Grower Champagne

Many people who seek out farmers’ markets are looking for an alternative to the mass produced ingredients they find in grocery shops. So it would come as no surprise to learn that the same trend is happening in the wine world. Small, handcrafted producers are making honest and true wines that express the places they are made. Champagne is a region largely divided into two. The people that grow the grapes, and the people that make the wine. The growers sell their grapes to co-operatives or negocients for processing, blending, packaging and sale. The big champagne houses that we’re all on a first name basis with make an even larger amount of champagne – enough to satisfy tastes around the world. But there is alternative. Some of the farmers that grow the grapes also make their own wines. Most wine lovers call them Grower Champagnes, or “farmer fizz”. They are people that tend to the vine all summer. They know the best time to harvest and are able to express their vineyard through the grapes that they grow. Champagne is made from a combination of three different grapes; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay brings acidity and elegance to the blend. An […]

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Teaching from a Coffee Guru – the Basics of the Bean

I know this is not really about wine, but it is about something else I drink. And it coffee helps if I drink too much wine! I don’t know how you find a guru, or even if they find you, but I found my coffee guru in Kelowna. As a wine guy, I normally visit to the Okaganan to taste wine. This time, however, I ended up tasting bean-based, not grape-based beverages. I was introduced to Greg McMurray through a good friend. Though he has a ‘day job’, he has long been interested in coffee from bean to cup. He bought a small commercial grade roaster and started selling beans to friends. Then friends of friends, and their friends, and well, you get the idea. He’s now the proud owner of Fresh City Coffee, a boutique micro-roaster, located in Kelowna. He still personally delivers it to your house, outside of the hours of his other ‘real job’. When I visiting the valley a few months ago, he was kind enough to share the ways of the bean: the provenance, the roast, the brew. Each step has endless variables, so I’ve tried to simplify Guru Greg’s teachings here, for beginners, like me. […]

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Sonoma County Riches

Sonoma County has their own off shore bank, but the coffers do not contain the usual currency. Instead there is an upwelling of cold water that fills the fog bank just of the coast of Sonoma, caused by a sharp drop off in Pacific Ocean floor. The warm surface water is pushed further south by the flow of the cold deep ocean currents, creating cooling fog. At the southern part of the valley the Petaluma gap ushers in the fog each morning, while the afternoon sun chases it away. The diurnal temperature swing can be as much as 35 degrees in the summer. The cool nights and mornings give the wines a vibrant backbone of acidity and freshness while the afternoon warmth allow the grapes to fully ripen. Fog and temperature are not the only contributing factors when it comes to growing grapes in Sonoma. As an appellation on a major fault line, the San Andreas, there are many soil types. Rumour has it that there are more soil types in the Russian River Valley than there are in all of Burgundy. Add some altitude to the mix and you have a recipe for wide diversity of wines. As part […]

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Tinhorn Creek: Canada’s only carbon neutral winery

It seemed strange to be standing in the middle of a desert vineyard talking about salmon. But there I was in Oliver, with Tinhorn Creek Vineyard Manager Andrew Moon talking about some of the many initiatives that make Tinhorn Creek Canada’s only carbon neutral winery. Tinhorn Creek has become one of the first wineries to receive certification from the Pacific Salmon foundation as a Salmon-Safe Farm. Many of the pesticides and fertilizers that are used in farming end up as run-off and wind up in the local lakes and rivers, negatively affecting the aquatic wildlife. Part of the aim in the vineyard was to switch from overhead irrigation to drip irrigation. Despite the large capital investment of over 1 million dollars, the long-term environmental factor of helping to save the planet by using less water far outweighed any upfront financial considerations for Tinhorn Creek. An additional benefit to drip irrigation is that it creates less run-off water – water that will find ways into lakes and rivers. It’s just one of the small solutions to a large problem that has put Tinhorn Creek on the environmental map. The fuel that is required to activate farm equipment can be mixed with biofuel to […]

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Le Vieux Pin: Equinoxe Master Class

Le Vieux Pin is a small production winery on the coveted Black Sage Road in Oliver BC. The first vintage to market was 2005 and they have carved out a path for varietally correct wines that tell a story of the place and vintage in the South Okanagan. On September 12, General Manager Rasoul Salehi and winemaker Severine Pinte hosted a Master Class of the Equinoxe wines. Equinoxe is their top tier of wines, limited in volume and raised in prestige. Among the wines tasted were two very different Syrahs. The 2008 was rich and full, while the 2009 was leaner and more floral, but both shared the same sense of place and structure with a bracing acidity.The amount of similarities was equal to the amount of differences, highlighting the importance and excitement of vintage variation. Even though LVP will be focusing more on syrah in the coming years, it is their Cabernet Franc that they truly cherish. The grapes are from a single parcel of 14-year-old vines that showed particular potential during the 2006 harvest. Enough potential to make the owners “hand destem each cluster and treat it with velvet gloves”, according to Salehi. This is the pinnacle of Equinoxe […]

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Writings about my passion for wine, and the people, places, and stories connected to it.