Archive for June, 2018

Ask Sid: Why put stems of pinot noir into the fermentation?

June 13th, 2018
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Ask Sid: Why put stems of pinot noir into the fermentation?

Question: Why do some wineries make pinot noir wine by including the stems of the grapes in the fermentation process?

Answer: Yes this is one of the continuing mysteries of the art of winemaking. Some winemakers like to include some stems and use some whole bunches while others don’t. Possible advantages include not only a lowering of the temperature of the fermentation but more bright freshness, finesse, and floral nuances in the wine with a better rounder texture plus elegance. Contrary views often point to old style rustic green herbal notes not wanted resulting from an over complication of the pure grape juice. As vines get older and global warming contributes to riper stems this topic is heating up once again. However in the Okanagan BC opinions are still divided among winemakers. Henricsson Vineyards in Naramata is including 55% stems in their pinot noir but Matt Mavety at Blue Mountain in Okanagan Falls is not including any stems in his. Consider this and decide for yourself what style you prefer.

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Naramata Winery Tour – IWFS Vancouver Branch

June 12th, 2018

One of the yearly highlights of the activities of the IWFS Vancouver Branch is the intensive wine tour of the Okanagan superbly well organized by active members Larry Burr and his wife Maggie. This year their spotlight was on 15 winery visits in the thriving region of Naramata Bench along picturesque Okanagan Lake just north east of Penticton in British Columbia. So many wine tastings and knowledgeable insights provided during these visits over two and a half days in June with this brief overview:

1. BELLA WINES – Jay Drysdale & Wendy Rose all quality Sparkling built on acidity based on Chardonnay and Gamay in 3 tiers of Vintage, Natural, and Reserve with 2011 on lees 79 months with a creamy texture giving Champagne a run. Interesting two new dry Gamay one 509 Clone pink 4 hour skin contact and 787 Clone red with 5 days.

2. DAYDREAMER WINES – Marcus Ansems MW with Aussie background started with his sold out 2014 Sparkling shiraz and impressive other wines with my fav a perfectly balanced fresh 2016 Viognier so varietal at only 13 alcohol grapes picked at the perfect time.

3. LAKE BREEZE VINEYARDS – South African Garron Elmes since 1995 with food wines showing so well with lunch especially recently bottled 2017 their iconic Pinot Blanc all bright freshness.

4. JOIE FARM – Heidi Noble brilliant joie de vie in focusing on cool climate lower alcohol aromatic beauties. Always prize their Riesling en Famille with hot year 2015 using several pickings capturing acid and phenolics for special petrol, ginger, lemon-lime and mint. All wines truly special.

5. VAN WESTEN VINEYARDS – Rob Van Westen using a “V” theme in naming his wines like 2016 Vivacious of Pinot Blanc with a splash of Pinot Gris in 293 cases showing dry crisp pear, green apple, nectarine, melon and citrus for a halibut course. Pulling out last cherry orchards and pondering whether to plant some Gamay there.

6. POPLAR GROVE WINERY – Dinner at Vanilla Pod with Principal Tony Holler now joined by experienced Ingo Grady showing their big selling Pinot Gris and other drinkable mouth watering whites and signature Cabernet Franc red with even older 2005 displaying open varietal character.

7. FOXTROT VINEYARDS – Winemaker Gustav Allender leading the Pinot Noir explosion in Naramata since their first vintage of 2004 (2 bottles left in their cellar) now with 2015 Evalina’s Block of young vines and 75 cases of more earthy sturdy 2015 Raisin D’Etre of clone 828 in 9th vintage from 13 year old vines, and more savoury closed 2015 Estate Foxtrot older vines clone 115 planted 1993 full of future potential. Outstanding.

8. LA FRENZ WINERY – Jeff Martin came from Australia in 1994 first with Quails’ Gate and now with a large portfolio of La Frenz wines highlighted by 400 cases of 2016 Ensemble Reserve White $29 of 71% sauvignon blanc & 29 semillon with creamy 10 months on the lees.

9. RED ROOSTER WINERY – Lunch with Winemaker Karen Gillis since 2007 with a magical touch in producing quality wines for good value across the range. She will get to nurture over the next 2 years some 4000 bottles of Sparkling from the Peller takeover of Gray Monk so true excitement to follow that development.

10. TERRAVISTA VINEYARDS – Success story of Senka & Bob Tennant with 7th vintage of 2017 Fandango opulent blend of Albarino & Verdejo and Figaro blend of Rousanne & Viognier. Also varietal nervy 2017 Albarino (4th vintage) and 2017 Viognier. Only red 2015 Syrah with 8% Rousanne quickly sold out but watch for upcoming release in November of an even better balanced 2016.

