BC Wine is not just from the Okanagan


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While the Okanagan certainly represents the lion’s share of BC wineries and vineyards, it is not the only region producing BC wine. In the past month I visited two other regions: the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, and one of the emerging regions, Lytton-Lillooet.

According to the 2014 BC Grape Acreage Survey, Vancouver Island is home to 50 vineyards, making up just under 400 acres, or 3.8% of the total planted throughout the province. And according to the Liquor Control & Licensing Branch (LCLB), as of August this year there were 32 licensed wineries on Vancouver Island. Over the last few years I have visited a handful of them but unfortunately I don’t get down to the Island more often than once every 12-18 months.

On a recent trip with friends to Vancouver Island we were focussing a lot on food, wine, beer & cider: visiting many restaurants, brew pubs, a couple of wineries, and one cidery (that happened to be playing host to over 20 cideries for a special event). Although we were based down in Victoria, it was an easy day trip to visit some wineries in and around Duncan (only 60 km north). We decided to start with Averill Creek (established in 2001) as we had sampled some of their wines before but had never visited the winery. It’s a lovely west-coast modern building in a picture-perfect hillside setting on the southeastern slopes of Mount Prevost (overlooking Satellite Channel, with Salt Spring Island beyond. I could see how the patio would be a very popular picnic spot in the summer months.IMG_3025IMG_3026IMG_3037IMG_3036We were greeted in the tasting room and led through some wines. We began with the 2014 Gewürztraminer, with grapefruit and lychee on the nose. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium-minus body. It has flavours of grapefruit and lychee with some tropical notes.IMG_3035 Next was a particularly interesting wine – the 2014 Foch-Eh! This is a light, fruity, easy-drinking, unoaked style of Marechal Foch that was fermented using a technique called carbonic maceration. It is a vibrant fuchsia in colour with aromas of juicy red currants and strawberry. It is dry with medium-plus acidity medium-minus body and flavours of red berries and pomegranate. For those who aren’t huge fans of Foch, I would recommend trying this wine and serving it slightly chilled on a warm summer’s day.IMG_3033 The 2011 Pinot Noir (2010 pictured below) is medium ruby in colour, with a hint of purple. It has a perfumed nose of raspberry and ripe plum. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and medium-minus tannins, with flavours of damson plum, raspberry and bit of spice, with a medium-plus finish. IMG_3030The 2012 Foch Cab is a blend of 60% Marechal Foch, 15% Cabernet Foch, 15% Cabernet Libre (both Blattner varietals) and 10% Merlot. It is medium garnet in colour with a smoky nose, with some dark fruit and savoury notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus body and medium tannins. It has flavours of red berries, black currants and some gamey notes.IMG_3032 We finished our tasting with the 2008 Cowichan Tawny, a barrel-aged fortified blackberry dessert wine with aromas and flavours of dried fruits, nuts and spice.

