Who are the ‘small guys’ of the BC wine world? They are several small, wineries, both physical and virtual, which are very specialized and thus produce what’s called ‘small lots’ or under 2000 cases of wine per year. These small artisan producers are modeled on the ‘garagiste’ winemakers of France, who gained attention producing impressive wines in their garages.
Some have been around for a while, while others only have a few vintages under their belts. With the help of Terry Meyer Stone and Jennifer Schell, twenty wineries came together last year under the banner ‘Garagiste North’ to have a venue to showcase their wines and gain public recognition. Their first wine festival was held last September in Okanagan Falls and it was a great success; one of the best I’ve attended. It was a beautiful day and the venue, food and entertainment were all top notch. The very best part, though, were the wines. So you can imagine how excited people were when they decided to bring this event to Vancouver last month.
The event was held at Wise Hall in east Vancouver with twenty-five producers pouring their wines. Roaming Dragon provided tasty eats. Here are my very brief notes on the wines I sampled. My apologizes to those I never got to.
Bella Wines – Naramata – 340 cases
• Sparkling Rosé (Oliver vineyard) – a great starter on a warm summer afternoon. Clean, crisp and refreshing.
• Sparkling Rosé (Beaumont Vineyard West Kelowna) – crisper with flavours of strawberry and rhubarb.
• Sparkling Chardonnay (Keremeos vineyard) – good mousse and traditional character, creamy with depth of flavour.
Niche – West Kelowna – 460 cases
• Gewürztraminer – dry and elegant with classic varietal character
• Small Batch White – a blend of, riesling, pinot blanc and chardonnay. A great summer wine with intriguing flavours of green apple, citrus, mineral and tropical fruit.
River Stone – Oliver – 1600 cases
• Splash – pinot gris, viognier, gewürztraminer – dry and tasty fruit flavours with fresh peach standing out. Yum.
Nagging Doubt – Kelowna – 600 cases
• Viognier – a good example of this varietal
• Chardonnay – nicely oaked with appealing fruit flavours and a medium-long finish
Lock and Worth – Penticton – 700 cases
• Sauvignon Blanc – pleasing flavours of citrus and melon, nicely balanced, not too tart
• Semillon – good with a different flavour profile than expected – more apple and tropical fruit than peach, good creamy body and nicely balanced
Larianna – Osoyoos – 700 cases
• Viognier – much like the widely acclaimed 2012. Great texture and varietal character. An elegant wine.
Vin Perdu – Oliver – 370 cases
• Pinot Gris – citrus, apple, honey and a hint of spice. Very nice.
• Chardonnay – wow! Impressive. Great balance of oak and fruit. One of my favourite BC chardonnays.
Alderlea – Duncan – 1500 cases
• Pinot Gris – interesting stone fruit and citrus flavours good mouthfeel and finish.
Anarchist Mountain – Osoyoos – 250 cases
• Chardonnay – only 100 cases made. An elegant wine showing an excellent balance of oak and fruit. One of BC’s best.
• Pinot Noir – another great example of BC pinot noir. We do it well. One of my favourites.
BC Wine Studio – Okanagan Falls – 900 cases
• Siren’s Call Grüner Veltliner – this wine shows what it can do in BC. Different (and better) character than the traditional Austrian examples.
• Viognier – partly aged in acacia. Lots of flavour, creamy texture, good mouthfeel and finish.
Kraze Legz – Kaleden – 1991 cases
• Skaha Pinot Blanc – elegant and sophisticated. This is the wine to have with BC salmon
• Skaha Unoaked Chardonnay – well made. One of the best examples of an unoaked chardonnay.
• Mystique – a blend of pinot blanc and chardonnay. Lots of fruit happening here – apple, pear, citrus and tropical fruit. This is a crowd pleaser.
• Merlot – This is a ‘wow’ wine. Everything a merlot should be and a good example of how good BC reds can be. For the naysayers, this wine will have them eating their words.
Seven Directions – West Kelowna – 345 cases
• Rosé – free run pinot noir juice. Resembles a French rosé, though with more flavour – strawberries. Be sure to give this one a try this summer. Perfect for the patio or picnic.
Roche – Penticton – 460 cases
• Rosé – another intriguing BC rosé (we sure make some great ones). This time it’s a blend of zwiegelt and Schoenberger – I said it was intriguing. This has a mouthful of flavour – red fruit and berries. Be sure to give this one a try. Also look for their two reds, Pinot Noir and Zwiegelt.
Canna Vines – Oliver – 550 cases
• Unoaked Chardonnay “Water to White” – a light wine with good mouthfeel, balance and finish. A good example of an unoaked chardonnay.
• The Wedding Feast – a blend of pinot gris, riesling and chardonnay. Flavourful, fruity, good balance, full-bodied, nice ripe apple flavours. A good patio wine.
• The Change Rosé – This blend of merlot and pinot noir works well. Dry with good mouthfeel and balance of appealing flavours.
• Pinot Noir “Bouquet” – very good. Cherry, plum and spice.
Black Market – Oliver – 180 cases
• Secret Society White – a secret blend of three varietals. Very tasty. They describe it as, “aromas of lychee, yellow citrus fruits, Fuji apple, orange blossom, sweet baking spices and a hint of acacia. Dry on the palate, you’ll find grapefruit, Meyer lemon, and a touch of baked apple, all balanced together with crisp acidity.” Not a bad description. I believe I could pick out one or two of the secret ingredients, one of which I’ve never seen outside of BC, but then again, maybe I’m wrong.
• The Syndicate Red – an excellent blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and a splash of Malbec. An impressive wine. This winery is going places.
Black Cloud – Penticton – 450 cases
• Red Sky Rosé – a blend of pinot noir from two vineyards, each expressing its own character. A great example of excellent BC rosé.
• Fleuvage Pinot Noir – Naramata vineyard. Yum, yum, yum. Burgundian in style, but clearly BC wine. I love it and you can’t go wrong for the price.
• Altostratus Pinot Noir – a blend of two clones from Okanagan Falls – dry with extracted fruit flavours. Unfined and unfiltered with depth and good structure. A great wine to have in your cellar.
• Cumulus Nimbus Pinot Noir – Black Clouds top pinot. Only 275 bottles made. Grab it before it is gone.
When you are out touring in BC’s wine country, take the time to search out some of the ‘small guys’, treat yourself and order a bottle of their wines when you spot them on a restaurant wine list or go to their web sites and order directly from the wineries.
The next Garagiste North Wine Festival takes place September 27th in Kelowna. I’ll see you there. This is a very popular event and tickets are limited, so don’t wait, order them today at Tickets