Podcast 97 – BS Rosé

This week, we focus on something that a great many ‘serious’ wine lovers seem to disregard: Rosé. It’s almost a bad word among a certain generation of wine lovers who won’t touch the stuff.

THAT IS GREAT!! Please keep ignoring it!

Keep assuming that it’s all simple, sweet, girly wines and pay no mind to it at all. Without you wanting to buy it, demand will stay low and prices will match it accordingly.

For the rest of us who know about how good r-o-s-é’s from BC can be, here’s an awesome one from Bartier-Scholefield (produced at the Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland) that Nick and I tried recently. Cheers!

Podcast #8 – Special Harvest Podcast and Jackpot Chard from Rd. 13

The grapes have been harvested for the season and the winemakers and cellar staff are busy pressing and fermenting. We talk about what goes on in the wineries at harvest time and how those grapes make it into your bottle. Join us with a great bottle of Road 13’s Jackpot Chardonnay!

Jackpot Chardonnay 2007 from Road 13

Jackpot Chardonnay 2007 from Road 13

Cellared in Canada – Let’s talk about it

For those who haven’t been following it, this is more or less what started getting this issue more attention: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a200907291.html (I won’t go over it all here to save space – just Google “Cellared in Canada” for the back story.)

The laws pertaining to the labeling of Canadian wines are not new and this kind of wine has been available for years. As the folks at http://www.iconwinesbc.blogspot.com/ have state, “[w]e don’t think this public outcry would have taken place 5 years ago” and I have to agree. More people now have more confidence in their domestically produced wines and I’m glad to see them effectively defending the image of Canadian wine.

I really think that this issue is important and rather than be like a lot of blogs that I see on the internet (which just rant and rave about issues without actually offering any new and potentially constructive ideas) I have some ideas that I think might be useful.

Now I’m not an expert when it comes to the laws of the land and things like that. But I do work in the wine trade and I think that I’m a fairly knowledgeable consumer.  Since this blog and podcast is geared towards other consumers who love BC wine, I figured that you all might have an interest in how this plays out as well.

At this point, it seems to me that there are two problems. One is that consumers are feeling like they have been deceived by the “Cellared in Canada” wines. The second is that there are no universally accepted controls in place that can tell consumers exactly where the wine is coming from.

1 – Consumer Deception

As John Peller, CEO of Andrew Peller Ltd told Jan Wong on CBC’s The Current (http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/podcast.html), they were just following the rules; their labels “compl[y] with what the federal label standards are” and he’s right. However, just like those out-of-date by-laws regarding the proper hitching of horses to public buildings, these ‘rules’ are now out of date. The industry knows this and has been quiet about it the whole time hoping that no one would notice. The anger of most consumers now shows that they were right in trying to keep it quiet. However, things are going to have to change this time.

No one likes to be called stupid, but that’s exactly what wine consumers are feeling like when they find out what the vague phrase “Cellared in Canada” means. It’s written so small on the back labels of wine bottles that share shelf space with the real Canadian product that it’s easy to assume the wrong thing. Doesn’t finding wine on a shelf with a Canadian flag over it mean that the wine is made in Canada, the same way that Italian or French wines have shelves with their flags over it? How silly would it be to buy a wine imported from France that says, “Cellared in France”??

The big wineries that produce “Cellared in Canada” wines are now going to have to answer for this deception somehow. In the store that I work in, I had three different customers today refuse to look at any of Vincor’s Jackson-Triggs wines because they’ve heard their name mentioned as a producer of “Cellared in Canada” wines. (The white label series of wines are “Cellared in Canada”.) Unfortunately for Vincor, those customers today now equate the Jackson-Triggs label no matter what color it is with deception and this is unfortunate. They will be missing some good wine. The J-T Grand Reserve wines are fabulous and Proprietor’s Reserve wines are great values. I don’t have a problem with the concept of wines that are now produced as “Cellared in Canada”, but I wish that they weren’t labelled as such and that they weren’t placed in the same section of the store.

