“First” experiences — regardless of what they are all about — always stick with you. And that is certainly the case with my first taste of a great BC wine. It came from Blue Mountain Winery in Okanagan Falls and, specifically, the 1996 Striped Label Pinot Noir.
Up until that time I knew little or nothing about BC wines. I had tried the odd white wine, which I wasn’t too impressed with. Any reds had been green, unripe and woody; in fact, I had more success with a couple of Ontario red wines that I did with the BC ones.
But all that changed when I had to help plan a work social event in Victoria, B.C. in the late 1990’s. The focus was to be on BC, if at all possible, and the food at the hotel where we were staying wasn’t a problem, as by then there was already lots to choose from. But wine? That was another story — or so I thought.
In looking at the wine list and talking to the Food and Beverage managers, I saw this winery I had never heard of before. For me, “Blue Mountain” had been a pool I swam in when I was a kid and living in Coquitlam. So what could this “Striped Label Pinot Noir” be all about. I asked to try a glass.
The rest, as they say, is history. I dimly remember shaking my head, looking at the bottle, and then at the glass, and then back again. Classic earthy red cherries, light oak, touch of mushroomy/barnyard you only find in Burgundy, and big, lush body — wow! All that, and in a BC wine?!!!!?
Needless to say I ordered it for the dinner and the results were equally impressive. A couple of my colleagues who were tried and true beer drinkers came up to me and asked where they could buy it — now that is a tribute!!!
Since then, I have been collecting, aging and drinking this fabulous wine. On par with the Kettle Valley Hayman vineyard in good vintages, it easily grows and develops for 5 – 8 years. The 1998 (from BC’s greatest red wine vintage to date) was drinking beautifully at age ten!
It also remains a bit of an exclusive wine. Only sold at the winery through their wine list, it sells out quickly. And you have to be far enough up on the mailing list to get any at all! At $36 it isn’t cheap, but boy is it worth it! I had the 2007 with a client from Napa last year and his eyes bulged when he tasted it — couldn’t believe it wasn’t from his State!
Their Striped Label Pinot is not the only great wine at Blue Mountain either. The regular Pinot Noir — though lighter — is a good deal at just over $20. And they make maybe the best Gamay in B.C. — fresh, fruity and ripe, the way Beaujolais used to taste!
On the white side, the Chardonnays and Pinot Gris’ — both the regular and Striped Label wines — are also very nice. And their sparkling wines — a Brut and Brut Rose — are outstanding values for $25, both made in a Spanish Cava style.
If you want to check out the winery, make sure you call ahead first — tours are by appointment only. And don’t expect all the wines to be available, as they sell out quickly. But you can find them in a number of the better restaurants in Vancouver.
So my kudos to the Mavety family for their continued commitment to great wine. It was my first experience, and led me into the developing world of BC wine.