Hallelujah, it’s raining! I am watching a hummingbird hopping from side to side on the garden wire fence as if in glee. Wish I could do same (although that might look funny and would definitely hurt), so, I’m opening up some great locally-made B.C. wine instead. While the little bit of rain that is falling is not enough to quench all the fires that are, without exaggeration, closing in around the city, I am so thankful for the little bit of relief, even if it might only be psychological.
Over the past 30 days I have watched a battalion of trucks and semis lugging heavy machinery east to west and back again on Highway 1. There have been ambulances and fire trucks wailing up and down it as well any time of the day or night. Over the ridge, I hear the choppers as they haul their precious bucket loads of water from one lake to the White Rock fire and back again with another load for the Tremont or Sparks fire. I hear the skimmers as they fly overhead and I run out onto the balcony to wave at them. When I hear the water bombers flying over the house, I have never been so happy to hear them, even though I might have to stop my coffee cup or wine glass from dancing on my desk… it seems like they’re happy about it as well. And, I don’t think there will be enough days in my life to thank all the people involved and wildfire fighters strategizing, planning and bearing all the heat, fire…. I can’t even imagine the psychological effects… but there must be many.
On a personal note, I have been living in smoke for over 56 days, waking up with a heaviness in my chest, crusty eyes, and a taste in my mouth akin to licking an ashtray. No, in fact, I have been living in an ashtray, with ash and tiny burnt embers everywhere. And, now, it is raining.
Show the Love to B.C. Wineries, Drink Wine Grown and Made Local
Black Market Winery Omertà Syrah Rosé 2020 is dry, medium-bodied with a pleasant tart cherry, crab-apple, wild strawberry, fine herb, lime zest and white pepper bite balanced with medium-plus-acidity, vibrant, mouth-coating and with a loonnng finish. It’s delicious. Poured with lamb kebabs. Omertà is Black Market Winery’s “Our code of silence. Trust us” 100% Syrah Rosé. Well, I can trust that Black Market Winery is making some pretty excellent wines. Produced from 100% Syrah grapes, hand-harvested, sorted and whole-cluster pressed over a four-hour period. The free-run juice was left on its gross lees and stirred twice daily prior to fermentation. Perfect for Paella! Tasted July 2021. 12.7% abv / $24
Black Market Winery Syrah MMXVIII is produced from 96% Syrah, 4% Viognier and is dry, medium-bodied, unfined and unfiltered. Look for baked cherry pie, earthy, meaty, savoury herb, cinnamon, spicy pepper and subtle vanilla flavours wrapped up in rich, grippy tannins. Good now, better if cellared for three more years to marry its flavours and mellow the tannins. Produced in the classic Northern Rhone style, the Syrah and Viognier were co-fermented. Grapes were de-stemmed, lightly crushed and enjoyed a two-day cold soak. After a slow and warm fermentation, the wine was left to macerate another 18 days to extract more phenolics from the skins. Aged 18 months in French (30% new) and American oak barrels. Decant one hour prior to pouring with a gourmet burger topped with blue cheese. So good! 13% abv / $36
Love the balance on Culmina Family Estate Winery’s Decora 2018 Riesling. Produced from estate-grown grapes sourced from Margaret’s Bench Vineyard with elevage completely in stainless-steel tanks, this South Okanagan Riesling is fragrant and tasty with ripe yellow apple, white-fleshed stone fruit and mineral notes on the nose. The wine is barely dry, medium-bodied with pink grapefruit, citrus zest, ripe apple, stony and mineral flavours lingering on the palate balanced with just enough acidity to start the mouth watering. Sophisticated and elegant, chill and enjoy with a smoked pork tenderloin and butternut squash spaetzli. Tasted July 2021. 13.5% abv / $21
I like this easy-to-enjoy savoury and sultry, estate-grown Merlot 2016 from Culmina. The wine is welcoming on the nose with dark plum, chocolate and dark spices; dry, medium-plus-bodied with ripe dark berry fruit, plum, dark chocolate and well-integrated oak spice, balanced acidity and velvety tannins. Grapes for this vintage were sourced from the Golden Mile Bench G.I. Arise Bench Vineyard, and the wine was matured in a combination of new, previous use and neutral French oak barrels. Elegant and easy to love, enjoy it with a wild mushroom ragu or venison burgers stuffed with Feta cheese. Tasted July 2021. 14% abv / $35
Love the lemony freshness on this vibrant, medium-bodied and easy-to-love white wine blend. Fort Berens Winery Camels White 2020 is dry, clean, crisp and lemony on the nose with fresh apple, dried pineapple, more lime zest, pithy orange and white pepper spice finishing long and silky on the palate with balanced medium-plus acidity. In the ‘Dangerously Drinkable’ category, chill and enjoy on the patio on a hot summer’s day, or pour with light-bodied meals like salads, fresh-steamed shrimp or soft cheeses. The 2020 vintage is a juicy blend of 31% Pinot Gris, 25% Pinot Blanc, 18% estate grown Grüner Veltliner and 7% Riesling with elevage in stainless steel tanks to enhance the wine’s crisp fruit aromas and flavours. Tasted July 2021. 12.4% abv / $19
Fort Berens Estate Winery Grüner Veltliner 2020 is a bright, refreshing premier vintage Grüner Veltliner for the winery with grapes sourced from Bordertown Winery vineyards. A dry, medium-bodied Grüner with excellent acidity for food with zesty citrus, hay, soft petrol aromas. On the palate, the wine is dry, floral, grassy and fresh with soft petrol, citrus zest flavours and a creamy, lingering finish. Fort Berens is also looking forward to their first vintage of estate grown Grüner Veltliner in 2021 or 2022.