After stopping for a bit of sightseeing and a bite for lunch in Cowichan Bay, we headed to Blue Grouse Estate Winery & Vineyard, a 45 acre estate with 7 acres of vineyard planted to Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Muller Thurgau, Ortega, Black Muscat, Siegerrebe and Bacchus. IMG_3066We were greeted by tasting room manager Derek and he began our tasting before owner Paul Brunner stepped in to explain the different lineups of wine offered at Blue Grouse. There is the Quill line of wines, which are made either entirely from grapes not grown on the estate (but still BC grapes), or blends of non-estate and estate grapes. Then there is the Estate line of wines, made from 100% estate-grown grapes. We began with the 2014 Quill Rosé, made from 100% Gamay Noir grapes, some from Blue Grouse and some from another vineyard 15km north. It is a crisp, refreshing, dry wine with aromas and flavours of strawberry and red currant. Definitely my kind of rosé! The 2013 Estate Ortega has a lovely aromatic nose, is dry with medium-plus acid and a light body. It has flavours of citrus, apple, almond & peach. The 2013 Quill Dry White is a blend of 36% Ortega, 39% Pinot Gris, 15% Gewürztraminer and 10% Müller-Thurgau. It has aromas of apple and peach, is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and flavours of lychee, apple and citrus. Very pleasant, easy-drinking.BlueGrouse1 The 2014 Estate Bacchus was a surprise. I’ve typically enjoyed Bacchus wines in the past, but they’ve been typically done in an off-dry style, pretty, but easy, nothing overly complex or interesting about them. Not this Bacchus though! Winemaker Bailey Williamson has outdone himself on this one. It has a very pronounced nose with notes of elderflower and juniper. It is dry with high acidity, medium body and is highly aromatic. It has delicate floral notes, some savoury notes, flavours of orchard fruits and some unexpected complexity with a long finish. The 2014 Estate Siegerebbe has aromas of grapefruit, lychee and peach. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium-minus body. It is clean and fresh with flavours of citrus and white peach. The 2014 Quill Riesling (sourced from a vineyard near Tuc el Nuit Lake in Oliver) has a nose of peach, orchard fruit and light floral notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium-minus body. It has flavours of crisp green apple and lemon with a very long finish. The 2012 Paula is Bailey’s first release of a traditional method sparkling wine at Blue Grouse. It is a blend of Pinot Gris, Ortega, Müller-Thurgau, and a small percentage of Pinot Blanc. It has persistent fine bubbles and aromas of citrus and brioche. On the palate it has a fine mousse and flavours of green apple and citrus with toasty notes and a hint of sweet fruit. It is a lovely, very quaffable sparkling wine. We finished the tasting with the 2013 Quill Red, which is a blend of 44% Marechal Foch, 28% Cabernet Franc and 28% Merlot. The Foch was sourced from the Cowichan Valley, while the Cab Franc and Merlot were sourced from Oliver. It is a medium ruby in colour with aromas of ripe cherry and plum. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and medium-minus tannins. It has flavours of cherry, plum and red currant with a medium finish.BlueGrouse2

Following our tasting, Paul took us on an extensive tour of the new facilities. Although the new building only opened earlier this year, the property has had vines for close to 40 years, first as experimental plantings in 1977, then in earnest by previous owner Hanz Kiltz from the late 1980s. Blue Grouse Winery was established in the early 1990s. Paul and his family purchased the winery in 2012 and had the new state-of-the-art facility built on to the existing facility. The modern sustainable building relies on geothermal heating and cooling, which makes for one of the coolest mechanical rooms (I admit it, the architectural geek in me came out on this tour). The bright tasting room features double tasting bars and a fireplace lounge area.IMG_3106-2IMG_3083The upper level lounge which overlooks the tasting room, pays homage to Hanz Kiltz and the history of the property, while opening up views over the vineyards and the stunning surrounding landscape of rolling hills. IMG_3082IMG_3074IMG_3076IMG_3081

Following a quick trip earlier this month to attend the Cornucopia Wine Festival in Whistler, I stopped in at Fort Berens Winery in Lillooet on my way home. I hadn’t been out there since August of 2012, as part of my initial winery tour for this blog, and a lot has changed since then. Back in 2012, the tasting room was essentially in a barn and the only washroom was a porta-potty! Now there is a bright new tasting room and winemaking facility, which officially opened last year.IMG_328220151109_14000020151109_14001820151109_135022 I tasted through the portfolio, starting with the 2014 Pinot Gris with pear and melon on the nose. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium body. It is fresh and fruit-forward with flavours of pear, melon and peach. The 2014 Unoaked Chardonnay has citrus and tropical notes, is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium body. It has flavours of apple, pear and lemon with a medium-plus finish. The 2014 Riesling has aromas of stone fruit and some floral notes. It is dry with a hint of sweetness, medium body and a round mouthfeel. It has flavours of apricot, peach and citrus.FB-Whites The 2013 Pinot Noir has a rich nose of cherry, raspberry, spice and a hint of earthiness. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium tannins, medium body and flavours of raspberry, cranberry, red cherry and a hint of spice. It is elegant, with some complexity and a long finish – quite lovely. The 2013 Cabernet Franc has aromas of smoke, raspberry and spice. It is dry with medium-acidity, medium-plus tannins, medium-plus body and flavours of cherry, raspberry and spice. It is nicely balanced with a long finish. The 2013 Meritage is a blend of 60%Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc & 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has aromas of smoke, plum, cassis, cherry and some savoury notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus silky tannins and medium body. It has flavours of cherry, spice, plum and cassis with a medium-plus finish. The 2013 Late Harvest Riesling has a ripe pear nose. It is off-dry with medium-minus acidity and medium body with flavours of pear nectar, lychee and ripe mango. FB-Reds

