Among a bunch of various things I do is slangin' a little wine and food on weekends at Vancouver's Bar Gobo, a natural wine bar my buddy Peter Van de Reep runs for the Burdock & Co. crew.
A couple weeks back when we were setting up, Rich from Massey Wines + Spirits spun by on his bike to offer a quick splash of vermouth. Oh, man - did that quick swirl and sip start out the evening right.
Imperative Dry Vermouth is a collaboration by Vancouver Island's Rathjen Cellars and Ampersand Distilling Co., both of which are awesome to begin with.
Per their site:
Imperative is made from Ortega and Petite Milo grapes grown organically on the Saanich Peninsula blended with organic & wild harvested botanicals including wormwood from Ampersand's farm, roasted dandelion root, cardamom, marjoram & orange peel.
This stuff BLOOMS on the palate with a citrusy, floral character (Orange! Pomelo! Jasmine! Honeysuckle!) that also carries a good lick of sweet mint; more spearmint than peppermint IMHO. Super amiable stuff. The pretty cardamom character keeps it grounded with a hint of spice, allowing those lighter, more fragrant elements to be lifted to lofty heights. You don't need anything with it, either. I wouldn't even bother with a garnish.
Glass. Ice. Full stop.
A nice way of finishing your afternoon or starting your evening; it'll certainly dazzle any guests. If it sounds like your kinda thing, I can pretty much guarantee you'll love it. You can order it on their site, or - here in Vancouver - nab some at Liberty Commercial Drive or Legacy Liquor Store.
TOMORROW (or today if you're reading this on Wednesday, July 6) I'm co-presenting a Celebration of Australian Wine with my long-time friend and colleague Mark Davidson, the Head of Education - Americas for Wine Australia.
In tandem with JAK's Beer Wine Spirits here in British Columbia, we'll be discussing these six kick-ass Aussie wines, and do a deep-ish dive into their respective regions. We'll cover classic styles of Australian wine, along with the more contemporary aspects of the new Australia - highlighting why provenance is so important. We'll dispel some myths, too! I mean, these are hardly New World wines; Australia has some of the oldest soils and vineyard plantings on the planet. The seminar will run 45 minutes or so, and it's FREE on Zoom; all the details are here.
BONUS: Attendees will have their names entered to WIN a Yeti Cooler, and several prize packages are available to be won during the virtual event!
There are some deals all month long at JAK's too, if you're local and want to pick up some bottles to taste along with us.
Here's what we'll be covering:
Celebrate Wines of Australia with Mark Davidson & Kurtis Kolt
Wed, July 6, 2022 // 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM PDT
Click HERE to register free!
I was standing in line to pay at my local BC Liquor Store, and noticed a display of this wine: Recri Chardonnay 2021 from the high-altitude Mendoza region of Argentina. Normally it's $9.99, but it's on sale for $6.99 through July 2.
Now, I recently gambled on an $8 red and was actually pretty blown-away by the fact that not only was it good enough, but it was really quite delicious. It also harboured a good amount of typicity, something I find not overly common with wines at price points like these. Could lightning strike twice?
So I bought it, thinking worse comes to worst it could be cooking wine that didn't break the bank.
It's shockingly tasty. I can't find much info on it online, but it comes to us via the Fecovita Co-op.
Anyways, it tastes an Argentinian Chardonnay! Think ripe mangoes, Gala apples, lemonade and jasmine. It's quite balanced - the acid's right where it should be - and there's just the tiniest lick of honey on the finish, but don't worry - it's not sweet! I mean, it's not the most complex wine in the world, but for any casual occasion, say a picnic at Dude Chilling Park?
I was skeptical.
Wandering the aisles of the 39th & Cambie location of B.C. Liquor Stores here in Vancouver, I glanced over and saw this Spanish red from Jumilla I hadn't noticed before. Listed at $9.99, which is pretty much the (very) lowest price you'll ever find a (barely) drinkable wine selling at in our heavily-taxed market.
A double-take had me noticing that this already-cheap wine is on sale as a limited-time-offer for $7.99 (!) through March 31, which for ANY bottle is pretty much unheard of in our neck-of-the-woods.
I decided to give it a try because, worse comes to worst, I'll have only spent eight bucks on a bottle of cooking wine.
Bodegas Luzon Jumilla Castillo de Madax 'Mediterranean Blend' is a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo, and Garnacha. All three varieties are represented by black licorice-y fruit, cherries and leather, plus opulent, round purple fruit with a good smattering of black pepper on the finish. It's medium-bodied, and though there's no oak treatment, a few days macerating with the skins provides well-integrated tannins bringing proper, balanced structure. It's juicy. It's tasty. If I tasted it blind, I think I'd quite possibly nail both the country and region; it's that legit. (I'm always EXCELLENT at blind tasting in hindsight!)
