Oregon Wine Symposium, 2021

The other day I was watching a travel show about regional foods and wines in Italy and felt more than a little surprised when I suddenly burst into tears. I guess I miss traveling and learning about the world a little more than I realized!

But this past week, I was able to fill that void a little with a Press Pass offered to me by the Oregon Wine Board to learn more about Oregon wines.  I’ve visited almost every one of Oregon’s 19 wine regions, but this virtual experience with the 2021 version of the Oregon Wine Symposium was so educational and engaging – it’s left me wanting to visit Oregon again when the US/Canada border opens.

There were over 1,000 international participants tuned in online for this four day event which covered every aspect of vineyard to winery to consumer-related topics possible in both English and Spanish.

I attended sessions on everything from building inclusive wine workplaces, email marketing, crop cover, and climate change, to the future of wine, direct-to-consumer and e-commerce strategies, holding virtual wine experiences, and the effects of smoke on grapes.  Every day ended with an online BYO wine happy hour.

The repeated assertion that the pandemic has simply accelerated changes that were going to eventually happen anyhow – and that the world will simply not be returning to pre-Covid 19 ways – was the most consistent takeaway.

Presenter after presenter made the same point – if you haven’t already, start making changes – changes in the way you grow grapes, make wine, work with your employees, market and sell to your customers, and the manner in which you steward the earth.  Finesse your crisis communication and social media skills.

This symposium happened to be about wine, but the lessons learned are important for anyone growing, making any product, and marketing it to the public.  Be diverse, be thoughtful, be innovative.  Put people and place before profit.  In short, be aspirational.

Thanks for the opportunity, Oregon Wine Symposium 2021.

 

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Ombré Gris, Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery, Prince Edward County VQA, Ontario, 2018, 12.5% abv.

Today was an historic day – America inaugurated its 46th president, and its first BIPOC and female vice-president.  At the very least, the event – and the evening’s celebratory concert – called for a unique wine to celebrate with.

Cue the Ombré Gris, a très cool, unfined and unfiltered blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc held on its skins for 36 hours to coax that beautiful shade of tangerine.

The nose and palate of this amber wine, show rich stone fruit, citrusy satsuma, lemon verbena, honeysuckle, and beeswax  Augmented by some nutty notes and salinity, this wine has fabulous mouth feel, and lightly grippy tannins that would make it a perfect partner to anything salty, textured, layered, or fragrant.

The winery, Grange of Prince Edward, is located due south of Belleville, and east of Toronto on the northern shores of Lake Ontario.  Owned and managed by Caroline Granger and her daughter Maggie, the winery produces several unique products, and practices sustainable stewardship of their vineyards.

The Granger Girls’ Ombré Gris proved to be the perfect wine for today’s celebration.

This bottle was provided gratis by Vinnified Wine Club, January 2021.

 

Posted in Chardonnay, Ontario, Orange, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gamay & Pinot Noir, PTO, Sparkling, Chadsey’s Cairns Winery, Prince Edward County, Ontario VQA, 2019, 12% abv.

Prince Edward County is Ontario’s northern most wine growing and making region, and lies just 2 hours east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario which moderates its climate.  Limestone and gravel dominant soils offer great drainage and produce small yields of grapes with strong mineral characteristics.

Chadsey’s Cairns Winery is named after an early settler in the area.  Ira Chadsey built stone cairns at the back of the property claiming they would guide him home in the afterlife when he returned as a white horse.

No word on whether any of that was successful or not, but if the wine made there is any indication, someone was barking up the right tree.

The PTO – Power Take-Off – is a red bubble made in the charmat method (the same way Prosecco is made), and reminiscent of an Italian Lambrusco.    It offers a nose and palate of cherry, pomegranate, and cassis, supported by chalky tannins, and a mouth-watering acidity.

At only 12% abv., this would be the perfect summertime mid-afternoon thirst quencher, charcuterie accompaniment, special event toaster, or margherita pizza companion.

It’s absolutely delicious and full of fun, so it was a true shame to find out that the owners are selling the winery, and this wine may not be produced again.  Serve chilled, and enjoy it if you’re holding!