Women in Wine, Aging Finger Lakes Wines & more from #WBC15


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Following a late night of wine tasting, and buoyed by plenty of coffee and a bacon-based breakfast, I was ready for the second full day of the Wine Bloggers Conference itinerary. The first morning breakout session that I chose was The Business of Wine, moderated by Marcy Gordon, and featuring Leeann Froese of Town Hall Brands, Zach Milne-Haverty of Beverage Trade Network and Monika Elling of Foundations Marketing Group. This focussed primarily on a few ways to better understand the current wine consumer market and how to get your brand noticed in a sea of wine brands. I had been hoping for a bit more insight on current market trends, but had some great takeaways from the session, particularly with the millennials:

Unlike my own generation, who grew up drinking nasty sweet plonk like Arbor Mist or Boone’s Farm, the millennials grew up drinking the quality wines of their parents. They have more sophisticated palates at a younger age. However, they want to separate themselves from their parents’ brands, and are willing to try almost any brand whose packaging/branding jumps out at them and to keep trying new wines. They are less likely to have brand loyalty, unlike their parents, so the key for wineries is to find a way to hang on to their millennial customers.

The second breakout session that I attended was Women In The Wine World, moderated by Amy Corron Power, and featuring Stevie Kim of Vinitaly, Meaghan Frank of Dr Konstantin Frank Cellars, and Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. IMG_2257Although women are becoming far better represented overall in the wine industry, and particularly in positions of power in the wine industry, there are still challenges that exist. Stevie Kim outlined the many events that she coordinates as the Managing Director of Vinitaly (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016). Not only is there the primary competition and exposition held every April in Verona, but there is OperaWine, Vinitaly International, Vino – A Taste of Italy at Expo in Milan, and the Vinitaly Wine Club. This is one very busy woman, along with her team. The Italian wine world is one very much dominated by men. At Cronache di Gusto, an online journal of food & wine, a Top 100 Power List is published of the Italian wine industry every year. The first woman doesn’t feature until #18 and, of the 10 women included on the list, one is American (Monica Larner) and one is British (Jancis Robinson).

Meaghan Frank was born into a local wine dynasty, being the great granddaughter of Dr Konstantin Frank who really began the commercial production of vinifera vines, and quality wine production in the Finger Lakes region. Despite holding a degree in Wine Business Management, she felt that she wasn’t being given credibility in the industry without an enology degree. She is now pursing that degree and is determined to become as educated as possible in order to have that credibility.

Karen MacNeil didn’t find that being a woman was a burden in the wine writing industry, as it allowed her to “fly under the radar” and to climb the ladder as quickly as possible. She believes that, in the past ten years, women are no longer suppressed in the wine industry; the door has been blasted open. She suggests we walk through that door, figure out how to do our best, and to be outstanding. She had a few comments on women and wine tasting. She has found that the people who get ahead are always trying things. One thing for women to keep in mind is that we metabolize alcohol more slowly than men. Therefore, in a large tasting setting we have half the number of tastes available to be able to take stock of the wine, even when spitting. If you’re serious about wine writing, get really serious, and that includes the way you taste. She feels that the biggest challenge that women have (and this is in business in general, not just in the wine business) is how to ask for money, how to figure out your worth. One great way is to have a mentor who is successful in business.

