Wine in the time of Covid-19

Since my last post, the world has changed significantly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Between physical distancing and global travel restrictions,  the closing of non-essential services and businesses, border closures, and entire countries under lock down, writing about a bottle of wine seems, well, kind of unimportant.

But winemakers, distillers, and brewers, sales representatives, liquor stores, and restaurants are an important part of the economy.  These businesses employ and support many who rely upon the sales of these products for their livelihoods.

So, with a view to that, here are some ideas about how to support wineries, breweries and distilleries, help your locally-owned restaurants and liquor stores stay afloat, and perhaps most importantly, connect with others during these unsettled times.

Almost every winery and locally-owned wine/liquor store is offering free shipping or delivery on half or full cases right now if you live too far away to do a carefully orchestrated physically-distanced drive-by pickup.  Some have also pledged to donate a percentage of sales to food banks and other worthy causes, making this purchasing decision even easier.

Craft breweries are offering online ordering and drive-by or delivery services.  And if you can find even one Canadian craft distillery which hasn’t switched to the production of hand sanitizer at this point in time, I’ll literally eat my hat.  Many are donating the products to first responders and hospitals, so make sure you buy a bottle or two of their regular products to help them cover those costs!  Pay and order online, pop that trunk open if you drive-by to comply with distancing, go home with your supplies, and enjoy.

The virus has also hit the livelihoods of restaurateurs, and wait/bar staff really hard as well.  Most of these folks have simply lost their jobs. In most jurisdictions, these businesses are only allowed to offer takeout at this point in time.  So, support them with online or phone orders, pick up if you can (or have it delivered), tip generously, and enjoy that delicious food knowing you’ve helped someone stay in business and feed their own families maybe just one more day.

Finally, don’t let the uncertainty of Covid-19 stop you from getting together on video chat to mix cocktails, open a bottle, or crack a beer once your takeout order has arrived with your friends and family members.  Do a little online searching to find an appropriate Covid-19 playlist (message me, I have an excellent one).  Or, if the neighbours are up to it, set up some chairs at least 2m apart in the cul-de-sac and enjoy some carefully distanced social time in the late afternoon sun.  If you’re an apartment dweller, this may be what balconies were made for.

Whatever you decide to do (or not), don’t be a #Covidiot – stay safe and healthy out there, my friends.  And thanks for helping others.


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Tertre Rouge, Turtle Rock Farms, Synchromesh Wines, Okanagan Valley, BC, 2016, 13.9% abv, C$28++

Hot cars and fabulous wine are two things in our household that take up a lot of our energy and time.  Case in point, in 2014 the day following my final WSET Diploma wine exam, we flew to France to be at the 24 hours of Le Mans.

How fitting then that this wine, named for a Le Mans circuit corner, should find its way into my life.  Synchromesh is a small family-owned winery in Okanagan Falls, BC run since 2010 by Alan and Amy Dickinson with Alan’s parents, Kirsty and John.  Together, they make wines from fruit grown in a sustainable way from six vineyards located between Naramata and Oliver in BC’s Okanagan Valley.

The Tertre Rouge is a blend of mostly plush Merlot with elevating Cabernet Franc from the Britton Family vineyard on the Naramata Bench. Fermented with indigenous yeasts, unfined, and filtered, the Tertre Rouge was aged in 30% oak barrels for 20 months before finding its way into bottles.

This wine is an opaque garnet with aromas of purple flower, mulberry, raspberry, blue plum, baking spice and twig. The dry palate shows mouth filling violets, cassis, crunchy red berry, and cocoa dust, all on a lightly oaked base with a lengthy finish.

Delicious, balanced and seamless, the Tertre Rouge is named after a tight right hand corner which follows the famous Mulsanne Straight on the Le Mans 24 hour circuit – one which it’s said a driver must come out of perfectly cleanly to keep the car on the road, and continue on in the race.

It’s a great analogy for this wine – finessed, beautifully put together, clean, and it arrives safely just as it’s meant to.  Sustainably farmed grapes, a careful wine making process, and hands-on attention has ensured it.

Posted in British Columbia, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, OTHER, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sabor a Mí, Major Ursa Estate Winery, Black Sage Bench, Oliver, BC, 2017, 14% abv. C$35

Who remembers Eydie Gormé and her love and husband of decades, Steve Lawrence?  I actually do. If you don’t know who she is, you must take a moment to listen to this 1964 recording of her singing Sabor a Mí  (The Taste of Me) with the Trio Los Panchos.  It will make you start dancing – and hey, maybe start you thinking about Valentine’s Day.

