Galen Barnhardt, one of two winemakers, and led into the shade of some trees where they had set up a suitable makeshift tasting bar on a bale of hay, in the area that will become a large patio/courtyard for the tasting room. IMG_0307IMG_0250IMG_0255Before touring the building under construction, we tasted through a few of their wines. The 2013 Gewurztraminer is medium lemon in colour, with aromas and flavours of spice, lychee and citrus. It has a hint of sweetness to it but is essentially dry, with medium-plus acidity and medium body. The 2014 Hands Up White is a blend of Frontenac Blanc, La Crescent and Viognier. It is pale lemon in colour and has a beautiful floral nose. It is dry, with high acid and medium body, with flavours of apricot, citrus, floral and some honey notes with a long finish. The 2014 Rosé is made from 100% estate-grown Marquette. It is medium salmon in colour, with a candied strawberry nose. It is dry, with a hint of fruit sweetness, medium-plus acidity, medium-minus body, with flavours of strawberries and cream with some citrus and a medium finish. Perfect for a sunny day!IMG_0260 The 2013 Hands Up Red is a blend of Marquette, Frontenac Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is medium ruby-purple in colour with a very earthy nose with some dark fruit. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium dusty tannins and medium body. It has flavours of dried fruit and garrigue herbs with a medium-plus finish. The 2013 Cabernet Merlot is medium ruby-purple in colour, with aromas of cassis, plum, cherry, and currant. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium dusty tannins, with flavours of dried cherry, currant, plum and smoke, with a medium-plus finish. IMG_0252

After tasting we walked up to what will be the tasting room, with expansive glass overlooking the winding South Thompson River and Lion’s Head Mountain. We were led through the back-of-house area and down to the future cellar and barrel room before heading back outside onto the large crush pad. The winery is currently producing 10,000 cases and will grow over the next few years to 15,000 cases.IMG_0264IMG_0269IMG_0272IMG_0278IMG_0293 One wine that we did not taste this day, but that I very much enjoy for the patio is their Frontenac Gris – look out for it at your local shop! We were sent on our way with a small package each of delicious beef jerky, produced by the culinary students at the local Thompson Rivers University using beef raised at Monte Creek Ranch. This jerky will be one of the food items available at the tasting room once it opens.IMG_0305IMG_0303

Okanagan Wine Festivals Best of Varietal Winners

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Last week I was one of the judges for the Best of Varietal competition in the 21st annual Okanagan Spring Wine Festival. Tonight I attended the Awards Reception where all the winners and finalists in each category was announced to the public and everyone was able to sample the top wines. For each category, the number of finalists was based on a percentage of the number of wines submitted. For example, there were 39 White Blends submitted, so there was one winner and 8 finalists chosen. Other categories with fewer entries had fewer finalists. This year there were a record number of wines entered: 479!okwinefest

A big congratulations to the category winners!

Best Cabernet Franc
Harper’s Trail – Cabernet Franc 2013
Best Cabernet Sauvignon
Cassini Cellars – Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve 2011
Best Chardonnay
Inniskillin Okanagan Estate Series – Chardonnay 2013
Best Dessert/Late Harvest/Port Style
Harper’s Trail – Late Harvest Riesling 2013
Best Gamay
Pentage Winery – Gamay Noir Estate Bottled 2013
Best Gewürztraminer
Wild Goose Vineyards – Mystic River Gewürztraminer 2014
Best Icewine
Inniskillin Okanagan – Dark Horse Vineyard Riesling Icewine 2012
Best Malbec
Sandhill Wines – Small Lots Malbec Phantom Creek Vineyard 2012
Best Marechal Foch
St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery – Oak Bay Vineyard Foch 2013
Best Merlot
Sandhill Wines – Merlot Vanessa Vineyard 2012
Best Pinot Blanc
St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery – St. Hubertus Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2014
Best Pinot Gris
50th Parallel Estate – Pinot Gris 2014
Best Pinot Noir
Moraine Estate Winery – Pinot Noir 2012
Best Red Meritage Blends Cabernet Dominated
Moon Curser Vineyards – Cabernet Merlot 2012
Best Red Meritage Blends Merlot Dominated
Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery – Family Reserve Summit 2012
Best Red Blends “Other”
Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery – Alagria 2009
Best Red Single Variety “Other”
Sandhill Wines – Small Lots Sangiovese Sandhill Estate Vineyard 2012
Best Riesling
Wild Goose Vineyards – Stoney Slope Riesling 2013
Best Rosé/Blush
Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery – Blanc De Noirs Rosé 2014
Best Sauvignon Blanc
Clos Du Soleil Winery – Fume Blanc 2014
The Best Sparkling
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery – Steller’s Jay Sparkling Pinnacle 2006
Best Syrah / Shiraz
TIME Estate Winery – Syrah 2012
Best Syrah/Shiraz Based Blends
Daydreamer Wines – Amelia 2013
Best Viognier
Sandhill Wines – Viognier Osprey Ridge Vineyard 2014
Best White Blends
Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery – Mingle 2013
Best White Single Variety “Other”
Moon Curser Vineyards – Arneis 2014

