Posts Tagged ‘wine tasting’

SOME TIPS ON VISITING WINERIES DURING HARVEST SEASON

September 28, 2016

It’s Fall, and many people will be visiting wine country for festivals and to taste wines! So here are a few tips before you go…and some recommendations on where to go if you are visiting wineries in BC.

1. Remember it is harvest season – seems simple, but it is important…as much as wineries welcome you at this time of year, they are also getting ready – or even starting – to harvest this year’s vintage! That makes it very busy and stressful at all wineries. Keep that in mind if you get the sense your hosts have other things on their minds!

2. Fewer is better – whether it is the number of wineries or wines (or both), go for quality, not quality. No matter how good a taster you are, “palate fatigue” can set in pretty quickly. So pick the wineries you want to see in advance, and even the specific wines you want to taste. That will lead to a better experience.

3. Spit if you can – I know some people think it is gross, but spitting will really help you taste better – and more – wines. All wineries will have spittoons, and those leading tastings will actually be thankful if you spit.

4. Only buy if you really want to – unless you have unlimited resources, it’s okay to be choosey what you buy (if anything). Wineries won’t be insulted, particularly these days as most of them charge a tasting fee anyway. If you like it and can afford it, then buy it. Otherwise, don’t worry about it!

5. Taste and move on – finally, whether you are visiting wineries or going to a big tasting, don’t linger in the tasting line! Taste, maybe ask a question, but then move…you can always come back to taste more wines. One of the things that drives me and many “winos” crazy is people who just stand there for 10 or more minutes talking to the host or each other. That just backs up the line and gets people mad. So move it!

And as for tasting here in BC? Here is a short list of wineries to visit (or whose wines to taste) from our main regions:

1. Penticton/Naramata – La Frenz, Howling Bluff, Nichol, Marichel, Kettle Valley, Moraine
2. Similkameen – Eau Vivre, Orofino
3. Okanagan Falls – Blue Mountain
4. Southern Okanagan – Burrowing Owl, Nk Mip, Quinta Ferreira, Church & State, Moon Curser
5. Vancouver Island – Averill Creek, Rocky Creek, Vignetti Zanatta
6. Fraser Valley – Mt. Lehman, Vista d’Oro, Domaine de Chaberton

Enjoy the Fall!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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The Okanagan Wineries you REALLY Want to Visit

April 13, 2016

Okay, that time of the year again. Spring, which means wineries are putting out new releases and opening up their tasting rooms!

It also means the so called wine experts are starting to write about “where to go” to taste wine. And, as usual in BC, for some reason some of the best wineries are getting left off that list!

So here you go…based on my experience tasting BC wines since the breakthrough 1998 vintage, these are the Okanagan wineries that you want to go to, and the wines you want to taste there!

1. Naramata

Start here or finish here, doesn’t matter…this is the best wine region not only in the Okanagan, but in BC. Once there, you should check out:
* La Frenz (for all wines, as it is the best winery in Canada)
* Kettle Valley (for Pinot Noirs)
* Nichol (for Syrah)
* Marichel (for Syrah)
* Moraine (for Syrah, Pinot Noir and Riesling)
* Howling Bluff (for Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir)

2. Similkameen

Still a bit unknown, and not a lot of wineries, but do check out Eau Vivre (world class Pinot Noir, plus Malbec) and Orofino (amazing Cali style Syrah, plus Pinot Noir and Riesling).

