Saturday, September 14, 2013

Annual BCWAS Bus Tour - The Lead Up

The 2013 Annual BCWAS Bus Tour has arrived and, once again, Boo was working for the weekend and wasn't able to make it. Far be it from me to actually think that I could enjoy a weekend - drinking copious amounts of wine, eating gourmet meal after gourmet meal and laughing ourselves silly - without him, but you know I had to bite the bullet and try.

After all, this is prime blogging material and you never know how many bottles I might be able to slip by Boo and his "No Buy Leash" when he's not there to restrain me.

Luckily, I managed to sneak away from work a little early because I dearly wanted to join up with some of the gang for a pre-Tour outing. Mr. Technicolour had arranged a Legacy Tasting Tour at Mission Hill with none other than the winery's Director of Sales, Ingo Grady. The timing was always going to be tight but a 20-minute delay on Highway 1 didn't help matters. Arriving just in the nick of time, this was a tour to remember.

Ingo regaled us with some history of perhaps BC's best known winery while we took in the majesty of the location and the stunning architecture. There's little doubt that $60 million can buy a fair bit of splendour and make some tasty wine. An initial visit to the Chagall Room tapestry was followed by a tour of the show cellar where the Legacy series wines are aged and a collection of antique wine vessels is displayed.

No self-respecting winery tour concludes without featuring some wine tasting as well and this one didn't disappoint. We were treated to the limited edition Martin's Lane Riesling, Viognier and Pinot Noir, followed by Mission Hill's Quatrain red blend and a Late Harvest Vidal (that was only "late harvest" because the temperature at picking and crushing missed the -9°C required for Ice Wine designation by 0.5°C).

Mr. T Jumping for Joy
Ingo was particularly pleased to advise us of two major awards being given to the winery. WineAlign's 2013 National Wine Awards had recently named Mission Hill Canadian Winery of the Year and - perhaps on even a grander scale - the Decanter World Wine Awards had just named the 2011 Martin's Lane as the World's Best Pinot Noir in the under £15 category.

Many writers feel that the Decanter award may just put Canada and the Okanagan on the world map for Pinot Noir - just as Mission Hill had shocked the global winerati in 1994 when the winery's Chardonnay was named "Best Chardonnay in the World." Back then, such a triumph was so unfathomable that the judging panel re-tasted the entire flight - only to arrive at the same conclusion. Although just as many heads might have been turned by this Pinot Noir, we weren't advised of a required re-tasting by the judges.

Needless to say, the "No Buy Leash" needed a little tightening as we concluded our visit with a stop at the wine shop.

Once we'd settled into our digs for the weekend at the Summerland Waterfront Resort, it was time for a cocktail or two. Although the Bus Tour had arranged a gathering that evening, our little gang was fairly knackered and we passed on the party - choosing instead to let Chef Boy KC loose in the kitchen to do his magic while we got popped a couple of corks.

1418.  2011 Le Vieux Pin - Vaila Rosé (Okanagan Valley)

Okanagan Rosé wines are making a bit of name for themselves and this one is definitely garnering its share of attention. $30 can be seen as a bit dear for Rosé but this one is made with the same attention and reduced tonnage that Le Vieux Pin utilizes with all their other wines.  The wine is made completely from Pinot Noir grapes and the label notes that the grapes are grown at about three tons per acre. The fruit is harvested from vineyards in West Kelowna (where Mission Hill is by the way), on the Black Sage Bench (Le Vieux Pin's home turf), from Okanagan Falls and from the Golden Mile.

Le Vieux Pin wasn't on the Bus Tour program this year but this was a fine way to toast the start to the weekend - that is, if you like big acidity and bright fruit.

1419.  2010 Chateau Ste Michelle Syrah (Columbia Valley - Washington State)

Next up was a Washington Syrah. Just like Rosé wines, Syrah is garnering a big following in BC wine circles. It may, however, be raising even more hoopla in the vineyards of our neighbour to the South. I'm far from an expert on Washington wines but I keep seeing articles about Syrah making headlines South of the border.

From what I know, Chateau Ste Michelle is to Washington State much what Mission Hill is to the Okanagan. It's a big producer that has a number of higher end tiers as well. I know of the winery mostly because Ste Michelle's Eroica is my favourite Washington Riesling (not that I know a great number of them). A fairly big Syrah; this bottle just seemed a little shy on the fruit for my palate.

It was fun to see a Washington wine on the table because it let us give Shelback a hard time about her straying from the path of the Great Canadian Wine Challenge so early in its mandate. What is it, a week or two into the game or so? That girl has taken a good look at the "rules" though and she's hanging her hat on the decree that "you can drink a non-Canadian wine if it is served at a dinner party and you don't have a choice." Considering the dinner party was her's and there were still unopened BC wines on the table, I think she plays pretty hard and loose with the Challenge's rules.

A "hard and loose" Shelback. That's not the first phrase thrown out usually when describing our dear girl.

1420.  Frank Cornelissen - Sususaru 3 Rosato (Sicily - Italy)

The final wine of the night - for me anyhow - was a rarity that Chef Boy KC brought along to try and stump everyone with. A Sicilian Rosé - made from Nerello Mascalese grapes.

We were certainly stumped as this was a wine like no other. After the fact, I saw that this is a "natural" wine. I'm no expert on natural wines either but they certainly seem to cause their share of controversy in the wine press. The Sususaru 3 label reads "ATTENTION This wine has not been modified, neither chemically, nor mechanically and does not contain preservatives or stabilizers. It will develop natural sedimentation as our wines are not filtered or altered." I didn't notice any sedimentation but we all noticed a nose that was as different as different can be - as was the actual taste - but Chef Boy KC was quite convinced that the bottle wasn't "off." If that wasn't enough of a hint, I think I can safely say that this wasn't my favourite wine. I dearly wanted to like it but, in reality, I thought I did well by finishing the wine in my glass.

I took a further look for information on the wine and the winery website takes the label description further and states "Our farming philosophy is based on our acceptance of the fact that man will never be able to understand nature's full complexity and interactions. We therefore choose to concentrate on observing and learning the movements of mother Earth in her various energetic and cosmic passages and prefer to follow her indications as to what to do, instead of deciding and imposing ourselves. Consequently, this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be."

Interesting? Yes. Laudable? Perhaps. Suffice it to say, however, that there was still a good part of the bottle left when we put head to pillow - and that's saying something with this crowd. I think the hope was that the wine might mellow out by the morning.

I'm happy to say that Chef Boy KC's culinary talents far outshone his choice in that particular wine though.

A grand start to the weekend I'd say. The hope would now be that the Bus Tour component would be just as formidable.

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