The Morning After, One Month On

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So here I am now on the other side of something that I’ve been looking forward to since the summer of 2010, when it was wistful just an idea among the small delegation from BC that attended WBC10 in Walla Walla, Washington. I first attended based on the recomendation and encouragement of a fellow BC-blogger who had attended a WBC previously and repeatedly told me that it was soooooo much fun. (Thank you Kathleen Rake…)

Being that this one was on home turf, I knew that it was going to be a considerably different experience. Gone from this conference would be the sense of adventure that comes from exploring a new wine region along with the likelihood that I would suddenly find a new wine or style that I’d never tried before. Faces were more familiar than not but I still got to meet a lot of new people and connect with others that I’d only ever interacted with online. For the speed-tastings, I had met, worked with, or interviewed every one of the winery personnel who were pouring the samples. That’s the luck of the draw for the speed-tastings because where you sit in the room determines which wineries you get to taste and perhaps there were plenty there who I may not have met or tried their wines previously. So the adventure of tasting new wines from a new place was not there for me this time, but I wasn’t really expecting that from this conference anyway.

20130701-222612.jpgWhat I was really hoping to see was how the industry here was received by all of the conference attendees who had never tried BC wine before. Overall, I am very proud of the BC wine industry in showing how well that we can come together as an industry to show the adventurous, eager-to-learn, wine bloggers from all over North America what a great place this is to make wine. As proof, this conference was rated by its attendees as the best Wine Bloggers Conference yet!

It was also a new experience for me because I was asked to present a session on podcasting along with Melissa Voth-Mchugh (photography) and Monique Soltani (video) for session called “Videography, Photography, and Podcasting.” I’ve taught music for 2 decades and have helped others learn about wine for 7 years or so but never has anyone asked me to show them about podcasting or even recording. It seems strange but putting into words (or in this case, a PowerPoint presentation) something that I’ve just done since I was 16. My dad had a home recording studio since I can remember and I started making use of it myself when I was old enough. So it’s always been just something that I’ve done and not really shared with anyone else before. I love new experiences like that for, the challenge alone, and for that I am extremely grateful.

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If you haven’t yet heard the podcasts that we recorded that day, please check them out here and here. Both groups were very interested in podcasting and I hope that they can begin to create their own at some point in the future. I was truly amazed at how far some people in the podcast group had traveled to come to the conference. As I edited the audio from those sessions, I found that I really enjoyed listening to all of the accents from all around North America. I was also really happy to see that the session on “Videography, Photography and Podcasting” was one of the highest rated sessions at the conference.

I’m also grateful for getting to meet new people and try new things. I chatted about Pinot Noir with Dan Sullivan, winemaker at Rosehall Run in Prince Edward County. I tasted through 8 South African Chenin Blancs and was part of the first group of people outside of the 4 members of the wine making team in France to taste a deadly new Gamay blend from Georges Duboeuf. I tasted wines from Uruguay for the first time. I learned about Nomacorc’s amazing synthetics corks. There was so much information there that I felt drunk on that rather than any amounts of wine that I had the opportunity to taste. That in itself makes the Wine Bloggers Conference worth every penny for me. It’s an almost adventurous thirst for knowledge that seems to be a common denominator among many of the attendees and this conference in particular straddled that line extremely well.

20130701-222943.jpgOne of the most special experiences for however was getting to experience the new wine caves at Seven Stones Winery in Cawston for the Friday evening excursion. I had heard about its planning for at least a year or more before it actually began construction. I remember vividly standing in the cold of January on the dirt at the bottom of where the barrel lift is now, looking up through the trusses that were going to support the concrete forms at George’s house. I’ve never been able to look up at someone’s house from 25 feet below the ground and the perspective was amazing. It was a truly special occasion for me to be present at the first function to be held there and I’m so glad that I was there in person.

This will be my final blog post on the Penticton Wine Bloggers Conference although another podcast is not out of the question since I still have a small amount of audio that remains unedited at this time. Thanks to everyone who participated, organized, and otherwise took part in the Penticton WBC13 and to the great gang of podcasting peeps from my session.

Cheers from wine country!

~Luke

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Podcast 136 – WBC13 Podcast Breakout Session Group 1

20130614-140553.jpgThis is the first group of bloggers that attended my breakout session on Saturday morning, June 8th, 2013 in Penticton to learn how to podcast. We had only a short amount of time to learn a few skills about producing a short podcast from the ground up and here is the result – a great conversation featuring a small group and one particularly tasty bottle of wine, generously supplied by Jordan Winery.

