BC wine? Having just returned from three weeks in Italy, my heart was still on the Mediterranean, sipping the local plonk with my family, and my mind was having a hard time remembering the last time I even saw a B.C. wine. (Despite my romantic, travel induced fog, I think I can be forgiven as they are rarely, if ever, seen on restaurant menus, neither are they prevalent at the LCBO.)
So, it was in the spirit of trying something new that I agreed to attend a “Taste of British Columbia”, a tutored wine tasting organised by Savvy Company on August 25th. A quick check of the Savvy web-site revealed a highly qualified group of individuals and I looked forward to learning about wines from our West Coast.
The tasting was held at the Exposure Gallery, just above Thyme & Again Catering in Wellington West. The space was large and open, surrounded by black and white photographic art-work. I confess that I merely glanced at the works, being far too interested in wine and conversation.
We were greeted on arrival by a nicely chilled glass of Gray Monk Pinot Gris VQA 2008. I am a fan of pinot gris (not just because it sounds so pretty when said in Italian: pinot grigio) and I love to introduce it to die-hard Sauvignon Blanc drinkers. This one did not disappoint: with initial citrus notes giving way to pineapple as it warmed. I did not turn down an offer of a second taste.
Over the course of the evening, Susan Desjardins, Savvy’s B.C. wine expert, introduced us to another eight wines, four whites and four reds. She gave us the background of the wineries and included just enough personal anecdotes to make me interested in the BC winemakers themselves. She painted a pretty picture of the locations, as well… not enough to make me book a special trip to BC wine country but perhaps enough for a side trip when I am next out West.
There were two very different Gewurtztraminer wines: one from Sperling Vineyards and one from Gray Monk. The Sperling wine was desert-like and, according to one attendee, would go well with dry cake. I could see his point: a dry, less-sweet pound cake would suit the honey, lychee flavour that was prevalent in this golden-yellow wine. As is common with a higher sugar level, the wine clung to the glass when swirled and had long, viscous legs.
The Gewurtztraminer (I just can’t bring myself to use the hipper “Gewurtz”… for the same reason I can’t wear cowboys boots… some things just don’t work when you are a middle-aged preppie with a slight British accent) from Gray Monk was very different with pronounced acidity and a very distinct green apple flavour; it made me think of the Fall. The contrast of the two wines of the same varietal was a lovely way to underline how climate, soil, and the wine-makers craft can have such a powerful effect on the finished product.
Another Sperling Vineyards white was an Old Vines Riesling. I am generally not a fan of Riesling and have been known to drink water instead! This one struck me as being different from the German rieslings of family dinners: less floral, less fruity, nicely acidic with tart apples and pears… in fact, it reminded me a bit of scotch in its slight peatiness which lingered on the palate. It was served with coconut breaded chicken skewers, but I quite liked it on its own. I could see my neighbours and I drinking it in the garden one late summer evening.
A Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion from Clos du Soleil (Clos du Soleil White) was the one white that I did not enjoy. I found the alcohol to be too pronounced and the slight citrus aroma almost impossible to discern. Thinking it might have been a bit too cold, I waited a few minutes but cannot say that it improved.
In the red were: a Clos du Soleil Red, a Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc, a Quail’s Gate Merlot and a Sandhill Cabernet-Merlot. I enjoyed all of them, but the Sandhill Cabernet-Merlot stood out for me. The mix of Cabernet and Merlot is usually successful, with the tannins of the former balancing out the plummy flavours of the latter. This one, however, included Cabernet Franc and Barberra and the result was a fabulous, chewy wine with initial flavours of cooked fruit (think Christmas pudding) followed by a lovely lovely long, lavender soft finish. I would quaff it with grilled meats or, to be honest, alone at home after a day at the office!
The Quail’s Gate Merlot was the most remarkable in its colour: a deep, rich red with a pleasant tastes of berries and oak. Susan recommended it with a fine cut of beef. A duo of beef nicely presented by Thyme & Again catering was available for sampling. Unfortunately, much of the food vanished before I could pair it with the wine.
Both the Clos du Soleil Red and Sandhill Cabernet-Merlot were surprisingly good. I confess that I expected BC reds to be lacking in body, fruit, light on aroma. Nothing could be further from the truth. These wines were complex, flavourful and, particularly the Clos du Soleil Red, probably age well.
The most interested part of the evening (other than the actual drinking of the wines) was listening to other fifty-odd attendees comment on their choices. Not being a shy person, and taking advantage of the fact that I was alone, I jumped in and out of other people’s conversations … a comment such as “Cabernet Franc beats Merlot all to hell” was sure to draw me in! The mix of ages (and, for the most part, commensurate wine drinking experience) made for an interesting evening. Funnily enough, and this is perhaps something that BC will have to work on, although we were drinking BC wine, we were mostly discussing wines from other countries.
Conclusion: an evening with Savvy Company, tasting B.C. wine is a nice way to say “welcome back to Canada”.
The LCBO does stock some BC wines in its regular listing and also includes them in Vintages releases; two of the wines we tasted (the Grey Monk Gewurtztraminer and Sandhill Cabernet-Merlot) will be included in the upcoming September 4th release as part of “Beautiful BC, 4 Wineries to Watch”. Others can be ordered directly from Savvy Company by the case or half-case.
Thyme & Again
1255 Wellington Street West
Food Shop: 613-722-6277
Tags: Exposure Gallery, Savvy Company, sponsored, Thyme and Again, Wellington Village, Wine