Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Friday BCWAS Happy Hour

After a full day of pre-bus tour training, I could have easily flopped down in front of the TV or hit the hot tub and simply begged off the rest of the evening. The BCWAS gang had pretty much arrived at Walnut Beach by now, however, and a little unofficial meet and greet for fellow "Tourers" had been planned.

It was a good thing that I drag my tired self down the hallway because there was a fine spread of nibblies and wines to be had - and it was a grand opportunity to put some names to some of the approximately 50 folks that I'd be spending the weekend with. Regular BCWAS tastings don't necessarily offer the best of opportunities to chat with and get to know your neighbour - or you tend mingle with the folks that you already know.

This was my first Bus Tour and it was a bit surprising to find out the high percentage of tour veterans that were in attendance. Indeed, one of the returning members, Donnell, had won a grand 3L bottle at last year's Tour of the Naramata Bench. He was gracious enough to bring it and open it up for this year's busmates.

925. 2008 Naramata Bench Spring Release Red Blend (Okanagan Valley)

If I got the story correct, this is a wine that you can't buy at any store or winery. The special wine is a collaboration between a collection of winemakers from Bench winemakers and it has only been produced a couple of times for use at fundraising and promotional events. I'm told it's a Bordeaux/Meritage blend and four or five of the Bench's winemakers contribute the various components. There weren't many other details to be had however. I'd love to have an entire tasting to discuss and dissect the wine with all those winemakers (and their egos). I can only imagine the discussions and multiple tastings that must have gone into the wine.

I may not have gotten to try much of the wine, but I'll be darned if I don't add such a unique bottle to The List when the opportunity arises.

926. 2077 Van Westen Vineyard Vrancenstein (Okanagan Valley)

Although the Vrancenstein looks somewhat dwarfed by the Spring Release bottle in the picture, it's a super-sized magnum itself and it sports its own intriguing history. Van Westen owner and winemaker, Rob Van Westen, received a special Christmas present from the girls in his life - a 5L handpainted bottle. His task, however, was to fill the bottle with some of his favourite wine and try to raise as much money as possible for charity.

Since the bottle was to be auctioned off around Halloween, he chose to fill it with his Cab Franc - made from grapes picked on Halloween 2007. Sticking to their tradition of giving all of their wines names that start with the letter "V," they chose Vrancenstein.

When bottling that 5L bottle, he also bottled a limited number of magnums and donated the proceeds from all sales to the BC Children's Hospital.

I hadn't heard of the winery's efforts on this front but I heartily approve and I was glad to be able to sample some of this special bottle as well.

927. 2009 Laughing Stock Syrah (Okanagan Valley)

The third addition to The List tonight is no slouch in its own right. The 2009 bottling was only the second vintage of Syrah that Laughing Stock has produced and they've taken a very Northern Rhone-like approach to the wine in that they've blended the Syrah with 8% Viognier. This was at least a bottle that you could buy; however, you'll notice the tense on "was." The vintage is sold out at the winery already.

This Laughing Stock was served at the BCWAS Syrah/Shiraz tasting back in June, but darned if I could find any notes from the evening. I'd love to see what I thought of the wine that evening because I could have kept filling up my glass tonight.

There were plenty more bottles opened through the evening, but I played it fairly tame since I knew we had a full day - involving plenty o' bus riding - and it was scheduled to start in the not too distant future. I rather gathered, however, that if you judge your company by the wines they serve up, I was in with some pretty impressive folk. As fine of a time that I might have been having with the Naramata Bench tonight, Oliver and environs was calling.

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