The Demystified Vine

Taking the mystery out of wine exploration!

2015 Pinot Blanc – Oraniensteiner – VQA

A very fun wine! Bursting with stone and tree fruit, this blended beauty is a lovely sipper for a hot day when chilled to perfection. Oraniensteiner is a German variety that was originally created to make sparkling wines, however, matched with the late harvest Pinot Blanc in this wine, it balances quite well. If you like a heavier bodied white wine with a touch of sweetness, do check this out!

Lunessence Pinot Blanc Oraniensteiner

2015 Sauvignon Blanc – Muscat – VQA

This blended wine also includes Canolli, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Semillon. Peach skins and a light candied nose define the bouquet. Stainless steel fermentation went on for 34 days, and then the wine was aged another 4 months on the lees. The palate has a nice peaches and cream feel. Additionally, the palate is quite floral, and I would definitely recommend pairing this dry, energetic wine with Asian-inspired dishes.

2014 Sauvignon Blanc

Still holding up in May 2017, this beautiful Sauvignon Blanc was bright and filled with veins of citrus and grass. Hints of clementine shone through. A delightful white wine from British Columbia showing South Okanagan potential. (Note: This particular wine was bottled and produced by Moonlight Valley Winery Ltd. in Summerland, BC. as per label information.)

Lunessence Sauv Blanc

2014 Merlot – VQA

One hundred percent Merlot goes into this vintage wine. This particular wine was fermented at high temperatures for just over two weeks and went through full malolactic fermentation. The program for the Merlot was aging in Hungarian, Slovakian, and French oak. The wine itself showed solid toastiness and dark fruit character. If you are a fan of lighter styled Merlot, this is definitely one to try. Drink by 2018.

Lunessence merlot

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – VQA

The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Lunessence was also fermented at high temperatures for a wee bit longer than the Merlot. The oaking program was the same as the Merlot. The wine itself showed red fruit character with a strong toasted nature. Lighter bodied than southern BC Cab Sauv’s, this red wine most interestingly showed notes of Partridgeberry and currant leaf. The palate showed some light peppery notes. An easy-drinking Cabernet.

Cheers,

The Demystified Vine

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Lunessence Winery in Summerland, BC, is starting to gain some traction in the local wine world. Their motto, “Harmony, from vine to wine”, plays close attention to wine making from the dirt up. As the winery is experimenting with classical music being broadcast throughout the vineyard, Lunessence is utilizing alternative methods, shall we say, to influence what goes into bottle. Their belief: that classical music provides positive effects to the grapes via the sound vibrations and frequencies of, arguably, the most complex music on the planet.

Lunessence logo

Interestingly Enough…

To make things even more specific, Lunessence is not broadcasting just any classical music. The “chosen ones” include operas composed by Verdi, Mozart, Rossini, Leoncavallo, and others.

Now, before you judge or scoff at the idea, I have to let you in on a secret. While I cannot link you to the exact experiments, it has been proven that listening to classical music while studying can increase your understanding of material thus leading to higher grades in school.

According to an article published in USC News (https://news.usc.edu/71969/studying-for-finals-let-classical-music-help/), “University research in France, published in Learning and Individual Differences, found that students who listened to a one-hour lecture where classical music was played in the background scored significantly higher in a quiz on the lecture when compared to a similar group of students who heard the lecture with no music.” Being a teacher, I will support any theory that would help students be better students! So, if grapes are the students of the land, play on Mozart!

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Photo from http://lunessencewinery.com/photo-gallery/

The Land

Summerland, BC, is rife with a variety of soil compositions, and Lunessence’s estate vineyard is situated on ancient bedrock. Giant’s Head Mountain is not far off from the site, and this particular mountain is known to locals to be an ancient volcano. Volcanic soils tend to impart favourable characteristics to a wine’s profile, and if you are a wine lover who enjoys minerality, volcanic soils might be your thing. Think Sicilian wines; vino from around the Mt. Etna area are bursting with terroir influence.

