The aisles upon aisles of wine at the local liquor store have
always kind of mystified me. Choosing a bottle isn’t simply a matter of
selecting red or white — you have regions from around the world to peruse
and, much like choosing a greeting card from Hallmark, I could wander through
the store reading labels all day, trying to decipher the brief descriptions on
the shelf tags.
I must admit, I’ve fallen victim to the gastronomic equivalent
of the old adage “judging a book by it’s cover” more than a few times,
selecting a bottle in haste based on a witty name or attractive packaging.
Well, ignorance no more. With Cornucopia around the corner, I’m
embarking on a self-guided mission of basic wine education, using the
(sometimes) trusty Internet as my companion and aide to help explore the ins
and outs of the world of wine.
Mind you, I certainly have no aspirations to become a total
cork dork — simply having a basic understanding of regions and types of
wines represented at the local B.C. Liquor Store will be more than sufficient,
To kick-start my foray into this vast and complicated industry,
I headed down to the Rocky Mountaineer Station in Vancouver last Thursday to
attend “Colour,” the B.C. VQA fall release trade tasting where over 40 labels
from the five wine-producing regions in B.C. — Okanagan Valley,
Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands
— offered up a selection of everything from Autumn Gold to Zweigelt.
It was slightly intimidating to plunk myself down into a room
of swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting wine lovers and connoisseurs, but
after being handed my glass and making my way to a few tables, I was well on my
way to being comfortable around the industry crowd who had gathered to check
out the season’s offerings.
The trade event featured well-known mainstay vineyards, like
the Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, side-by-side with relative newcomers,
like Road 13 Vineyards (formerly known as Golden Mile Cellars).
By the end of the event, I had a better sense of what I
personally enjoy in a wine (FYI, in case you’re ever in a position to buy me a
glass, I generally prefer a white — specifically, Road 13’s Honest John’s
White or Burrowing Owl Estate’s 2007 Pinot Gris).
But my one industry event certainly has not rendered me an
expert, so I’ve turned back to the B.C. Wine Institute’s very user-friendly
, to learn
Off the top, I wondered what a VQA wine is. Well, VQA stands
for Vinters Quality Alliance, and it’s basically a designation — an
“appellation of origin” system, to be precise — that guarantees the
authenticity of origin and sets quality standards for Canadian wines. Wines
bearing the VQA icon must come entirely from grapes grown in specific regions
or provinces within Canada, produced to a certain set of standards, and
undergoing a sensory evaluation. Participation in the program is voluntary, but
since the Alliance started in 1990, the VQA wine sales in B.C. have grown from
600,000 litres to over 6.8 million litres in 2007.
B.C.’s wine industry has grown quite dramatically in the past
two decades, blossoming from just 14 wineries in 1988 to 143 20 years later.
There are also more than 9,000 acres of vines within the five wine producing
regions mentioned above.
It looks like I have a lot more sampling and studying to do.
From the farm to your fork
Fans of the annual Slow Food Cycle and Feast of Fields events
held in the Sea to Sky region each summer will be pleased to know that there’s
another local food-focused event on the horizon.
The Chef’s Trip to the Farm will again be included as part of
the Cornucopia celebrations, which are held from Nov. 6 until 10. The event is
designed to help participants gain a better understanding of where local food
comes from, with participants joining the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s executive
chef, Vincent Stufano, and the propietor of the popular North Arm Farm, Jordan
Sturdy, on an adventure straights from the fields in Pemberton to the farm’s
on-location kitchen, and finally, to the dinner plate.
The event, which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Nov.
8, sold out so quickly that organizers opted to add a second Chef’s Trip to the
Farm event on Monday, Nov. 10.
A detailed schedule of Cornucopia events and tickets are available at www.whistlercornucopia.com .