Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Night Salmon

I always enjoy running across wines that have a unique aspect to them - whether it be the varietal or varietals used or the method of production or the location of the winery - but it definitely helps when those wines are not only unique but enjoyable enough that they keep you coming back for more.

Nichol Vineyard has been known for a number of innovative approaches to BC wine over the years, but their take on Pinot Gris is one that always garners its share of press and eyebrow raising.

904. 2009 Nichol Vineyard Pinot Gris (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

Pinot Gris remains the most widely planted white varietal in BC and there's quite a range in the wines that are made available. Very few, however, take the route that Nichol has become well known for (at least among local wine geeks) - and that route includes leaving the crushed juice on the skins for a short time. The contact with the skins - even though it's only for a matter of hours - results in the juice taking on some colour. This is a procedure similar to one used for making Rosé wines; however, Rosé wines, by definition, come from red grape varietals.

The Pinot Gris grape has a darker coloured skin than most white varietals and that allows the possibility of adding some colour to the wine. Nichol has been known for its wild orange-y, salmon-esque colouring for some years now. I love it.

Of course, as much as Boo loves the colour orange, that alone isn't going to cause us to keep going back to a wine. There must be something going right with Nichol though because this is the third vintage of their Pinot Gris that I've added to The List. We tried the '05 vintage back at #252 and I took a bottle of the 2008 with me to Cuba last Christmas and we opened that at #691.

The thing about skins and wine, however, is that they are also used to impart tannin into the finished product. Coloured or not, this Pinot doesn't exhibit the tannic finish of even a lighter red. The length of the contact is so limited that the tannins that do exist in these skins don't have the time to add any influence. It's a wine that still hits you with a wallop of acidity. It also boasts a bigger body to it than most other BC whites.

Indeed, I find that the combination of body and acidity rather calls for food - more so than many BC Pinot Gris wines that are great little patio sippers. A sweet corn on the cob may not be the ideal match, but our salmon, beans and tomato bocconcini didn't seem to suffer any.

As if the unique colour wasn't enough, I was interested to read in a Globe & Mail report that the Naramata Inn chose this Nichol Pinot Gris to be the first Canadian wine to be served on tap in a Canadian restaurant. Nichol arranged to "bottle" some of its wine in 19.5L stainless steel kegs and it's being served by the glass at the Inn. The article reported that restaurant manager, Quentin Kayne, was skeptical at first but re-thought his opinion after doing a taste comparison between a tapped glass and a bottle poured glass of the same wine. His conclusion was that the wine "actually tastes better on tap than it does in the bottle."

Wine on tap may still be a rarity in BC, but the cost saving, eco-friendly, by-the-glass pours may become more and more common in time. Nichol certainly seems to be playing its part in giving the concept a chance.

Just goes to show that being different and unique can definitely have its upside.

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