11. HOWLING BLUFF – Luke Smith terroir driven award winning Pinot Noirs continue to impress with 2015 of only 133 cases with clones 667 & 777 using French oak (4o% new) coming around bright and variety driven. Discovered some unique unlabelled 2009 son Daniel Smith Port out of pinot noir that is intriguing to check out.

12. PERSEUS WINERY – CEO Rob Ingram & winemaker Jason Parkes have their winery close to Penticton and their Lt. Gov. award winning 2013 Invictus is full rich and powerful composed of 42 cab franc, 38 merlot, 13 cab sauv, and 7 malbec.

13. HENRICSSON VINEYARDS – Peter & Kajsa have really brilliantly taken over the old Erickson Vineyard who supplied pinot noir grapes to Foxtrot. Admirable hands on winemaking using enquiring minds looking only for the best results. Grafted over successfully the old Pinot Gris vines to Pinot Noir. Oxidize the vibrant Kajsa Chardonnay juice for 6 days so doesn’t later quickly oxidize as wine in the bottle. Only wild yeast Pinot Noir using 90% old “suitcase” European clone planted in 1990 and 10% own rooted clone 459 with 55% stems inclusion with 20% new oak. Popular cherry fruit 2015 regular and second one structured stylish 2015 Deux Hivers with longer 20 months in oak both recommended.

14. ROCHE WINES – Dylan & Penelope Riche moved from Bordeaux to Penticton in 2011. Have 4 acres planted 1997/1998 and 2 more just planted plus another 15 acres Kozier near Laughing Stock/Red Rooster. Two pinot gris with bright crisp 2016 in screwcap and 2015 riper grapes finished in cork. Similarly 2016 pinot noir mostly 777 in screwcap and 2015 more traditional one in cork. Delightful 2016 pink Rose from Zweigelt only 40 minutes on skins and 2017 fragrant Arome at 12.2 from Schoenberger.

15. UPPER BENCH WINERY & CREAMERY – Gavin Miller with 7 acres for 7 varieties just grafting pinot blanc vines over to cab franc. Clear visible from afar large graphic labels. Excellent cheeses made by Shana Miller. Everyone thrilled with their special lunch stop of super salad and artisan pizza from high temperature outdoor oven.

What a wonderful tour. Encourage everyone to take advantage of the next one in 2019.


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High Alert: Is a grape change coming soon?

June 10th, 2018

marijuana wine competition

By Joseph Temple

Last month, an article in the Mail Tribune uncovered some startling statistics regarding Oregon’s booming cannabis industry and the threat it now poses to the state’s wine growers.  Discussing the situation in two counties located in southern part of the Beaver State, journalist Damian Mann reports that:

1. The local cannabis industry employs 439 people with a total payroll of $12.58 million while the wine industry employs 355 with a payroll of $10 million.

2. The average wage for someone in the cannabis industry is $33,731 while vineyards pay just $25,478.

Although the sample size is relatively small, a larger question remains: could the situation in southern Oregon be the canary in the coal mine for the wine industry across America as the trend towards marijuana legalization ramps up?

According to a study done in 2014, California, Washington, and Oregon – three of the four largest wine growing states – constitute approximately 94% of all domestic production. At the same time, these three states have also legalized marijuana with California representing the most seismic shift when voters approved Proposition 64 in November of 2016. And although it is still against federal law to sell and distribute the plant, anybody who looks at a map of states that have either fully legalized or decriminalized marijuana can clearly see it growing like an ink blot.

But what does this all mean for wine growers?  Well for starters, the value of real estate just went up dramatically if one switches from harvesting grapes to buds. The Sacramento Bee reports that a prime acre in the Napa Valley dedicated to making wine is estimated to be worth $365,000. However, if the same plot of land was used for cannabis production, that price tag skyrockets to a reported $1.1 million!

“There’s a new agricultural product coming to town. I think we’ll see some of these grapevines be ripped out for cannabis,” said one expert. “If you can plant 1 acre of cannabis and make … a million or more per year, that’s a hell of a lot better than vineyards.”

This trend may be accelerated because some see cannabis as a healthier alternative to alcohol consumption. A 2017 poll conducted by Marist/Yahoo News found that while 75 percent of all respondents believed that wine is much healthier beverage than other alcoholic drinks, 72 percent said they believe that cannabis is much safer than alcohol. “Personal health is particularly important to older consumers. Medical cannabis is now legal in 29 states, and its association with medicine has undoubtedly assuaged consumer fears about cannabis use,” writes the North Bay Business Journal.

What do you think? Can marijuana overtake the wine industry in terms of vineyard acreage? And could it compete directly with wine sales or is it apples and oranges?

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Ask Sid: Which grapes are allowed in Champagne?

June 6th, 2018
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what grapes are used to make champagne

Question: Which grape varieties are allowed in the production of Champagne?

