The mood was festive, as it always is, at the BCWAS Christmas party and tasting. Plenty of sparkles and bling were in evidence as our usual gang of suspects gathered to check out a selection of Christmas offerings from around the province.
Naturally, there was sparkling wine to start the evening – Steller’s Jay from Sumac Ridge and as you can see at the right, owner Harry McWatters himself was pouring. Wonderfully yeasty and a perfect complement to the freshly shucked oysters that were part of the smorgasbord of delectable nibbles. And Frank said he was going to be late… snicker. So of course, I just had to check that particular pairing again on my own.
During the course of the evening the food seemed endless and conversations delightfully varied – wandering from the newest VQA stores in everyone’s ’hood to the emerging trend of creating strata housing developments amid the vines of established wineries to which grape varietals are best suited to BC and how that varies between the Okanagan and Vancouver Islands. But always, we came back to the main event – the wines themselves. Picking a favourite was, as expect, a tough call, but by the time Frank got there, it seemed pretty much narrowed down to two.
From one of our favourite Gulf Island Wineries, Morning Bay, Keith (shown below with Francis, BCWAS’ financial wizard) and Barbara had brought an unannounced bottle of their new release Bianco. Crisp and clean, with medium plus intensity of citrus with a hint of floral on the nose, Frank’s eyes took on that glint of appreciation when we went back to this one, and he was soon deep in conversation with Keith about the four strains of yeast used – one for each of the grapes that make up this summer sipper blend: Schonberger, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and a touch of Riesling. All are vinified separately with the Riesling adding just a touch of orchard fruit. Made in a bone dry, Alsace style, Frank’s first thought was oysters or shellfish – especially if you can’t find a Muscadet. At that point I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the earlier nibblies he’d missed.
A highlight of the evening, one that had attracted a huge amount of anticipation was the 2004 Nota Bene from Black Hills. Considered something of a cult wine among BC wine fans, this Bordeaux blend (43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) is filled with black fruit plus a hint of cherry with cedar and pencil shavings. We agreed it was well balanced with fine-grained tannins.
Unfortunately, if you’re thinking of nipping down to the store to grab a bottle or two, think again. This wine sells out year after year – unless you’re on their list, you likely won’t find any unless you can snag a bottle at a local restaurant or visit their Okanagan winery for yourself. Admittedly it was quite delicious. Still, at $35 seemed a bit pricy and in many ways remains an example of one of the biggest issues many (both of us included) believe the BC wine industry in general needs to consider carefully as it continues its evolution onto the world stage – how to be competitive in an increasingly savvy, discriminating marketplace.
PS: Happy Birthday to Leah. Thanks for pouring on your special day and you did a great job with the candle on your cupcake.