Lunch featured wines from the Seneca Lake Wineries Association. Three wines that stood out to me included the 2012 Sparkling Riesling from Wagner Vineyards,20150815_121147 the 2014 Rosé from Fulkerson Estate,20150815_120613 and my favourite of the day was the beautifully rich 2013 Gigliotti Vineyards Pinot Gris from Lakewood Vineyards.20150815_120045

After lunch, I attended Cellaring Sense: The Ageability of Finger Lakes Wines. I am already familiar with what makes a good wine for ageability, but was very curious to taste some Finger Lakes wines with a bit of age on them, particularly Rieslings. I love aged Rieslings with those petrol/diesel notes. According to some research in the region, those petrol notes tend to appear earlier in fruit from drought-stressed vines, or from long hot growing seasons.20150815_132421 The 2008 Dry Riesling from Hermann J Wiemer Vineyard was medium lemon in colour and had a hint of petrol on the nose, along with honey, lemon and stone fruit. It was dry, with high acid, light body and flavours of lemon, nectarine, honey and some mineral notes, with a medium finish. The 2008 Semi Dry Riesling from Dr Konstantin Frank Cellars was medium gold in colour with baked apple, apricot and honey on the nose. It was medium dry, with medium-plus acid, medium body and had flavours of dried apricot, honey, apple, minerality and a hint of petrol, with a medium-plus finish. 20150815_135923The 2005 Cabernet Franc from Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards was a deep garnet in colour, with a paler rim. It had a rich fruitcake nose, was dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus tannins, medium-plus body and flavours of dried cherries, spice, some herbal notes and savoury complexity with a medium-plus finish. Finally, the 2005 Fiori Vidal Icewine from Casa Larga Vineyards was a medium amber in colour with an intensely aromatic nose with floral notes and caramel. It was lusciously sweet with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus body and flavours of lemon, apricot, peach, honey. It was complex and delicious with a long finish.IMG_2276

Following those delicious wines, I stepped out of the official program to do some tasting of Cornerstone Cellars wines with Craig Camp. I’ve become a fan of Cornerstone’s wines over the past few years as I’ve been able to sample them at Wine Bloggers Conferences and Wine Tourism Conferences. I just wish they were available closer to home. Oh darn, it will just mean that a road trip to Napa is in order. Craig had quite the lineup of Rosé and reds available and I tasted through them all. The 2014 Corallina is a Napa Syrah Rosé made specifically as a rosé, not an afterthought or a saignée, but whole cluster pressed. It has a ripe nose of red berries and a hint of spice. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity and medium body and flavours of red cherry, berries, citrus and spice with a long finish. Very refreshing.20150815_141805 The 2012 Stepping Stone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Artist Series) has a ripe dark cherry nose, is dry with medium acidity and body, and medium-minus tannins. This approachable, fruit-forward wine has flavours of dark berry and cherry and a long finish.20150815_142022 The 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has a more earthy nose. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium body and tannins. It has flavours of dark berries and plum with a hint of spice. 20150815_142027For the Cornerstone wines from Napa, there is a black label and a white label. The black label tends to be blends of different vineyards, with production at approximately 500 cases each. The white labels is for either single vineyard or reserve wines, and usually from older vines – 15 to 25 years old. The 2013 Napa Merlot (black label) has great fruit and structure, along with some smoke and spice.20150815_142034 The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (black label), with 5.5% Merlot and 2.5% Cabernet Franc, has great structure but with fine tannins. It has flavours of cassis, cherry, plum and some dried fruit. It is ripe yet elegant. 20150815_142041The 2012 Cabernet Franc (black label) has aromas of dark fruit with some floral and herbal notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and body, medium-plus-plus tannins and flavours of cherry, raspberry and plum with a long finish.20150815_142045 The 2012 Oakville Station Merlot (white label) comes from a single block of vines. It is a full-bodied wine that is very elegant with soft, fine tannins and flavours of plum and cherry – delicious. 20150815_142052The 2012 Michael’s Cuvée (white label) is a blend of single vineyards (Oakville Station, Kairos & Ink Grade Vineyards), 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. It is a full-bodied, rich wine with flavours of cassis, hints of eucalyptus and a long finish. 20150815_142056The 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (white label) comes from a vineyard above 1400ft in elevation, above the fog line. It is a 28 year old vineyard with soil as fine as talcum powder. This wine has a savoury nose of chocolate, cherry, vanilla and spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus-plus tannins and a full body. It has a complex palate with ripe flavours of dark fruit and spice and a beautiful minerality, with an extremely long finish. I would love to see this wine after some time in the cellar!20150815_142103

The day was not over yet, but I will save more for another blog post. Plenty of wine tasting, along with some glass-blowing to come.

In Memory of Aaron


I’m not usually one to re-blog posts, but Aaron was a good friend and colleague of mine at the BC Wine Info Centre for four years. I still can’t believe that he is gone. I will miss our great conversations, generally about wine since we’re both wine geeks, but all sorts of other things about life in general. The BC wine industry has indeed lost one of its most impassioned advocates and I will miss him greatly.

A celebration of life will be held this Friday, October 30th, 1-3pm at Poplar Grove Winery. Shuttle service will be available from the BC Wine Info Centre as there is limited parking at Poplar Grove. If you are unable to make it, please raise a glass to Aaron. Cheers!

Originally posted on Wine Country BC:

DSC_7565 It is with a sad heart that I write this. The wine world is generally a very positive one filled with happy experiences around a shared bottle of wine or two. The loss ofone of those friends makes it all the more difficult.

The world lost Aaron Olfert on last weekend.Aaron and I worked together at the BC Wine Information Centre VQA store for the 3 years years that I was there from 2009 to 2011. He had been there since 2006 and continued to work there until his untimely passing. Regular customers appreciatedhis deep knowledge of B.C. wine. The many return visitors in that store knew him from there and recognized him when they came back. His personality filled the spaces between the thousands of bottles in that store. I first met him that way – as a customer looking to spend my birthday money on a nice bottle…

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Garagiste North Festival, Kelowna


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Late last month I attended the third Garagiste North Festival, held this time at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna. I arranged to bring my Wine Sales Certificate students to the festival as a field trip, to show them another side of the wine industry in BC. The Garagiste North Festival began last fall, the brainchild of Jennifer Schell and Terry Meyer Stone, to showcase the small producers of BC wine, some of whom are literally producing it in their garages (hence the name), with production ranging from 180 cases to just under 2000 cases. The first festival was hosted by Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls, featuring twenty small wineries, and was a resounding success. It lead to a second festival date this past June in Vancouver. This time, back in the Okanagan, 22 garagistes participated in the two-hour tasting event. I try to keep fairly current on new emerging wineries in BC, but this year it has certainly been challenging to do so with several dozen opening around the province and this event introduced me to a few new labels.IMG_2748IMG_2751IMG_2759

This year’s line-up included:

