Friday, February 16, 2007

Adventures in Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands Wines

So what’s wrong with this picture? Between business meetings, Frank is “doing New Orleans” – street musicians, the Blue Train, Cajun cuisine, deciding which two bottles of wine to bring home duty free. It’s raining here in Vancouver. And he still won’t tell me which two wines he’s bringing home. Hmmm. I need some consolation.

Thankfully, there’s a BC Wine Appreciation Society (BCWAS) wine tasting and a couple of the vintages aren’t available for love nor money even at the winery – certainly not in New Orleans. Tonight’s vintages are all wines from British Columbia’s emerging wine production area of Vancouver Island – a region neither of us have had much opportunity to explore. I grab a cab – the four-wheeled kind – and head downtown.

Here they are in the order we sipped them.

#1: Blue Grouse Vineyards’ 2005 Pinot Gris ($20)
Made from 100% estate grown grapes, this wine is crisp, refreshing, and considered the vineyard’s signature wine. Medium finish and would go great with fish or for sipping.

#2: Morning Bay Vineyards’ 2004 Riesling ($16)
This Riesling is produced using grapes from some of the oldest vinifera vines in Canada – the Inkameep Vineyards in Osoyoos. Classically Alsace in style, this wine is bone dry, angular, and has a long finish. Lots of petrol and minerality – in other words quite yummy as most of us at the table agreed.

#3: Blue Grouse Vineyards’2004 Ortega ($15)
A couple of my tablemates had never heard of the Ortega grape but, like me, were delighted by its floral nose and hints of summer fruit – think apricot and peach here. However this was definitely one I’d need Frank’s expertise for a food pairing suggestion. Good for sipping? You bet – especially at the price.

#4: Morning Bay Vineyards’ 2005 Pinot Gris ($18)
Barrel aged on new oak for a month, this wine is unabashedly unusual in its “bold, expressive style.” A bit toasty on the nose and with some subtle coffee overtone, there was a surprising fruitiness on the palette. Okay, so I’d expected to hate it because I’m not a fan of oak, but it somehow brought out a richness and depth I wasn’t expecting. Perhaps I should have known since it was from Black Sage Bench fruit.

#5: Winchester Cellars’ 2005 Chardonnay ($22)
Frank missed out on this one – it was a special treat for members of BCWAS and is no longer available. Big bodied, dense, and buttery, this Chardonnay was aged in French oak and has a rich, velvety texture. Classic styling and elegantly long finish.

And now we get to my favourite part of the evening – the reds.

#6: Saturna Island Vineyards’ 2004 Pinot Noir ($16)
A true summertime patio sipper, this wine is light and makes me think I’ve fallen face-first into a bucket of strawberries and raspberries. If I make the time to wipe off the red juice running down my cheek, there’s also a hint of spice and green tea. Some people smelled hints of beetroot and rhubarb, but being a fan of neither one, I just let the berry flavours wander across my taste buds.

#7: Blue Grouse Vineyards’2003 Pinot Noir ($22)
Fuller and darker, this Pinot Noir was the result of an unusually hot year. Distinctively New World in style, it exhibits a smooth, round texture. Lots of cherry cough drops and strawberry penny candy – okay maybe today that would more accurately be strawberry dime candy but you get the taste.

#8: Winchester Cellars’ 2004 Pinot Noir ($29)
My favourite because of its full, smooth, roundness and body, this wine spent 15 months in French oak. Black cherry with a hint of coffee, I’m instantly thinking barbequed salmon and intense conversations to match the length of the finish. Another gem not available – not that I’m gloating…much.

#9: Morning Bay Vineyards’ 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon ($22.50)
A silky lady in a velvet gown, this wine is pucker-power dry with lots of tannins – in other words, Frank would love the balance but roll his eyes at the tannins. Blackberry, blueberry, and chocolate with a hint of sagebrush and dusty hills – it’s all about food with this wine. Should improve even more with age.

#10: Morning Bay Vineyards’ 2003 Reserve Merlot ($27)
Barrel aged for over two years, this Merlot morphs from hints of plums through vanilla and truffles to a lingering chocolate finish. Great example of just how far New World Merlot has come. Only 120 cases made, if you weren’t there, you missed out.

The Links You Need:

BC Wine Appreciation Society:

Morning Bay Vineyard & Estate Winery:
Blue Grouse Vineyards and Winery:
Saturna Island Family Estate Winery:
Winchester Cellars:

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