Sensory Symposium – Wine Education Series – a review

There is nothing more enjoyable than an evening of wine tasting, add some winemakers, sommeliers and hospitality professionals and you have yourself an event, and what an event it was!

The evening started with one of my #FavouriteThings, a glass of 2018 Distraction Frizzante from The View Winery & Vineyard a bubbly that is a perfect blend of acidity and tartness with a delightful flavour profile of strawberries. A crowd pleasing, fruit forward, mildly effervescent, dry, sparkling made from Pinotage, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Ehrenfelser. A very affordable $19.95 at the winery.

An opportunity to mingle and meet the other guests that included like minded wine lovers. The event was marked by two separate sessions with a mixed group of panelists and dinner with wine in between. Topics were varied and at times controversial making for well rounded discussions.

Beginning with keynote speaker Peter Van de Reep; CAPS 2020 BC Sommelier of the Year, Wine Director and Bar Manager at Campagnolo Upstairs giving us an overview of the BC wine industry from the perspective of a sommelier.

Session #1

  • Chris Turyk, DIPWSET, CMS Certified Sommelier, FWS, Unsworth Vineyards
  • Shawn Jones:  Sommelier and general manager at Old Bird.
  • Daniel Dragert, Winemaker, Kutatás Wines
  • Jessica Luongo: Director & co-founder at AmoVino Distributors Ltd.
  • Sean Nelson: Sommelier at Hawksworth Restaurant Group and owner of Somm Wine Guy Consulting.

The first session included two restaurant professionals, two winemakers and one wine importer that lead a discussion that included the interests and habits of the average wine consumer. Interesting to note that Hawksworth Restaurant caters to a clientele who are not necessarily consumers of British Columbia wines nor did I get the impression that although BC wines are available they aren’t something that would be at the forefront of the staff’s recommendations, whereas I felt that Shawn Jones of Old Bird Restaurant was not only a fan herself but that the clientele were more likely to be interested in the selection of BC wines the restaurant has on offer, and because the wine selection pairs so well with their cuisine, it is exclusively BC. I found Nelson’s perception of BC wine to be out of date. I truly believe that BC is making world class wines and as a consumer I do care if our wines are being exported, albiet mostly from a selfish availability issue, but then I am the antithesis of a wine snob. No apologies.

From my own perspective, and being not only a BC wine lover, I consider myself to be a BC wine supporter so obviously I was more in tune with the opinions of Jones during this discussion.

Luongo of AmoVino Distributors made some good points for enjoying a more eclectic selection of wine, not necessarily based solely on price. Questions arose such as why should the consumer choose a BC Sparkling over a considerably less expensive Prosecco? That is an old saw that I hear often when it comes to BC Wine. I am probably not the right person to answer that question because I will chose a BC wine over any other regardless of price. In other words wine drinkers have a choice of drinking better wines less often over a cheaper alternative if cost is an issue. Kind of a life style choice.

Not surprisingly both Turyk and Dragert are keen to have you chose a BC wine and why wouldn’t you when there are so many excellent wines to choose from.

I think there are always alternatives when you are choosing a wine and for most of us price point is a consideration. If you can make that choice while supporting your local industry I consider that a win win.

So what did we taste:

Unsworth 2015 Cuvée de L’ile

At first pronounced sharp, slightly yeasty scents, dry with good body. The aromas settle and I found it easy drinking with hints of celery, peaches, mandarins, tropical fruits and red apple. Light and pleasant.

Straw in color. Apples, citrus and hints of cloves followed by green apple and orange peel, adding a brightness to a dense and generous mouthfeel. $35.00 online from the winery

Unsworth N/V Charme de L’ile

Scents of hard candy, with wonderful aromas of coconut, dusting powder. Excellent acidity, fresh, smooth, delicious and very good.

Bright, green apple and citrus, delicate autolytic character and wet-stone minerality. Dry with beautiful balance and a fine, persistent mousse. $25.00 online from the winery

Kutatás 2015 Methode Traditionnelle

Scents of varnish, olives, cider vinegar, dill pickles and mustard. Very acidic with flavours mirroring the scents.