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Photo from http://lunessencewinery.com/photo-gallery/

Viticultural Practices

Lunessence Winery & Vineyard is practicing sustainable viticulture. While not yet fully biodynamic, the vineyard is becoming more closely tied to organic practices, putting an emphasis on not harming the locale of what lovely things may be living around them. The goal, as stated in their winery pamphlet, is to “find balanced energy within both ourselves and our vineyard”.

Click here to learn more about the wines: Lunessence Winery & Vineyard Wine Profiles

Cheers!

The Demystified Vine

 

I’m so glad that we are beginning to see wines, from places like Turkey, in our market. As a general note, Turkey grows a lot of grapes. There are thousands of different varieties of grapes in this eastern country, and only two percent  are used for wine making. As such, most of the grapes grown in Turkey are used for filling bellies.

At the Vancouver International Wine Festival, I had the opportunity to sit down with Haluk Erenguc, Founder of Suvla Wines Canada, and Selim Zafer Ellialti, the proud owner of Suvla Wines.

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Selim Zafer Ellialti (left) and R. Haluk Erenguc (right) cheers to wine and life

The Back Story

After hearing the motto of Suvla Wines – “wine is life” – I couldn’t help but already be interested in what I was going to taste at the dinner being held at Terroir Kitchen in West Vancouver, BC.

Ellialti professed his love for wine making in a humble way. “My dream was to make a rich palate of wines. We worked more than one year to discover Turkish terroir.” With that information at hand, Suvla wines set out to make a strong portfolio of vino. Making over 120,000 cases per year alone, Suvla sets out to “make wine for everyone”. Ellialti added, “that’s why we’re doing a lot of wines, bold wines”.

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Photo courtesy of R. Haluk Erenguc

Turkey’s climate is favourable for grape growers. With a variety of rainy winters and high diurnal range in the summer, there is little risk of vine kill in the winter and cool nights help to keep acidity high following hot afternoons.

Some of the noble grape varieties are being grown in Turkey, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but Suvla also wishes to represent their home by making wines from Karasakiz, a grape similar to Grenache.

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Guests of VIWF eagerly await the first course at Terroir Kitchen on February 19, 2017

Many of the wines in Suvla’s portfolio are blends of varietals we are already familiar with. So, for those of you who are anxious to explore the wines of the world, you can now find some Turkish wines and try them out!

Germany is currently Turkey’s biggest market, but things are starting to change. Ellialti plainly stated, “Within the last decades, there has been a focus on high quality wine making […] [as] the perception of Turkish wines is not positive in the last few decades”. Many restrictions have been in place due to religious and political issues in the country, and Ellialti believes that Turkey will “need a decade or more to develop the Turkish wines. It is a journey”.

The Wines

Beginning with some butter poached lobster, guests sipped on Suvla’s “Kabatepe” [kah-bah-tep-peh], a white wine made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Roussanne, and Marsanne. “Kabatepe” is the same of a historical harbour on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea located near the Gallipoli peninsula. It was clean and crisp, boasting of yellow apples, citrus, and brine. I really enjoyed the grassy notes in the finish.

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Butter poached lobster by Chef Faizal Kassam paired well with Kabatepe

Suvla’s rose, made from Karasakiz, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, was light and refreshing. This rose definitely brought summer to mind, and what I enjoyed most was the white pepper notes on the palate. It was not as delicate a rose as Pinot Noir makes, but it did show expected red fruit notes. The food pairing was a hard one for me to try as I have an aversion to consuming octopus, but Chef Kassam did a great job of mingling the grilled beast with a salad of chickpeas, cucumbers, radishes, parsley, and a preserved lemon vinaigrette.

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Second course: Grilled octopus

Out of the seven courses being served that night at Terroir Kitchen, one of my favourites was the house made farfalle with brussels sprouts, Calabrian chili, garlic, anchovy paste, lemon, parsley, and bottarga. Paired with Suvla’s “Kirte” 2011, this red wine carried loads of dark plum, black fruits, hints of bacon fat, and proved to be a meaty wine. I was initially thinking that it would be too heavy for the farfalle, considering no meat was really present, but I was proven to have an incorrect assumption.

