- BC Games
TASTING NOTES: Touring and tasting notes from the road
I just came back from an epic tour, presenting B.C. wine education seminars on behalf of the BC Wine Institute (WineBC.com) all around the province, from Nelson to Prince George and even hopping over to the Island a couple times.
While much of my time was spent on “official” business, I did get a chance to catch up with some friends and colleagues, Instagramming all the way (as one is wont to do these days). This week, a few bits of new notes from the field.
Victoria — The first place I did a few of my seminars was in our capital city, with the carpet rolled out for me and a bunch of Victoria wine trade at Little Jumbo (LittleJumbo.ca), definitely the hottest new restaurant in town. Owner Shawn Soole was the barman extraordinaire at Clive’s Classic Lounge at the Chateau Victoria for years, so you know the cocktail program has some legs. To go with an array of sharable small plates, there’s a fantastic wine program as well – something that often smacks of a back-burner priority in cocktail-forward joints. No sign of that here. There’s a smattering of global gems and plenty of the best of B.C., including a juicy and opulent Pinot Gris from Vancouver Island’s own Unsworth Vineyards (UnsworthVineyards.com).
Cawston — Over in the windswept Similkameen Valley, I dropped in to see my pals Rhys and Alishan at their Little Farm Winery (LittleFarmWinery.ca), recently plunked onto their home vineyard where they grow Chardonnay and Riesling. I’m thinking their new winery is a contender for “Smallest Winery in B.C.” (it’s smaller than our one-bedroom Main Street condo), but it’s destined to churn out fresh, expressive wines in what will be their third vintage (they previously borrowed friends’ facilities). It was a race against time for them this year, as finishing construction of the winery sprinted towards the finish line, neck-and-neck with the earliest grape harvest in B.C. history. Happily, the winery was finished and licensed a mere two days before they started harvest, with Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc Rosé ferments now humming away just fine.
Oliver — Finally got to pop in and see the brand-spanking new Culmina Family Estate Winery (Culmina.ca). In fact, I even hopped in the truck to get a mountainside vineyard tour with owner Don Triggs (of Jackson-Triggs fame) and winemaker Pascal Madevon, who’s recently come over after years of knocking it outta the park at Osoyoos LaRose. Their 2011 Hypothesis red ($48) is a big, juicy Bordeaux-style blend, but my money’s on their $26 Dilemma Chardonnay, a citrus-bomb of minerals and rocks with a perfect lashing of French oak.
After plenty of wine tasting, a good craft beer always hits the spot! The new(-ish) kid in town is Firehall Brewery (FirehallBrewery.com), who’ve properly dubbed themselves “The Beer of Wine Country.” The two ends of the spectrum are a Backdraft Blond Ale and their Holy Smoke Stout, but nestled in the middle is my favourite, a hoppy, toffee and citrus explosion known as their Stoked Ember Ale. After a long day of wine tasting and work, chief brewer Sid Ruhland was my hero. I’m currently hassling the guy to send some of his ales this way.