So here is my suggestion for a solution to this problem;

All wines produced in Canada that are made from imported wine and/or juice should be labelled with the phrase “International Blend – Made from wine imported from {country 1},{country2}…
This label should appear at the bottom of the front label with a minimum 10-point font size. These wines should also be placed on shelves in the store under the heading “International Blends” with no country’s flag appearing above it to denote any kind of country of origin.

While we’re on the subject of labelling, why don’t we start adding ingredients to the wine labels as well? As a ‘historic beverage’, wine is exempt from having to display all of the things that are put into the bottle. How about knowing if a wine was processed with Blanc Varietal, Beta Glucanase, or ‘balanced’ with sugar or malic acid? Might make reading those labels really interesting on some producers’ wines.

2 – Unanimity on appellations and regulations 

The second problem has more to do with industry bickering than anything else. There is no universally accepted (or government decreed) regulation governing the origin of the grapes for wines in Canada. Each province has its own thing (or not) while BC and Ontario have the much ballyhooed Vinter’s Quality Alliance system (or VQA). For BC at least, there is no unanimity about VQA and a winery’s participation is purely voluntary. As a quality seal of approval, VQA worked great, bringing consumer confidence in Canadian wine up to new heights, while also setting the bar for quality.

Then something happened. Wineries started leaving. Quality started slipping. Of the 4 wineries that I have worked at in recent years, only one was a member of VQA at the time (and has since left). In a classroom tasting just over a year ago, I tasted two identically labelled VQA-approved wines that were utterly different products. It has also been a long time since consumers equated VQA with quality wine that they’ve forgotten what VQA stands for, 19 years after VQA was introduced into law in BC.

The most disturbing part that I see is that the wineries who aren’t participating in VQA are now going to have to prove to the consumers where their wine comes from. Consumers may not trust something that doesn’t have some kind of certification on it anymore. People who would have spent money freely on all kinds of new and wonderful new wines are now a little more guarded about their spending and won’t be taking risks the same way that they did even 2 years ago.

The other side of that coin is that VQA itself will be called in for questioning (not entirely a bad thing at this point). Can consumers trust that a VQA labelled wine is actually grown here, when the same company that makes it also produces “Cellared in Canada” wines? Some of the labels look unsettlingly similar.

So again, here is my suggestion for a solution to this problem;

Make the VQA appellation system mandatory for all wineries wishing to produce wines where the origin of the grapes is important. Allow these wineries to use the region where the grapes are from (example – VQA Naramata, VQA Golden Mile, or more generally, VQA Okanagan). These wineries should also be able to use the terms ‘icewine’ and ‘meritage’ as it currently stands with VQA.

Remove the stipulation that says that these wineries must be a ‘member’ of a club, like the BC Wine Institute and remove the ‘sensory evaluation’ aspect of the procedure. The average consumer doesn’t know about it anymore and its effectiveness is questionable.

Wineries that choose not to include a place name should use a generic label, such as “Canadian Table Wine” (CTW) or something like that. Wine consumers love acronyms and why should the EU get all the AOC’s, IGT’s, DOCG’s, and QmP’s. 3 levels of wine quality are easy for consumers to remember (VQA, CTW, and IB) and easy to stock on the shelf and market.

Also, the VQA system should be a national program administered equally throughout the country (if Italy can do it, so can we) with respect to the different climates and terroirs of the regions. Quebec and Nova Scotia should not be denied using varieties that are frowned upon in BC for the same reason that AOC law in France doesn’t dictate that Grenache be grown in Alsace. (They do dictate what will be grown in each region to qualify for each AOC, but they’ve had a few hundred years’ experience to figure out what works best and we in Canada haven’t, so let’s not jump into that part of it for a while…)

A nationaly run VQA program would give the wine industry a national voice. This might come in handy for getting some of those liquor laws updated and make wine sales between provinces a little easier. Imagine that… 

So in closing (sorry this is such a long post – I didn’t mean it to get this long, honest), the system we have has to change. Producers (especially smaller producers) have to be more united in their organization under an appellation system. Larger producers have to stop deceiving the consumers. At the end of the day, we all want the same result – a good (or great) glass of wine at the end of the day.

Podcast #4 – Judging Award-Winning Wines & Thornhaven’s Gewurz

In this week’s podcast, we talk about the value of awards in wine competitions. Do the best wines always win? What does it matter? Join us in tasting an award winning wine – the Thornhaven Gewurztraminer 2008,  the Best in Category at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival 2009.

Thorhaven Gew

Thornhaven's Gewurztraminer 2008

Winery Quicky #1 – Cassini Cellars – Easy access

Cassini Cellars

Lots of wine here and the best thing is that it’s so easy to get there. It’s right on the highway and there’s tons of easy parking, especially for those of you traveling in RV’s or with a trailor. Their parking lot looks like it can accomodate at least 4 (probably more) full-sized RV’s or pickups with 5th wheel trailors without backing up or any crazy parking lot tricks. It’s on the west side of Highway 97 and is on the right as you head south from the town of Oliver.

The other great thing about this winery is that there are lots of different styles of wine here for every palate. Crisp pinot Grigio’s (called Mamma Mia) and big, dark, full-bodied reds (check out Maximus). All of that is surrounded by a beautiful large wine shop that makes you forget that the highway is only steps away.  

Cassini Cellars

32056 Hwy 97, Oliver, BC



Tugwell Creek Meadery – Sooke, B.C.

Taking a moment during a wet afternoon in our home of Penticton, I am reminded of a recent road trip to Vancouver Island. The days were warm and the evenings cool and damp; A different climate than our dry desert valley. In this southern island hamlet, you can feel the ocean’s briny breath….. There is a different focus for wine in the lower mainland and the gulf Islands, given the more tropical nature of its weather patterns. Early ripening hybrids and vinifera thrive in this coastal region, producing light, crisp, aromatic and fruit driven wines that are truly cool climate.

Not being as familiar with this area and it’s smaller boutique wineries, I was very excited to find out a winery specializing in honey meads was in the neighborhood of  our hosts’ hometown of Sooke! Tugwell Creek, which runs past our friend’s home, comes out near the meadery that bears its name. An art as ancient as grape wines, mead combines honey, spices and sometimes berries to create wines that are rustic, complex and intriguing. Romans believed mead had properties to strengthen, heal and lengthen life.

Tugwell Creek Harvest Melomel ’08.

Besides a blackcurrant as well as a sparkling dessert wine, we tasted a seasonal mead that is infused with logan, goose and marionberies, all grown on the farm.  The colour was a rich amber hue, reminiscent of a well extracted pinot gris. On the nose, strawberry fruit seems stewed with the marriage of honey. Almonds, nutmeg and orange rind, this wine has a very complex and mysterious aroma. A creamy palate of the same stewed fruit and spices remind me of autumn and winter delicacies such as pumpkin pie, christmas cake and candied fruits. Finishing off dry, this wine may very well be an excellent alternative for fish or fowl…. Think turkey dinner.

If you are interested in the meads from Tugwell Creek and where to find them, visit them on the web at www.tugwellcreekfarm.com

Podcast #2 – The Okanagan Valley and Amicitia White 2008

In our second podcast, we talk about the various regions of BC Okanagan Valley. As you drive south on Highway 97 from north to south, we’ll tell you about some of the wineries that you’ll see along the way. Taste along with us as we check out the Amicitia White 2008 from Dunham and Froese Estate Winery.

DF Amiticia 1

Dunham & Froese Amaticia White 2008

Twisted Tree Winery – Osoyoos

<Every now and then we get to visit wineries and we’d like to share some of that experience with you. There are tons of things written about (and virtual tours online from) the big wineries in the area (Mission Hill, Peller, Summerhill, Vincor) and so our focus will be on the smaller, artisanal wineries that might not be on everyone’s tour schedule, but we think are worth a visit on your next trip.  A large percentage of these wineries are located between Summerland/Naramata and Osoyoos. Hopefully, this will give you a hand in helping to decide which ones to visit on your next trip.>

The Twisted Tree Winery has always intrigued me for some reason. Ever since I learned (probably from a John Schreiner book) that they were planting all kinds of grape varieties that had never at that point been tried in the Okanagan – tempranillo, tannat, marsanne and roussanne and maybe more. The tannat got me especially because I’d really taken a liking to the wines from Madiran, France that use that grape (sometimes blended with cabernet franc) to make their wines.

