Picking Grapes asks wine professionals to map out their complex relationships with British Columbian wines by citing the ignition point of their interest and some of their favourite wineries.
What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with? Do you remember where you were? What was the circumstance?
Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut. I had just landed in Victoria, and scored a job at the Hotel Rialto in their little retail shop. I had never had a BC wine before, and they poured it by the glass in the bar/lounge. The wine was so fresh and balanced. All the citrus and orchard fruit with some bottle fermented complexity and that penetrating acidity, it blew me away as much as the cocktails. I knew pretty quick BC was the right place for me.
What are three local wineries that fly somewhat under the radar?
Rathjen Cellars here on Vancouver Island. Mike’s doing some great stuff and has really committed to the community. He just opened up a tasting room and winery facility in Saanich this vintage. Great wines of place. I’m excited for what’s to come.
Orofino, Similkameen Valley. They definitely don’t get their fair share of attention. Diverse wines of the highest quality that speak to the dramatic landscape. Currently shifting to more approachable, drinkable styles. Planting more Gamay. Playing with concrete. Only getting even better.
Arrowleaf Cellars. Really great value. Distinctly North Okanagan temperament. The focus is on fresh aromatic whites and lighter reds and rightly so. All impeccably made, fruit forward, balanced wines, consistently over delivering.
If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?
I would love an experience at Tantalus. For sure. An opportunity to learn from someone like David Patterson would be both humbling and invaluable. The wines are truly inspiring. Plus, Riesling and Bubble as the focus…that’s where I’d want to be.
Can you recommend one local, emblematic-of-BC red wine for someone who didn’t even know that wine was made here? Why would you choose it?
Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvee Violette. The red variety that truly thrives in the Okanagan. This is consistently one of the top examples. Beautifully floral as the name suggests, but also with that characteristic peppery spice and sleek black fruit we love about Syrah. Balanced and integrated at every level.
What about a white?
Synchromesh Storm Haven Riesling. Another wine from my first days in BC. From the Dickinson’s home vineyard in Okanagan Falls. Stellar in every vintage, it’s a wine to rival some of the classic Rieslings from around the world. Not shy about the residual sweetness but it carries it deftly. We’re just starting to discover how gracefully it ages.
And finally, a rose?
Sea Star Rose. We all love it. It’s deserved. The coastal influence defines this pale, zesty Pinot Noir rose. Gulf Islands at their best. BC at it’s best? Maybe some Lock & Worth Cabernet Franc Rose too, so crisp and refreshing, tart and pithy. These are the styles of Rose that I crave and the kinds of wines that inspire me. Thanks for asking.