Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bloom: The BC VQA Spring Releases

The sun shone, the mood was festive, the setting a combination of traditional elegance and West Coast eclectic. All in all, a perfect way to celebrate Bloom, the annual release of BC VQA wines.

And so, on May 15th, we found ourselves at the Fish House restaurant in Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park sampling the newest vintages of old favourites and checking out some new releases from more than 30 of BC’s wineries.

Not surprisingly, whites dominated the tasting – this has, after all, always been BC’s greatest strength. Less common varietals included Ehrenfesler, Kerner, Pinot Auxerrois, Siegerrebe, and Sovereign Opal. An unexpected treat was Peller Estates’ Trinity Private Reserve Icewine – a silky, amber blend of Vidal, Riesling, and Ehrenfelser that was subtly reminiscent of the Noble One Botrytis Semillon from De Bortoli we enjoyed for last month’s Great Grape Days tasting.

However, we were both surprised by the number of Pinot Gris wines that made an appearance here. From the “crisp lime in a glass” flavour of Red Rooster Winery on the Naramata Bench to the smooth minerality and richness of Burrowing Owl’s very limited edition (I tried to purchase two bottles the next day only to discover both stores I visited had a strict one bottle limit), this was the grape we courted most – almost to the exclusion of other offerings. And while we both agreed it lacked depth, for sheer fun and whimsy we had to laugh as we sampled Freudian Sip, a blend of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer (one day, I really will remember how to spell it without double checking) plus 20% Kerner from Therapy Vineyards. Although we didn't have time to sample, some of their other wines carry equally enchanting names: Pink Freud, Super Ego. This is one winery with a saucy sense of humour for sure.

Somehow, we still can’t quite figure out how, we missed the Stellar’s Jay Brut sparkling wine from Sumac Ridge – a wine we often serve with fresh oysters after a day spent wandering Granville Island – although we did make sure to snag a glass of the crisp but less yeasty Cipes Brut (shown )from Summerhill Pyramid Winery that was the reception wine. Guess we’ll just have to make up for our by a weekend visit to our nearest VQA wine store. Life should always be so tough.


VQA stands for Vintners Quality Alliance, a designation that ensures grapes are 100% BC grown.

According to the BC Wine Institute, tourist visits to BC wineries more than tripled between 2002 and 2004.

More than 60 different grape varieties are grown in BC.

BC has more than 6,000 acres under vine and generates almost $150 million in annual sales.

There are five official wine growing regions in the province: Okanagan, Similkameen, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands.

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