We paired the wine with salty Paradise and citrusy Silver Moon oysters on the half shell with just a squeeze of fresh lemon. Acidity in wine can compete with the salt in food, but this citrusy white is kind of Grüner meets Sancerre. If oysters and seafood are not your thing, try it with a nosh of smoked andouille sausage. Tasted August 2021. 12.5% abv / $22
Love The Bub Bottle Aged and Fermented 2016 from Haywire! A lively sparkler with a persistent mousse, bone-dry, full-bodied and textured with toasted white bread, bright apple crunch, zesty lemon citrus finishing long with vibrant acidity. Clean, super crisp and addictive, particularly in this heat! We chilled it and had the second bottle with Peruvian scallop ceviche, sweet chili salmon poke and chilled fresh steamed lobster. Produced by winemakers, Matt Dumayne and Jordan Kubek from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes sourced from the Secrest Mountain Vineyard in Oliver and the Watkin Family Vineyards in Summerland, British Columbia. Grapes were fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks prior to bottling in December 2014. Disgorged January 2015 with zero dosage added. Tasted June 21 2021. 12.5% abv / $50
As well, Okanagan Crush Pad is celebrating their 10-Year Milestone. The winery opened in Summerland in 2011 and the last decade has been one of great growth and change for OCP. Coletta and her husband Steve Lornie have grown their business to now include 380 acres of land, 100 of those planted to vines on three organic certified vineyard sites; Switchback Vineyard, Secrest Mountain Vineyard and Garnet Valley Ranch. Okanagan Crush Pad, produces four unique labels: Haywire, Narrative, Free Form and Bizou + Yukon. To celebrate the event the winery is heading into the next 10 years with a new look. Graffiti artist Scott Sueme (who painted OCP’s walls in 2011) will return from August 24 – 29 to update and add to the original project. Read more about the install here: https://okanagancrushpad.com/watch-as-ocp-gets-graffiti-ed-again/
Love the buttery, toasted almond nose on this dry, medium-plus-bodied Little Engine Wines Chardonnay 2018. A beautifully crafted Chardonnay with a creamy mouthful of ripe apple, toasted almond, buttered brioche, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and well-integrated toasty oak spice flavours finishing long on the palate with a citrus zing. The 2018 vintage was barrel-aged 16 months in French oak barriques (48% new), puncheons and second and third-fill barrels with occasional battonage giving complexity and a sultry creaminess to the wine. Tasted June 2021. 13.9% abv / $57
Okay, I’m in love again. I am absolutely smitten with Little Engine Winery’s 2020 French Family Release. Even the nose is enticing with its soft spritz of honeysuckle, white florals, golden apple, pear, ginger, white pepper and lemon curd with each flavour so defined, refined and delicious. On the palate this amazing dry, unoaked Chardonnay is medium-plus-bodied with laser balance fruit to acidity; plushy with dried white florals, fresh ripe orchard fruit, creamy lemon pudding, stony mineral flavours viscous, rounded, and vibrant with a forever finish (more than a minute). This is an amazing, complex, elegant, and once-in-a-lifetime Chardonnay. Tasted July 2021. 13.3% abv / $36 Buy by the case!
Little Engine’s winemaker, Scott Robinson, confirms that this is one of a kind Chard. “The 2020 harvest produced some of the most flavour intense wines that I have witnessed in my time winemaking in the Okanagan. This French Family Chard is comprised of grapes from three clones of Chardonnay from three estate vineyards here on the Naramata Bench. I pick based on flavour ripeness and this past harvest we had optimal flavours at a lower sugar level and perfect acidity. I skin contact destemmed grapes before pressing in order to extract more aroma and flavour compounds. I use multiple yeasts to bring out these flavours and ferment long and cool to retain them.” There is a touch of residual sugar in the wine giving a nice weight on the palate says Scott, “This will give you the perception of palate weight upfront, but it finishes crisp and dry.”