It was a completely new experience for me to talk about podcasting, which is something that I’ve been doing now since 2009. I had a great time and enjoyed meeting, chatting, and podcasting with people from all over North America. This is truly the most international podcast that I’ve ever done and I had a blast. Thank you all for coming to see how fun wine podcasting can be!

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Thanks to Allan Wright at Zephyr Adventures for asking me to present a session on podcasting and to Lisa Mattson from Jordan Winery for moderating, guiding the sessions so smoothly, and supplying a stunning bottle of Jordan’s latest Cabernet Sauvignon at the last minute for my podcast breakout sessions. Thanks also to my fellow co-presenters Melissa Voth McHugh and Monique Soltani for sharing the great fun on a Saturday morning!

Click below to listen to the podcast right here:

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes.

People you will hear on this podcast:

Melinda Augustina from the He Said / She Said Wine Blog
Leilani Carara from The Wine Deviant
Joanne DiGeso
Brent Gushowaty from BCPinotnoir.com
Byron Marlowe @professormerlot
Cindy Rynning from Grape Experiences.com
Amy Gross from Vinesleuth.com
Valerie Stride from The Demystified Vine

A few extra notes to those intrepid podcasters who attended my session – I didn’t really have enough time to cover everything that I usually do to prepare for a podcast recording, but there are a few more tips that I didn’t get a chance to mention;

A big important one is to take a quick photo of your setup each and every time. It will help you remember what everything looked like so that when you get a great sounding recording, you can see how you did it.

Also, if you’re going to use a handheld audio recorder, use only the best (and unfortunately really, expensive) batteries like Energizer Ultimate Lithium. They are worth every penny and won’t run out in the middle of a recording. They will still get drained if your recorder is left on (or gets switched on accidentally) and then packed away after a Wine Bloggers Conference (a completely random example that I may or may not have experienced recently…) so always check to make sure and use an AC plug whenever you can.

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Podcast 134 – Interview with Jameson Fink

20130604-083100.jpgWine Without Worry is the name of the wine blog and podcast by Jameson Fink who lives in Seattle, WA. I first met Jameson in August 2012 at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland and I did an email ‘interview’ with him about BC wine shortly afterwards for his blog. He began podcasting around that same time, releasing his debut episode on Champagne in early January 2013. His topics reflect the same diversity as his blog where the subject of wine becomes a conduit for which to explore all kinds of aspects of travel, art, food, and life.

This is the full and (largely) unedited version of the podcast that I recorded for my presentation on podcasting at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton.

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The Count Down Begins – Where the action is

The countdown is on to the 6th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, BC. This is where the BC industry in the Okanagan valley can really show the world what they can do.

If you have been following the BC Wine 101 podcasts featuring many of the wine regions in the Okanagan Valley, then you will notice that there may be a few regions missing. I am very much hoping to get Naramata involved in the coming weeks and that will likely be the very last podcast in that series. The idea was to get this series completed before the Wine Bloggers Conference and then leave it at that for now.

For people who have been following the wine industry in BC over the last decade or two, you will notice that some of the more historic wineries and locations are not included in this series. Venerable estates like Summerhill, Cedar Creek, and St. Hubertus, or the “Fab 5 Wineries” east of Kelowna are not included. Neither are the northern wineries like Gray Monk, Arrowleaf, or Larch Hills. There are a few reasons for this and I’d like to address them for the record because I’ve never wanted to deliberately exclude any winery on this podcast/blog and it’s important to me.

Firstly, the Wine Bloggers Conference is coming to Penticton and the wine regions in BC Wine 101 are the ones that are closer to Penticton than anything else. There is a pre-conference excursion that will visit Tantalus and other wineries in that area, but the bulk of the action is going to be focused on these southern Okanagan wine regions. Having been to 2 conferences previously, there is only so far that we can go for an excursion and the organizers have set those limits for a reason.

Secondly, regional representation wasn’t there. The fact is that when I wanted to chat with someone about the wineries of the Similkameen, Okanagan Falls, or any of the featured regions, there were organizations in place to receive those requests. There were people who had been hired or contracted to act on behalf of the wineries in those regions. Did that make a difference to the organizers of the conference? I don’t know, you’d have to ask them. I know that I found it generally quite easy to get interviews and chat about the wine regions.