Anarchist Mountain Vineyard, Osoyoos, BC – 250 case production

BC Wine Studio, OK Falls, BC – 900 case production

Bella Wines, Naramata, BC – 342 case productionIMG_2762

Black Cloud Winery, Penticton, BC – 450 case production

Black Market Wine Co., OK Falls, BC – 180 case production

Cana Vines Winery, Oliver, BC – 550 case production

Corcelettes Estate Winery, Keremeos, BC – 738 case production

Daydreamer Wines, Penticton, BC – 1100 case production

Deep Roots Winery, Naramata, BC – 1596 case productionIMG_2766

Giant Head Winery, Summerland, BC – 1055 case production

Kraze Legz Winery, Kaleden, BC – 1991 case production

Lariana Cellars, Osoyoos, BC – 700 case production

Lock & Worth Winery, Penticton, BC – 700 case production

Marichel Vineyard & Winery, Naramata, BC – 1280 case production

Nagging Doubt, Kelowna, BC – 600 case production

Nighthawk Vineyards, OK Falls, BC – 448 case productionIMG_2752

Niche Wine Co., West Kelowna, BC – 460 case production

Phasion Estates Winery, OK Falls, BC – 575 case production

River Stone Estate Winery, Oliver, BC – 1683 case production

Roche Wines, Penticton, BC – 460 case production

Van Westen Vineyards, Naramata, BC – 1837 case production

Vin Perdu Cellars, Oliver, BC – 370 case production

I didn’t have the time to try absolutely everything on offer, so I tried to stick to the wineries whose wines I had never tried before, or those who had new vintages available that I had not yet tried. Some of the standouts for my palate included the 2013 Wildfire Pinot Noir from Anarchist Mountain (making me happy that I already have some bottles in my cellar), The Syndicate 2012 from Black Market Wine Co,IMG_2750 the 2011 Meritage from Corcelettes, the 2013 Amelia from Daydreamer, the 2013 Syrah from Deep Roots, the 2014 Merlot from Lock & Worth, the 2014 Gewürztraminer from Nighthawk Vineyards, the Pinot Noir barrel sample from Roche Wines, and the 2014 Gamay Noir from Vin Perdu Cellars.

The wines produced by the garagistes are truly made with passion and I would recommend seeking them out. The owners/winemakers love what they do (often as a sideline to another job that actually pays the bills) and are happy to speak about their wines and their experiences. Stay tuned to the Events Calendar on the Garagiste North website to get your tickets for upcoming festivals and winemaker dinners.garagiste north

WBC Scholarship Fund – Thank You!


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The Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship Fund was established in 2009 (the second year of the Wine Bloggers Conference) by Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes. She has worked tirelessly, along with the Scholarship Committee members, ever since to help ensure that citizen bloggers such as myself have the opportunity to attend the conference.IMG_20150908_204955

I know that I have said a general thank you to the donors of the WBC Scholarship Fund in a previous post, but I would like to extend a big personal thanks to both the corporate and individual donors without whose help I would not have been able to travel more than halfway across North America to attend the conference last month in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. Thank you so much to the corporate donors: Ethnifacts, Enobytes, Craig Camp of Cornerstone Cellars, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Protocol Wine Studio, Angelsmith, Freixenet & Ferrer Family Wines, Nomacorc, Amy Gross of Wine4.me, and Vineyard Adventures. And a big thank you to the individual donors: Mia Malm, Tom Wark, Becca Yeamans, Janelle Beccera, Melanie Ofenloch, Debbie Gioquinto, Catherine Todd, Cindy Rynning, Alissa, Jeff Kralik, Kristina Manning of the International Wine of the Month Club, Willie Carter, Alina Ferguson, Thomas Riley, Amy Corron Power & Allison Aitken. I hope I have not forgotten anybody; if I have, please let me know. I hope to pay this forward by helping other citizen bloggers attend future Wine Bloggers Conferences. Cheers!

The Finger Lakes Region isn’t just Riesling.


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This year’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Corning, New York, kicked off in style with an eloquent keynote speech by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. This was certainly one of the highlights of the conference, and I must tell you that if you ever have the opportunity to listen to her speak, please jump at the chance. She has lived a very interesting life as a pioneer in the world of women wine writers. I left with some great takeaways, with which I hope to be able to continually improve my writing, my wine knowledge, and how I describe those wines. Karen MacNeil shared many insights, but the three that really resonated with me are:

Be a learner, really know your subject. If you really know your subject, you can explain it in 17 words.

Tell your story, don’t write the story; it’s a conversation.