Lunessence Winery’s 2018 Merlot is amazing. Deep ruby in the glass with a bit of bricking on the meniscus, it’s all about the nose on this wine. Right from the get-go the wine is meeeaatty with savoury spices and grilled herb aromas. On the palate, it’s a grilled prime rib or roast beef in a glass; rich, full-bodied with grilled meat, cooked bacon, spiced plum, dark cherry, grilled herbs, savoury and pepper spices flavours balanced with medium-plus-acidity and rich with pleasantly grippy tannins that caress the palate. Beautifully balanced and crafted. Produced from sustainably grown grapes and aged 12 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels (8% new). This vintage was awarded Silver at the 2020 All Canadian Wine Championships for a Merlot under $30 ($29.99). Tasted July 2021. Drink or hold. 13.5% abv / $30
Lunessence Winery’s 2020 Rosé is so good! Love the dried wild strawberries, cranberry, and bright mineral nose on this 60% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc and 4% Syrah rosé blend. A pretty pale pink-coral colour in the glass, reminiscent of Provence rosés, this is a well-crafted, and balanced rosé (medium-plus-acidity) with wild strawberry, ruby grapefruit, tart cherry, cold rooibos tea and white pepper palate-coating flavours finishing fresh and long. I have a personal wine classification called Dangerously Drinkable and this one definitely falls into that category. Chill it and pair it with a hot summer day on the patio, a good conversation with a friend, and you have ‘dangerously drinkable’. Tasted July 2021. 12.2% abv / $24
On the Black Sage Bench in Oliver, British Columbia, vintner and family farmer Gina Fernandes Harfman combines her passion for winemaking with her family’s four generations of farming experience in the South Okanagan. Nostalgia Pinot Gris 2020 shows the terroir from which it is grown and is an elegant, low yield, dry, medium-bodied 100% PG with nicely balanced natural acidity. For the 2020 vintage, grapes were sourced from the winery’s Home Vineyard as well as Cassini and Nunes Vineyards. Grapes were hand-harvested and fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks to retain fruit freshness and natural acidity. Chill and enjoy this bright PG with flavours of ripe, white-fleshed stone fruit, fresh apple, and pear with a grilled pork tenderloin and pear compote. Tasted July 2021. 13.2% abv / $22
Nostalgia Wines 2020 Rosé is a tasty and zesty, dry, medium-bodied 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 23% Syrah, 17% Malbec and 13% Cabernet Franc rosé blend made in the saignée method. On the palate, the wine is beautifully concentrated with crushed raspberry, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and a potpourri of dried fine herbs with a refreshing, lingering finish and a pleasant citrus peel bite. Produced in stainless-steel tanks. Absolutely perfect on a hot summer day (hint, hint) to chill and pour with finger food like tapas, Jamón Ibérico and aged Manchego cheese. Tasted August 2021. 13.7% abv / $22
Love the terroir-focussed label that shows that story about this wine. Red Rooster Winery Rosé 2020 is such a pretty ballerina pink in the glass, the nose is just as pretty with peony, pink florals and pepper spice aromas. Dry, elegant, barely medium-bodied, balanced with medium-plus acidity, the foot-stomped Malbec grapes for this rosé make a fine entrance with pink florals, pink grapefruit, fine herbs, white pepper and fine chalky flavours with a mineral kiss. Refreshing, delicious and absolutely killer with herbed, spiced salmon burgers. The Malbec-grapes for this vintage were sourced from the Osoyoos wine region in British Columbia, foot-stomped with élevage entirely in stainless-steel tanks. Available in Alberta, British Columbia private retail and direct to consumer (dtc). Tasted June 2021. 12.5% abv / $20
Fresh, clean and crisp on the palate, Red Rooster Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2020 is pin-point balanced, dry, medium-bodied and mouth filling with white stone-fruit, pink grapefruit, lemongrass and earthy mineral flavours finishing long on the palate. Refined and nicely done! Chill and enjoy with oysters, summer salads topped with herbed goat cheese. Available at private retailers in British Columbia. Tasted June 2021. 12.5% abv / $20
It’s all about the terroir with Roche Wines and it shows in their Tradition 2018 100% Chardonnay. Roche Wines Tradition Chardonnay 2018 is produced from a one-acre parcel of Chardonnay in the Falcon’s View Vineyard near Oliver sourced from vines grown in alluvial and gravel soils from an early post-glacial riverbed. So, while the grapes have their face in the sun, their roots are warm and dry. Grapes were hand-harvested in the cool of early morning and whole-bunch pressed. The wine juice settled out overnight and was then transferred to second- and third-fill light toast French oak barriques for fermentation. Malolactic fermentation was completed in the spring and the wine was aged eight months on its lees prior to racking and bottling.
The wine is very Petit Chabliess in style with a lovely silkiness and length. Fresh and floral with delicate lemon-citrus, stone fruit and dried fine herb aromas on the nose, it is dry, medium-bodied and elegant with fresh yellow apple, dried pineapple, lemon curd, toasted nut, finishing with a mineral kiss and vibrant acidity on the palate. We poured it with steelhead filets sautéed in lemon butter. Tasted August 2021. 14.2% abv / $30
Tightrope 2020 Rosé is immensely quaffable. Bright ruby in the glass, the 2020 vintage was produced from sustainably grown grapes, a blend of 75% Pinot Noir, 20% Syrah and 5% Barbera. Fragrant with bright cherry, wild strawberry, raspberry and mineral aromas, this rosé is dry, medium-bodied with medium-plus-acidity showing the same fruit flavours found on the nose with amazing quality and purity of fruit – a mouthful of fresh, ripe red cherries kissed with dried fine herbs and white pepper spice. Tasted June 2021. 12.5% abv / $20
Tightrope Winery 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon is so invitingly fragrant with summer-kissed white florals, lemon blossoms and a mid-note of mock orange and jasmine. On the palate the wine is dry, medium-bodied with ripe peaches, light gooseberry, lemon tart, pink grapefruit, dried fine herbs, dried chives, ginger, and white pepper spice perfectly balanced with medium-plus-acidity and a long crisp lemony, chalky mineral finish. Chill and enjoy this graceful and elegant Semillon, Sauv. Blanc blend on its own, or pair it with seared tuna steaks. The grapes for this vintage were sourced from Tightrope Estate Winery’s Thomas Vineyard on the Naramata Bench. The Sauvignon Blanc was destemmed, crushed, then pressed, while the Semillon was whole cluster pressed. Tasted July 2021. 12.8% abv / $20
Township 7 Provenance Series 2020 Pinot Gris is absolutely delish with an incredible mouthfeel. So fragrant with fresh white florals, ripe pear and mineral notes on the nose, on the palate, there is a hint of sweetness (7.5 g/l residual sugar) nicely balanced with medium-plus acidity with more of a tang than sweetness on the tip of the tongue. Love the weight and silkiness of this medium-plus-bodied PG that is almost oily with ripe pear, lime zest, dried fine herbs, crisp mineral flavours and a kind of grapefruity pithy bite that is both pleasant and refreshing. A lovely, complex an excellent value PG that is easy to enjoy. Tasted July 2021. 13.4% abv / $21
Township 7 Benchmark Series 2019 Viognier is a beautiful, silky 100% Viognier, a mouthful that glides along and around the palate and just keeps on giving! Exceptionally well-crafted and balanced with crisp, juicy acidity showing fruit that was able to ripen slowly and evenly. Fragrant on the nose with a snootful of ripe apricot, passionfruit and soft citrus aromas, this wine is barely dry, medium-plus-bodied with ripe apricot, passionfruit, pink grapefruit, a kiss of ginger and a hint of minerality finishing plushy and just short of long. Grapes for the 2019 vintage were sourced from the Raju Vineyard in Osoyoos and Fool’s Gold Vineyard in Oliver. These very warm sites encourage the aromatics and the flavours on this Rhone variety. Grapes were fermented in stainless-steel tanks and oak barrels to add texture to the palate. Absolutely delicious! Poured with sautéed sablefish in a mild curry butter. Tasted July 2021. 13.3% abv / $28
Upper Bench Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 is a lush, balanced, smooth and tasty blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot sourced from the Upper Bench Estate Winery. Dry, rich, full-bodied, and elegant with a mouthful of dark berry, blackberry compote, dark cherry, savoury herb and pin-point balanced acidity with a medium-plus-length finish. Not overpowering and very comfy on the palate, we poured it with grilled sirloin steaks, but we did try it with the winery’s recommendation of baked Medjool dates stuffed with the winery’s King Cole blue cheese from their creamy, but without the recommended bacon wrap (would have had to answer to my physician for that one). Both pairings were amazing. Produced from estate-grown grapes, yield of 2.45 tons per acre, aged in French oak barrels (30% new) for 21 months, unfiltered and unfined. Tasted August 2021. 13.8% abv / $40
So what am I drinking in the rain….
Not sure just yet, but I will make a toast to the firewalkers, the wildfire crews and everybody on the frontlines who are fighting these Hell-bent fires. Again, Thank You So Much!