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Photo courtesy of R. Haluk Erenguc

My favourite wine of the night was the Suvla Reserve Syrah 2011 matched to perfection with the bison rib made hunter style with cannellini beans, rosemary, garlic, and black truffle. Made exclusively with Syrah grapes, this wine was a wonderful expression of Syrah with its raspberry, red fruit driven backbone and peppery spices on the palate. Aged for 12 months in oak barrels, this wine is one I’d like to open up again.

Cheers to the team at Terroir Kitchen for hosting such a lovely food and wine centred event. Chef Faizal Kassam took great care with aligning the elements of these Turkish wines with local ingredients. With a focus on “artistry, technique, and creating lasting flavour profiles“, if you are interested in tasting these wines and experiencing Chef Kassam’s creations, be sure to head over to the resto.

Wine really is life!

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Rhys Pender thanked the crowd for showing up so early on the Friday morning seminar “From Ground Up” at the Vancouver Convention Centre as part of the yearly International Wine Festival that takes place here in the city. The focus: the Golden Mile Bench – British Columbia’s first sub-appellation which was created in 2015.

 

“This is the future of wine in BC,” opened Rhys Pender. “We are going to celebrate that.”

 

Pender, a Master of Wine and owner of Little Farm Winery in the Similkameen Valley, helped moderate the panel alongside the Vancouver Sun’s wine expert Anthony Gismondi.

 

In attendance for the panel discussion were: Joe Luckhurst (Road 13), Rob Summers (Hester Creek), Walter Gehringer (Gehringer Bros.), Bill Eggert (Fairview Cellars), Andrew Moon (Tinhorn Creek), Chris Jentsch (C.C. Jentsch), and Don Triggs (Culmina Family Estate).

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Gismondi is a huge supporter of the movement to get BC up to speed with designating viticultural areas. It was clear during the seminar that Gismondi has some strong opinions on the matter.

 

“All wines have an address,” Gismondi eagerly stated, “[and] the easiest way to figure out a wine is to figure out the address and go from there.” An address. The easiest way for us wine folks to really talk about where a wine came from is to be able to say it came from a specific location. Gismondi’s passion continued to show as he enunciated the words of “I don’t think we can wait another 100 years”. Gismondi points to the sheer fact that we need to authenticate where British Columbia wines are from, and one way to do that is by labelling various regions and sub-appellations that we can refer to, and that the world can refer to.

 

And he is right.

 

The process is not that easy, as Pender pointed out during the opening remarks. The team who began the journey to get the Golden Mile Bench sub-geographical indication (sub-GI) were, “meeting for about 5 years to get this started”. Almost five years, half a decade, 260 weeks, 1,825 days. Do the math; the process is rigorous. Our first sub-GI has only been “in existence”, shall we say, for a mere 2 years.

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Golden Mile in Oliver, BC, Photo courtesy of http://www.winebc.com

According to www.winebc.com, the Golden Mile Bench:

is located on the western slope, south of Oliver and across from the Black Sage Bench. Its southerly latitude provides a warm climate, but its location on the west side of the valley means it gets morning, rather than afternoon sunshine, making it a cooler region than its eastern neighbour. Any winery, whether their tasting room/winery is physically located on the Golden Mile Bench or not, can use the term Golden Mile Bench Sub-GI on a BC VQA wine label, as long as the wine is made from grapes exclusively grown in the sub-GI.

 

Sandra Oldfield, CEO of Tinhorn Creek, was a mover and shaker in getting the GMB sub-GI started. “You want to name a sub appellation not by postal code but by soil types,” she declared, “and you have to be grounded in the ground”.

 

A valid point, as various viticultural experts across this giant globe press on about the particular soil types and how dirt ends up defining a wine. Terroir, the term used for how the ground and its dirt influence grapes and the wine characteristics, is what Oldfield is getting at here. Developing appellations and sub-appellations is more than just pinning a place on a map; it is about the very land the vines are planted in.

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As it came to light through the course of the seminar, there are so many different types of soils in the Golden Mile Bench sub-appellation. Chris Jentsch, of C.C. Jentsch Cellars, spoke to this when he commented, “I think, first of all, you should grow what works on your site. To bring the best out of each varietal, that is important. I think we are expressing some of these fruitful wines, and we really are in a special place.”