Lost Inhibitions, the new brand from Church & State Wines

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Back at the end of January I replied to a post on Facebook from Church & State Wines. They were looking for people who would be interested in a blind tasting event. I wasn’t scheduled to work that day, so of course I quickly let them know that I was interested and available. Along with a couple of friends, I arrived at the tasting room on the Black Sage Bench in Oliver, not knowing all the details of what we would be doing, other than it would involve tasting some wine. As it turned out, we (along with about a dozen others) were attending the blending trials for a new line of wines from Church & State. lost-inhib-tastingJohn Pullen, Marketing Manager, and Jeff Del Nin, Winemaker, poured us five white wines and asked us to make some notes and come up with a score for each of the wines. Although all the wines were similar, one seemed better suited for food pairing, one seemed better for patio sipping, some had a little bit higher perceived sugar levels, some were lighter, crisper, and others were a little fuller. Next up were four red wines. Again, we made notes and came up with a score for each of the wines. They were all tasty blends, some better for aging with grippy tannins and great acidity, some ready for consumption sooner, with softer tannins and lush ripe fruit.

After everybody had listed their favourites of the whites and reds, Jeff spoke to what the blends were and John, along with his father Kim Pullen, Proprietor of Church & State, told us their plans for this new line of wines with higher production than their other wines (5000-7000 cases vs 200-1000 cases). They revealed a fun new label and talked about the process of creating this new brand. With the help of Brandever Marketing, the Lost Inhibitions brand was born. lost-inhibitions-letterslost-inhibitions-letters2Each of the individual letters used to spell out the words on the labels was created and stitched out of fabric before being replicated digitally, in order to have many different colour options to create the phrases on the bottles; really the possibilities are endless when it comes to phrases for the bottle labels. Currently there are 96 different Lost Inhibitions labels, split into two different series: the Prude and the Lewd. As indicated by the names, the Prude is a bit more “G-rated”, Lost-Inhib-Prudewhereas with the Lewd it’s “No Holds Barred”! There truly is a bottle for every occasion between friends.Lost-Inhib-Lewd

The 2014 Lost Inhibitions White is a blend of 35.2% Viognier, 19.7% Gewurztraminer, 16.8% Sauv Blanc, 16.4% Chardonnay, 7.3% Riesling, 3% Orange Muscat, 1.6% Roussanne. It is a great patio-sipping, aromatic wine with pineapple, apricot, peach and hints of floral on the nose. It is slightly off-dry, with a nice balance of acidity, round mouthfeel and flavours of citrus, peach, apricot and a touch of spice.

The 2014 Lost Inhibitions Red is a blend of 51.7% Merlot, 30.6% Cabernet Franc, 13.6% Malbec, and 4.1% Petit Verdot. It is a deep ruby-purple colour with aromas of black cherry, cassis and plum. It is dry but has quite an intense fruitiness. It has ripe tannins and flavours of dark cherry, plum, dark berries, cocoa and espresso with a medium-plus finish.

For the price ($18 & $20 respectively) these are pretty solid BC wines; and they’re something to really have fun with! And you can give suggestions on future label phrases too. Share your stories and suggestions with the winery and your idea could land on the next vintage.lost-inhibitions-red-aflp-148x500

Note: All bottle shots and letter images are from Church & State Wines.

BC’s first sub-GI: Golden Mile Bench

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Great news today for a group of wineries in the South Okanagan – BC’s first sub-GI (Geographical Indicator) has been approved! The application was submitted to the BC Wine Authority in May of last year and the final approvals from the Ministry of Agriculture were finally received.

Golden Mile Bench is the first official sub-region of six recognized GIs in the province, and can be used on wine labels. The criteria outlining the unique Golden Mile Bench GI are:

  1. Slope. Fluvial fans with an easterly-facing slope of between 5 to 15%, creating a mesoclimate and assisting with air drainage.

  2. Soil. Coarse-textured and without water table ​influence within the rooting zone, derived entirely from geological formations of Mount Kobau.