3. South Okanagan

The Osoyoos/Oliver region is the area most well known, and the one the big critics like. But it doesn’t have the best wineries. There are some very good ones, however, so check out:
* Blue Mountain (actually in Okanagan Falls, but worth the trip, as with Kettle Valley, the best Pinot Noirs in BC)
* Church and State (Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
* Burrowing Owl (Syrah)
* Moon Curser (Syrah, Bordeaux blend)
* Cassini Cellars (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay)
* Nk Mip (Pinot Noir, Syrah)

There you go…you can do these wineries in 2 days if you like. My wine guide can show you how!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Learnings from the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

March 9, 2016

A week late, but here are 5 things I learned from this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival:

1. The VIWF remains one of the best wine events anywhere

Year in, year out, regardless of the feature country/grape, the VIWF is outstanding and can compete with any festival in the world. It gets great producers, and they actually pour some of their best wines, which this year mean lots of Barolos, Barbarescos, Brunellos and Chianti Classico Riservas!

2. Young Barolo doesn’t have to be tannic

What a nice surprise! I love Barolo, but find it hard to taste/evaluate young…after 10+ years it is amazing, but young…except this year! I tasted a number of 2010’s and 2011’s that were really ripe…still with tannin, but way fruitier than usual. A much more enjoyable experience!

3. My favourite producers continue to be…my favourite producers!

Call it bias if you want, but it was great to see that some of my favourite producers once again made some of my favourite wines! Case in point? Averill Creek and their Pinot Noir…Andy continues to make unbelievably good wine on Vancouver Island, a gorgeous cross between Cali and Burgundy. The same goes for Famille Perrin and their Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel. Yes, it is expensive at about $90. But simply stunning, and having been drinking this wine since the 1981 vintage, I can tell you it is almost guaranteed to produce an orgasmic experience after 10 – 15+ years.

4. Its nice when expectations are exceeded

Argentina hasn’t been a big focus of mine for a while when it comes to fine wine, with too many producers using too much oak in their red wines (particularly their Malbecs). But Decero and Colome had beautiful wines, including a 100% Cabernet Franc that was as good as I have had in many years.

5. Its too bad when low expectations are met

Have to say it…sorry…but when I saw Mission Hill had some new single vineyard wines with fancy names (and price tags), I bet myself they wouldn’t be anything to write home about. Tasted them and…no surprise, I was right!

There you go…short but sweet for a rainy Wednesday night!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

How Important is Wine Tasting, Anyway?

September 24, 2014

We watched an interesting documentary last weekend on Sommeliers, specifically the process for gaining the highest level of certification (I know, I know…but it was the only thing on Netflix we wanted to watch).
The part I found most fascinating was the emphasis placed on wine tasting. For those who don’t know, there are three components in the Sommelier exams – wine knowledge/theory, wine service and blind tasting (the ability to tell what a wine is just from its colour). The first two didn’t get very much coverage at all (especially the last one, which had about one scene in 90 minutes! But it all seemed to be about the tasting portion.

By the end, that got me to thinking about why and, more importantly, whether that is – or isn’t – important.
Let’s look at it from two perspectives – what a sommelier needs to serve his or her customers, and what a customer needs.

The second one first! As a wine drinker anywhere – restaurant, home, etc. – how important is it for you to be able to correctly taste and identify the wine you are drinking?
Personally, I think not very important at all. Aside from being able to tell if a wine is “off” or oxidized (from being left open too long), why does it matter? All that really matters is if you enjoy it. If part of that enjoyment is being able to describe it to your friends or partner, great…but hardly a necessity. It tastes, good, pour me more!

And in terms of the advice you are looking for from the sommelier?

Well, if you haven’t had a wine or grape variety before, it would be nice to know – in general terms – what it will taste like. From the basic (sweet vs dry, oaky or not) to the specific (the kind of fruit, amount of herbal tastes), all can be helpful. But do you need to hear – and the therefore the sommelier have to know – the details i.e. wet dog fur, cat pee, fallen leaves, earth floor, etc.? I’m not sure.

Not only that, but is it really possible to smell and taste these flavours? Personally, I doubt it. There is only so much your nose and mouth can do…the rest, I think, is just good marketing.

Finally, regardless of whether you can or can’t “get” all these different smells and tastes, I think everyone does it differently. Aside from the basics, we all taste very differently. What are cherries to one person may be plums to another…even fruity can have a very different definition depending on the taster (see Bordeaux tasting as a good example).

I just don’t think that tasting is a science the way it is portrayed. So why should we put so much emphasis on it?

This was actually reinforced in the movie when some of the candidates were talking to each other about some of the wines they were tasting during training. One set of white wines was either white Hermitage (made from Roussanne and Marsanne) or barrel fermented California Chardonnay (make from…well, you know what!). Now, in my experience, those wines could not taste more different! The former has a flowery nose, but a distinct waxy, almost resiny taste…some would call it an acquired taste. The latter has vanilla, butterscotch and citrus. This is particularly the case for the actual wine they used, the Beringer Private Reserve, one of my favourite wines and almost instantly recognizable for this flavour profile.

But guess what…these professional tasters mixed up these wines, and couldn’t agree which was which! If this is possible for wines this different, then anybody can get it wrong…or right.
That, I guess, is my point. Whatever you smell and taste is personal to you…not right or wrong, just what you are experiencing. That experience will be different for the next person, just like it will be different for the sommelier.

And if it is different, then why put so much emphasis on it? Just enjoy what is in your glass!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

WINE TASTING DO’S AND DON’TS

May 28, 2014

With the May long weekend now come and gone, many of us will be heading off to wine country in the next few months to check out our favourite wineries and their new releases.

But before you do, a few tips that will help you make the most of the experience!

The main one is to have at least a general strategy for your day (or days). By that, I mean:
• Are you going to a few specific wineries or just cruising? – This is important because not all wineries are open on the same days, or at all! The last thing you want is to plan your trip around certain destinations, only to turn up and find they are not open. A quick look at the winery’s website can avoid this problem.
• Are you looking to taste/buy specific wines, or just what is available? – The same argument applies here, but even more so! Many wineries don’t pour their best wines, both because they are the most expensive, and made in the lowest quantities. Also, what is available is often driven by the time of year. Early spring is great for newly released white wines, but don’t expect new reds – they come out later in the summer! Again, a quick check of the website (or a phone call) can help.
• Are you going to drink or spit? – No, this is not a disgusting question. If you plan to visit a number of wineries – and taste many of their wines – you should plan on spitting for a couple of reasons. First off, if you don’t, you will need a designated driver! It doesn’t take very long before those “little glasses of wine” build up and make you unsafe to drive. As well, the more you drink, the less you will be able to actually taste. A “drunk” wine taster doesn’t have a lot of skill!

Okay, so you have your strategy. But now you are at the first winery, and there are a range of wines to taste. What do you do?

Well, this is the easier part – taste what you want to taste!

The great thing about tasting at wineries is that you are in control of what you want to taste, particularly since you are probably paying a nominal fee to do so anyway. So don’t feel obligated to taste everything, or the style of wines you don’t like.

You should, however, taste whites before reds (if you are doing both). If you do the opposite, your taste buds may get overwhelmed, making it impossible to taste the more delicate white wines. And leave any sweet wines to the end. The extra sugar will make it very hard to go back to red or white wines!

Finally, what about any expectations about buying a bottle or two? People often ask me that, saying they feel guilty if they don’t buy after tasting. And, to be honest, I experience that as well.

But the best thing to do is – get over it! You know what you like (and don’t like) and what you think is worth buying (and not). Don’t be swayed by guilt or anything else to buy something you don’t want to buy.

The wineries don’t mind, by the way. The cost of the tastings – and the wines involved – is all factored into the overhead of the winery and, ultimately, the cost of the wine. While they certainly appreciate purchases, they will also not be insulted if you don’t buy anything.

Last, but not least, is the most important tip – have fun! Don’t be intimidated by “wine speak” or any “wine snobs”. Wine is supposed to be fun, and wine tasting even more fun. Taste as much as you like, buy if you want, but just have a good time.

Otherwise, why are you there in the first place?

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com