 

Attendees were grateful to find twelve wines placed in front of them. All of these wine samples were made from grapes grown in what is now labeled as the Golden Mile Bench. Due to its location, this sunny area is producing everything from Icewine to crisp whites to double-decade-age-worthy reds.

 

Expressions of the Golden Mile Bench: White and Red Wines

 

  • Road 13 Vineyards

WHITE: It would not have been a fair GMB seminar had Joe Luckhurst (General Manager) not brought his sparkling Chenin Blanc 2013. A true mineral-driven, traditional method sparkling wine (that spent three years on lees) made from 60 year old Chenin Blanc vines started off the morning the right way. The vines grow at an elevation of 350m, and in Gravelly Loam soil. The result: a bright bouquet filled with lemon-lime zest, hints of clementine, and a palate focused on citrus bursts and lovely, dusty, stoniness.

WHITE: To continue the journey of showing how Chenin Blanc thrives in the GMB, we next tried the 2015 Old Vines Chenin Blanc. Made from the same fruit as the sparkling, this still wine has a youthful bouquet driven by stone fruit notes, floral essences, and fresh apricot. Citrus notes hang in the background with every whiff. The palate has a similar discovery as the bouquet, although the finish boasts of wet stones. An engaging wine.

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Golden Mile in Oliver, BC, Photo courtesy of http://www.winebc.com

  • Hester Creek

WHITE: Hester Creek brought along their Pinot Blanc 2015 to share with the crowd. As Rob Summers pointed out during discussion, the Ratnip soil that is found in their vineyards is “glacial based…it is the erosion off Mt. Kobo”. The Pinot Blanc, retailing at $17.95 per bottle, was loaded with citrus characteristics, in addition to white peach, Mandarin orange, and hints of lime. Some notes of a gravelly minerality were noticed. The palate came through with no hints of sweetness, although the fruit notes were candied and stone fruit driven. It was delightful.

RED: The 2013 Reserve Merlot Block 2 came from vines that were planted in the early 1970s. This was a vibrant red wine with intense notes of plum, dark cherry, blackberry, and milk chocolate on the bouquet. The palate offered a different focus with a smokey, toast-driven, spices. As the wine ages in a blend of French and American oak, a variety of nuances develop; lay this one down for a while.

 

  • Gehringer Bros. Estate Winery

WHITE: What would BC wine be without Old Vines Auxerrois? Having the opportunity to taste it is always a pleasure. This 2015 vintage does not show intense fruit, but is more reminisce of a “chill out” wine. Auxerrois (said OX-ERR-wah) is not widely-planted anywhere in the world, but when grown on the GMB, brings notes of white tea, lemon, hints of lime, and a whiff of dry earth. The palate is refreshing and citrus driven, and finishes with a focus on apricot and wet stone.

WHITE: Yowzas. The 2015 -9 Ehrenfelser Icewine was a definite discussion point during the wine fest. (I not only tasted it during this seminar, but also heard folks talking about it during the trade and public tastings.) A very intense, sweet wine comes from these grapes that are picked at -9 Celsius. “The magic begins” here, as the seminar pamphlet reads, and the “golden nectar of concentrated juice” is thus transformed into this rich wine. Viscous and vivacious, this Icewine will not disappoint with its mango custard, lychee nut, pineapple, and honey notes.

 

  • Fairview Cellars

Details were not provided, but with unfortunate circumstance, something happened and we were not able to taste the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc or Bill’s 2014 Cabernet Franc. The mood was kept light, and moderators joked about having a “virtual tasting” of these wines. (Lucky for me Bill’s wines are some of my personal favourites. As such, I know them well and didn’t feel too disappointed.)

 

  • Tinhorn Creek

WHITE: Chardonnay vines grow on sandy gravel at an elevation of 400m and then magically turn themselves into the 2014 Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Chardonnay GMB. This Chardonnay is fermented naturally, and it ages in oak for approximately 17 months before it goes into bottle. A developing Chardonnay with a citrusy bouquet, one may also find hints of vanilla and toast on the nose which contribute to an apple crumble note. The palate is smooth and silky, medium bodied, and boasts of creme brûlée.