No tasting notes available.

Kutatás Blanc de Noir

Aromas of caramel and caramel apples, light scents with candy flavours. Moderate acidity. A pleasant wine with medium flavour of citrus, light, easy drinking.

Rich Textural Wine. Nose – Complex. Citrus Meets Baking Spice. Palate – Creamy while having high balancing acid. $18.75 online

Kutatás 2016 Pinot Noir

Typical pinot noir scents, cinnamon, light spice and black pepper. Aromas of hard candy and dark fruits, blackberry, jam and cherries. Delicious, so good, medium body, plum, light acidity, sweetish and rich.

Rich Textural Wine. Nose – Complex. Citrus Meets Baking Spice. Palate – Creamy while having high balancing acid. Sold Out.

Session #2

  • Matthew Landry: B.C.’s top Sommelier in 2019, winner of the B.C. Tasting Games, and wine director at the Stablehouse Bistro.
  • Laura Starr: Freelance writer, sommelier, wine editor at VITA Magazine, and Vice-Chair of the BC Hospitality Foundation.
  • Bailey Williamson, Winemaker, Blue Grouse Winery
  • Louise Fedyk: Massey Wine & Spirits.
  • Brent Rowland, Winemaker, Averill Creek Vineyard

This was the most lively discussion of the evening. Considerable debate between Williamson and Rowland made for an interesting topic, truth in labeling. Is the BC Wine Authority too polictical?

In terms of taking the public pulse, from a sommelier and restauranteur perspective, Landry felt that not every restaurant needed to have BC  wine available, his customers never ask for BC wines.

Overall there was disagreement about GI. Personally I appreciate the designations which lets the consumer know exactly where the grapes that go into a wine come from. Although the panel felt GIs and Sub GIs meant little to the average consumer, a position I definitely disagree with, it was very interesting to hear everyone’s views. Many of the guests also felt the average consumer doesn’t care about where the grapes come from. I don’t agree, just my opinion.

Tasting the final five:

Unsworth 2018 Allegro

I almost, but only almost, feel I should recuse myself because this is another of my #FavouriteThings.

Light scents, fresh, slight citrus and tropical. Love this wine. Such incredible flavour, ever so slight sweetness, green apples, deep. So good, just perfect!

Unique, expressive and luscious Vancouver Island grape varieties. $25.00 online from the winery.

Blue Grouse 2018 Estate Amphora Ortega

Natural, cloudy, sweet scents, a little peach, fruit salad, pink grapefruit, mixed fruit flavours.

This wine reflects the best that warm Cowichan Valley summers can deliver. Ortega is Vancouver Island’s signature grape and this wine is its perfect ambassador. The delicate floral and orange peel aromas are supported by a medium body, with lively acidity that finishes with buttery caramel notes.

Blue Grouse 2016 Estate Pinot Noir

Scents of alcohol, followed by sweet aromas, after a time aromas are spicy, fruity, raspberries. Sweetish taste with medium balance. Lighter than I expected, good.

No tasting notes available.

Averill Creek 2018 Joue White

Scents of lemon, gooseberry, sweetish candy. Tart lemon, complex, rich but a bit sour.

Tense, textured and highly mineral – a delicate nose of white flower and fresh rain invites a lush mid-palate, culminating in a structured, firm finish. $29.53 online 

Averill Creek 2018 Red Field Blend

Medium bodied. Grape varietals not given. General fruit overtones. Dark in colour and is flavourful. Pair with stews or aged cheeses.

I had first tried both the Joue White and Red wines in August of 2018.

Juicy, bright and exuding perfume and expressive fruit. Contrasting structural and textural elements render this a refined, highly consumable red. $29.53 online

Overall a very interesting and rather informative evening. Always worthwhile to hear what others are saying about BC wine and BC wine production. I enjoyed the tastings, meeting and chatting with other wine lovers and the evening was well spent.

The “by the glass” interlude was particularly enjoyable and wine flowed freely. A chance to try some of the wines provided by The View Winery; Okanagan Crush Pad; Sandhill Wines; Tall Tale Wines; Plot Wines, Sebastien Hotte and Legacy Liquor Store. Dinner and Wine break between tastings.

I am an unapologetic fan of BC wine and I believe there is a varietal for anyone who professes to be a wine lover. Not everyone will be drinking the best wine BC has to offer, but only likely because of price point, but often guided by personal choice. Wine drinkers need to get to know their wines. Does this mean you need your levels and diplomas? Surely not just follow your nose and your palate. Never be intimidated by a wine “professional” who seems all knowing because they are not, no one knows what you like but you, and the world of wine snobbery, has no place in the BC wine market.

I disagree, as I stated, with statements like “BC is not producing world class wines” yet we do well in competitions outside of our own region and country. Like beauty is in the eye of the beholder; your choice of wine is yours to appreciate.

I had a great time and would not hesitate to recommend a Sensory Symposium experience to any wine lover or hospitality professional. VV Tapas Lounge is a popular wine bar and made a good venue choice.

Thank you to everyone who participated and made this such a worthwhile event.

Sponsored by:

Sandhill, AmoVino, Emkad, Massey, Nuance, Sani Marc, Town Hall Brands, VV Tapas Lounge, Riedel.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

About Silk + Coupe

Laura is a WSET certified consultant with an extensive history of working in the wine and hospitality industry. Skilled in marketing, public speaking, wine education, event planning and management; she has launched and successfully owns and operates a biannual wine conference, the Sensory Symposium, and a national subscription based wine club, Crushable. It takes stones to speak about wine with any lasting impact or impression. What audiences really want is passion and insider info, married with serious knowledge of winemaking. Laura brings that intangible “thing” — she showcases prime vino as can’t-miss, for appreciators and amateurs alike, producing content and holding events that burrow firmly into the memories of guests for years to come.

About Sirocco Food and Wine Consulting

Sirocco Food and Wine Consulting specializes in delivering technical consulting services including Food Safety Management System implementation (HACCP, FSEP, SQF, Preventive Controls for Human Food) as well as Sensory Testing of wine and food products. We focus on science and best practices to provide value to our clients.

About Terrioir Consulting

terroir: the story of place

consumer research, sensory evaluation, organizational strategy, business coaching, brand development, winery and regional marketing, hospitality training, winemaker coaching, vineyard planning, wine professional education and wine industry events

– professional consulting based in Kelowna, BC, Canada –

About Darcen Esau

Darcen is a market researcher specializing in both consumer behavior and sensory evaluation. With over a decade of experience designing and implementing research studies, he recently completed his Masters at the University of British Columbia Okanagan where he studied the sensory experience of wine and how this impacts consumer decision making. Specifically, his research explored how identifying with a wine label goes beyond increasing appeal and purchase intent and can actually impact the taste of the wine.

Darcen is also a partner and the head of research for a new company called TasteAdvisor ( The TasteAdvisor App recommends B.C. wine, wineries, events and experiences all based on your preferences and your personal sensory profile.

Previously, as the Associate Vice President at Ipsos, he designed and implemented consumer behaviour and product understanding studies for clients throughout North America. As an experienced moderator and facilitator, this included dozens of qualitative projects, including focus groups, IDI’s, shop-alongs, and ethnographies. Additionally, he has designed and conducted dozens of quantitative studies, many of which utilize advanced analytics like Implicit Association, TURF, Discrete Choice Modelling and MaxDiff.

As a Panel Leader for Sensory Spectrum Inc., he led descriptive analysis panels to understand the sensory experience of consumer products, a skillset he continues to implement with wine panel research across Canada.

Connect with Darcen on Twitter @DarcenEsau

The inaugural Sensory Symposium took place at Okanagan College, Penticton Campus on April 28, 2019. Our guest blogger Valerie Stride submitted a review which you can read here.

Wines notes in italics courtesy of the wineries. “About” segments courtesy of Silk + Coupe, Sirocco Food and Wine Consulting, Terrioir Consulting, and Darcen Esau. I received one complimentary seat and purchase one seat for my companion. All opinions are my own.

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