  3. Elevation or aspect. Minimum elevation is defined by the base of Hester and Tinhorn Creek escarpments, with maximum at the apex of the Reid Creek fan.

“After careful study and scientifi​c analysis, the Golden Mile Bench has been identified for the unique character of the wines made from grapes grown here,” says Don Triggs, owner of Culmina Family Estate Winery.  The scientific parameters for the Golden Mile Bench sub-GI include slope, soil, and elevation or aspect, as mapped in partnership with scientists from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre – Summerland (AAFC-PARC Summerland).

“We began working on this in 2009,” states Sandra Oldfield, CEO of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. “This sub-region has the most scientifically defensible boundaries that we (and PARC) could find.” The BC Wine Authority approved the initial application and presented it to the Minister of Agriculture in October 2014.

“Wine is as much about place as it is anything else”, states Bill Eggert, owner of Fairview Cellars. “Having a legal definition of where our wine comes from is a huge step forward for us and the entire industry.”

The Golden Mile Bench sub-GI consists of 11 voting members: Rustico Farm & Cellars, CC Jentsch Cellars, CheckMate Artisanal Winery, Culmina Family Estate Winery, Fairview Cellars, Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery, Hester Creek Estate Winery, Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards, Road 13 Vineyards, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, and Willow Hill Vineyards.

Gehringer Bros & Hester Creek Vineyards

Gehringer Bros & Hester Creek Vineyards

 

New to Naramata – Tightrope Winery

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I visited Tightrope Winery on an overcast winter’s day when there was still some snow in the vineyard, and certainly on the surrounding hills. However, it wasn’t hard to imagine how lovely it will be when the vines are shooting up in a few months and the sun is shining, with Okanagan Lake glistening in the distance. Tightrope Winery’s tasting room will be one of a handful of new ones opening this spring along the Naramata Bench. Their first couple of vintages have been made using the facilities at Ruby Blues Winery and wines have been available in private stores and restaurants, but now Graham O’Rourke and his wife Lyndsay have their own facilities completed and are anticipating being open at the Easter weekend.IMG_9819IMG_9821IMG_9831

photo from Tightrope Winery

photo from Tightrope Winery

Graham & Lyndsay moved to the Okanagan in 2003, after living in Whistler for several years, in order to pursue their winery dreams. After learning some basics in viticulture and winemaking in the valley, they decided to relocate to New Zealand to further pursue their education at Lincoln University, just outside of Christchurch. They returned to the Okanagan in 2007 and purchased their 10 acre Naramata property which they planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Barbera.  Graham worked as a vineyard manager at Mission Hill for six years, while Lyndsay was hired as the winemaker at Ruby Blues Winery. This gave them both the local practical experience they needed before opening their own winery. Their new building will allow their production to grow from its current 2600 to approximately 4000 cases eventually. The name ‘Tightrope’ represents the balancing act that occurs throughout the entire winemaking process – from the vineyard to the cellar. I would also venture a guess that it can be compared to well-made wines – always in perfect balance.

The tasting room is bright, warm and inviting, with a modern rustic aesthetic. The tasting bar and cash point bar are both clad in corrugated aluminum, with stone accents on the tasting bar, and a glossy white solid surface bar top. The shelves are beautifully sculptural with solid wood and iron pipe – which should showcase their products nicely. Of course no tasting room is complete without a view, and this one looks out over the vineyard, with Okanagan Lake and the hills in the distance (my photo really doesn’t do it justice).IMG_9823IMG_9824IMG_9827

Graham insists that they want to showcase the Naramata Bench and its clean fruit, really letting the grapes speak for themselves in the bottle. Graham tends the vineyard with their wine style in mind so that minimal intervention can occur during the winemaking time. As the tasting room was not yet open for business when I visited, Graham generously packed up several bottles for me to taste through at my leisure. I decided to share these with some friends who are also wine geeks when it came time to taste through for the following notes, because wine is really always best when shared with friends and good food!IMG_9825

The 2012 Riesling is pale gold in colour and has those lovely aromas that I love in a Riesling that is beginning to develop – pencil eraser and hints of diesel (yes, you all know that I am a wine geek) along with some citrus. The palate is dry with high acidity, medium body and intense flavours of apple, peach and melon. This is a very tasty, well-balanced wine with a long finish. I discovered that this Riesling pairs beautifully with jalapeno cheddar sausages – the spice brings out a sweetness in the wine and the wine conversely tames the heat of the sausages – delicious!

