The Demystified Vine

Taking the mystery out of wine exploration!

I Have a Crush on Lodi

Valerie Stride, WSET ADV Certified

The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California has officially ended, and I can tell you I was left with a little more love for Lodi than I had before.

Demystified Vine

Demystified Vine poses for a photo on South Hutchins Street

During wine training courses, lots of knowledge is imparted on eager learners, but one thing I do recall learning about Lodi is that it was the “high production area of California”.

Sure, Lodi is definitely one of the largest grape-producing areas of the sunny state of Cali, but there is so much more to it than that.

Here are my takeaways from the conference that developed my amour for Lodi.

Photo used with permission from Lodiwine.com

Photo used with permission from Lodiwine.com

-=It’s not all about Zinfandel!=-
Lodi is well-known globally for its Zinfandel production, however, let’s set the record straight, folks. Lodi also grows amazing grapes like Cinsault, Picpoul, and Grenache Blanc, in addition to other agricultural crops like walnuts and almonds!

-=Lodi is HOT, baby!=-
My goodness, I’ve never felt heat before like in Lodi. The days are sunny and dry – the kind of dry that makes you feel as dry as the sand on the ground. (Well, with only 17″ of rainfall per year {*cough*} it’s no wonder I was consuming H2O as if my life depended on it.) There is less diurnal range (the temperature difference between day and night) in Lodi than other areas of California, but temperatures definitely soar during the day and drop at night.

Demystified Vine

Acquiesce winery in Lodi is making small batch white wines

-=Lodi has more land than you think!=-
With over 110,000 acres of growing land, that makes it easy for there to be over 750 growers in this small area of California. In contrast, Napa, one of the most popular grape-growing areas of California, has only 45,000 acres to make wine from!

-=It’s not all about mass production!=-
While a lot of grapes are grown and sold to bigger producers in the area and beyond, many of Lodi’s growers are doing their own thing and making some fabulous small-batch vino.

-=Lodi is home to some seriously senior vines!=-
Believe it or not, I saw some of the thickest vines in Lodi that I have ever seen in my wine-country travels. This region prides itself on its Zin-tastic grapes, and the stat is that this “Zinfandel Capital of the World” is making more than 40 percent of Zin in California itself.

Demystified Vine

Thick vines in Lodi, CA

For more information, make sure to visit the Lodi Wine Commission website. If that doesn’t excite you about Lodi, have a conversation with me!

Have you been to Lodi? What were your experiences or favourite finds? Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

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“Success of Prosecco is due to its versatility,” stated Giulia Pussini, “[and] it has a long history [which] started in 1876. Production has improved, and success [has been seen with this style of wine] in the last two decades.” Essentially, Prosecco has enjoyed a global uplift in the last little while. Giulia was visiting from Veneto, the northeastern region of Italy, where she works for the Office of Communications and Events with the Consorzio Tutela del Vino. According to their website, the Consorzio, or Consortium, is “a private body created in the public interest and it groups together all of the categories of producers: vine-growers, winemaking companies and bottlers”. Their goal is to work in the areas of promoting, protection, and sustainability.

logoConsorzio-scritta

If you didn’t know already, wine lovers, Italy exports a lot of wine to Canada, and with those shipments comes the bubbles. In the most basic of terms, Prosecco is the sparkling wine of Italy, in the same way Champagne is to France or Cava is to Spain. Prosecco ranges from dry to sweet[er], and it is a very food-friendly wine.

According to Jim Ainsworth in his book, White Wine Guide: A complete introduction to choosing white wines, “Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene or Prosecco (as most people know it), is the sparkling wine Venice drinks. [It] can offer a dry and agreeable style, providing it is consumed while young” (145). While most wines offer potential for ageing depending on the style and quality, Prosecco is the perfect sparking wine for Friday night dinner parties, backyard BBQs, or romantic getaways with the one that makes you swoon. As stated in the Wine & Spirit Education Trust advanced textbook (2011), “These wines are meant to be consumed when they are young and fresh and do not benefit from bottle ageing” (215). My point? Prosecco is the memento mori of wines – the drink, live life, pair-with-your-favourite-food-and-enjoy kind of wine. It’s fun, it’s fascinating, and it’s available at your local liquor store.

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“Prosecco is a wine that is easy to drink, so it has an easy approach. We are not comparing ourselves to Champagne. Our wine is easier [to approach] and makes people feel comfortable.” Giulia ensured that I understood that Prosecco is a wine to “drink with friends”.

And so one should.