Never say X wine is like Y wine. Describe it in a way without referencing another wine. Same thing for referencing wine regions (think “Napa North” or “Napa of China”). It does a disservice to that region.

I look forward to reading The Wine Bible, 2nd Edition, which is scheduled to be released October 6th.IMG_2080

Next up on the agenda was an introduction to the Finger Lakes Wine Country, featuring Alan Lakso of Cornell University, specialising in grape physiology research, Fred Merwarth of Hermann J. Wiemer Winery, and Christopher Bates of Element Winery. Throughout this session I kept hearing many parallels between the Finger Lakes region and the wine regions of British Columbia. Finger Lakes is young region that now has fine winemaking and winegrowing but is still finding its sense of place and how to show this sense of place to the world. This is a small region where people have said, upon tasting the wines, “Great wine, for New York.” The challenge is to change people’s thinking that actually, the Finger Lakes region produces great wine, full stop.IMG_2086IMG_2085

The Wine Bloggers Conference Expo and Lunch was held outside, under a large tent, and allowed attendees to sample wines from around New York and the world, including wines from Ribero del Duero in Spain, Mendoza in Argentina, Alsace in France, and Montefalco in Italy.20150814_12134120150814_13120320150814_12313220150814_12311120150814_12220620150814_12241620150814_13014120150814_125324

After lunch, attendees were able to choose between three different Wine Discovery Sessions. I chose “Finger Lakes & Riesling: A Love Story”. After a brief summary of the region, we tasted through eight different Rieslings, from three AVAs. The 2013 Eugenia Dry Riesling (Keuka West) from Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars was pale lemon with a green hue. It had lemon and flint on the nose with some hints of passionfruit. It was dry with high acidity and a medium-minus body with flavours of lemon, lime, peach, gooseberry and minerality on the palate. It was well-balanced with a long finish. It was very tasty, but almost more like a Sauvignon Blanc in style. The 2014 Humphreys Vineyard Riesling (Seneca West) from Keuka Spring Vineyards was pale lemon in colour with a very light nose. It was slightly off-dry with medium-plus acidity and medium body. It had flavours of peach and apple. I quite enjoyed the 2012 Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling (Seneca East) from Red Newt Cellars. It was pale lemon in colour with a rich nose of petrol notes and rubber eraser. It was dry with medium-plus acidity and medium-minus body. It had petrol notes carrying over to the fresh clean palate, along with flavours of Granny Smith apple, lemon, lime and some minerality with a medium-plus finish. The 2014 Dry Riesling (Seneca West) from Knapp Winery was pale lemon in colour with aromas of peach, apple and lemon. It was dry with high acidity, medium body and a rounder mouthfeel, with flavours of apple, peach and lime. IMG_2088The 2014 Dry Oak Vineyard Riesling (Seneca East) from Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars was pale lemon in colour with a tropical nose of honey, passionfruit, guava and peach. It was dry with medium-plus acidity and a light body. It was very light on the palate with flavours of lemon and apple and a short finish. The 2014 Riesling (Cayuga West) from Sheldrake Point Winery was a medium lemon in colour with a rich ripe nose and aromas of baked apple, honey, peach and apricot. It was off-dry with medium-plus acidity and medium body with flavours of apricot, honey and melon. It did have a bit of botrytis present, was well-balanced with a medium-plus finish; quite lovely. The next wine was probably my favourite of the lineup – the 2011 Reserve Riesling (Seneca West) from Fox Run Vineyards. It was a medium gold in colour with aromas of petrol, rubber, apricot, honey and tangerine. It was dry with high acidity and medium body, with flavours of tangerine, honey, apricot, apple, spice and preserved ginger with a long finish. The final wine was the 2014 Full Monty Riesling (Seneca West) from Lakewood Vineyards. It was pale lemon in colour with a rich honeyed nose with aromas of gooseberry and melon. It was off-dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and flavours of apple, lemon, peach and honey. It was very tasty with a long finish.