Sabor a Mí is also the name of this beautifully balanced red wine made of 53% whole cluster Syrah, 27% Malbec, 18% whole cluster Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot that have “…spent 18 months together in neutral oak so as not to overpower the fruit, and were bottled unfined and unfiltered,” according to winemaker, Rajen Toor.

Deep garnet with aromas of blackberry with salinity, oak, green grass and spice, the palate is dry with more blackberry, cassis, and dark purple plum, salal, nutmeg, all spice, and a sparkly minerality.

Because the grapes were mostly whole cluster fermented, the juicy, vibrant fruit has been retained.  Toor notes, “All the fruit was purchased from Desert Hills’ Eagles Nest and Sage Brush Vineyards, located on Black Sage Road in Oliver, BC.”  While Ursa Major is not an entirely organic winery yet, in 2-3 years, they’ll be certified.  “At the moment we are doing everything we can to help that transition along, including organic compost, no chemical or synthetic sprays, utilizing cover crops, and weeding only by hand.”

To make it even more compelling, the bottles have beautiful artwork by Kristen Gardner, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to South Okanagan Women in Need, a non-profit organization in nearby Penticton.

Now, I don’t celebrate the Hallmark holiday known as Valentine’s.  I dislike being told what to do, and I think everyone should love their special ones all the time – not just with flowers on one particular day.

But, if your sweetheart expects a gift, buy a bottle of this, put on Eydie Gormé’s Sabor a Mí, and dance a little bossa nova around the room.  As the lyrics and the wine go,

“Many more than a thousand years will pass, many more
And I don’t know if love exists in the eternity
But there, just like here
In your mouth you will carry
My flavour.”

You can’t get much more romantic than that.

Posted in British Columbia, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, RED, Shiraz / Syrah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ring in the New Decade with Canadian Bubbles from Unsworth Vineyards

Hindsight being 2020, you’re going to want to try these bubbles for ringing in the new decade.  To save you the trouble, and the hindsight, here’s the low down.

Unsworth Vineyards is located on Canada’s West Coast just north of Victoria, on Vancouver Island in Mill Bay, BC.  Family owned, they have a fabulous tasting room, a restaurant with a Kiwi chef who has been sous chef at a Michelin-starred Swedish restaurant, a Scottish manager, a Wine Director son who is DipWSET, CMS, and FWS certified, and an East Coast winemaker transplant who has literally made wine around the world.   This region is a cool climate draw for those serious about micro-climates and wine.

Charme de L’Isle
Named for a play on words, taste a charming, Vancouver Island bubble made in the charmat (tank) style.  This is similar to what happens in Champagne (2 fermentations), but they took place in a tank.  This ensures great flavour and attention to detail, but a product that gets to our glasses sooner.

A non-vintage and slightly off dry wine, it’s made of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and a bit of Auxerrois with small amounts of Sauvignette Blanc and Amiel.  The last two are hybrids that do well in the rainy coastal weather, and stand up to vineyard infections without needing pesticides. Get ready for a mouth-watering acidity, with yellow apple, ripe pear, almond, custard, toast and a long-lasting mousse.  Only C$25, serve this to your guests as they arrive.

Charme de L’Isle Rosé 
Non-vintage and 100% Pinot Noir, this bubble is full of sassy character and just a little bit off-dry.  The rosé version of the Charme, it has good acidity and shows rhubarb, cranberry, rose hip, and biscuit. Distinctive, this wine is perfect with turkey and cranberry sauce leftovers, or cheeses served with cranberry, rhubarb, or rose hip-based jams.  Who am I kidding – only C$25, it goes with anything on a charcuterie or post-Christmas plate.

Cuvée de L’Isle, 2015
This is Unsworth’s pièce de résistance.  A traditional, hand-riddled, disgorged and aged bubble, it’s made of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and 10% Auxerrois.  The nose and palate offer ripe yellow apple, with quince, yellow pear, and a softly, sweet hint of brioche. Delicate and elegant, this completely dry wine offers a seriously long-lasting mousse with an only C$35 price tag.

They’re doing outstanding work at Unsworth – and these bubbles should have your attention for the new decade’s toasts.  Affordable, super food-friendly, and uniquely Canadian – they’re delicious and highly recommended.


