Four B.C. summer wines that won’t break the bank

By Kristina Charania
Photo by Mark Burnham

The Peak takes notes from a chat with a Steamworks wine manager 

Just to let you know: you don’t have to be an overzealous snob or shell out big bucks to drown in a quality bottle of wine. So stop sniffing your wine like a bloodhound, take your suit off, put that hundred dollar bill back in your grandmother’s savings, and listen up, you conceited asshole.

While quality and price aren’t always two peas in a pod with Lower Mainland productions, there are still many local wineries putting out thoughtful, good character wines. Because property taxes are high in the Okanagan, local wines tend to be more expensive than their imported European counterparts. “It’s tougher to buy cheap, good quality wine here. A $15 merlot from B.C. would be very hard to compare to a $15 wine from France or Italy [because] there would definitely be a quality difference,” says Brandon Folkes, the manager at Steamworks Wine Thief.

With over 220 British Columbian wineries, Lower Mainland residents can still pick and choose from great wines while supporting mom and pop businesses that thrive off of the local wine industry. Here are a few selections.

1. LE VIEUX PIN – VAILA (2011)

It’s no secret: light rose wine is all the rage in France. If you’re stuck in Vancouver sans-Europass with an ECON 103 syllabus and Candide in your hand and a bag of macaroons under your arm, a bottle of Vaila is the way to go. “For a B.C. wine, this wine is very comparable to Provence style rose,” says Folkes.

Vaila’s stunning pale salmon color is obtained through the traditional method of Saignee, or literally “bleeding” out pinot noir wine grapes. “It’s drier and has a toastier feel to it, so it’s not a heavy, sweet wine. Vaila has a lighter fruit taste and balanced acidity,” says Folkes. With scents of strawberry, rhubarb, and pink grapefruit, one cannot go wrong with a glass of this rose and a slice of tasty brie.

2. ACES WINERY – SEVEN DEUCES RED (2009)

According to the cover of the 2009 vintage of Seven Deuces Red, “if you don’t ever get caught bluffing, you almost certainly don’t bluff enough.” On the merits of its poker-themed bottle and intriguing catch phrase alone, this wine is already headed in the right direction.

Seven Deuces Red is a red blend of merlot, Shiraz, and cabernet – perfect for a backyard barbeque filled with gourmet burgers and juicy ribs. “It definitely has very good tannic structure with hints of darker fruit and some chocolate notes,” says Folkes.

Holger Clausen, the owner of Aces Winery, is both wine connoisseur and Texas Hold’em extraordinaire – the combination makes for expensive, great quality wines and every poker pun under the sun. His wines can get pricey – because you’re a broke student, it’s best to stick with the Red Deuces series.

Don’t worry. You’ll feel much better about your finances after one or three glasses.

3. TANTALUS VINEYARD – RIESLING (2011)

The hunt for a summer white wine is officially over. With vineyards that have been flourishing in Kelowna for over 40 years, Tantalus has proven time and time again that their Riesling takes the cake when it comes to stellar white wines. “Quality and character-wise, these are very high-quality B.C. wines. I would say these guys are the best Riesling producers in B.C.” says Folkes.

Because of Riesling’s natural acidity, it’s a great pair with pretty much anything: pork, steak, white fish, you name it. The 2011 Tantalus Riesling is tropical and fruity with aromas of lime and guava and hints of Granny Smith apples and pear as it hits the palate.

Putting aside the fact that “Tantalus” sounds like “tarantula,” this vineyard’s Riesling is nearly spot on. The residual sugar found in this Riesling may act as a turn-off or an attraction for those who enjoy sweeter wines.

4. CASSINI – RED CARPET PINOT (2011)

The wines from Cassini Cellars are nothing short of red carpet-worthy for both wine experts and occasional dabblers. Their wines have won nearly 80 awards over the past three years. Not even George Clooney can boast such a feat.

Released in June with only 1,049 cases being sold, the latest vintage of the Red Carpet Pinot has a classic, elegant appearance that contrasts the newer scent of cherry and vanilla, and a red fruit and toffee finish. “This is definitely a new-world style pinot with a lighter body,” says Folkes of the 2011 vintage. Compliment this wine with duck, salmon, or creamy appetizers, and you’re well on the way to hosting an informal summer dinner party.

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