The Twisted Tree winery is located on Route 3 heading east out of Osoyoos. The winery is on the left after the road turns for the first time just outside of town. (Heads up for y’all who are on motorcycles – they have a loose gravel parking lot.) The wine shop does not face the road and you have to drive around the whole building to park. The reason for this becomes apparent when you step into the wine shop and take in the gorgeous view of the valley behind the tasting bar. High ceilings and large windows give this wine shop a lot of space and more importantly, lots of light to appreciate the wine in the glass.  

Twisted Tree’s first vintage was 2005 with a modest collection of reds and whites. In 2007, the viognier-roussanne blend was introduced for the first time. The 2008 is out now and it was the first wine that Stephanie poured for me on my visit there this past August. If you are interested in a white wine with lots of peach, flowers, and honey aromas and flavours, and that transitions to lush tropical fruits on the beautifully long and lingering finish, then YOU MUST TRY THIS WINE!! It was a most beautiful wine that will surely sell quickly.

2007 is also the current inaugural vintage of their Tempranillo, a grape that I am seeking out these days after trying D’Angelo’s Tempranillo earlier in the summer. To me, this tempranillo had pleasant cocoa, earth, red fruit and floral aromas with more of the same on the palate and a medium finish. It was delish.

It was also an interesting comparison between the two growing regions of Naramata and Osoyoos. Assuming that D’Angelo’s tempranillo is grown in Naramata (there’s no real way of telling for sure where anyone grows anything in this valley at the moment), there are noticeable differences between the two wines. The Twisted Tree temp is darker and has more weight to it with more fruit and chocolate flavours while the D’Angelo is more earthy and complex. Different wine making styles? Different oak treatment? Different terroir? Probably all of the above. Very interesting though and something that I hope to investigate more with different varietals on a future podcast sometime.

My only beef about this wine is that it is priced a little aggressively – $28 (their most expensive bottle) for a varietal that most people don’t really know about seems a bit high to me (especially compared with D’Angelo’s at $15). Regardless, I bought mine and plan to enjoy it around Christmas. Cheers!


Twisted Tree Winery http://www.twistedtree.ca/

3628 Highway 3 East
Osoyoos, BC, V0H 1V6
T: 250.495.5161 | F: 250.495.5167

Old Vines Foch 2007 from Quail’s Gate Estate Winery

Alright, I have to admit that I have a been a member of the ‘Foch Club’ for a while. I first tried Quail’s old vines foch a while ago with the 2000 or 2001 vintages and they were great – they were big and tasty without the drying tannic feel that usually accompanies big red wines. The local wine store manager told me that the foches from Quail’s had a loyal following and that the few cases that they were given were usually snapped up quite quickly.

So I was a little more than excited when I first saw the new vintage of the foch arrive from Quail’s Gate recently. It has a complex nose – sage, tar, black liquorice and red cherries – quite complex and a refreshing change from some of the simpler wines that we had been tasting earlier that week. It wasn’t as complex on the palate but had a good combination of dark fruit, plums, tar and leather to make it interesting.

Medium acid and low tannins, which is par for the course when it comes to foch, means that this variety doesn’t really age all that well. I learned that one the hard way when my 2001 foch from Quail’s Gate sat for 5 years in my less-than-ideal condo cellar. When we opened it, the fruit had left the building and taken most of the furniture with it. It tasted like dirt, although good quality dirt. This foch-not-really-good-at-aging thing was confirmed that same year when, visiting some family in Toronto, they opened a bottle of a ’98 foch from the Niagara with similar results. I like earthy, rustic, old-world style wines as much as anyone, but I do like to have at least a hint of fruit to remind me that the liquid in the glass did come from a grape.

Anyways, back to the ’07 Quail’s Gate Old Vines Foch – it is still hands down the best in the Okanagan and the ones to which all other foches aspire. It should be widely available throughout BC in specialty and VQA stores. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Are you the newest member of the foch club?