Love the wine you're with

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and that means, for some, choosing a bottle of wine is a paramount part of the preparations.

There are many B.C wines I could suggest for the occasion, but instead I asked a handful of winery folks to tell me about their favourite bottle and why they love it.

These bottles are tied to memories, and that’s really want counts, no matter the wine.

Jeff Del Nin, Winemaker, Road 13 Vineyards
Wine: Campbell’s Rare Muscat from the Rutherglen region of Victoria, Australia.
Why I love it: It is a fortified, and extremely old dessert wine that is aged for decades in a solera system.

The complexity and richness in the wine is mind-blowing, and it fills me with a sense of awe and respect that wines of such majesty and perfection exist in this world.

Drinking one of these wines always reminds me of the 10 years I lived in Australia and all of the dinner parties that ended with a Rutherglen Muscat and sticky date pudding.

Christie Mavety, Proprietor, Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars
Wine: La Moussiere (Sauvignon Blanc), from Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre, France.
Why I love it: Fond memories of a visit to this domaine many years ago. After seven hours and many vintages, I will always have a special spot for this wine.

John Skinner, Proprietor, Painted Rock Estate Winery
Wine: 1998 Burrowing Owl Merlot and Cabernet Franc
Why I love it: In the early 1990s, my wife, young kids and I holidayed for the first time on the lake in Osoyoos. I asked a neighbour what that huge excavation was that we could see on Black Sage road. He explained that it was a new winery called Borrowing Owl; he then told me how the government had a new policy, paying wineries to pull out hybrids and plant vinifera to improve the quality of our wines.

I went home and explained to my wine club “if the wines coming out of Burrowing Owl are any good, maybe, there would be a good market timing investment opportunity to get in the industry.”

In 2000, my family and I returned from a European vacation in August. Several days later, I found two bottles of wine on my doorstep with a note asking, “are you getting in?”

My friend had dropped off a bottle each of the ‘98 Burrowing Owl Merlot and Cabernet Franc. I opened both bottles and phoned him.

All I said was “yup!” and that was the beginning of our journey.

Mary McDermott, Winemaker, Township 7 Vineyards and Winery
Wine: 1990 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne, from Maison Ruinart, the first established champagne house.
Why I love it: Dom Ruinart Millésimé is entirely made from Chardonnay grapes. It is a blend of different terroirs but all without exception Grand Cru. Tasting this wine was a revelation and the beginning of a love of champagne and sparkling wine that has continued to this day. The mousse was creamy with fine bubbles and the aromatics were divine.

This wine sent me on the journey to now producing sparkling wine.

Evan Saunders, Winemaker, Blasted Church Vineyards
Wine: Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Blanc de Blancs (chardonnay), from Champagne Larmandier-Bernier, France.
Why I love it: Latitude takes me back to France and a small wine bar in Paris’ Bastille. My little bit of French, their little bit of English, and plenty of gesturing brought my wife and I to this wine.

We shared it with friends in Beaujolais, and each time I have had it since it brings me back to eating spectacular bread, cheese, and charcuterie in their sun-filled kitchen in Villefranche-sur-Saône. Amazing!


Join the (wine) club

Like me, you’re probably seeing more invitations to join wine clubs.

No, not a neighbourhood gathering to share bottles, but the option to sign up for a winery’s well, club.

And you may hear the acronym DTC more frequently in the wine world — direct-to-consumer (shipping, is the usual meaning).

While there are still barriers to the totally free and open movement of wine across provincial borders, trends in the industry indicate DTC sales are up.

What does this mean for the average wine drinker?

It’s time to join the club. Or maybe a few clubs. Numerous benefits await, especially if you are building a cellar or enjoy sharing a bottle on more than just special occasions.

Benefit No. 1? Discounts.

Most winery club members receive reduced prices on wine purchases both at the winery and when buying online, not to mention special rates for events; as a club member you may get front-of-the-line status for signature dinners or concerts at your favourite winery.

You’ll get a better shot at tickets for popular events.

No. 2? Access to exclusive wines.

Wineries may not put all of their wines out for purchase, but will hold back hard-to-find vintages, often wines that may be bottles from a smaller production, or unique blends, or library wines they’ve kept hidden away for a few years.

The latter may then go into select packages for members only.

If you’ve found a winery that you love, but never seem to pick up enough bottles before your favourites sell out, benefit No. 3 is frequent shipments.

No more worrying that you won’t be able to get to the winery to replenish your stock. Most clubs have different shipping frequencies and you choose once, twice, or more over a year.

Look for clubs that offer options, including how many bottles you need to purchase per shipment or annually, and keep in mind that while it’s typically free to sign up, you will need to buy a few bottles.

Finally, the fun perks: pick up parties!

Join your fellow club members for member-only get-togethers to pick up your bottles in person. You’ll get wined and dined, probably meet the winemaker, maybe get a behind the scenes tour, and enjoy an afternoon comparing notes with fellow aficionados.

As B.C. wine continues to rack up awards and recognition, more wine tourists make their way here, and wineries hang their “sold out” signs earlier each year; having your club card can help to ensure you get your favourites, conveniently packed, shipped, and delivered.

Ready for the season?

Get out your calendars, event season is coming

Sure, it’s only mid January, but some of the most popular wine, libations, and food events around the Okanagan and within a relatively short drive are already on track to sell out.

Even without much snow, that winter Okanagan cloud cover is has made its presence known. Fog alerts anyone?

To start 2019, here are a few things to get you out of the house till spring arrives.

Dine Around Thompson Okanagan kicks off this week, with nearly 50 restaurants around the region offering three-course dinners for a price fixe of $25, $35 or $45 through Feb. 3.

Try a new place or support a favourite. Suggestion? Enjoy a new dinner menu from the creative minds of Okanagan College’s Culinary and Pastry Arts students and instructors at Infusions at the Kelowna campus. Details: http://dinearound.ca/

Some of these students will be lucky enough to work alongside Canada’s best chefs at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna. Three intense competitions Feb. 1-2, culminating in a glorious grand finale with the band Chilliwack. If you binge watch food competitions, come see the real thing. Details: http://greatkitchenparty.com/ca/culinary-championships/

Combining a weekend on a ski hill with wine is a great plan, if you’re missing the snow.

The Oliver-Osoyoos Wineries Associations heads to Baldy Mountain Resort on Feb. 9 for the first Uncork! Winter Wine Festival. A dozen wineries pouring select, hard-to-find wines, presented by the winemakers themselves, with food stations including an ice wine snow cone station. Details: https://baldyresort.com/event/winter-wine-event/

And, once again, the wineries of Naramata Bench take over the legendary Gunbarrel Restaurant at Apex Mountain Resort for Vertical and Vintages on March 9. Eighteen wineries, delicious tapas, and an evening capped off by live music from the band UnCorked. Details: http://naramatabench.com/2019/01/naramata-wines-at-apex-mountain-vertical-vintages/

If you’re looking for a lower key night out, several wineries have nice options (and be sure to check your favourites for happy hours too).

Head to Summerhill Pyramid Winery for Cheese Fondue Night on Thursdays through April 25.

Quails’ Gate hosts Communal Table Dinners on Wednesdays until April 10, and Sunday Night Suppers through March 10.

Inspired to up your own cooking game? Sign up for a culinary class at Mission Hill, running until mid-March with a variety of topics, and Hester Creek will announce its cooking class schedule on Feb. 1, which always sells out quickly.

If you’re heading to the Lower Mainland soon, the Fraser Valley Distillery Festival is Feb. 2 in Chilliwack, with distillers from around the province including Okanagan producers.

The Vancouver International Wine Festival, featuring California as the theme region, is from Feb. 23 to March 9. Many Okanagan wineries attend, so there’s always a familiar pour or two at the large festival tastings.

Finally, if you missed an event last year, my advice? Get on the e-news list, Facebook page, or website for it. Book early.


Looking ahead to 2019

There was a meme online recently that said 2018 was so long, we all forgot there was an Olympics.

I had to Google it — February in PyeongChang, in case you’re wondering.

Yes, it has felt like this year has dragged on and on, leaving us stumbling into 2019. And, if, like me, you just wondered what the Chinese zodiac indicates for this year, it’s the year of the pig, indicating good luck and fortune.

We will wrap up the year of the dog in a few weeks, which means “count only on your own efforts in order to succeed,” according to one astrology website.

No wonder we’re all so tired.

In the wine and libations world in British Columbia, we saw a number of wineries change ownership; some gained foreign investment, some moved into larger circles of wineries within companies.

Both trends indicate a shift, perhaps, in the industry, as more infrastructure is needed during what feels like a year of growth, both literally and figuratively.

And, more B.C. wines and wineries appeared in international media and on or near the top of prestigious competitions. The days of, “Canada makes wine?” are rapidly fading and being reborn as “I’d love to try something from Canada.”

Penticton came in second, behind Vancouver, on Expedia’s list of craft beer towns in Canada. There seems to be a new brewery appearing somewhere in the Okanagan every few months, and B.C.’s Ale Trail now has 16 trails around the province to explore.

Cideries are emerging, and, in 2019, I predict they will make their presence bigger, with unique flavours and more experimentation.

Speaking of experiments, this will be the year B.C. distilleries bring more whiskies to the market. A few are already out, often hard to score due to low production, but worth finding or joining a mailing list as bottles are released.

I know the Scotch diehards may turn a blind eye to this trend, but let’s see how they compare to our ryes.

And then, there’s cannabis.

Hemp has already appeared in ales and more brews of various types are most certainly coming. I’ve seen a handful of sommeliers begin to pair wines with different types and strains of cannabis. And yes, or course there is marijuana wine.

I will be holding out for a long time before I sip a glass of “weed wine.” But I have no doubt that one day, when cannabis-infused wines have their own category at wine competitions, a bottle from our province is sure to win gold. Probably for a sauvignon blanc.

I will bid farewell to 2018 on Dec. 31 with the last of this year’s eggnog, possibly spiked with bourbon, and a butter tart.

And on Jan. 1, I’ll be at the gym.

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About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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