RED: As a treat (and proof that BC wines can age well), Tinhorn Creek also brought their 2005 Oldfield Series Syrah to the table. Now, while the Golden Mile Bench was not actually named yet, this wine came from grapes that were alive and well on this “severely steep, south facing, 45 degree slope” of land that is now considered the GMB. What a treat. Black tea, black pepper, dried cassis, and fig were only some of the notes that can be found in this over-a-decade-old wine.

 

  • C.C. Jentsch Cellars

RED: Hailing from the “Golden Mile Bench Block”, the 2014 Small Lots Cabernet Franc was grown on Sandy Loam soil. Having spent about 17 months in French and American oak to age, means this wine is upfront and focused on toast and spice notes. While I quite enjoyed this particular wine, I would say that it needs more time to settle. It is a rich and intense Cab Franc that deserves to have patience given to it. If you’re keen to open a bottle now, expect dark fruits and oak-influence to greet your glass.

RED: In addition, we had the pleasure of chasing the Cab Franc with “The Chase” by C.C. Jentsch – a Bordeax blend featuring Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. While it is still developing, stewed fruits, spice, and wet black tea leaves predominate on both bouquet and palate, with a line of currants running through as well. These grapes were sourced from a few different sites: Golden Mile Bench and Testalinden Creek. Let it be known that the fruit was meticulously sorted post-pick to eliminate any fruit that was not top-notch.

 

  • Culmina Family Estate Winery

RED: Made from 4 year old vines, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon hails from three different blocks on the property (C, D, and G) that were purposefully planted to make way for Bordeaux-style wines. As such, this Cabernet Sauvignon was planted with terroir in mind. Grown on Alluvial Glacial soil, this inky-purple wine is still developing. Let it rest; the tannins are chewy and intense. With some age, this Cabernet will show its true colours.

RED: Mmm. Hypothesis 2013 was next; another Bordeaux-style blend thrown into the mix. Full-on intensity with this wine ensures that one is paying attention. Loads of blackcurrant, black cherry, blackberry, and spices fill the glass. The palate is particularly spiced with clove and mace notes. The tannin and acidity are both solid, so feel free to lay this down for some aging as well. As the rootstocks and clones were matched to the site’s terroir, the Hypothesis is a true expression of the Golden Mile Bench.

 

Final Thoughts

 

As we move forward, hopefully out of the dark ages, it will be critical for British Columbia’s wineries to not only further investigate how grapes express themselves in our province, but also continue the search for how terroir influences the artistic canvases that are our wines. We are a special wine making place on this bountiful planet, and if we do this right, we can, and will, be recognized for our expressive creations.

 

Gismondi, toward the end of the panel discussion, spoke frankly when he said, “We have the people and we have the vineyards. We just need to push it [appellations] through”.

 

Pender added, “There’s been a total change in how wine is talked about now; winemakers would get up and talk about what they did to the wine, and now they talk about where it comes from.”

 

Onwards and upwards!

 

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The fires were definitely burning on the night of the Rodney Strong Vineyards dinner at Black + Blue Restaurant as part of the Vancouver International Wine Festival. As one proceeded off of the elevator onto the rooftop patio, a buzz of anticipation greeted eager wine loving guests.

About the Winery

Hailing from Sonoma County in California, Rodney Strong Vineyards makes crisp, white wines and delectable reds. Hence the theme for the night, “Fog and Fahrenheit”, attendees were able to experience how influential location is for grape growing and winemaking.

A story that began more than 50 years ago with a celebrated dancer named Rodney Strong, Rodney Strong Vineyards owns land from north to south in Sonoma County. They source their grapes from a number of different vineyards, but watch for their wines coming out of Alexander’s Crown, Chalk Hill, and Russian River.

Furthermore, Rodney Strong Vineyards is leading the industry to shift perspectives with regards to energy consumption. The winery is energy and carbon neutral, as they use solar panels to cultivate electricity for the winery.