And thirdly, (and most shocking in a way, especially for people like me who have followed the industry closely for years) the wine industry is no longer centred about Kelowna. The real action is in the south. A quick glance at the Lt. Governor’s Award winners from its decade-long existence will show that the most northern winning winery in 2012 was Thornhaven in Summerland. Maybe it’s just the recent vintages, but earlier awards always had strong showings from Sandhill, Cedar Creek, and other grand estates in the Kelowna area. Maybe that’s a sign of things to come? Who knows?

When I started this series, I was hoping that I would be able to get all of the wineries in the Okanagan represented on record for that they do best. It just wasn’t possible within the small scope (and no budget) of my podcast and that really got me thinking about how this industry has changed. I still want to talk about the wineries on Camp Creek road and the glorious rieslings near Kelowna. I want to chat biodynamics, Leed certification, and Pinot Noir until the cows come home. The story of BC wine really begins with a lot of these properties and I really believe that the story of BC Wine 101 begins here.

But the question of representation remains and not just for media oeno-nerds like me. When the subject of sub-appellations really starts to build (and it will), who will be there to represent the regions that may have some of the most unique terroir out there? My guess is that it will be in the south.

Podcast 132 – The Wineries of Bottleneck Drive and Summerland

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Welcome to BC Wine 101, where I will focus in on a different wine region in each episode for anyone who is interested in learning about BC wine, including the wine bloggers who will be traveling to Penticton for the Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in June.

You can listen online here or download our podcast on iTunes.

Summerland is a great little town. I say that not because I grew up there (I didn’t), but I did live there for a short time when I first relocated to the Okanagan Valley. There’s an energy here that isn’t like other towns in the valley. The landscape around Summerland is extremely dynamic. There are wide valleys, high mountains, lakeshores, deep canyons, and huge silt bluffs all within town limits. And the most amazing part is that the town is located inside the remains of an extinct volcano. But that’s another story.

There are a lot of wineries here and they are all very close together. You can see a lot of terrain and try a lot of wine here on a lot of different patios all with remarkably different views. Straight roads do not happen in Summerland. There are more S-curves and wineries that start with the letter “S” than anywhere else in BC.

Bottleneck Drive represents the majority of wineries in this region and have a good track record for putting on a great show as an organization. The Light Up the Vines festival held each year in November really gets the holidays started with a series of tours through the participating wineries. (Check out Podcasts 94 and 95 for interviews from the 2011 edition.)

I’ve always enjoyed my visits to wineries in Summerland and have made the wineries here destinations for over 10 years now. Even living in the south Okanagan as I do, I always enjoy making special trip to Summerland just to visit a particular winery or to track down a particular bottle of wine. It all happens there.

The wineries of Bottleneck Drive:

Bonitas Winery Dirty Laundry Vineyards Greata Ranch
Heaven’s Gate Winery Okanagan Crush Pad Thornhaven Estates Winery
Saxon Estate Winery Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery Sonoran Estate Winery
Silkscarf Winery Sumac Ridge Estate Winery Valentine Farm

Other wineries in Summerland:

8th Generation Vineyards Summergate Winery

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Podcast 131 – BC Wine 101 The West Side Wine Trail

Mount Boucherie, at the center of the West Side Wine Trail

Mount Boucherie, at the center of the West Side Wine Trail

20130218-203437.jpgWelcome to BC Wine 101, where I will focus in on a different wine region in each episode for anyone who is interested in learning about BC wine, including the wine bloggers who will be traveling to Penticton for the Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in June.

You can listen online here or download our podcast on iTunes.

Of all the regions covered so far in BC Wine 101, the West Side Wine Trail is the most urban. The Trail takes you through areas in West Kelowna where vineyards that have grown for over 50 years are now surrounded on all side by gated housing developments. They are probably the only collection of wineries in BC that are accessible by public transit. But Being this close to Kelowna and the growing communities of West Kelowna has its benefits.

The range of wineries here is truly amazing. A 3-minute drive on Mt. Boucherie Road will take you past wineries in garages and quonset huts, mid-sized wineries with modest wine shops, and a huge commercial winery with an architectural grandeur that is unparalleled in BC and probably Canada as well. And according to Tina Slamka in this podcast, all of these wineries have one similar feature that unite them all, regardless of their size.

I first explored the area as a wine tourist 10 years ago. I remember going to two very different wineries that day and having a great experience at both of them. The view of Okanagan Lake is so dominating here, it is impossible to ignore at every winery on the trail because of the slope on which the wineries are perched. I remember taking a lot of photos that day.

In this podcast, Tina Slamka Chair of the West Side Wine Trail, co-owner and wine shop manager of Little Straw Vineyards, and Salina Petschulat Curtis, marketing coordinator for the West Side Wine Trail sit down for a chat about what makes the West Side such a welcoming place.

The wineries of the West Side Wine Trail:

Beaumont Family Estate Winery Kalala Organic Estate Winery Little Straw Vineyards
Meadow Vista Honey Wines Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery
Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Rollingdale Winery Volcanic Hills Estate Winery
Tasting in front of Quail's Gate Estate Winery.

Tasting in front of Quail’s Gate Estate Winery.

From the Barrel Top Grill at Little Straw Vineyards. Volcanic Hills is across the street.

From the Barrel Top Grill at Little Straw Vineyards. Volcanic Hills is across the street, Mt Boucherie and Beaumont Wineries are on the far left. .

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The Amphitheater at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery. The Terrace Restaurant is on the left.

Podcast 130 – BCWine 101 The Similkameen Winery Association

The view from Seven Stones Winery south of Cawston.

20130218-203437.jpgWelcome to BC Wine 101, where I will focus in on a different wine region in each episode for anyone who is interested in learning about BC wine, including the wine bloggers who will be traveling to Penticton for the Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in June.

You can listen online here or download our podcast on iTunes.

The Similkameen Valley is beautiful, and not in an easily identifiable, normal way. There’s something about this valley that is almost other-worldly.

Looking south from the northern edge of Clos du Soleil's vineyards.

Looking south from the northern edge of Clos du Soleil’s vineyards.

I actually find it distracting to drive through it. The mountains are so shapely and imposing that I cannot take my eyes off them, in any season. This becomes a problem when I’m the only one in the car and must concentrate on keeping the wheels on the winding roads. (Except in Cawston, in the middle of the Similkameen’s vineyard area, where there is probably the longest, straightest stretch of road anywhere in BC’s interior.)

It’s difficult to really explain the place that the Similkameen Valley occupies in terms of BC’s wine industry. The terroir is not as studied as the South Okanagan and the reputation does not precede it like the Naramata Bench. Just like the wineries of the Columbia Gorge AVA from last year’s Wine Bloggers Conference, the Similkameen Valley is the little region that is often overshadowed by the more renowned neighbor and only people in-the-know understand that there is an amazing party going on there with wines that will blow you away.

The Similkameen also happens to be the home of one of my all-time favorite wine and food events – The Similkameen BBQ King Championship. I’ve recorded a podcast at each of the last two events (check out 2011 or 2012‘s posts and podcasts) and each time, the beautiful location of the historic Grist Mill heritage site, the amazing collection of local wines, and the Okanagan and Similkameen’s top chefs competing for bragging rights makes for an unbelievable event you won’t soon forget.

Even driving through the Similkameen is unforgettable. Imagine what the wines taste like from this unique place.

Joining me in this podcast are Similkameen Winery Association Chair George Hanson and Marketing Director Kim Lawton.

The Similkameen river from the patio of Forbidden Fruit Winery.

The Similkameen river from the patio of Forbidden Fruit Winery.

Wineries of the Similkameen Winery Association:

Cerelia Clos du Soleil Eau Vivre
Forbidden Fruit Orofino Robin Ridge
Rustic Roots Seven Stones Sage Bush Winery

Other Wineries in the Similkameen Valley:

St. Laszlo

Crowsnest Vineyards Herder Vineyards Little Farm Winery
Wine shop breezeway at Orofino, and winery built with straw bales.

Wine shop breezeway at Orofino, and winery built with straw bales.

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Vineyards in the Similkameen.

Podcast 129 – BCWine 101 Oliver Osoyoos

Riverstone Estate Winery, north of the town of Oliver.

20130218-203437.jpgWelcome to BC Wine 101, where I will focus in on a different wine region in each episode for anyone who is interested in learning about BC wine, including the wine bloggers who will be traveling to Penticton for the Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in June.

You can listen online here or download our podcast on iTunes.

There’s a reason that the town of Oliver calls itself “The Wine Capital of Canada” and you’ll know why when you see it. There are vineyards everywhere here. But there are other crops here – cherry, peach, and apple orchards, tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers, and more. It is a farming community and, for BC at least, it’s a large, high density one. For wine grapes, it’s the quality and consistency to grow grapes that are more difficult or impossible to grow elsewhere that draws wineries from other regions in BC to proudly proclaim that the grapes for this or that wine come from “the Golden Mile” or “the Black Sage Bench” or simply, “Oliver.”

