Food and Wine Pairing in Kelowna

ln2912-wine31foodwinepairingWant to have some fun with food and wine? The Kelowna campus of Okanagan College is putting on a food and wine pairing course. It’s a practical way of learning about why certain foods go with certain wines and why other combinations might not work at all. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of in-class practicing (of course meaning ‘wine tasting’) and one of the most fun final projects in any food and wine course.

How do I know?

I will be the teacher again this semester.

The course is open to the public to anyone who is interested in this topic. Increase your wine knowledge (BC and international wines are used), learn how to expertly pair them with different foods, and create a memorable meal.

Contact me on Twitter or Facebook if you have questions.



Garagiste 2016

img_1819I was able to attend my second Garagiste North Festival last Sunday, September 18th and two years after the festival began, I can safely report that it is still the most casual, accessible, and most really-like-it-is-in-wine-country wine festival I’ve ever attended.

The first one was held in 2014 and was hosted by Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls. It was a beautiful day and I had the distinct impression that nobody  – wine makers, festival organisers, or attendees – really knew what was going to happen. To use a Tom Petty lyric, the future was wide open. But it worked. It was a beautiful day and everyone was in good spirits to taste some exciting new wines. Some were really new – barrel samples, in some cases.

The recent Garagiste North had equally beautiful weather but the location was very different – the garden centre at the Penticton Canadian Tire. At first blush, it seemed like an odd place for a wine rendezvous but it worked very well. Outside air was clean, the space was never too crowded, and the pathways and trellises made each area of the festival unique. Everyone, wine makers and attendees, seemed to be a happy mood all of the time. Festival co-founder Jennifer Schell pointed out that it is really a true wine tasting festival rather than a wine drinking festival. After the first festival in 2014, many of the wine makers commented that the festival attendees where clearly interested in the work that went into the wines and were asking informed and intelligent questions about their craft. For attendees, like me, who are more used to elbowing their way into a busy table in a noisy conference room, shouting out a wine’s name, then waiting for the wine maker or sales rep to pour it, this casual style is so much more enjoyable and far more human in scale. In fact for me, two hours had gone by in the blink of an eye and I realised that I hadn’t taken enough photos!

The really big added bonus for the attendees was the addition, for the first time, of a retail store to buy many of the wines that the wineries were pouring! What an amazing opportunity for both wineries and attendees! Many in attendance clearly made use of this shopping opportunity as it was not long before some of the wines began to disappear.

In a nutshell, the Garagiste North festival is a far more “wine country” tasting experience then you will ever get in a conference centre, with far more interesting people pouring far more creative wines. It is an appropriate scale of event where people on both sides of the barrels can enjoy themselves. Garagiste North will never become a large festival because that would defeat the purpose. As it grows in popularity, it might start to get more difficult to get in. Enjoy it now!

Cheers from wine country!



2015 Wildfires in Oliver – A Recap

I usually don’t get to post that much over the summer since traditionally it is a busy time of year here in wine country. The high season was generally pretty good and wineries that I got to talk to as the summer progressed were pretty optimistic about this vintage. They still are that way as the harvesting has been going on in bits and pieces for about a month at this point and is probably one of the earliest that I’ve ever heard of a grape harvest in the modern era of B.C. wine.

Regardless of how busy everything gets, it was still my intention to keep the posts going as regularly as possible. I even had a few of them nearly completed. There’s one that was hoping to have out earlier in the summer about two great new books about the Okanagan that were released this past spring.

And then August happened. I came home on August 14th to see this outside of my bedroom window. IMG_1045

About an hour later, the whole ridge that was visible from my house had burned and continued to do so for the next couple of days. Strong winds made the fire spread extremely quickly and wineries along the Golden Mile (starting at Road 13 Winery and heading south) had to figure out how to defend themselves. They did and with the help of the Oliver Fire Department, no wineries or structures were lost in that initial wildfire.

The Oliver Fire Department had more than just one fire to deal with that evening. The Wilson Mountain Fire just north of the town itself had been sparked and quickly threatened the houses that backed onto Oliver Mountain. Friends’ houses in that neighborhood were evacuated and I rushed around bringing extra boxes, cat carriers, and anything that might be needed along with making our own preparations to leave just in case. To give you an idea of just how fast that fire started, I had just driven by from Penticton at 5:45 , checked my mail at the post office, and then saw the first fire truck screaming by heading north. Only then did I see the small smoke plume coming from over the mountain. In an hour, the whole mountain would be lit up.

Then the winds changed and started blowing from the south. This stopped the wildfire’s spread towards Richter Pass. But suddenly the south Okanagan (and much of southern BC) was engulfed in smoke from the fires in Washington State. The smoke hung low like valley cloud does in the dark Okanagan winters. The worst part was that we all knew the Testalinden fire was still burning, but we couldn’t see it and the deafening silence of grounded helicopters made for a long end of August.

The winds calmed and we were able to at least see where the fire had spread. It had gone north from Testalinden Creek and spread to Hester, Tinhorn, and eventually Reed Creek in the north. Calmer winds and bizarrely cooler temperatures for that time of year meant that the forestry crews could really get to work. I counted at least nine helicopters at the Oliver Airport at one point. They were taking off and landing constantly. It was loud but necessary.

By September 9th, the forestry crews had decided that conditions were good for controlled back-burns. This was the result of the first one just behind Tinhorn Creek Winery:


It was started by helicopters dropping little ping-pong ball-sized spheres of accelarant along with forestry firefighters with torches that burned up the ground cover. Fast. This made everything look a lot worse and quite quickly. But it was all for a good reason as the next morning there was noticeably less smoke coming from the mountain for the first time since the fire had started. Taking the dried grass ground cover removed the fuel from the fire before it got there and, reaching the burned out sections, the main fire had nothing left to burn. It was truly amazing to watch the forestry firefighters and helicopters at work. The next day, they burned up another section to the north closer to Fairview Cellars. Then suddenly one morning…


…there were more clouds than smoke for the first time in at least a month. It was quite a welcome sight to see.

I tried to find a “before and after” photo and came up with these from the mouth of the now infamous Testalinden Creek, site of the landslide from 2010.

IMG_1039The top left was taken on the day of the slide in June 2010. The water is still running fast. The bottom left shot is after one year had past in June of 2011. Even after a wet spring, the brown sage-covered hills contrast with the irrigated farmland that begins on the slope. The photo on the right was taken Sept 15th, 2015, the dark green and brown hillside is now turned to matte black. Most of the mountain is that color now. This is above Hester Creek. The Hester Creek Villas are the red roof buildings on the bottom right:

IMG_1040Tinhorn Creek Winery got close to the action as well:


Road 13 Vineyards was in the thick of it on the very first night of the fire on August 14th.  IMG_1042The red marks on the hillside on the top right of the photo are strips of fire retardant that they managed to lay down to stop it from spreading north.

The Oliver Fire Department had begun a fundraising campaign to help out with the victims of the Rock Creek wildfire. We were extremely lucky here with our wildfire situation but Rock Creek was not so lucky and a lot of people north of that town lost their homes. The OFD’s fundraising is now focused on purchasing a wildland firefighting unit (similar to this one) for the Rock Creek / Midway fire department. The OFD has two units and found them both to be “invaluable” in the fire fight on August 14th and in the days after that. They can easily be mounted onto a pickup truck. The Rock Creek fire department apparently does not have one of these units so the OFD is now trying to help purchase one for them. They will be selling t-shirts to raise money. This is the artwork:


Click on the photo above to go to their facebook page for more information or search facebook for “OFD T-shirt Fund Raiser 2015”.

Thank you all for your concerns and thoughts to us in wine country this summer, through tweets, messages, and posts. It was a wild one for sure. The hills may look a little different next time you are in town but we’re all still here working hard in the wine industry among others. Cheers to you from wine country.


BC VQA Golden Mile Bench now a reality

They have done it. The Golden Mile Bench can now be used on wine bottle labels starting pretty well right away. It will be seen as “BC VQA Golden Mile Bench”. The wineries that have vineyards within the boundary are 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, Rustico, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, and Willow Hill Vineyards. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick made the announcement today at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards.

This is a big deal. It’s a big deal because they succeeded after 6 years of trying to clearly and scientifically delineate a unique area for growing grapes.

Part of the reasons for that was discussed on Monday evening at Okanagan College’s Speaker’s Series when the topic for discussion was “Vineyard Soils of the South Okanagan: Defining the Okanagan Terroir” by Scott Smith and Pat Bowen from the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre . In fact, based on geological models, the Okanagan could be further into other distinct regions along with the Golden Mile Bench: Kelowna, Penticton-Summerland-Naramata (all together), Okanagan Falls, Vaseaux-Oliver, Black Sage Bench-Osoyoos.

20150330-222957.jpg(In my own humble opinion of course, Naramata and the wineries on Skaha Lake should be together and separate from the Summerland wineries, who have completely different geology as well as sunshine. Being on the east side of the valley gives Naramata way more sunlight than Summerland, as anyone who has relaxed in the evening shade on the deck of Local Lounge in the heat of summer can appreciate. Conversely though, Summerland gets the sun first thing in the morning before Naramata which is itself beneficial. Calling the whole region Penticton though is a bit of a stretch since the town site itself contributes nothing in the way of grapes. But I digress. The regions shown on the chart are purposely meant to be general, which is really all we can be at this stage in the evolution of our young wine industry.)

Very interesting to see all of this complex information masterfully distilled into one short seminar by Scott Smith. It brought a good deal of discussion on various topics including marketing. The most moving portion of the presentation however was the projections for climate change where it became clear that the Okanagan will be changing and quite drastically. The audience was a mix of Okanagan College students and interested industry people. Perhaps there will be another announcement from another potential sub-GI in the valley’s future?

As a summary, Scott Smith added what is in effect a definition of our grape growing region.


Clos du Soleil in the UK

Contributed image

Contributed image

It’s so nice to see that we here in the colonies are able to rise to royal occasions and recently Clos du Soleil from the Similkameen Valley has had the opportunity for pouring wine at such an event. The event in question is the official re-opening of Canada House in London, England where where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II presided over the opening ceremonies.

Spencer Massie

Spencer Massie

“An absolute honour”, said winery Founder Spencer Massie in a press release from London, “my fellow Director’s Winemaker Mike Clark, Les LeQuelenec, Peter Lee and our closely knit team of partners and staff are elated that we are here and able to showcase what Canada, BC specifically, can do.” (You can read the full press release here.)

The wine being showcased is the 2013 Capella, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon that is Clos du Soleil’s flagship white. Capella and other wines from Clos du Soleil have been featured numerous times on Wine Country BC podcasts and posts, notably in a podcast of the 5-year vertical tasting in 2013 that featured the first 5 vintages of Capella and Signature.

This is not the first boutique BC wine to get the royal treatment. Township 7’s Chardonnay 2007 was served at a dinner with the Queen and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in July 2010. However the resulting media around this event may be a little wider reaching in terms of visibility for Clos du Soleil within the realm of English wine media. Perhaps one of the guests has a cousin that works at Berry Bros & Rudd or a friend that works at Decanter?

Historically of course, acceptance and popularity of a wine in England represented success for the wine producer world-wide. While England may not necessarily be the largest wine consumer anymore, they are still a dominant player in the trade. Through respected publications like Decanter and writers like Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, they are also one of the most influential forces world-wide for opinionmongering. Essentially, they’ve got opinions and they’re very good at getting people to read them.

Getting a BC wine on their radar means that BC wine will be on the radar of most wine students and people in the wine trade around the globe regardless of their ability to actually try the wine. Meyer Family Vineyards started distributing with Ellis of Richmond in London a few years ago and suddenly their label appeared in the recent edition of the World Atlas of Wine. Coincidence? Maybe, but like Tantalus in Kelowna (who has been featured in the Atlas over multiple editions) they’re now on the radar of wine lovers around the world because of it and that’s not a bad thing at all. This could prove to be a similar turning point for Clos du Soleil as well.

This could be very big indeed. Congratulations to Clos du Soleil! Cheers from the colonies in wine country!



Cheers to 2015

DSC_6342Rather than spend time looking back at all the things that happened in 2014 with another “Year in Review”-thing, why don’t we spend a little time looking forward? I like to head towards goal rather than dwell on the past. We can’t predict what the weather or the actual vintage will be like in 2015 but we can look at some of the human-related issues in our industry. In the world of BC wine, this could be a good news year.

Some things to look out for:

1 – Wine in supermarkets

When I first moved to BC, I remember hearing ads for hydroponic nutrients on the radio. Yet with our liberal attitudes towards “recreational herbs”, BC will introduce wine sales in supermarkets beginning in April. Of course, in keeping with our history of maintaining tight controls over everything (or at least, appearing to be in control), it can’t just be any wine at all – it will be BC wine only! Hurray! Not just cheap European plonk for $4 /bottles like I remember from Quebec.

There is a lot of speculation about this topic but most of it is really not that easy to predict. How will VQA stores be affected? Will it be profitable for store to sell only BC wine? What will customers ultimately think of it? Is it good for BC wine? Does it comply with our international trade agreements? Wine industry lawyer Mark Hicken doesn’t think so. It could very well all come crashing down as a big failure if it is not profitable.

Throughout 2014 we’ve been enjoying some of the new “benefits” of that the government has bestowed upon us, such as selling wine at farmer’s markets – something attendees of the Penticton Farmer’s Market has been dreaming about for years. We’ll have to simply wait and see how it pans out.

2 – Terroir BC vs. VQA

Painted Rock Estate Winery as viewed from the lookout on Hwy 97.

Painted Rock Estate Winery as viewed from the lookout on Hwy 97.

A new organization was created late last summer that will certainly be making themselves more known in 2015. Terroir BC is an association of wineries that craft wines entirely from grapes grown in BC. The name was coined by Michelle Rempel (MP for Calgary Centre-North – see below) along with John Skinner of Painted Rock and a group of other winery owners. Mrs. Rempel announced the group and outlined some of their philosophy in a facebook message in early September. It is less a statement than a manifesto from an MP with a solid understanding of wine and the wine industry.

Will this be a rival for VQA? Will it create customer confusion or will it settle BC’s QWPSR matter of once and for all? The disparity between corporations that produce “Cellared in Canada” and, well, everyone else is growing and the needs are different. Commercial wineries used to be the driving force in the industry here and still represent the vast majority of total production but are now the minority (there are 5) compared to the much larger number of independent estate wineries that only use BC-grown grapes from a designated viticultural area. When one group dominates an organization (VQA, BC Wine Authority, Wine Festival Society, etc.) they tailor it to suite their own agenda, causing rifts between members in the process. This is not something that most BC wine consumers are generally aware of unless it has come up in conversation while trying to find a bottle of La Frenz in a VQA store.

3 – Free My Grapes

welcome-grapeThe Free My Grapes movement started quietly but built steadily until bill C-311 was passed in Parliament. As it appears that provincial liquor monopolies are not about to let go of any of the revenue-grabbing powers, this law is being applied sporadically at best and completely ignorantly at worst. When Newfoundland charged FedEx over wine shipments earlier in the year, it became clear that the provinces weren’t going to let this stuff go. Eve Adams (MP for Mississauga-Brampton South) added fuel to the fire with her bizarre letter to wineries inviting them to submit their wines in something called the “Great Canadian Parliamentary Wine Competition” to be held in Ontario. Only a few BC wineries were contacted. Some wine makers tweeted copies of the letter in question, rightfully using the occasion to illustrate that because of the LCBO’s garrison-like measures of blocking all wine imports into Ontario, they could not even legally enter into such a competition.

The Free My Grapes campaign won’t end any time soon and nor should it. The more wine consumers across the country voice their concerns, the more that some kind of change will happen. The problem is that the most vocal provinces are the producing provinces like BC and the ones that need to raise their voices don’t seem to care. Somehow Ontarians still accept buying beer in cold, freaky warehouse-outlets called, imaginatively, “The Beer Store”, while the LCBO cash-cow keeps milking them for all they’re worth. How has this system even survived into the 21st century? I though BC was slow to change, but Ontario, really now…

Until we, as Canadian citizens, can purchase wines from wineries located within our own country, this is will always be an issue. Anything involving legislation change is a slow process for sure so look for this to continue well past 2015.

4 – Oil Prices and Americans

What happens in Alberta, doesn’t stay in Alberta. When the Canadian dollar started heading north of the American dollar a few years ago, wine shops saw less Americans than ever. It’s easy to think that we in the Okanagan are immune to these kinds of economic variances and most of the time, we are. I vividly remember a wine shop manager say, “Downturn? What downturn?” in 2009.

If eventually this leads to cheaper gas prices (assuming all of the oil companies can work together and carefully lower it slowly at the same rate – come on, we all know they do it), then we may see an increase in the car traffic on the 97. It’s not that helpful though if everyone in Calgary is trying to save money for the first time in a while. While the economy in Alberta might be taking a hit, the Canadian dollar is making the Okanagan a more appealing place for Americans to go. Some in the industry (like the BCWI) have been looking ahead to that for a while now with initiatives to get BC wine sold in Washington State.

5 – Federal Election

eclogoPolitics and wine don’t go well together. I have at least one uncle and a couple cousins with whom discussion of any political conversation must be completely off the table at any family gathering. However, a federal election is looming for Canada in 2015 and many are clearly looking for a change because they aren’t diggin’ the current administration and the dude at the top.

What does this have to do with BC wine? Well, there is a power-trio of Tories who are, shall we say, from a ‘younger’ demographic (compared to the typical image of politicians) and who have been instrumental in backing the local wine industry here. Ron Cannan (MP for Kelowna-Lake Country) got the ball rolling with his early stance on the Free My Grapes movement. Dan Albas (MP for Okanagan Coquihalla) created Bill C-311 which changed the laws around importing wine between provinces in 2013. Michelle Rempel (MP for Calgary Centre-North and Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification) is behind the recent Terroir BC initiative (see above), is a WSET Diploma candidate (like myself), and is quickly becoming my new Canadian political hero. Can this trio, and the progressive nature of amending the wine laws, potentially continue with a new government? <<Cue the mystery music here.>>



From Similkameen BBQ King 2014 (can’t remember who took this photo – if this is yours, please tell me!)

Whatever happens this year, I hope that it will be full of great memories for you in BC’s wine country. I plan to write about it even more so please check in here or follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy new year from wine country!


Podcast 147 – Similkameen BBQ King 2014


This little piggy went to Burger 55…

20141108-193943.jpgWhat can I say about the Similkameen BBQ King that I haven’t already said before? For starters, in this podcast at least, I just shut up and started listening to what others had to say. Other media people and other attendees at this year’s competition. As always, it was tons of fun. As always, the food was top notch. As 20141108-193911.jpgalways, it was the most entertaining food and wine event that I’ve ever been too and nothing has really matched it in my mind. There were a few new competitors this year and the weather couldn’t have possibly been any better. Yes, it was hot. But we here in the Okanagan find that normal and enjoy it when it cools down to 32 degrees. All of this made this year’s BBQ King the best one that I have ever attended.

This podcast contains lots of people – chefs, attendees, and media types. I actually managed to corner Anthony GismondiAnya Levykh, and Kayla Bordignon who all offered their own unique perspectives on Similkameen wine and the experience of attending the BBQ King.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the sounds of the Similkameen’s best (and maybe BC’s best) wine and food competition. For the complete multimedia experience, pour some BBQ sauce into a small dish and smell it occasionally as you listen.

Or don’t. You know, it’s just an idea.


Festival of the Grape – Still Room for wineries


If you have a winery in BC, there is still time to be a part of this year’s Festival of the Grape! I am the Wine Chair for this year’s Festival of the Grape Committee and have noticed that there are still a few spaces left in the tasting tents. So I thought I’d put the word out this way. If you are interested in pouring your wines at this fabulous and extremely well attended wine festival, please send me an email right away. This year’s Festival is Sunday, October 5th and the wine tent is open from 1-5 pm. It’s a huge amount of fun for everyone and a great family friendly event.

We are also in need of volunteers to help make the Festival run smoothly. There are some great perks for becoming a volunteer at the Festival so if you are available, please consider helping out. See below for information.



Recapping Garagiste North 2014



Lisa Elgert from Cana Vines

It seems that with each passing year that I live in the Okanagan, the number and quality of festivals of some kind rises dramatically. Of course there are the seasonal wine festivals from the Okanagan Wine Festival Society, the perpetually popular Festival of the Grape in Oliver, and there have been 3 Oyster Festivals in Osoyoos since its inception in 2012. Last year’s Okanagan Food and Wine Film Festival did not continue into 2014 but happily I hear that it will be moving to the spring of 2015. There are annual events that don’t have the word “festival” in the name such as my favourite Similkameen BBQ King Championship and marathons that get you, let’s be honest, Most Definitely corked. But there’s a new player in town on the festival scene and if any more events happen as well as this one did, then you will really want to pay attention to this one in the future.


The gang at VinPerdu

It’s called The Garagiste North, the Small Guys Wine Festival. Yes, it sort of sounds like it has height restrictions but rest assured that anyone over 5’3″ of any gender is more than welcome to take part if they produce under 2000 cases of wine annually. These people are focused on their 1 or 2 barrels that they make every year. It’s not about quantity but quality and with that comes a whole lot of fun because what’s obvious about these people is that they truly love what they do.


Dan, Jennifer, and Terry

Jennifer Schell and Terry Meyer-Stone are the evil-genius types behind Garagiste North. Meyer Family Vineyards provided the stunning lawn space in front of their wine shop. Gregor’s Gourmet was on hand busily serving up amazing food constantly for the entire afternoon. (Honestly Greg, everyone noticed you both working away constantly all afternoon with no break at all. You deserve a huge thanks for that!) Aidan Mayes and Mandy Cole provided the music. I had my Garagiste mug shot taken (just like the ones that they used to promote the festival) and there were t-shirts and water for sale. Everything was easy to find and very well organized.


Dan and Carol Scott from Lariana Cellars

Then there was the wine. And then there were the stories that went with the wine.

20140919-093134.jpg“This is from the only barrel that we made last year…”

“No, you won’t find this in Vancouver…”

“We haven’t released this wine yet because it’s not finished…”

“Um, well, , we don’t have a wine shop. It’s more of a two-car garage…”

The best part of the day was the wine, which is really what everyone was there to taste anyway. Getting the opportunity just to taste these rare and hard-to-find wines was the draw and the people who attended the festival seemed to enjoy the diversity and range of styles that each winery presented. While most had small portfolios of wines, there were some that had only one or two available. (VinPerdu had only a barrel sample of Cabernet Franc.) Even with all that diversity of styles and wines, I found some interesting things that united the wineries that I spoke with.

Andrew Stone of Anarchist Mountain Vineyards, before drinking his Chardonnay...

Andrew Stone of Anarchist Mountain Vineyards, before drinking his Chardonnay…

... and after.

… and after.

While all the wine makers took their craft seriously, none of them took it too seriously. It was obvious they were having fun and even veterans of the scene (winemakers who work ‘day jobs’ at larger wineries) seemed to enjoy pouring these wines more than at other, bigger tasting events. Perhaps it was the casual nature of the event, but I don’t think so. I’ve been lucky to have chatted and tasted wines with more than a few of these wine makers previously and shining the spotlight on them with a festival like this seemed to bring out the best in all of them. They all seemed very proud to be there as a small wine producer and rightly so. They love what they do and it shows.


Ted and Lorraine Kane from River Stone.

As for the wines themselves, I did not see any unanimity of varieties or styles amongst the produces there that day. With the strong sense of individuality that it takes just to be a small independent wine maker, I wasn’t really expecting to either. Generally I did find that there were more single-variety wines than blends however and that the blended wines were usually very creative and tasty. There were more than a few Viogniers around and Pinot Noir was a popular choice among red varieties, perhaps because it’s a challenge to produce a great Pinot Noir. There were whites that were both dry and off-dry and more than a few rosés which were popular on this fine, sunny day.

Some of the stand out wines for me: (listed alphabetically)

Anarchist Mountain Chardonnay – We reviewed the first vintage on this on a previous podcast and it received mixed reviews from my industry friends involved that evening. The version I tasted was the follow-up vintage and Andrew Stone told me that he had much more control over this vintage than the one that we’d tasted. It was a real stand out for this variety today. I heard other people mentioning it as something not to miss that day so it wasn’t just me. I like a Chard that has shows the primary fruit flavours but doesn’t cover it with oak. It was complex, yummy (a technical wine term), and I loved it. Hello cedar planked salmon.

"No pictures, please!"

“No pictures, please!”

Black Cloud Altostratus Pinot Noir – Quickly becoming the most sought after Pinot Noir in BC, this is Brad Cooper and Audralee Daum’s label that focuses entirely on Pinot Noir. The rosé Red Sky was lovely the but the Altostratus takes it for me. It’s a focused and chewy Pinot that jumps out of the glass, grabs your tongue by the taste buds and yells, “You want some duck with that??” Yes. Yes I do.

Carson Pinot Co. Pinot Noir – My mom raved about this one all the way home, describing it as smooth and silky. For some reason, I never got to try it so you’ll have to just believe my mom on this one. If anyone offers this wine to you at a party, just say, “Thank you.”

Jesce and Charlie from Corcelletes

Jesce and Charlie from Corcelletes

Corcelletes Rosé – It’s made from Zweigelt!! And you know I’m a sucker for Zweigelt. I’ve featured their Trivium in a recent podcast and have been intrigued (ok, enthralled) by the wine making and viticultural talents of the Baessler family since they started growing the Grower’s Series Pinot Blanc from Clos du Soleil some years ago. So Corcelletes has been on my radar for a while and it’s time it was on yours as well.

Lariana Cellars Viognier – What can I say? I love a good Viognier and this one had it all – complex and intense aromas, soft texture, and a long finish. With Senka Tennant as the consulting wine maker and a future vintage of Carmenere due for release sometime next year, this is a serious winery to follow online. I think I bought my Viognier at a VQA store so they shouldn’t be that hard to find.

VinPerdu Cellars Cabernet Franc (barrel sample) – I’m a sucker for Cabernet Franc. I’m also a sucker for barrel samples. So already this winery is a good fit for me. The sample was young and a bit hidden but showed some good fruit and structure that will bring it out of its shell in the next year or so. If they bottle this wine in the spring, it could be available by this time next year but that depends on how the wine progresses and what their plans are for it. As noted in this previous post, their new winery is right on the highway south of Oliver.

Scott Stefishen from Money Pit Wines

Scott Stefishen from Money Pit Wines

Aidan Mayes and Mandy Cole

Aidan Mayes and Mandy Cole

At larger tastings, these wineries often get overlooked in favour of the big names and their huge displays with professional sales teams. I imagine that it is probably much more difficult for small wineries to even participate in an event like the WestJet tasting or Vancouver Wine Festival since that would mean pouring samples of wine that could amount to a large percentage of their entire production, which would make it hardly worth it.

Overall, this proved to be exactly what the t-shirts proclaimed – it was “the coolest wine festival ever.” I really hope this can start to bring more attention to the smaller producers out there because there really are some amazing wines. Garagiste North has the real potential to be an exciting launch pad for some great BC wine in the future.

Cheers from wine country!



I heard a rumour that this festival might go on the road to other, more urban, locations in the future. (Just your eyes on the street, that’s all I am.)

Also note that I did have my sound recorder there that day and recorded some interviews. However, the microphone misbehaved – OK, I set it wrong, my bad – and so the sound quality is unfortunately not up to standard for a Wine Country BC podcast. Unless I can discover some new audio processing tricks of which I was hitherto unaware, I’m pretty sure that I can’t make a podcast out of it.