Domestic Market Pride

20140806-204556-74756105.jpgMy first real BC wine ever was a bottle of Sumac Ridge’s 199? Blanc de Noir sparkling wine. I bought it on my first ever trip to Vancouver where I spent New Year’s Eve 1999-2000. For anyone who is over 30 today, it was an extremely special New Year’s because, if we believed all the scare-hype about it, there was a good chance that planes were going to crash out of the sky and our debit cards might not work the next day because of the buzzword of the time – “Y2K”. So we all partied like it was 1999 and everyone remembers where they were (or at least where they ended up) on that most memorable of New Year’s Eves.

The bubbles from Sumac Ridge were purchased to celebrate Y2K with friends and it was a blast for a lot of reasons. I knew very little about BC (this being my first time in the province) and nothing about BC wine other than that I’d heard that there was wine produced here. One of the big memories I have of the evening though is that the other people at the party all knew about Sumac Ridge and recognized it as a special wine. I felt I’d done a good job shopping for wine (which I was very timid about doing at the time – wine was still very strange to me then) and the congratulatory praise for my purchase was the seed that has since grown into the petulantly stubborn but keenly guided focus that is only slightly tainted by pretentious elitism. In other words, I liked BC wine enough to buy more.

I’m kidding, of course. I’m not that keenly guided.

My point is that without the wine world of Vancouver really getting behind the home team of BC wine, there is little doubt that this industry would exist as it stands today. We don’t need to depend on an export market the way other regions have to (can you say “Australia”), depend on the market whims to keep them in business (will NZ Sauv Blanc always be popular?), or suffer through XXXX years as we await the ultimate doom of a wine that has not been widely consumed for nearly 3 full generations (Sherry). Currently, BC wine is both diversified (absurdly so, for better or worse) and resilient (what downturn?) because the “buy-local” mentality has permeated our daily habits. Events like Orofino’s “1.6 Mile Dinner”, the Similkameen BBQ King, or any of the locavore type events held in the Okanagan would have been nearly impossible to hold profitably a generation ago and would likely have been seen as just a hick country event that no one from the city would care about much less understand the need or appeal.

But somehow, folks from Vancouver and Victoria, and maybe Calgary too have started riding the “BC Wine” train more frequently. I meet people everyday from these places and they are all enjoying themselves as they explore the nearly limitless amount of experiences that they can have when touring through wine country. It’s exciting for me too because I get to share and have a small part in their enthusiams. Wine people love to share. That’s something I noticed when I first starting working in this industry.

But there’s also been a shift towards pride in local producers that extends beyond wine. I don’t know which one has influenced the other but I know that for myself, wine was the doorway to all kinds of other things that I never considered searching for locally – cheese, berries, meats, and vinegars. Take the changes that have happened coincidentally with a place like Krause Brothers Berry farm in Langley. I remembered going there to pick strawberries or raspberries one time in 2001 or something. It was a little building in a big field. It was a u-pick and I remember getting a good amount of something that we made into jams and jellies. I went back a couple years ago and the place was like Disneyland for berry lovers – it was insane! The building and the parking lot were tripled in size from my last visit and there were people everywhere. I was amazed and glad to see that they had become so successful.

Have other businesses like that grown up at the same rate because of the same zeitgeist that has supported the BC wine industry? Maybe. Is it beneficial? Sustainable? I think so. Will I support that in any way I can? I will do what I can. (Thanks for reading.) Was wine the genesis of this particular zeitgeist? Maybe. I’ve written about that before where wine starting with honey and then chocolates but it could easily be extrapolated out from anything grown or produced locally. Wine draws your attention into a particular place because the flavors of the wines are going to be different depending on the location where the grapes are grown. It doesn’t surprise me that people are starting to look around for other things once they get to that place. Have fun looking around.

Cheers from wine country.


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.”

Back Camera

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 97 – Interview with Stephen Wyse

I like talking about wine. I can and do talk about it all day long sometimes. Most of the time, I’m lucky enough to get payed to do that.

Stephen Wyse from the boutique winery Young & Wyse in Osoyoos, BC, likes to talk about wine too. When I got to talk to him in his wine shop recently, the time went by quickly and the result is this podcast which pushes 45 minutes. It’s a great conversation with a guy who knows wine. He also has some great advice for anyone who is feeling a little burned out with their job.

We’ve featured Young & Wyse before – exactly 2 years ago in fact – when Amber, AJ, and I tasted their Shiraz from their first vintage in 2008. Their winery has been on our radar ever since with unique blended wines like the “Amber” (our Amber bought one, of course) and the Black Label aka the “33,30,24,13”. Now with new vintagea of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and a cozy wine shop just outside of town, this is one winery that should be on your must-visit list.


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

Hester Creek’s brand new digs

Hester Creek's grand opening

Hester Creek's grand opening

The grand opening of Hester Creek’s new wine shop and winery took place today in the sun, and then rain, and then sun again near the end.

Let me say just say this – if you visited Hester Creek before, even recently, it will be worth visiting again soon. The wine shop is spacious, the tasting bar is large and brightly lit and they’ve even paved the parking lot!

The tasting room was packed when I arrived, most likely due to the rain that had everyone claiming space inside rather than lounge outside or mill about on the patio. Unfortunately, the first thing that I could smell upon entering the wine shop was a good dose of Calvin Klein or similar blend of fragrance, which almost entirely masked the wonderful scents from the hors d’oeuvres created by Chef Heinz Schmid. (If you don’t already know the effects of wearing too much perfume in general, please don’t douse yourself in anything smelly before going to a wine-related event…)

After a Pinot Gris and some appies, I started to take in the sights. The large main room, with the curvascious tasting bar as a center piece, has many rooms and spaces adjacent to it that will be useful for functions. Off to the right is a private dining room with an entrance to a small, viewable barrel cellar. The dinning room also has its own private entrance and patio outside. The main room has a large, partially covered patio as well which will easily handle the summer (or wine festival) crowds that will do doubt be descending on Hester Creek in the future. There is a viewable demonstration kitchen just to the right of the tasting bar and probably a whole lot of different rooms that I didn’t get the chance to see on this occasion. Perhaps soon.

I’m glad to see that Hester Creek is on the up and up. It was only about six years ago when it would not have been possible to say that. I’m glad to see that this winery will be around for many more years to come. Cheers!

Hester Creek patio off the main room

Hester Creek patio off the main room

Podcast #3 – Black Sages, Golden Miles, and Quinta Syrah ’07

In our third installment, we talk about the two sides of the valley just south of Oliver, the Wine Capitol of Canada. On the west side, the Golden Mile with its history and diversity, and on the east side – the Black Sage bench, with its distinctive terroir. Join us for a tasting of Quinta Ferreira’s Syrah 2007 that you won’t want to miss.

Quinta Syrah 1

Syrah 2007 by Quinta Ferreira

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

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

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

Podcast #1 – Introductions and Odyssey Brut

Here it is, fresh off the digital workstation – our very first podcast!! 

In this first episode, we talk about our philosophy of wine and we taste the Odyssey Brut 2006 from Gray Monk Estate Winery.

Odyssey Brut 1

Gray Monk's Odyssey Brut 2006