 

This wine was provided gratis by Vinnified Wine Club, January 2021

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Circle Riesling, Red Newt Cellars, Finger Lakes AVA, New York, 2013, 10.2% abv.

When New Year’s eve rolled around, and there was a chance to put 2020 in its place and move forward with some delicious wine and food, who was I to say no to enjoying this bottle of Riesling from New York’s Finger Lakes region with some great Thai takeout?

At a delicate 10.2% abv and light residual sugar, this is a beautifully off dry example of what the Finger Lakes AVA has to offer.

Grapes were planted in the early 1800s in this region that encompasses eleven lakes resembling long fingers etched by glaciers.

The ‘lake effect’ modeled by the bodies of water mitigate the harsh continental climate, much as is done to the west in Canada’s Niagara region where award-winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is grown.

In the Finger Lakes, Riesling is the dominant grape – but Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer are also present.  There are also wines made from less noble, but still tasty, hybrids Cayuga and Vidal.

This wine is a pale straw colour with aromas and flavours of orange oil, bergamot, apricot, lychee, and slivers of green grass.  The off dry sweetness is offset by great acidity, so there is great balance.

This was a delicious way to usher in 2021, which I hope will be a much improved year over the version that was 2020.

 

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Pinot Noir, Estate Cuvée, Maysara Winery, McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2008, 13.5% abv., US$35

Back what seems to be a lifetime ago, when the border with the US was open, and we ventured out on a 35 day driving tour, we stopped in at one of my perennial Willamette Valley favourites, Maysara Winery.

A biodynamic, family run enterprise, Maysara produces some of Oregon’s loveliest Pinot Noirs – as well as Pinot Blancs and a Gris or two.   We’ve been there a few times, and every time I find Maysara wines, I make sure to slip them into the shopping cart.

For Christmas dinner during Covid 2020, I opened this Pinot that we’d bought in 2019 during our driving tour.

Twelve years in bottle meant it needed a little time to unwind before we enjoyed it with turkey and all the trimmings.

A translucent garnet, it had deep aromas and flavours of Byng cherry, dried cranberry, pomegranate, plum, mint, light umami, softly grainy tannins, and a long finish.

When the world gets back to some semblance of normal, I’ll have to stop by Maysara and stock up again.

 

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Bunker Red, Rathjen Cellars, Saanich, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, 12.1% abv., C$22++

We’re nine months into this pandemic and I’ve been writing a little less than usual, but drinking a lot more.  What about you?  Yeh, that’s what I thought.

However, I have made a concerted effort to support local wineries and distilleries during this trying time.  Part of this has led to a true awakening for myself – not least because in looking closer to home for inspiring libations, I have found some treasures.

Here is one of those finds which you’ll want to enjoy as soon as possible if you live in Canada (they’ll ship to any province).  Mike Rathjen of Rathjen Cellars has produced this elegant red from Cowichan Valley and Saanich Peninsula grown Gamay Noir, Maréchal Foch, and Pinot Noir grapes.  Sixty percent of it was crushed, destemmed, and fermented on the skins, just as most red wine is made.

But the remainder underwent carbonic maceration.  That’s how Beaujolais is traditionally made – whole clusters of grapes are sealed into a vessel, and the fermentation begins from the inside out instead of the other way around.  This creates a fruitier, lighter bodied red with softer tannins.

Indigenous yeast finished off the fermentations, then the unfined, unfiltered wine was blended and placed in barrel for two years to naturally clarify and stabilize it.  As Mike states, “…Time is the best low intervention winemaking tool.”

A translucent ruby, the Bunker Red has a fruity nose and palate with ripe mulberry, blackberry, Damson plum, and light soy sauce with cedar frond.  Soft tannins round it out, and overlay a long finish.

Its mouthwatering acidity, and slender alcohol allow it to be super food friendly.  It’s a delicious companion to pistachio encrusted salmon with maple syrup and soy sauce marinade.  Or add it to your Christmas table to complement any roasted turkey with fresh herbs and tangy cranberry sauce.  It’s so versatile, it can pair equally well with sausage, chicken, or even something spicy – we enjoyed it with Spanish rice, and its gentle tannins would easily allow it to deal with the heat in Szechuan dishes.

Usually in this part of the world, we are told we shouldn’t attempt red wines because the marginal climate results in lower alcohol and lighter body reds.  However, as Mike points out, “With the moderating effect of the maritime climate, we’re getting some serious hangtime out in the vineyard…This results in red wines that are neither thin nor green, but that have ripe fruit flavours, great colour and good length.”

Bingo! Totally West Coast, and a true wine of place, this is a wine that over delivers, and makes me proud to be a Canadian wine lover.

Pick it up at the winery, or any of the local stores that carry Rathjen Cellars products, including from Leslie at Caddy Bay Liquor Store in Victoria, BC.  

Posted in BC, British Columbia, Gamay, Marechal Foch, OTHER, Pinot Noir, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stealing Your Kids’ Hallowe’en Candy and Pairing it with Alcohol; How Low Can 2020 Go?

In the good old days, after I’d convinced my children that I had to do a ‘safety check’ on their Hallowe’en haul after they’d gone off to bed, I would then sit down with my favourite adult beverage in hand, and ruthlessly comb through, selecting the best goodies for myself.

This effort, however, would have been wasted unless I had at least attempted to pair afore-mentioned goodies thoughtfully with appropriate bevvies.  Good thing I am no slouch when it comes to ‘doing the right thing’.

So, to pass along these tips to the next generation of today’s young parents, I’ve put together the following for your Hallowe’en 2020 evening, focusing on some of the more ‘classic’ treats you may find at the bottom of the pillowcase.

Candy Corn and Prosecco

Pringle’s Red Can chips with sparkling wine or Champagne

Popcorn balls with wooded Chardonnay

Green jujubes with Gewürztraminer

Sour Jacks or Sour Patch Kids with New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc

Trolli Strawberry Puffs and Rosé

 

Red Twizzlers or Nibs with Lambrusco

Swedish Fish with Gamay Noir or Beaujolais

Kit Kat with Merlot

Smarties with Pinot Noir

Mars bar with Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Goodies, Good & Plenty, or Dutch liquorice with PX Sherry

And for all the Canadians of a ‘certain age’ who had many of these over the years, pair those Kerr’s Molasses Kisses with some Cream Sherry.

 

 

How low can 2020 go?  ‘Liberating’ the candy and pairing it just seems like the right thing to do given the circumstances.  Remember that if all else fails, Gin or Vodka Martinis go with absolutely everything.  And good luck getting this done before the kids wake up.

 

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40 Knots Estate Winery, Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Topping out at 20 hectares and producing about 6,000 cases annually, 40 Knots is Vancouver Island’s second largest estate winery.

Located just outside of Courtenay in the Comox Valley, 40 Knots was purchased in 2014 by its current owners – Layne Robert Craig and Brenda Hetman-Craig – who immediately set about making significant changes to vineyard management focusing on regenerative agriculture, and acquiring gold-level Sustainable Tourism certification.   Their Dall sheep, Pinot and Gris, are responsible for mowing and ground cover, while the gaggle of geese take care of the weeds and bugs.

Layne claims it was a purchase that was ‘meant to be,’ since as a former pilot, his plane had a stall speed of 40 knots, so the winery’s name had real meaning for him and his family.

However, one of the most interesting things  about this winery is their decision to age an increasing percentage of their wines in 800 litre handmade, Italian terracotta amphorae.  Yes, that’s not a typo – 800.  Do you know how big that is?  It’s  b i g.

Now, ageing wine in clay is not a new idea – it’s been around for about 6,000 years.  However, it’s not necessarily attempted by that many winemakers – the amphorae can be expensive (whether made of clay or concrete) and let’s face it – the shipping can be a pain.  It also seems that during a global pandemic, sometimes getting one’s order filled can be, well, impossible.