As mentioned earlier, it is a wine that is very ‘accessible’. Prosecco, made predominantly from the Glera grape, is quite the chameleon. By that, I mean it pairs perfectly with international cuisine. Its characteristics revolve around it being fruity, floral, and fresh. Prosecco can be paired with light cuisine from soft cheeses to sashimi, or with heavier foods such as cream-based pastas to Asian noodle dishes. “Dim sum is a great pairing for Prosecco,” Giulia added, “[and] there are some nice Asian steamed vegetables to go with it”.

Calice Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.jpg

So beyond the food perspective, Prosecco has a huge market all over the world. Many Canadians drink Italian wines because they have been to Italy and have experienced the food, wine, history, and culture. For those who haven’t been to Italy, Giulia says that one can still experience Italy without the jet lag. Furthermore, she went on to say that the ‘Italian way’ around consumption of alcohol is based on maintaining presence related to the culture. Enjoying Prosecco essentially brings one closer to a tradition of wine that has been around for almost 150 years. “Sixty percent of our wine is sold within our country (Italy).” However, with approximately 1 million bottles of wine being shipped to Canada, there is plenty of opportunity to indulge in what Veneto wines have to offer.

Giulia suggests that folks “enjoy a wine that is a true expression of a culture, of a tradition, of a nice corner of Veneto” by trying out some bubbles to suit your plates and palates. If you’re wanting an extra-dry style of Prosecco, she recommended folks look for the term “classic” on the label.

Here are some of my suggestions for a great Prosecco experience:

imageVal D’Oca Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG BRUT Black Bottle
Delicate, floral, and fruity, this Prosecco is a gorgeous example to try if you don’t have a lot of experience with this sparkling wine. It has a good mousse and offers a long-finish to go with that sunset. <wink>
~$25.00 Contact La Grotta Del Formaggio 604.215.0046 for more info, or you can check out Cioppino’s in Yaletown (Vancouver) for the Prosecco plus a great dining experience!

 

 

 

 

 

imageTerre Di San Venanzio Fortunato Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG BRUT Extra Dry
Although not available in British Columbia just yet, this Fluid Imports Inc. bubbly was one of my favourites to try. An intense bouquet with nectarine, Gala apple, and pomelo notes, I was in heaven. The palate was quite floral with hints of stone fruits. An excellent aperitif.

 

 

 

 

My suggestion is to get out and purchase a bottle of Prosecco; give it a go. If you’re not one for “off dry” wines, ask the wine shop clerk for a dry version. If you enjoy Prosecco, leave a comment and share what you enjoy about it. I’d love to hear from you. Keep an eye out on my Twitter feed for photos of more bottles and tasting notes.

A special thank you to the Vancouver Club for hosting the gala tasting, and to Town Hall Brands for organizing.

Cheers!

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Eau Vivre Winery, out of the Similkameen Valley in British Columbia, is quickly becoming one of my “go to” wineries. By that I mean that if I were to go to a party or be invited to a dinner and needed to bring a bottle of vino, I would likely think of bringing some Eau Vivre.

Recently, I opened up a bottle of their 2013 Riesling. I had it wrapped up, as I was blind tasting my friend on it. My friend doesn’t have a lot of experience blind tasting, but I thought that this would be a good example of Riesling to blind taste him with.

While waiting for him to take his guesses, I was engulfed in the beauty of this Riesling.

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In his book, White Wine Guide: A complete introduction to choosing white wines, Jim Ainsworth states, “It may seem surprising, but many people consider Riesling to be the world’s most aristocratic white grape variety. Yes, they even put it above Chardonnay, the grape behind such noble Burgundian wines as Puligny-Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne” [112].

As such, Riesling is well-known across the globe, and it is a grape that can make a number of different styles ranging from seriously acidic to syrupy sweet to sparkling!

With bountiful citrus notes, the 2013 vintage did not disappoint. This vintage had that mouth-puckering acidity that one loves to find in a Riesling. It deserves respect. The fresh lemon juice and lime zest notes were at the forefront of the bouquet and on the palate.

Karen MacNeil, writer of The Wine Bible, confirms that Riesling’s reputation is built on its acidity. “Great riesling has soaring acidity […] [and its] refined structure is complemented by the mouth-wateringly delicate flavors of fresh ripe peaches, apricots, and melons, sometimes pierced with a vibrant mineral quality, like the taste of water running over stones in a mountain stream” [51].

A perfect food pairing for Riesling

A perfect food pairing for Riesling

Obvious but not overpowering petrol notes wafted from the glass, and a dense minerality came out on the long finish. My friend noted the white grapefruit on both the bouquet and palate, and I likened it more to the pith. Regardless, the notes were a great combination.

Initially, the wine was very cold, so as it warmed up in the glass, some stone fruit made its way out of the glass as well. I picked out some fleshy peach, and my friend chimed in with some apricot. We were both delighted.

The wine paired beautifully with the Tequila Lime sausages from Oyama on Granville Island.

Their Rieslings are available at select liquor stores, online, and at the winery. Their website lists the 2012 at $17.00 CAD and the 2014 at $19.00 CAD.

Read more about Eau Vivre’s wines here: https://demystifiedvine.com/2015/05/21/eau-vivres-bright-whites-from-the-similkameen/

Cheers!

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The Wine Party ladies, Jennifer Schell and Terry Meyer Stone, hosted the “small guys wine festival” highlighting small production wineries in British Columbia at the sold-out event at the Wise Hall on Sunday, April 17th, 2016. Of the 20 garagiste producers in attendance who make less than 2000 cases each per year, Nighthawk Vineyards really captured my attention. When I say “really”, I mean really. The word “really” is an adverb meaning “in a real way”. Really, it does.

What can I say about Nighthawk Vineyards wines? Let me take a breath. For a festival that only lasted a mere few hours, let me just say that I spent about an hour just going through these wines. There was something so unique (this word doesn’t even describe it) and fascinating about them.

 

 

ABOUT THE VINEYARD AND WINERY

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Photo © Trudelphoto.com

Nighthawk Vine motto: “A celebration of family and friendship inspired by the natural beauty of this magical valley.”

Located between Penticton and Oliver, BC in Okanagan Falls, this recently-turned winery has been harvesting grapes for 14 years. According to their website, Nighthawk “evolved from vineyard to boutique farm gate winery”. The vineyard and winery are named after the Nighthawk which returns each spring season to nest. Okanagan Falls provides a distinct “rare habitat perfectly suited to these majestic birds”.

The table at the festival was always packed, so I asked Christy Bibby a few questions post-garagiste party about the winery.

It is clear that Christy has a lot of pride in Nighthawk Vineyards. Her words echo many of my sentiments and strengthen my first impressions of this special BC winery.

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Photo courtesy of Christy Bibby, © Trudelphoto.com

Christy said that if she could describe Nighthawk Vineyards’s wines in three words, they would be, “elegant, well-balanced, and distinctive”.

There was absolutely no question in my mind while I was tasting these wines that they were all three of those characteristics. Garagiste producers are focused on the love of growing grapes and making wine that honestly reflects what their land offers them.

According to the garagistenorth website, the term ‘Garagiste’ “started out in France (of course) where it was a derogatory phrase for those avante garde and crazy mavericks making wine in their garage and outside the highly regulated system”.

Christy communicated that they, at Nighthawk, believe that “90% of making a great wine is achieved in the vineyard”. They “focus on cropping the vines to a low yield with minimal watering [which helps to] achieve highly concentrated flavour profiles”.

“Our whites are crafted to be fruit forward and crisp,” she continued, “with a smooth finish that highlights layers of complexity.”

Nighthawk’s red wines are aged for a minimum of 18 months which helps them to not only work with the fruit quality, but also achieve the kind of rich, red wines that are well-balanced and offer a distinct complexity.

A fun fact about Nighthawk? The surrounding area of the vineyard and winery is as natural as it comes. “Our vineyard terroir is quite distinctive due in part to the beautiful lake at the end of our property called ‘Green Lake’, which is alkaline based. In addition to being the home of a colony of painted turtles, the lake contributes significant minerality to our soil which in turn imparts unique flavor profiles in our wines.”

 

 

ABOUT THE WINES

2014 Viognier $21.90
I wish I could describe to you how positively intense this Viognier is. It officially took the “Best Viognier in BC” as awarded by my brain. It has distinctive crystallized ginger, tangerine, and floral notes (mostly rose but with a side of white flowers in the back of the bouquet). It is well-balanced and offered a delightfully long finish of which to sit and dream.

2014 Gewürztraminer $19.90
Offering a graceful dance of prominent white pepper & cloves, nectarine, and hints of tropical lychee, I was in heaven. Leaning toward being drier than most Gews, I cannot describe the absolutely delightful experience this Gew gave me. Fruity, poised, and mineral-driven to boot, this is a Gew for non-Gew fans. Believe me. I’ve tasted a few Gews.

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Photo courtesy of Christy Bibby, ©Trudelphoto.com

2015 Rose $21.90
Charmingly simple and yet so complex. It offered the essence of a rose wine, but with the depth of fruit that it’s 100% Pinot Noir grapes can provide. Kissed with strawberry, cherry, cranberry and rhubarb, this rose was delectable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Christy Bibby, ©Trudelphoto.com

2011 Merlot $24.90
Rich. Layered. Intricate. Multifarious. This Merlot was driven to be the definition of diverse; it showed a unique take on what Merlot can be. Plum, black fruits, and ripe raspberry all came into play alongside the secondary notes of mocha, fine dark chocolate, and vanilla swirl. Sounds like Merlot, right? Yes, but refined. Well done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I asked Christy what her “go-to” wine was and why. Her reply:

Viognier would be my go to wine, as it reflects ripe apricot notes that remind me of why I love the Okanagan…fresh and natural.

 

Christy, I loved it too.

For more information on Nighthawk Vineyards, visit their website at http://www.nighthawkvineyards.com or better yet, visit them if you get the chance.

I PROMISE IT WILL BE WORTH IT.

Cheers!

The Demystified Vine

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At the Wise Hall in Vancouver on Sunday, April 17th, 2016, The Wine Party ladies, Jennifer Schell and Terry Meyer Stone, hosted the “small guys wine festival” highlighting small production wineries in British Columbia. A sold-out event, this party was one that I was grateful to attend. With 20 “small guys” attending and pouring at least 3 wines, I walked away from the party with more enthusiasm for #bcwine, and of course, a smile on my face.

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Photo Courtesy of Sue Thygesen

ABOUT THE VINEYARD AND WINERY

The Skaha Vineyard table was tucked away by the stage of the old entertainment hall. Gerry & Sue Thygesen proudly stood by their wines, awaiting the trade and media folks to pile in.

The vineyard itself is located above Skaha Lake in the Okanagan Valley in Kaleden, BC. Skaha Vineyard is an “estate, single vineyard series” which is made by the folks at Kraze Legz winery. With their ‘Skaha vines’ growing on fossilized sandstone, and with influences from the cool lake, the Thygesen’s believe their wines are uniquely influenced not only location, but by their passion for wine making.

‘Skaha’ comes from the native Okanagan dialect and means horse or pony. The vineyard’s name comes from Sue’s adoration of horses.

“We make under 2000 cases,” Gerry stated, “and there are no plans to expand production.”

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Photo Courtesy of Gerry Thygesen

Undoubtedly, every vineyard has its own personality, and Skaha Vineyard is no different. So, where does the inspiration for Skaha come from? It is based on the “uniqueness of our vineyard’s substrate (fossilized sandstone),” Gerry stated,  “[which] has built a solid foundation [and] which inspires us to foster that uniqueness”.

 

ABOUT THE WINES

Post-wine party, I contacted Gerry to find out a bit more about Skaha and what this series of wine is all about.

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Photo Courtesy of Sue Thygesen

Gerry described Skaha Vineyard as “clean, brilliant, terroir-based”.

The Skaha Vineyard 2015 Pinot Blanc was crisp and clean with notes of crunchy apple and sweet tangerine. I really enjoyed the mouthfeel and acidity of this wine; these two characteristics were well-balanced. The finish was lovely with hints of a mineral backbone.

 

Moving on to the 2015 Unoaked Chardonnay, I thought about how many people love to hate on Chard. Knowing that Chardonnay is one of the most versatile grapes around, I was eager to taste it. This particular vintage was boasting with fresh, fuzzy peach, and good acidity. Lemon-lime, tangerine, and minerality all came to play as well. A perfect summer sipper.

Of the 2015 Mystique (a blend of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay), Gerry said, “It’s almost too easy to consume…almost too dangerous.” I agreed. It was one of those lightly-intense, quaffable wines that quench thirst on hot summer days. Patio umbrellas and the buzz of bees came to my mind. “The 70-30 range is where it needs to be.” Gerry said. This delicate wine was well-balanced with crisp apple and floral notes. Hints of green pear came through on the palate as well.

The 2012 Merlot was a joy to taste. Plum, cherry, dark chocolate, and raspberry were all present. Although this was a bit of a thinner-bodied Merlot than others I’ve tasted in BC, it was sexy. My note says “very nice”. Yes, I remember enjoying it quite a bit.

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Photo Courtesy of Sue Thygesen

Finally, I had to try the 2013 Cabernet Franc. True to its roots, I thought this Cab Franc was very clean. Aged 20 months in French oak barrels, this vintage confidently stated its red berry, peppery, licorice notes with a side of vanilla toast. Wow. I had to tell my winelover friend Eric Urquhart (@EricLovesWine) to try it. I had an inkling he would enjoy it. He did.

I love the fact that Gerry calls his “wines” his “children”. I asked him which of his wines is his “go-to” wine and why? His repsponse: “Which of my children do I like the best? We are now through our 6th vintage, and we have yet to release a wine that has not won a major industry award, so for us, every one of our wines is considered our go to wine.” Fair enough, Gerry.

If you happen to be in the area, make sure you stop in and say hello. You’ll likely enjoy their 1920s Speakeasy themed tasting room.

A big thanks to The Wine Party ladies for organizing and hosting such an inspirational event.

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Photo from garagistenorth.com

Cheers!

The Demystified Vine

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