The 2013 Riesling is still showing as a bit tight and closed; it needs some more age on it. It is a pale lemon in colour with aromas of citrus. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity and a slightly rounder mouthfeel than with the 2012, with flavours of apple, citrus and peach, and a medium finish.

The 2013 Pinot Gris is pale lemon with aromas of citrus, apple and pear. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium body. It has pronounced flavours of pear with hints of almond and spice and a medium finish. This is one wine that developed nicely as it sat in my glass for a while – just kept getting better.

The 2013 Viognier is pale lemon in colour with a slightly perfumed nose at first. This is another wine that developed nicely as it sat in my glass. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-minus body and flavours of citrus and apricot with a medium-plus finish.20150221_172934

L-R: 2012 P.N., 2013 P.N., 2013 Vertigo

L-R: 2012 Pinot Noir, 2013 Pinot Noir, 2013 Vertigo

The 2012 Pinot Noir is a medium ruby in colour with an earthy nose with spice, dark red fruit and a little bit of the good kind of funk. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium tannins that are ripe, medium body and flavours of dark red fruits, cherry, raspberry, spice and some earthiness. This is my kind of Pinot Noir flavour-wise, and is well-balanced with a long finish.

The 2013 Pinot Noir is a little bit lighter in both colour and body, with a slightly fresher nose with hints of floral aromas and bright red fruit – a slightly more feminine wine when compared with the 2012. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-minus body and flavours of cherry and raspberry and a medium-plus finish.

The 2013 Vertigo is the inaugural release of the winery’s red blend. Vertigo is made up of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Barbera. Tightrope is currently one of only two wineries in the Okanagan Valley (the other is Sandhill Wines) who are growing Barbera, a varietal from northwestern Italy. Graham & Lyndsay decided to plant a small amount of Barbera after an experience with a winery in New Zealand that uses a lot of Italian varietals – Vin Alto, near Auckland. The 2013 Vertigo is medium-plus ruby in colour with a hint of purple and aromas of dark fruit and spice and a nice intensity. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and flavours of dark fruit, plums, cherry and spice and a long finish. It is well-balanced but still very young – I would like to lay this down for a few more years. Overall, these wines were all very clean and well-made – I look forward to trying more as they are released.IMG_7771

Good news for fans of craft beer, cider & spirits!

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Today, at Cannery Brewing in Penticton, the official public announcement was made about amendments to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA) that benefit craft breweries, cideries & distilleries across Canada.

Patt Dyck of Cannery Brewing introducing today's guests

Patt Dyck of Cannery Brewing introducing today’s guests

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue, joined by Dan Albas, Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla, today announced that Canadians will now be able to purchase beer and spirits in provinces where they don’t live and bring them home for personal use. The measure removes unnecessary red tape and is expected to benefit independent breweries and distilleries in communities across Canada by opening up regional markets and generating jobs.

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue (L) & Dan Albas, MP Okanagan-Coquihalla (R)

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue (L) & Dan Albas, MP Okanagan-Coquihalla (R)

Amendments to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA) remove federal barriers and now allow individuals to move beer and spirits from one province to another for personal use. They were adopted as part of the Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2014 and follow the Government’s elimination of similar barriers in 2012 in order to permit the interprovincial movement of wine for personal use.

As provincial liquor laws govern the movement, sale, purchase and possession of wine, beer, and spirits within each province, changes to these laws are often also required to allow interprovincial movement. Since the previous amendment in 2012, both British Columbia and Manitoba allow personal importations of wine. It was noted today that both Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia should be on board by July of this year. The Government of Canada is encouraging all provinces to support this measure and enact the necessary laws to facilitate and encourage interprovincial trade.

Toasting the announcement with (L-R) Josie Tyabji of Canadian Vintners' Association, Dan Albas, Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, Patt Dyck

Toasting the announcement with Lakeboat Lager, from left to right: Josie Tyabji of Canadian Vintners’ Association, Dan Albas, Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, Patt Dyck

“The Canadian Vintners Association continues to advocate for the removal of barriers that limit Canadians from purchasing wine from another province. We are encouraged to see the Government of Canada taking charge and removing internal barriers, first with wine and now with beer and spirits. We hope that all jurisdictions will adopt these measures so that Canadians can access a broad selection of Canadian wine products, no matter where they live.” – Dan Paszkowski, President and CEO, Canadian Vintners Association

“Breaking down trade barriers gives our local breweries and distilleries the opportunity to be competitive in national markets, thus fostering growth and creating jobs in our community. I am pleased to participate in today’s event and look forward to seeing the next steps the federal government takes to reduce red tape for Canadian businesses.” – Dan Albas, Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla, BCIMG_9864

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