Check out my page on the Loire Valley, and find out what some of the best value wines in the region are!
Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
There are no shortage of new wineries popping up on the trendy Naramata Bench, but one of the newest might be Tightrope Winery. The inaugural 2012 vintage is hitting stores now. Distribution is just beginning in the Lower Mainland, so watch their Facebook page for up to date availability info. I was lucky enough to happen across a bottle of the Gold Medal Pinot Gris – here’s a preview of what to expect.
Unlike many run of the mill wines in the Okanagan, the nose is full of luscious apple, pear and even some tropical berry notes. This was much more than I was expecting from a winery I’ve never heard of. The ripe and full bodied nose suggests the wine was made from well ripened grapes, and indeed the 2012 Okanagan growing season was a strong one. The late season rain came after most of the white grapes had already been harvested. I remember in Vancouver, it seemed like the September summer was never going to end, so it’s no surprise this led to a longer growing season for some of the white varietals.
Moving on to actually tasting the wine, the acidity remains high and refreshing, but the body is also smooth and almost creamy, reminiscent of the Kettle Valley Pinot Gris which sees more skin contact that this version. I don’t know anything about the vinification methods used, but the body and texture suggest perhaps a small amount of oak aging or contact with the yeast. But who knows, the grapes might have just been that ripe. The flavors mirror the nose and bring out perhaps a bit more green banana flavor and green apple. The finish is medium to long and brings a refreshing acidity to cleanse the medium to full body of the wine.
I found myself initially skeptical and searching for faults from this unheralded newcomer. In the end, I had to admit that this is a pretty damn good first effort for owners Graham and Lyndsay O’Rourke.
Limited, price unknown. If I had to guess based on the region and quality, I would estimate that this retails for somewhere between $23 and $28 in private stores.
Imperial Pale Ale
Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC
Celebrating the Victoria’s 150th birthday, Spinnakers have produced a beer indicative of the Pacific Northwest. A hoppy yet smooth IPA, the Hoptoria celebrates Victoria’s status in the BC craft brewery revolution. It’s a bold claim, but one that’s backed up by an impressive list of brewers over the years, right back to 1984 when it was founded by John Mitchell. Over the years, a number of high profile brewers have passed through Spinnakers, including Matt Phillips, of Phillips Brewing.
The beer has a fresh hop aroma of bitter oils and a touch of grapefruit. The palate is well rounded, easy drinking and only moderately hoppy on the IPA scale. This all makes for a relaxing beverage that can be enjoyed frequently after a hard day’s work! Give it a try, it won’t bite.
This weekend I headed down to Fishermans Wharf, just off Granville Island to attend the 7th Annual BC Spot Prawn Festival. The festival benefits the Chef’s Table Society of British Columbia and kicks of the BC spot prawn season. So, for the next 6-8 weeks, look for fresh off the boat prawns at Fisherman’s Wharf, your local stores and various other pop up prawn sales (kind of like buying Chilliwack corn in the late summer/fall!) The main festival was open to the public and included spot prawn cooking demo’s, fresh off the boat sales at $14/lb (the line was loooong) and some exhibits from local organizations, including the Vancouver Aquarium. BC spot prawns are fished in accordance with the Oceanwise program. For only $12, you could join in on the spot prawn boil and get a plate of three prawns, potato salad, coleslaw and greek salad. It was my first time eating spot prawns, but they were cooked to perfection and it was no chore to rip the heads off and separate the meat from the shell. Certainly easier than lobster! And no, I didn’t suck on the heads…
In addition to the plate of prawns, the ticket also allowed access to the beer and wine tent, which had wines from Mission Hill and beer from R&B Brewing. While I was tasting out of a small plastic cup, I thought the reserve Pinot Noir from Mission Hill was a drinkable summer wine. Fruit forward and bold with only a hint of tannin, it’s certainly ready to be drunk now. I also had the R&B Sun God Wheat Ale and Red Devil Pale Ale. Both beers that I’ve had before, but I did especially enjoy the wheat ale on a sunny day in the festival atmosphere. All this was tasted before noon, so it was a pretty good start to the day!
Get in on the action and check out these great spot prawn recipes from the Vancouver Sun and pick up some prawns off the boat!
Imperial Pale Ale
Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC
The Hoppin’ Cretin IPA first caught my eye when reviewed on Beer Me BC. I was most taken aback by the user ratings. 9.0? This must be worth checking out. I recently purchased the Tofino IPA and wasn’t dissappointed. This is probably the most balanced IPA I’ve had since the sun decided to show it’s face. The bitterness is there, but not too bitter. The citrus is there, but not sour grapefruit. More like Florida ripe grapefruit. Tasty.
I first tasted this beer at Alibi Room, on tap. Somehow, it didn’t show quite as well. I’m not sure what it was, but I expected it to be a lot better then than I remember. The bottle, however, didn’t let me down. I highly recommend picking up a bottle and giving it a try yourself. The weather is perfect to enjoy some BC beer!
I finally got around to registering for WSET this past winter and the course starts at the end of this month. Say goodbye to my weekends for three weeks! I received the course materials in the mail last week, so the anticipation is growing.
After doing Level 1 and 2 with the BC Wine School, I’ve gone with Fine Vintage for Level 3. I’ve heard good things from some friends in the industry. From what I’ve heard, Level 3 is a big step up from Level 2. To Fine Vintage’s credit, I’ve received numerous emails with the same basic message. STUDY. I feel like I’m back in school, and basically I am!
Here are the three things I’m most looking forward to about the course.
1. The tastings
Where else am I going to get to taste of Muscadet Sevre et Main? Seriously, the amount and quality of the wine I expect to taste is almost worth the price of admission alone. During my last course, I found the dedicated instruction and focus greatly increased my ability to discern various characteristics of wine, something I hope to hone during this course. Plus, they actually test you on tasting in Level 3. Yikes.
2. In depth production and viniculture information
I’m a chemist by education (though never applied), so the process of turning a crop into wine is of great interest to me. The effect of soil, aspect, climate and culture is fascinating. If I ever were to apply my chemistry knowledge, it would be in the wine industry.
3. Exploring European wine
There are over 90 pages of just European focus. I love traveling in Europe, so I intend to visit some of these areas at one point. I’ve already knocked off the Mosel in Germany. To this point, I’ve been woefully uninformed on Italian wine, so that will be a big effort. Getting into the nitty gritty of French regional appellations and villages will be difficult, but I will actually learn something. Time to break out the flashcards.
Anyone else done Level 3? Tips or hints appreciated!
Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC
The thing I like about Driftwood is their commitment to using local ingredients. The best example would of course be the Sartori Fresh Hop IPA, but they’ve also dabbled in other local ingredients, like barley and native yeasts. Their most recent local ingredient is found in the clodhopper – using local barley grown on the Sannich Penninsula which was then malted on site.
My first impression of the beer was that it is very true to style. Tasted blind, I would have a very hard time separating it from any of the other well known Belgian Dubbel’s (Westmalle for example). It has an obvious caramel malt aroma and flavour up front with just enough bitterness to balance out the malt. After repeated sipping, the sweetness in the malt really comes through, probably the only weak point in the beer. Then again, you might like the malty sweetness, if you’ve read enough of my reviews, you’ll know that’s not a favourite character for me.
My first impression of this beer was quite positive and you really have to dig to find perceptible issues with it, so I would call this one a success. I would drink it again.