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Smoked bacon wrapper Diver scallop with jalapeno, burnt shallot, lemongrass salad with “Charlotte’s Home” Sauvignon Blanc 2015

While many wine consumers have experienced flabby Chardonnay or overly ripe Zinfandel at some point, wine lovers should know that place really does matter. Coastal areas of California have the added benefit of being near a large body of water which naturally assists grape growers with fine tuning the ripening of fruit. As we were informed mid-dinner, cool breezes sweeping down from Alaska greet the grapes in Sonoma County. The effect is that the grapes receive amazing sun and heat during daylight hours, but those northerly breezes keep acidity under control during the growing season and at night. Sonoma County could be considered similar to a “Mediterranean climate”.

Jasper grilled salmon, warm chicory green salad, chive emulsion, crispy potato with Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013

Additionally, Rodney Strong Vineyards is doing something very different with their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Put aside visions of buttery Chardonnay that you could practically pour on your air-popped popcorn. Imagine, instead, the essence of oaked Chardonnay without the overbearing weight of wood.

In practice, Rodney Strong soaks the oak barrels for their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay in water to extract some bitterness from the staves. They then proceed to oak age the wine. The result is elegant. Honestly, I wish more California Chardonnays were like this very wine: refined and polished.

Cherry braised short rib, crispy onion, sour shallot jam, pave potato with Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

The star chef of the evening was Black + Blue’s own Executive Chef, Jason Labahn, who pulled out the stops on the food front. I’ve done a few of these wine dinners before, but I must say, kudos, Chef Labahn, you did a phenomenal job with the pairings! Every single dish so intricately paired with these Rodney Strong wines that both the wine and the food became one with the other without drowning out the flavours of each party.

Of particular note was the braised short rib with the Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon. This inky, blackcurrant, rosemary & sage driven wine was full of flavour and complexity. The cherry braising and sour shallot jam set off the black fruit notes on the palate, and the long finish left a lot to remember.

The grounds at Rodney Strong Vineyards. Photo courtesy of the winery.

Between courses, Rick Sayre, VP Director of Winemaking, told the audience stories of his early days working alongside Rodney Strong. The focus has, and will be for the foreseeable future, on the grapes. Sayre told an attentive audience that he has been with Rodney Strong Vineyards for 38 years. Sayre has learned that the “grapes come first, winemaking comes second [and] […] not all vineyards are the same”. He appreciates the opportunities to work with unique, small sites, or “sweet spots”, where he can focus in on bringing out the language of the land through the winemaking process.

With the tremendous variety of terroir at their fingertips, Daniel Wildermuth, Vice President for Marketing, reiterated that Rodney Strong Vineyards endeavors to “express the essence of Sonoma County. We try to let the land speak”.

Left: Head winemaker Rick Sayre examines fruit from the vineyards; Top right: Rodney Strong with his prized grapes; Bottom right: Rick Sayre takes a look at some barrel samples

A Few Other Words on the Wines

The ‘Charlotte’s Home’ Sauvignon Blanc 2015 was bright and citrus driven with perfect acidity. Hints of grapefruit pith and a mineral-driven finish made me want sip after sip. I definitely see why this white wine is a great companion for seafood. It went with both the canapes as well as the scallop, which I’m sure you drooled over in the photo above.

The Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014 was invigorating and crisp; its essences of lemon rind, yellow apple, hints of peach and baked apple crumble were delectable. I thoroughly enjoyed this classy Chard.

If you’re a Burgundy fan, you’ll definitely love the Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. On the medium side of wines, this Pinot boasted of various types of cherries, lush raspberry, and the palate exuded darker fruit notes of plum, black tea, and spice. A classic, age-worthy Pinot.


The team at Black + Blue did a phenomenal job of hosting the dinner; they were not only attentive, but also on the ball with changing scraped-off dinner plates and silverware. The fluidity of the evening was impressive.

Keep your eyes peeled for more on Rodney Strong Vineyards on The Demystified Vine.

Many thanks to the Vancouver International Wine Festival for organizing such a fantastic winery dinner at such a chic establishment!

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