Have a wedding you're planning? (I can help with that, by the way.) Need a case of something tasty to have on hand for occasional unexpected guests? Only have a ten-dollar bill on ya?
Seriously. Go. It's available all over town and I don't think I've seen, or will see, a crazy value like this anytime in the past or near future.
One of my most favourite, expressive grape varieties grown in British Columbia is Syrah. Perennial favourites include the outings from Nichol Vineyard, Le Vieux Pin, Black Hills Estate Winery, and Moon Curser Vineyards.
I'm really digging that Rust Wine Co.'s zooming in on the variety as of late. I recently got to taste through a quartet of Syrahs they'll be releasing in April, each one grown in a different part of B.C. wine country, and solid expressions of their vineyard provenance.
Also. Can we talk about how STUNNING their South Okanagan home base is?!?
Here are my two faves:
Rust Wine Co. 2019 Syrah – South Rock Vineyard – Golden Mile Bench is pretty on-point for varietal typicity Syrah fans are hoping for. Violets and dark purple fruit on the nose lead to gobs of fresh-picked, still-sun-warmed blackberries on the palate, with a real good helpin' of bacon fat and white pepper laced throughout. It's well-woven; this is decidedly a Syrah with good tannin integration (particularly considering it's right out of the gates), and hardly a big, jammy, clumsy Shiraz.
Rust Wine Co. 2019 Syrah – Lazy River Vineyard – Similkameen Valley is for those wanting that opulent, juicy, stain-your-teeth kinda style but still expect things nice and balanced. More baking spice on the nose with this one (What's up, cinnamon, star anise and cloves?), and plenty of brambly black fruit, On the palate there's suddenly a wave of fresh ginger cresting over it all, then it finishes with a good lashing of sarsaparilla. A cheeky kiss (JUST a kiss) of sweet character on the finish.
Also, bonus points for easy-to-read back labels with a the geeky stuff:
How fun is this?
The folks from British Columbia's Road 13 in Oliver wine country have unleashed a trio of double-wine packs just in time for Valentine's Day, which not only brings the delicious, but some cheeky fun as well.
The 'Love Is Blind' trio offers wine duos that have been (pretty smartly) wrapped so you don't know what each bottle contains. There are three sets: The Perfect Pair, Sea of Red, and the Dynamic Duo, priced at $61, $66, and $117 respectively.
Once you give each of 'em a whirl, you can pull that tab and see what you've got; there's a QR code on the label for those wanting to dig deeper.
So, the one I was sent was pretty fun, but I can't spoil the fun now, can I?
My Dynamic Duo started with a white chock-full of stone fruit like peaches and apricots, with a little squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of honey. The red was VERY peppery with plenty of blueberries and plums. 🤐
Wanna play around? You should. Vancouverites can pick up Love Is Blind wines at Artisan Wines at Lonsdale Quay.
Late last year I had the opportunity to visit the Bordeaux of France (for the first time), and while it was my first wine trip since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would have been just as exciting an experience even if it were yet another trip sandwiched between other international ventures in a normal year. Was I tucking into big hunks of beef drenched in marrow-and-broth-laden Bordelaise sauce, and washing it all down with big, bold reds?
This tour was all about the sweet wines of Bordeaux, and let me tell you - it fascinated. That was mostly because, and I say this as someone coming from the land of Icewine, I'm usually not into sweet stuff; way more of a savoury guy. In saying that, the reason I opted for the venture was because the focus was all about food pairing, from pastry to poultry, from cheese to sushi. It was a head-turning experience, so much so that for this Valentine's Day I'm recommending straying from the sparkling and pink wine clichés, and venturing to the world of sweet Bordeaux.
Here's what you need to know:
Shake it things up a bit and give sweet Bordeaux wines a whirl. Just ask your local wine shop pro for recommendations in the category. The sip away and enjoy having another fun and tasty wine style in your arsenal.
In 'You-Know-Harry-McWatters-Would-Be-Beaming' news, the late pioneer of Canadian wine's daughters Christa-Lee and Darrien McWatters have been named two of Wine’s Most Inspiring People by Wine Industry Network Advisor, a leading industry online publication.
Both Christa-Lee and Darrien grew up in the industry as their father spearheaded everything from quality wineries (Sumac Ridge, See Ya Later Ranch, etc.) to launching the B.C. Wine Institute as its initial chair, to his position as founding chair of the B.C. Hospitality Foundation. Harry was an inspiration to many, as exemplified by Christa-Lee and Darrien following in those footsteps, now helming senior management roles of the family-founded TIME Family of Wines.