These samples were provided gratis.  Stock bottle shots taken from the winery’s website.

Posted in amiel, auxerrois, BC, British Columbia, OTHER, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, sauvignette | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Krupnik, Spiced Honey Liqueur, Wayward Distillation House, Courtenay, BC, 40% abv, C$35, 375 ml

It’s that time of year again when everyone pleads, “Help! What kind of wine do I buy to go with my turkey/ham/duck/hot dog?”  There are a million or so of these articles circulating on line, but if you’re truly stuck, private message me and we’ll have a go at it.

In the meantime, get yourself to Wayward Distillery or a private liquor store in BC, and pick up a bottle of this 2018 Gold Medal winner of the Canadian Artisan Spirits Competition to complete your holiday or hostess gift list.

Wayward is doing some rather cool stuff with their spirits – beginning with their base alcohol which is made 100% from honey, not grain.  Yes, honey.  Take the honey harvested from 1,700 hives in an apiary located in BC’s Peace Region, ferment it into mead, and then distill the mead, and boom, you get a vodka base to work with.  Wayward doesn’t filter out the flavour of the honey either, which adds great character to their whole line of spirits, and includes gin, vodka and a rum-style called, “Drunken Hive”.

But first, what the heck’s a Krupnik?  I pride myself on knowing a lot of abstract, alcohol-related things, but this one even stumped me. Based on a Polish or Belarussian recipe, it’s part of a special category of alcoholic beverages called Nalewki.  These are like tinctures where the herbs, spices and honey that make them special are infused into the vodka base.

In this case, the resultant Krupnik is absolutely stunning, showing heady aromas and a palate of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, apple pie filling, and of course, creamy, clover honey. Sophisticated and delicious, akin to a spiced, honeyed whiskey, it’s well balanced, and not hot or cloying in the slightest.

The Wayward folks have also shown you their funny bone on the back packaging too where they apologize profusely (well, they are Canadian) for spoiling you for anything else, ‘Once you’ve opened this, you won’t be able to stop and we’re sorry.”

There you go, your presents are done and dusted! Go find some and make someone happy.  Mix it as an aperitif with sparkling apple juice, soda, or ginger beer, or sip some with your post-holiday meal pie and shortbread.

You’re welcome, and I’m not sorry.


Note: This sample was provided gratis.

Posted in British Columbia, Nalewki - Krupnik, OTHER, SPIRITS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chardonnay, Losthorn Vineyard, Lock and Worth Winery, Naramata, BC, 2018, 11.7% abv., C$30

Zowie!  Pow!  Wow!

From grapes planted in 1995 at Losthorn Vineyard in Okanagan Falls, this Chardonnay is electric.  Whole cluster pressed, it’s an unfined and unfiltered, charged up, bona fide beauty.

A shade of pale lemon gold on the eyes, the nose and palate offer fresh Anjou pear, yellow apple, Meyer lemon, brioche and slate.

Absolutely mouth-watering acidity, a medium body, and great finish round out this clean and precise wine.

Perfect with many dishes, we paired it with pan fried oysters and lemon wedges with risotto.

Apparently this was Matt Sherlock & Ross Hackworth’s first attempt at Chardonnay.  Please, don’t let it be the last!

Posted in British Columbia, Chardonnay, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amelia (Syrah – Viognier), Daydreamer Wines, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, BC, 13.5% abv., 2017, C$35

This plush 90% Syrah, 10% Viognier is a treat!  Master of Wine Marcus Ansems has produced a delicious Naramata Bench version of this northern Rhône classic.

In the traditional homeland of Syrah, many winemakers co-ferment the grape with 5-10% Viognier to give the wine a richer colour and velvety palate.  Ansems chose to do the same, and has it ever worked.

On the eyes, the Amelia is a deep ruby, with heavenly aromas of ripe boysenberry, blackberry, purple flowers, cinnamon bark, green twig and a hint of bacon fat.

The body is voluptuous and balanced with a dry, silky palate showing more boysenberry and blackberry, violets, white pepper, black olive, cedar frond, and green tobacco leaf.  Fine tannins are evident through the long finish.

The fruit is accentuated, but this wine is balanced and crisp. Exquisitely food friendly, we paired it with barbecued chicken, homemade corn bread and tossed greens.

Posted in BC, British Columbia, RED, Shiraz / Syrah, Viognier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment