Thursday, April 05, 2007

Celebrating British Columbia's Wine Industry

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you probably already know both Frank and I are big time fans of the BC Wine Appreciation Society (BCWAS). Now more than 140 members strong, BCWAS brings together a diverse, vibrantly eclectic mix of wine aficionados, wine newbies, and unabashed wine geeks – yes, that would be the crowd who can intelligently discuss residual sugar and malolactic fermentation numbers with Frank.

But no matter what the event, laughter and camaraderie are always the true “main course” – no stuffiness allowed here. It is certainly the first organization either of us have ever belonged to where a member actually had the chutzpah to suggest “we’re all about enjoying wine so let’s adjourn, sip some wine, and socialize so we can really get down to business” at an AGM. The motion was passed unanimously, and within less than a quarter of an hour we had committed volunteers on board for membership coordinator, events coordinator, and newsletter editor.

Over the past two years, word is spreading. At our event last month (shown above), we were privileged to taste several wines that remain completely unavailable to the general public or even many exclusive local restaurants. But don’t take our word for it, check out the BC Wine Appreciation Society for yourself at, and when you visit in person, be sure to come over and say hi – we’d love to meet you.

Here’s an introduction to one of the founding members of one of the best wine associations going.


Getting to Know Tim Ellison
Originally published in the April 2006 BCWAS newsletter

He’s dynamic, bubbling with enthusiasm, and unfailingly generous with both his time and his knowledge. Teaching a wine appreciation class dressed in a traditional Japanese obi doesn’t faze him in the slightest. Nor, it seems, does most anything else. He considers himself a hospitality enthusiast although he’s been a chef, the proprietor of his own restaurant, and is currently a much sought after instructor at the Art Institute. Who else could it be but our own Tim Ellison.

Known for his devilishly quick wit and flamboyant charm – don’t you just love a man with the élan to make a pink and orange striped shirt look outright fantastic – Tim, along with Francis Dorsemaine, was one of the founding members of the BC Wine Appreciation and remains an avid supporter of our British Columbia wine industry. Check out any of Vancouver’s wine events, and you’ll likely find him there expanding his already extensive knowledge. After all, it’s tough work but someone has to do it.

Although he’d long been fascinated with the relationship between food and wine, Tim’s journey into “the wild and wonderful world of wines” didn’t truly begin until 1988. “I was on a road trip through Oregon’s Wette Valley. It had been an exceptional year for winemaking in 1985, so the shelves were packed with all these great wines. It really piqued my interest, to the point I started reading and visiting the wineries just to educate myself.”

In no time Tim was hooked. But it was more than a decade before he took formal training. “I waited forever because I was actually afraid of failure,” he admits. “The thought of doing a blind taste testing was downright scary.”

Eventually, though, he signed up for the first level of the International Sommeliers Guild certification, ultimately graduating from the program in 2003. “It was like a light went on,” he says, adding that the biggest surprise was just how much influence the winery and winemaking techniques has on what ends up in the bottle. “The mystification was gone, no more misconceptions because now it was all based on fact.” Now also enrolled in the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) diploma program, Tim has his sights set firmly on gaining the prestigious Master of Wine designation.

Last fall, Tim made yet another career shift when he took on the responsibility of teaching full-time at the Art Institute. “It’s such a privilege to be able to contribute to people’s success, to help them avoid the mistakes I did and get there sooner,” he says. “When I read about them in the newspaper or visit them in their own restaurant… there’s no feeling to compare.” He laughs. “Actually, my students typically end up teaching me almost as much as I teach them because they have such a variety of backgrounds and experiences – I just don’t usually tell them that.”

Tim offers this advice for anyone interested in a wine career. “Just go for it. Don’t think about the expense, don’t be afraid of blind taste testings. You absolutely don’t need to be intimidated. Pursue the passion and you will get there.”

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