One of my favourite things in the British Columbian wine industry is the strong sense of comradery, community, and cooperation. "A rising tide floats all boats," and all that. Were it not for their father planting those roots, our industry might look quite different these days. It is people like those discussed here who propel our local industry forward.
This is probably a good time to mention how STUNNING the McWatters Collection 2017 Brut is. A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc that spent 42 MONTHS ON THE LEES! That lemon curd and honey is SO comfy and nestled well into buttery brioche.
Cheers to both Christa-Lee and Darrien, for being an important part of our past, present, and future.
For on this well-deserved acclaim, click here.
I was recently on CBC Radio discussing some zero-proof (or extremely low ABV) options for those looking to expand their booze-free universe. I'm so stoked that their are FINALLY, NUMEROUS opportunities for those looking to abstain for a day, a week, a month, or forever! Here are a few favourites mentioned, and where you can find them in B.C.
Starting top-left, clockwise:
Red Racer 'Street Legal' IPA - A zesty, hoppy fruit-driven refresher.
B.C. Liquor Stores, AFBev.ca
OPUS Aperitivo Spritz - SO close to a Aperol Spritz; so fun!
Major Supermarkets like Nesters and Whole Foods. Sansorium.com
Casamara Club Sparkling Amaro Soft Drinks - Kinda between a fernet and an amaro-style fizz. Ultra-complex.
Leitz Wines - The Riesling! The Pink! The Sparkling! The Cans! Collect 'em all! To me, the best non-alcoholic wines yet.
AFBev,ca, Vancouver: Drive Canteen, Kelowna: Wine & Beyond
Oddbird Sparkling Rosé - Chardonnay & Pinot Noir goodness from the Languedoc in France.
Benjamin Bridge Piquette Zero - A Nova Scotian take on the ever-growing, super-tasting Piquette category.
SofterDrink.ca, Victoria: Vessel
Big Drop Brewing Co. Ales - Given blind, I dunno if I'd automatically assume they're like 0.4% alcohol.
OPUS Gin & Tonic - Just what you'd hope for in the category.
Major Supermarkets like Nesters and Whole Foods. Sansorium.com
Undone Spirits - Like the real things, but a little less weight and concentration.
Victoria: Vintage Spirits, Kelowna: Wine & Beyond, SofterDrink.ca
A couple others you may have caught me mentioning, both from our friends on Vancouver Island.
Phillips iota Hazy IPA - Is this one of my absolute favourite, palate-deceiving, non-alcoholic craft beers out there? Yes!
AFBev.ca, Local Liquor Stores, PhillipsBeer.com
Lumette London Dry - Juniper berry, lemon, star anise, and all class. Take a bow, Team Lumette!
EnjoyLumette.com, Other Retail HERE
So, I'm doing the Dry January thing.
I've done it before, a few times. I've never done the whole month. Last year's American shenanigans on January 6 had me reaching for a Pinot Noir right quick. (I know, I know.)
But here I am again. So why do I do it?
First off, being in the wine industry, it is ALWAYS around. It's easy to pay no mind to consistency, but a couple glasses a day add up. And, of course, there are the days where we really go for it. It's easy to not give that much thought to 30-60-90 days of having drinks in a row.
Normally (NORMALLY!) it's in check, but I'm always hyper-sensitive to how wine/booze affects me. I get paranoid. I check in with my family doctor and get bloodwork done often, mainly to keep tabs on the ol' liver. It's always fine and healthy, which I attribute to eating well, a bit of exercise, and - I dunno - luck?
But more than anything, a break from booze certainly can't hurt. I find it's a good way of recalibrating myself.
What makes things MUCH easier these days is the accessibility of well-crafted, zero-proof beer, wine, and spirits. The category has exploded over the last few years and I'm sure the benefits reverberate wide.
So here we are, with a couple German drops I sourced locally at The Drive Canteen, here in Vancouver.
Leitz Zero Point Five Pinot Noir is tasty, but to me it's really not that much of a departure from really good (like really good) grape juice. It's not particularly sweet like Welch's, but it definitely tastes VERY PURPLE with not much else going on. It's not particularly 'wine'-y, but I'd imagine with something rich and salty - a wild mushroom and parmesan risotto, maybe - it'd balance things well.
Leitz 'Eins Zwei Zero' Sparkling Non-Alcoholic Riesling, simply put, blew me away. My (admittedly odd) marker of how good a low-booze/no-booze option is to think if I was at an event or party, a drink or two in, and someone passed me said drink. Were I to take an initial sip or two of this wine without paying too much attention, I can pretty much assure I'd think it was a legit Riesling that happened to be low-alcohol. That touch of spritz to it lifts up all those key limes, Granny Smith apples, and dollops of marmalade well.