Following the Live Blogging/Tweeting speed tasting session – having ten wineries each present a wine to your table and get as much information and as many tasting impressions of the wine in five minutes per wine – we all set off for our Friday evening excursions. There were ten different excursions and each one was a mystery. All the attendees were split up onto buses and it wasn’t until the buses were in motion that we were told where we would be heading. I hopped on Bus #4, which was heading toward Keuka Lake.IMG_2096IMG_2101 We picked up a mystery guest en route, which turned out to be Fred Frank of Dr. Frank Wines. We headed to his sparkling wine production facility for a tour and some sparkling wines and canapés. IMG_2121IMG_2124IMG_2134IMG_2133IMG_2152We sampled the 2009 Blanc de Blancs and 2009 Blanc de Noirs, both delicious. Two other wineries were part of this excursion – Heron Hill Winery & Ravine’s Wine Cellars. We sampled the 2006 Ravine’s Brut (50% Chardonnay 50% Pinot Noir) and their 2009 Brut Rosé (100% Pinot Noir).IMG_2164IMG_2141IMG_2143IMG_2144IMG_2145 Heron Hill poured their 2013 Reserve Pinot Blanc and a delicious 2008 Single Vineyard Riesling that paired beautifully with goat cheese on a baguette round, drizzled with honey and topped with a fresh peach slice and some lavender.IMG_2175IMG_2176IMG_2140IMG_2174IMG_2173IMG_2172IMG_2171IMG_2123 After admiring the views over Keuka Lake, we departed for our final destination of the excursion – Pleasant Valley Wine Company also known as Great Western Winery, which was the first US-bonded winery, established in 1860. IMG_2187IMG_2188They released their first vintage of American Champagne in 1865 to celebrate the end of the Civil War. Great Western Champagne took the gold medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1900, and because of that, they have been grandfathered in and are allowed to call it Champagne, rather than sparkling wine. We were treated to their Millennium American Champagne, which had lovely toasty notes.IMG_2193IMG_2196IMG_2191 Dinner was served in a grand banquet hall – it had the feel of being in an old castle. The food was delicious and plentiful, featuring a salad, steak, Madeira chicken and a large ravioli, followed by a dessert of fresh berries on a puff pastry base. IMG_2205IMG_2208IMG_2218IMG_2225Throughout dinner we were able to sample several wines from all four host wineries: Pleasant Valley Wine Company, Heron Hill, Dr Konstantin Frank & Ravine’s Wine Cellar. The wines included were the 2013 Dry Riesling from Ravine’s, 2013 Heron Hill Estate on Keuka Lake Dry Riesling, 2013 Rkatsiteli from Dr Konstantin Frank (one of my favourites),IMG_2211 2013 Chardonnay from Ravine’s, 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay from Heron Hill, 2012 Pinot Noir from Ravine’s, 2012 Reserve Cabernet Franc from Heron Hill (bottled especially for us),IMG_2222 Pleasant Valley Port, and a Late Harvest Botrytis-Affected Riesling from Dr Frank. The wines selected showed a broad range of the varietals and wine styles of the Keuka Lake area and I was impressed by them all. IMG_2228We hopped back on our bus to head back to Corning and the final official event of the evening – a reception at the Rockwell Museum, which featured other wine regions from around New York State. IMG_2231IMG_2232IMG_2235IMG_2246IMG_2254IMG_2255Then back to the hotel for a couple of unofficial events – a tasting of wines from Solena Estate & Hyland Estates from Oregon, followed by the Jordan After Party.20150814_22284920150814_22285720150814_23053420150814_23073420150814_23082120150814_23305720150814_233101

It was a long day that started at 9:30am and it was well after midnight by the time I got back to my room. But part of the fun of the Wine Bloggers Conference is all of the socializing, networking and wine tasting that happens outside of the scheduled agenda.

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.


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