Well, another year is over and a new one is just about to begin. In BC’s wine country, this was a trying year full of a lot of lows and some highs. The weather, financial troubles, and the economy seemed to all take their bite out of wine country this year. Wine quality in general seems to be up and so is new interest in activism in revising antiquated liquor laws that affect trade between provinces. Wine growers are generally positive people by nature and I think there’s an element of that as we look ahead to 2011.
Also, due to scheduling and a couple minor technical matters, our podcast production has been slightly delayed. We are working on the problems and will be getting around to creating more podcasts as soon as possible.
Things that mattered in 2010
1 – Sparkling wines – More wineries are taking on bubbles and the quality is amazing. Road 13 released its second vintage of the Sparkling Chenin Blanc, which quickly won them a gold medal at the fall wine festival. Summerhill’s Cipes Gabriel won the trophy for sparkling wine at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London. Gray Monk’s Odyssey White Brut took home a Lieutenant Governor’s Award. 8th Generation Vineyards in Summerland released their inaugural vintage of their frizzante Chardonnay, which I had more than a few opportunities to taste and it was spectacular each time – like drinking velvet, not a sparkly as a full sparkling wine, but lots of tiny bubbles.
2 – Challenging liquor laws – Perhaps spurred on by relative success at challenging “Cellared in Canada” in 2009, this year the focus was on drawing attention to the antiquated post-prohibition liquor laws that prohibit the transportation of alcohol across provincial borders.
3 – The weather – Talking about the weather this year was more that just polite conversation, it really mattered in a serious way. The extremely wet spring turned the valley green with vegetation, an odd sight for locals who prefer the hills to be brown. Then in June, a dam burst on a mountain pond sending a huge volume of water screaming down Testalinden Creek causing a debris flow that took out many houses and vineyards. When the summer did kick in, it did so on the “medium” setting rather than on “high” heat, and that only lasted until the end of August when it got cold and wet again. It was only a prolonged warm and dry spell beginning at the end of September and lasting through harvest that saved the vintage, which many people were already beginning to write off completely.
4 – Holman Lang – The wineries in Naramata’s Holman Lang group have had some financial troubles lately and that has recently come to a head when the wineries were put into receivership. One of the original Naramata wineries, Lang Vineyards now has a questionable future along with other wineries in the group including Soaring Eagle, Mistral, Stonehill, and Zero Balance. Only time will tell what will happen to these wineries and labels. I hope that there will be brighter things ahead.
5 – Wineries’ Associations – Everybody’s doing it. Naramata started it and now Okanagan Falls and East Kelowna have both created their own regional marketing identities. The East Kelowna Wine Trail takes wine lovers out into an old vineyard and orchard area east of Kelowna where there have been vines for years, but until the last few years, relatively few wineries to visit. With new operations like Spierhead, Sperling, The View, and Camelot along with older destinations like Tantalus and House of Rose, there is now a great reason to tour East Kelowna as a destination.
Same goes for Okanagan Falls, although people have been stopping there for a while because of destinations like Blue Mountain and Wild Goose. “The Heart of Wine Country” includes almost all of the wineries in the OK Falls area from Painted Rock to Noble Ridge to See Ya Later to Kraze Legz. (Independantly-minded Blue Mountain is not involved – no surprise really.) I was able to see all the wineries in action as they all poured wine at the Wild West Fest in late September. Not only were they a popular tent, but they all looked like they were having a great time too. OK Falls wineries are now a great destination where you can spend the day rather than as a quick stop on the way to somewhere else.
6 – Wine online – BC Wineries.net launched early in the year which created a whole new social space for lovers of BC wine to converse and chat with wine producers, wine makers and winery owners. Over the year, it’s been a great place for conversation involving anything related to BC wine and wine in general. Twitter was also more popular than ever before and though there are many wineries participating, the value of Twitter has not yet really been widely accepted or understood. A winery that tweets once a month does not really reap the full benefits of the platform. However wineries that tweet photos of the grapes as they grow during the summer, the work at crush, or the tasks in the cellar are immensely interesting to wine lovers and will get noticed and retweeted more often.
In June, the Wine Blogger’s Conference was next door in Walla Walla, Washington and was attended by a fairly well-mannered crew from BC. The hope is to get the conference to Penticton for 2012 and hopefully there will be a large contingent attending this year in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Wine Country BC “Oky” Awards 2010
As voted on by me, here are my picks for the past year. Agree? Disagree? Miss something? Let me know in the coments below!
Red wine – Aces 7 Deuce 2008 (value red), Eau Vivre Pinot Noir 2007 (light red), Twisted Tree Tempranillo 2008 (full red), Painted Rock Red Icon 2007 (oh my god red)
White wine – Camelot Pinot Blanc 2008 (light white), Sperling Old Vines Riesling 2009 (aromatic white), Black Hills Viognier 2009 (full white)
Rosé – 8th Generation Pinot Meunier Rosé 2009
Sparkling – Tantalus Sparkling Riesling 2004
Dessert – Stoneboat Verglas 2008
Thinking “outside the bottle” winery award – 8th Generation, Summerland (for their Chardonnay frizzanté 2008 and their barrel train in the picnic area)
“You must visit this winery” award – Tantalus Vineyards, Kelowna
Best Promotional Video – The View Winery, Kelowna (check it out if you haven’t already)
Manliest Winery award – Rustico Cellars, Oliver
Womanliest Winery award – Dirty Laundry, Summerland
Best Wineshop Experience award – Fairview Cellars, Oliver
Best Tasting Room Art award – Tangled Vines, Okanagan Falls
Best Tasting Bar award – Quinta Ferreira, Oliver