Answer: You usually see only the classic grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier being used these days. However there are actually a total of 6 authorized varieties with 3 secondary ones (often sensitive to frost) less often seen because of their tiny production and usually only in the Aube (region south of Troyes): Arbanne, Petit Meslier, and Pinot Blanc Vrai. Champagne Moutard grows all 6 grape varieties and did release a unique “Cuvee aux 6 Cepages”. Look for these lesser known unique Champage varieties.

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English Wines Making Progress

June 4th, 2018

Just attended the Europe Africa Zone’s well organized International Wine & Food Society London Festival May 28 to June 2, 2018 with members participating from some 17 countries. Their event app worked well all week and particularly worthy of high praise were the brilliant badges prepared in large font showing clearly Name, Branch, your allocated Coach, Dine Around Restaurant and the Number of your Walk (out of 8 interesting possible ones available). Chairman of Council Ian Nicol presented the Andre Simon Silver Medal to Stephanie Shepherd Chair of the Festival Organizing Committee for a job very well done. As always at these Festivals some spectacular venues were arranged for the functions held including Corinthia Hotel, Eltham Palace, Hurlingham Club, Merchant Taylors Livery Hall and Goldsmiths Livery Hall that added immensely to the enjoyment of the events. Check out a future one.

Many international wines from all over the world (including Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, and South Africa) were spotlighted at lunches and dinners including such treasures as 1996 Leoville Barton (contributed by Anita and the late Ian Rushton former Chair of the EAC & Secretary/Treasurer of the Society), rich 2009 & structured 2010 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, well chosen excellent forwardly drinking 2009 white and red Burgundies like Chassagne Montrachet Les Vergers Jean-Marc Pillot, Corton Charlemagne Louis Latour, and Vosne-Romanee Domaine Jean Grivot, old classic 2004 Gran Reserva 890 La Rioja Alta, delicious 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese JJ Prum only 7.5 alcohol not served quite chilled enough, and outstanding still young classic 2005 vintage Bordeaux like Canon-la-Gaffeliere, Bahans-Haut-Brion, and Climens. Kudos to Ron Barker Chair of IWFS Wines Committee and his team for choosing such appropriate insightful selections that IMHO always paired well with the food courses served.

For this scribe two outstanding tastings of English Wines were educational highlights showing their progress in quality. The first was the Andre Simon Lecture on May 29 given by celebrity wine expert Oz Clarke focusing on topical climate change and how traditional wine areas are different than in the past with the opportunity now presented to newer emerging wine regions to make their mark. This led appropriately right into a tasting of 8 English sparkling wines as shown in the attached program. The sparkling wines are being produced with lower yields (30-35hl/ha or around 2 tons/acre) compared to Champagne resulting in quite intense flavours. Hattingley has chalky soils like Le Mesnil but preferred richer Furleigh Classic Cuvee on Chablis-like limestone. My favourite was Ridgeview  with 100% chardonnay with longer time of 42 months spent on the lees but more expensive at 45 GBP. The Exton Park in Hampshire using 100% pinot noir reminded me because of the high acidity level (10.56) of the Benjamin Bridge success in Nova Scotia with potential for aging as does the Camel Valley white pinot. Their Rose is a very attractive pink colour. Nyetimber who started it all back in the nineties is now in the capable hands of winemaker Cherie Spriggs and her husband Brad Greatrix (both who studied in Vancouver at the UBC Wine Research Centre) who wisely chose to make no sparkling wines in the difficult 2012 vintage. Their 100% chardonnay using 20-30% reserve wine with 36 months on the lees impresses in that sweeter Demi-Sec style. Sparkling wines are showing great promise indeed.

The second tasting of eight English Still Wines on May 30 was presented by Dr. Bernard Lamb who compiled a useful most detailed booklet on all the English wines shown at the Festival. Try to get a copy of it. As he stated they are “never going to make a Barossa Shiraz” in England but all the wines impressed for their freshness, light body, higher acidity, and so drinkable at refreshing lower alcohol levels. The group fav was Entice the sweeet concentrated Bacchus by freezing method to get rid of some of the water from Hattingley Valley. Your scribe was impressed most by the potential shown for pinot gris. This grape is the most planted white variety in British Columbia but often can be a little “boring” coming in around 14 alcohol and not rich enough for Alsace style yet not lively enough for similarity to refreshing Italian pinot grigio. England IMHO is on the right track with 2014 Bolney (ten miles north of Brighton) fairly priced 17.50 GBP showing light (11.5 alcohol) fresh dry (1.7 RS) high acid (9,0) plus some floral pineapple notes of interest that makes a versatile food wine perfect with most seafood. It showed this even matched with smoked salmon from Forman’s – a delightful tour/lunch also part of the Festival. As their vines get older they will continue to refine this but please keep up this style.

Have you been following the English wine remarkable progress?


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