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Looking south from White Lake Road. The Golden Mile is on the right side of the valley, Black Sage Road on the left.

Map courtesy of Wine Tripper – BC Edition available on iTunes.

A little disclaimer about this region: I live here. Although it’s pretty safe to assume that I will have something personal to disclose about every wine region in this series, the fact is that I live and drive through this area everyday and have for over 5 years now and have worked at wineries here for most of that time. I run into winemakers picking out bananas at the supermarket. My kids go to school with their kids. It’s a community built around wine, farming, and central air-conditioning. The summers here can get very hot.

Which is why grapes, and those who grow them, love this region. Some of the best vineyard land in the country is located here. In this podcast, Tim Martinuk, president of the Oliver-Osoyoos Winery Association, talks about what makes this area worthy of the name, the Wine Capital of Canada.

The wineries of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association and the South Okanagan.

OOWA Member Wineries

Adega on 45th Black Hills Burrowing Owl
Cassini Cellars Castoro de Oro Church & State
Covert Farms Desert Hills Fairview Cellars
Gehringer Brothers Hester Creek Hidden Chapel
Inniskillin Intersection Jackson-Triggs
Moon Curser Nk’Mip Cellars Oliver Twist
Platinum Bench Quinta Ferreira River Stone
Road 13 Rustico Silver Sage
Stoneboat Tinhorn Creek Young & Wyse

Other wineries in the South Okanagan area:

La Stella Winery Le Vieux Pin Winery Platinum Bench Winery
Looking north from Burrowing Owl Vineyards on the Black Sage bench.

Looking north from Burrowing Owl Vineyards on the Black Sage bench.

Overlooking the town of Oliver from Hester Creek Estate Winery's vineyards on the Golden Mile bench.

Overlooking the town of Oliver from Hester Creek Estate Winery’s vineyards on the Golden Mile bench.

Fall colors in a vineyard near the town of Oliver.

Fall colors in a vineyard near the town of Oliver.

Sunset from Nk'Mip Cellars looking northwest over Osoyoos Lake.

Sunset from Nk’Mip Cellars looking northwest over Osoyoos Lake.

Podcast 128 – BCWine 101 Okanagan Falls

20130218-203437.jpgWelcome to BC Wine 101, where I will focus in on a different wine region in each episode. This is for anyone who is interested in learning about BC wine but with a particular nod to the wine bloggers who will be traveling to Penticton for the Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in June.

You can listen online here or download our podcast on iTunes.

Okanagan Falls (or as the locals call it, OK Falls) has a wide variety of wineries and scenery. Some of my all-time favourite BC wines come from this region. The Okanagan Falls Winery Association represents the marketing and promotional needs of the majority of wineries in this region and in this podcast, I speak with marketing and events coordinator Kristin Peturson-Laprise about what makes Okanagan Falls so special.

MacIntyre Bluff and Vaseaux Lake, looking south.

MacIntyre Bluff and Vaseaux Lake, looking south.

Here are the wineries in Okanagan Falls to remember:

Blasted Church
Blue Mountain Vineyards
Kraze Legz
Liquidity Wines
Meyer Family Vineyards
Noble Ridge
Painted Rock
Pentage
See Ya Later Ranch
Stag’s Hollow
Synchro Mesh
Tangled Vines
Top Shelf
Wild Goose Winery

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I have had some amazing experiences in the wineries and vineyards of Okanagan Falls. My first wine touring experience ever brought me to Okanagan Falls in 2003 where I learned a little more about how to taste wine in a wine shop from an awesome host at Hawthorn Mountain Vineyards (now See Ya Later Ranch). My first job in a winery as a cellar hand was in OK Falls. I have interviewed many winery owners and wine makers for this podcast and other media. It is a place that I truly enjoy visiting any time I can.

There are both long established family-run wineries and historical vineyards there alongside newly built boutique wineries that are creatively following their own vision. It’s a very dynamic region where you will find rich and bold Merlot’s at one winery, beautifully aromatic whites at the one next door, and unbelievable sparkling wine just around the corner. Far from being scattered, this area represents the diverse Okanagan wine experience in microcosm, where the drive, passion, science, and creative artistry all meet at the south end of Skaha Lake.

Cheers from wine country,

~Luke

Painted Rock

The vineyards of Painted Rock Estate Winery from the west side lookout above Skaha Lake.

North to OK Falls

Looking north from above Vaseaux Lake. Hawthorn Mountain is on the left. Blue Mountain is behind the bluff on the right and Noble Ridge is center.