But why pick clay over oak or stainless steel?  The former allows for oxygen to reach the wine and tannin from the wood can affect the wine as well, whereas the latter offers an oxygen-free environment and doesn’t impart any flavors into the wine.  Terracotta clay is porous like oak so allows oxygen to affect the wine’s texture, but like steel, it’s neutral and doesn’t impart flavours.

40 Knots is not ageing everything they produce in amphorae, but Layne is not afraid to experiment with options and alternatives.  This is evident in their wide array of offerings ranging from bubbles, to oaked and unoaked whites, reds of all stripes, and some unique dessert and port-style treats.  Just as an example, the Trie Emily is a vin de curé made from dried grapes.  Yes, essentially a strohwine on Vancouver Island.

You can purchase 40 Knots Estate Winery products at the winery, on Vancouver Island at private wine stores serviced by Storied Wines and Spirits, and throughout BC’s Lower Mainland.

 

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An Oregon Wine Board Tasting with Winderlea Vineyard + Winery, and Troon Vineyard

If these were normal times, and the world’s longest undefended border was open, I would have been in Oregon’s Willamette Valley last weekend, participating in the 2020 version of the Wine Media Conference.

But alas, these are Covid-19, not normal times.  Nevertheless, the Oregon Wine Board, made it possible for me to participate in this at-home tasting by generously sending me the bottles via courier, paying for customs clearance, and covering the tax hit.

Oregon is a favourite state, and I’ve visited both AVAs featured – Willamette Valley (Winderlea Vineyard and Winery), and the Applegate Valley (Troon Vineyard) many times – but I hadn’t known that the state has 52% of US Demeter certified biodynamic vineyards located there.

Troon is Demeter certified biodynamic, as well as CCOF organic, while Winderlea is Demeter certified, and organic, in addition to being a Certified B Corporation.  What’s that?  It’s “…a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” Oregon has 8 B-Corp wineries (more than any other US state).  There are a mere 12 in the US, and only 28 in the world.  The exacting ethics and standards demanded make it rare for any business to be a member of this group.

When everyone is onboard with these serious certifications, you can bet that attention to detail exhibited in the vineyard, and during the wine making process will be second to none – and that the quality of the wines produced will follow suit.

This was borne out during the tasting.  Troon’s Kubli Bench Amber (US$30), a very cool and delicious orange wine made with indigenous yeasts and foot trodden from 74% Riesling, 16% Vermentino, and 10% Viognier, was sherry-like with navel orange peel, marmalade, honey, and some salinity.  A tannic black tea rinse, and great acidity rounded out its balanced beauty.  Winderlea’s whole cluster ‘Imprint’ Pinot Noir (US$53) was an outstanding version showing cassis, purple plum, and bramble with an elegantly savory umami, Five Spice, and soya sauce punctured minerality.

Our 22 person online discussion regarding the wines and their production in accordance with biodynamic and other tenets was fascinating.  Craig Camp of Troon spoke about biodynamics as the framework for moving forward into regenerative agriculture, as well as the realities associated with buying thousands of yards of cow dung to build soil health (that’s a lot of poop).  And it culminated with an observation by Bill Sweat of Winderlea.

“There’s a growing cohort of consumers who have an
interest in buying products that are sustainable…
Biodynamics represents an ethos and a
way to frame the sustainability… We think about
everything growing in, above and on the vineyard floor.”

The way the world is evolving these days, regenerative agriculture seems like a small amount of effort to keep our planet on an even keel, to fully participate in being part of the change we want to see, and to reimburse the earth for the burden it has carried for so long.

Are you one of those consumers?  I’d love to see your comments below.  Enjoy the wine.

Posted in Conferences, Orange, Oregon, Pinot Noir, RED, Riesling, Vermentino, Viognier, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier, Extra Brut Rosé, Nichol Vineyard, Naramata Bench, Okanagan, BC, 12.1% abv., 2018

It’s August 2020 and by some miracle, there are Covid NHL playoff games happening on TV.  So, what does a Canadian do?  Celebrate this miracle on ice with a delicious (and pretty) sparkling wine, of course.

Posted in British Columbia, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment