Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

15 Cool, Sexy Jobs In The Wine Business

Somebody asked me the other day what kind of jobs there were in the wine business.
Here's a few -
1. Wine maker - duh.
2. Cellar master - any place that puts together more than a few hundred barrels each year could proabably use a dedicated employee to look after them and the wine inside. You'll have to cellar rat a few years and then specialize your training. Perhaps pursue some secondary education. Maybe a stint at a barrel maker would be handy. Which leads me to . . .
3. Cooper - somebody, preferably a craftsman, has to make all those barrels. Study carpentry and joinery and then get a gig in one of the big houses in the U.S. or Europe. Then branch out on your own.
4. Cellar rat - slightly above a hose dragger, mostly a full time gig doing all the menial and dirty jobs around the cellar. There is no better way to learn how the wine is made.
5. Harvest helper (hose dragger) - if you're heading into production you'll have to do this at some point. Depending on the operation, you could be doing everything from picking grapes to filtration to driving truck to filling in behind the shop counter. The pay is minimal; the experience is essential.
6. Sales - after the owner decides to hang up one of the hats he/she wears, sales jobs suddenly materialize. Days on the road, customers with no freaking idea, missed quotas, everybody wanting free wine. Pure joy for the right person.
7. Wine Shop staffer - different operations have different systems, but like any retail operation, look for the place that rewards proven performers. Besides the wage, is there any bonus structure, perks, possibility of advancement, benefit plans or wine allowance?
8. Wine Shop manager - one of those jobs where the crap can come at you from above (boss), below (staff) and sideways (public). If you like to juggle, you may want to try this.
9. Winery Supplies - It's mostly 9 to 5. Wineries need stuff and equipment. The lab has to be stocked, the wine shop needs knick-knacks, the cellar needs another bag of citric acid. You can fill this need with your huge inventory and free delivery for orders over $50.
10. Winery Equipment - The big stuff like presses and tanks. You don't sell one everyday but when you do - yipee! Find a line not represented in your area and get an exclusive distribution agreement. Helps to also be a . . .
11. Equipment technician - if you understand how stuff works (machines) you can carve out a niche in the winery business. A lot of wine makers and winery owners come from varied fields and seldom do those fields include the skills to fix electric motors, pumps, compressors, belt drives and all sorts of stuff.
12.Packaging - even wineries that spend too little time on their wine seems to spend an inordinate amount of time getting the bottle, label, closure and capsule just right. Help ease the pain by representing a spiffy line of packaging for the wine business.
13.Wine Club organizer - wine clubs as sales drivers are nothing new. But with the rapid rise of the internet over the last two decades comes on-line clubs that, in some cases, eclipse the sales of the bricks and mortar wine shops in their own organization. If you're a marketing expert with an emphasis on web communities this may be your calling.
14.Food Service - if you have a background in food preparation or service you may have noticed that many wineries are integrating food into their customer interpretation centres (wine shops).
It could be the fanciest restaurant in the area or a simple cold counter serving deli style take-away. Come up with a concept and sell it to the winery with the greatest need and the greatest possibility of success.
15. Tour Guide - get your chauffeur's license and drive folks around wine country. It seems to get more popular every year. There's all sorts of ways to build in commissions to this gig. They're your captives for several hours. Shouldn't you earn something for recommending the same excellent restaurant everyday to well-heeled visitors?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Job Opening

Use the button at the top of the sidebar to the right if you're interested in an assistant winemaker's job.

Crush 2007: A Brief Look at the Harvest

The rain is falling and the temperatures are cool.
All the mountain passes are experiencing some snow.
Except for some Late Harvest and Ice Wine crops, all the grapes have been in for a week now for most Okanagan producers.

We started picking grapes for Township 7 in mid-September. Mostly white varieties at that time but a few Merlot growers started to sneak in right at the beginning of October. Then the weather started to crash.

Wine makers, growers and owners tried to make the weather better using various mental powers but to no avail. As the vines shut down, it became a waiting game for breaks in the weather that would allow harvesting to occur.

Indicators numbers like Brix, pH and TA (total acid) went into suspended animation. The benefits of hangtime, like more intense flavours and such, didn't really materialize, in my opinion. I think the intermittent rains (rain, two days dry, rain. one day dry etc.) negated any hang premium.

What to look for: Okanagan whites will probably be great. The earlier varietals definetly will shine. The reds will be a toss-up. T7 growers are smart growers with good cultural practices so we believe our red vintage will be excellent. Growers who over-cropped or took other short cuts through the season found themselves with unripe fruit this year; when these reds of 07 start appearing late next year (at the earliest) taste before you buy! There will be some vintage variations in your favourite brands.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Time for some Horn Tooting

I don't generally jump up and down in public when the awards are bestowed but, what the hell, here's some good news:

Won a gold at the recent Okanagan Wine Festival for our Township 7 2006 Semillon
and a pocketful of silvers for some of the other titles.

Also did rather well at the Wine Access awards announced back in September.

Marketing loves these things.

My reward is when people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed (insert title of one of my creations here) with a couple friends and a good meal just the other day.

The End is Near!! Ferment!

The weather is going into its late fall thing so with freezing overnights headed this way by the weekend I've decided to call it all in and wrap it up.

It's time to stop trying to dodge the rainclouds and owe up to the fact that it is all over.

So pick your grapes and blow your irrigation lines. Frosty is around the corner.
What Township 7 is looking at this week:
Viognier (in)
Cabernet Sauvignon (today/tomorrow)
Syrah (before Friday night)
All of Langley (ASAP)
Can you see the spider on this bunch of Syrah?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We stink, and that's a good thing.

We decided to compost all our organic harvest waste on-site this year. So there's a wild, rank stink coming from a patch of vacant land on the property.

But it's a noble smell. It's the smell of cash. We didn't have to pay to have it all hauled to the landfill by contractors and now we have some interesting 'fill' to work with.

How many wineries can you fit in a phone booth?

Just thought you'd like to know...
Heard the other day that there are 50 applictations for winery licenses currently under review by the provincial authorities.
Any idea I had that the grape supply would catch up with demand is now dismissed.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cool Climate Viticulture in Practice

On the last day of September of vintage 2007 the weather is slate, charcoal and death shroud grey but not yet raining. Today we intend to harvest a tiny bit of Merlot, the first red of the Township 7 vintage, from our own property. Some challenged third year vines that, despite nets, are big favourites with the robins and some smaller birds.

We had a deer kill in the vineyard the other night. Probably coyotes but with only half (front) of a carcass left by dawn there was considerable speculation about bears, cougars and wolves. Not every wine region has this range of fauna to contend with. I recall a conversation I had in New Zealand about the differences in our two regions and one of the Kiwis wondered, with the vast expanse of land in Canada, why we didn't have more sheep? I told them that the roaming carnivores would have a field day. He responded by asking, "Do you mean these animals are just running around loose?".

But I digress . . .

Growing grapes for wine north of 49 degrees will always have it's obstacles to quality. Most of the time it's going to be the short growing season. This is turning into a year where the short season is going to play a little larger than it has in the past few years when we've been treated to warmer, longer growing seasons. This is the year when things like greed (too many tons per acre) are going to turn and bite you in the ass. This is a year when heads-up, intelligent grape growing is going to win out over lassiez-faire vineyard behaviour.

Good management from the start of the season will produce exceptional wines this year. If you're waiting for Merlot to ripen at 6 tons or better then you might have some difficulty.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Weather Tanks, Grapes Arrive Anyhow

The weather tanked a few days ago an we're now experiencing some cooler than norms type days with little or no ripening temps to speak of. We've had a little light rain periodically which delays the pick but hasn't really affected the fruit.

Township 7 had tapped into a new source of Merlot. It's a nice organic vineyard in the Oliver area.
We expect to pick this around the end of September - beginning of October.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's the CLIMATE, baby

One of the reasons the Okanagan is one of the best places to grow grapes for wine is the climate.

Since August the 1st we've had 5 mm of precip. That pretty well eliminates dry farming. The hottest it ever got during that period (Penticton weather station) was 34.2 C and the coolest daytime temp was 20.7. The mean for a 24 hour day was usually around 20.

Today we'll hit 27 later in the afternoon.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sweet Sexy Summer Hangs On

Since I last updated the vintage about two weeks ago we've enjoyed some very solid weather with temperatures regularily approaching the 30 C mark from Osoyoos to Summerland.
Overnights have been as low as 5 C and this big swing is prolonging the ripening process to the advantage of the winemaker.

We're getting some great readings from our vineyard samples and we should be close to harvesting our whites very soon.

It's the kind of late summer we've been hoping for: dry, warm and consistent.


We're starting with a small block of Chard on Sunday followed by 17 tons on Monday and Tuesday of the same.

Game on!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Winery Owner Exercise: Grow Some Tomatoes

The public asks a lot of questions about the vineyards. Some of the simplest queries have answers that are potentially the most profound.

"Why do you grow the vines like that?"

One of the answers is : "Because the last guy did it like that".

Truth is that a number of cultural practices are in play to achieve a common goal: control. This precept is applicable to the greater farming community and the wine business as well.

Left to their own devices, the average grape vine would simply sprawl across the ground in a haphazard way. Occasionally it would train up a tree trunk or other fixed vertical support but for the most part the vine is content to simply spread to the area of least resistance.

For somebody who needs to harvest high quality grapes this kind of vine behaviour would be a chaotic disaster. Planting a lot of vines and then being unable to tend them would result in wildly varied bunch quality and an almost impossible harvest routine.

Good vineyard management is an analogy for a good winery business. It's about good planning, research, decision making and follow through. There's no point in creating a mountain of grapes if the processing or sales contracts haven't been planned. At some point there's going to be trouble if the planning is not in place.

Let's digress and talk about tomatoes. My family and I love vine-ripened tomatoes. We also love the unusual varieties. So my son and I planned to grow a plot of tomatoes this year. We decided to begin with greenhouse starters. On our trip to the nursery I had 20 separate plants before I started to ponder the number of tomatoes that would potentially yield.

Who was going to look after these tomatoes (farmer)? Who is going to eat these tomatoes (market)? Which tomatoes will be more popular (PR)?

After some sober thought, I planted only eight different plants and we're getting just about what we want. We can manage the tomatoes we have without running around and giving them away (developing new markets) or processing them into sauce (new products) at the spur of the moment. Frankly, my time is worth more than either of those activities so the end result would be $$ out and a questionable return. Best of all, a high percentage of our tomatoes are going to be consumed fresh and not left to rot (productivity?).

Currently, there are a number of winery operations in BC experiencing growth difficulties that could probably been overcome with good planning. There is a market for quality BC-made wine but it doesn't sell itself. Failure to perform at every key stage will result in downstream problems that will either require substantial effort ($$) to correct or ultimately decide the fate of the operation.

So when you plant that vine, know what you expect, understand the steps to get there, control the growth. Try it with tomatoes in your backyard if you'd like.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Harvest Predictions for 2007

It's difficult to predict exactly how things will go when we start picking grapes but I am getting a few indications of what direction things will go.
I'm going to go out on a limb, or a vine, here and make a couple of rash statements.
Down on the coast they've had a whack of rain and cooler temperatures. There have been some brief warm spells of high 20's and low 30's but not enough to create any climate anomalies that would push this vintage up the scale any higher than fair. At Township 7 in Langley we're hoping to get the fruit off by the end of October. Given the development I saw yesterday, we need an extended fair and dry September at the coast to even get that. Good thing we grow for sparkling white wine in Langley and don't need
  • colour or
  • high brix

The Okanagan experienced some odd weather patterns with a dry April and May, a good warm June and July and now rain and cooler temperatures in August. We could use some temps back in the 30's and some warmer nights. Night temperatures are consistently dropping down to 15 or less and that slows the ripening process. We're going to have an old-fashioned Okanagan vintage with ripeness racing against the oncoming rains of fall. Two weeks of superlative warm weather NOW will change all that. Otherwise, temperatures traditionally tank after September 20 so if we're going to make a charge we have to do it now. Look for some late varieties to be still hanging in November unless we get the good stuff now.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Dunham & Froese Winery has a blog

It's called backlabel, which is very appropriate.
Informative and anecdotal. Take a look.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Naramata Bench Tailgate Party

The wineries of the Bench put on one good party of this size every year. Great food and great new wine releases are the hallmarks.

Check out the details and get your tickets at:

It sells out so don't delay. If you can't make the valley wide fall festival then this is a good event to sneak in a month before that event gets going.

See you there.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Amelia Oil

It never hurts to repeat a truism when it acts as a kind of constant guide.

I rarely tire of the message: Good wine is best with good food.

Combining exquisite culinary creations with a special bottle of wine is one of the basic pleasures of life. It's an experience that can be relived time after time and each occasion is as novel and rewarding as the last.

So it is with great pleasure that I share with you one of my latest discoveries.

Amelia Oil is a tiny producer of olive oil. Oil that is pressed with nothing less than the kind of love one usually reserves for family.

That's probably because it is family. A family from West Vancouver and a family from Umbria in Italy have joined to produce, package and export an olive oil that really has no equal on this side of the pond when it comes to freshness and integrity.

There's lots to read on their website so I won't repeat a lot of what is there. Safe to say there's a fair amount of false representation among the huge oil producers and one way to protect your buying standards is to seek out a direct link from producer to your table. That's what Amelia Oil is all about.

What's it taste like?

It all comes down to taste. It certainly is fresh. I didn't know how stale my store bought oils were until I got my Amelia Oil a couple weeks ago. I was floored by the strength of the palate. I'm now using a little less oil in my preparations but with great flavour results.
The bouquet is very floral with a hint of candy and nut, the palate is full of vegetal green and grassy flavours, toasted grains and nut in the finish. I've used it in various incarnations but my favourites are:
1.BBQ grilled Tilapia drizzled with Amelia oil and sprinkled with basil from my garden.
2.In a pesto for a crust on ahi tuna
3.With some rustic, grain-festooned bread and Poplar Grove cheeses.

The price is, as to be expected, a tad more than the bargain basement oil you can get in the supermarkets. There is something to be said for an oil you can consume and lubrcate your car's engine with but that's not Amelia oil. If you care about what you put in your body then check out their website and blog.
Amelia Oil

By the way, they're now taking orders for the 2008 oilage.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gewurztraminer July 25, 2007

Gewurztraminer July 25, 2007, originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Small Wine Movies

Alright it's not sideways, but a fellow in Edmonton has made a couple short, entertaining and informative movies.

Check the sidebar and just click on the video player to watch.

or here

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I get around

Since January, whenever I see the "wine maker needed" flashed on a cloud by a powerful search beam, I respond in the Cruiser.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Days of Wine & Roses Part Two - Keep it Simple Stupid

After determining your winery is a wreck and you'll need umpteen repairs and thousands of litres of new cooperage, there is a way to make your life simpler.

Design a spreadsheet that hinges on tonnage.

If I can do it, you can too.

Create a spreadsheet that automatically calculates all your requirements based on grape tonnage received. This will allow you to see at a glance what your requirements are using accepted industry rates of addition.

How much yeast for the Joe Blow Vineyards Cabernet? Tonnage X average litre yield per ton X grams per hecolitre. That should do it.

Almost all of your factors are available in the catalogs put out by the suppliers around this time of the year.

If this is still trouble for you, drop me an email. I work internationally.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Winery Help Wanted

Township 7 Okanagan is looking for a harvest intern to assist with the crush.
Details at:

Monday, July 02, 2007

Days of Wine & Roses... and Planning. Part One in a series about preparing for the harvest.

  • Hard to believe but our neighbours to the south (California, Texas, other warm climate regions) will be picking grapes for wine sometime next month.
    Here in the north we're not quite that rushed. But by mid-September some early varieties and those destinied for sparkling wine will be starting to come off and make their way to the crush pad.
    If you're a BC winery owner or operator, your vintage plan should be shaped-up by now. You should know where your grapes are coming from, how many tons you can expect, what yeasts and other fermentation aids you'll be using and who will be on your pad this fall. Needless to say, coopers in various parts of the world are putting the finishing touches on your barrels before packing them in containers for the long trip to BC.

    Of course, in the real world, things don't line up quite so neatly.

    A quick message to consumers and other members of the public: The wine makers of the province are trying to enjoy the summer days in a leisurely fashion but it's not all a bucolic paradise of long hours by the water's edge. There's lots of planning to do.

Best to start by having a pre-vintage meeting with your crew. Hopefully some of them were around the previous year and remember what went right and what turned out wrong. From this brainstorming session you can make adjustments as required. Everything from the way fruit is accepted at the winery to how the equipment can be better delegated can be included. This is also an excellent time to address any glaring repair jobs that somehow missed out getting done during the winter and spring.

From your meeting you can begin a list and prioritize as you go. Using as fresh eyes as possible, walk around your production area and note additional items that will require attention.

Think back to the blur that was the last vintage. Where were the bottlenecks? What didn't make it onto the paperwork train? How can you make things faster, safer and better?

Your employees will tell you what is needed. If they can't do it, bring in another winemaker friend that you trust (like me) for a beer and yak about what works for them. A fresh perspective sometimes solves a problem in minutes that kept you perplexed for weeks.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

UTC (winemaking) Safety Meeting

If you happen to be in the Okanagan Valley on Friday, July 6 you are encouraged to drop by the Township 7 campus at 1450 McMillan (road to Naramata) and participate in our ragtag safety meeting.
The meeting will be short. About 5 minutes but there will be plenty of post-meeting discussion.
Beverages and snacks will be on hand. Bring a lawn chair. Managed pets and kids are welcome.
Enjoy the rough and tumble give and take of the local rustics. Meet the wine folk of the area. Brag about the size of your cellar.

Facebook and Wine: Not Quite There.

Couple of my friends are on Facebook and it's kind of fun to read their stuff and see their photos.
One of the applications that pops up once in awhile is the polling application.
You can design your own poll question and fire it "out there". You get full breakdown and analysis moments after it closes.

I decided to give it a try after a few beverages and a whim. Here are the pros, cons and results.

My question was: "There's shrimp on the barbie; you're going to enjoy which of the following wines with them?"

I provided: rose, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, another white and a red.

I also provided my credit card so they could charge me .25 per response and a $1 insertion fee.

My suspicion was that I'd get a weak response and maybe get 25 or 50 answers of the maximum 200 under the polling format rules.

But, lo! I maxed out at 200 after only a few hours.

Response by sex: pretty well equal, 109 female, 91 male.

Response by age: 142 responders were between the ages of 13 and 24 which suggests a large group are restricted from obtaining or consuming alcohol in many jurisdictions.

7 responders were over 35 years of age.

Sauvignon Blanc dominated the male selection at 37% while females were split more evenly among SB, Chardonnay and Rose 28, 24 and 21 per cent respectively.

My takeaway lesson: Facebook had provided a powerful and hassle-free polling tool but you should know their audience. Until the crowd moves from it's high school and college roots I doubt I will be using the poll application for wine questions. Great experiment. Total cost:
$51. Writing it off as market research.

Join the Winery Party

Township 7 is celebrating it's annual anniversary this weekend and next. Sorry about the late notice about the Okanagan venue (ends today) but if you're in the Lower Mainland next weekend. . .
Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8 will feature wine, food and music at the Langley winery.
I'll be on hand Saturday only from 2 to closing.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Vineyard Obstacles or Challenges?

The rush to create vineyards and wineries in British Columbia has led to some polarized dialogue over the subject of suitable places to create wine.

Recent arrivals to the industry see no problem developing vineyards in locations that the previous wave of vignerons would have rejected outright.

Why the change? How do unsuitable locations suddenly become prime grape growing areas?

Part of the answer lies in economics. If a bottle of wine can sell for three times the price it was selling for only a few short years before then there is an impetus on the producer to pull out all the stops in an effort to create that wine.

I'm often asked by prospective winery owners and investors whether this portion of land or that one will be good for grapes. While I am flattered that they would ask my opinion, it's prudent to remind them that I'm not a viticulturist or a biologist or a geologist; all specializations that are valuable in choosing sites. In my short time in the business I have learned a couple things.

With that disclaimer I do offer up this: growing grapes on a commercial scale is all about minimizing and maximizing what had been dealt.

Once the decision is made to obtain land and develop a vineyard, it's important to minimize the challenges that the environment presents. It's just as important to maximize the advantages that the prospective vineyard demonstrates. Besides the obvious things like soil and sun there are other aspects like access and curb appeal that may influence production. These are economic factors that may ultimately effect the performance of the vineyard.

A while ago I heard an Okanagan grower remark, "I don't know where these new guys (wineries) are going to get their grapes; all the good land is gone." . In a conventional sense he may be close to the truth. Common practice and history are factors that define what a vineyard looks like. Under those old parameters, a lot of vineyard property is in short supply.

What new developers are beginning to see is that marginal properties are the key to new vineyards.

Marginal land can simply be described as second choice land. Something makes it less attractive and presents a challenge to the grower or the wallet when it comes to developing it as a vineyard. The trick is to see where the challenge can be met and have a vision for the outcome.

A few years ago I was told by a friend in California that a friend of his who lived in Napa was approached by a winery to plant grapes in his front yard. It was a nice property but only about 100 feet deep in the front and 70' wide. Hardly a prospective vineyard in the normal sense.

So what prompted the offer?

Were the soils exemplary?
Was he adjacent to a stellar vineyards?
Was it close to the winery's front door?

The reason was the appellation or geographical indicator. Simply being in Napa allowed the value of these grapes to be far greater than similar grapes grown in another county. The Napa brand has soared to such heights as to allow mini-vineyards and such to be feasible.

This, in a diluted form, is what is happening in the Okanagan and, to a lesser extent, the rest of B.C.

Next time somebody says you can't grow grapes in THAT location, ask about the hurdles in the path of that goal and determine what can be overcome and what can be emphasised.

Too much water? Create better drainage, enhance the soil change the aspect, modify your root stock.
Land slopes north? Change it with earth movers. Pick your varietal, modify the trellis.

Those are just a few examples. Developments in land management over the past 30 or 40 years have allowed marginal lands to become prime. Add to that the prospect of climate change and the expansion of BC vineyard operations looks to continue for some time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Safety Meeting called.

Our first 'safety meeting' of the season at Township 7 Okanagan has been inked for Friday, July 6, beginning around 4:30 pm. We're at 1450 McMillan, Penticton. (On the way to Naramata)

We invite all wine types. If you're reading this on this blog then it probably means you. Although dominated by Benchites, we frequently see travellers and visitors and friends of friends. It's all very casual. We generally provide some snacks and suds but people are encouraged to bring wine to share (including cellar work in progress) and whatever they'd like to hear on our sophisticated sound system.
It's inside/outside depending on the weather.
Be prepared to discuss:

Forklift Beverage Holders: The Next Generation
Beer O'Clock: From Concept to Standard Operating Procedure.
Beautiful People on the Pad (BPP): A Welcome Addition or Dangerous Distraction?
The Blue Factor: Why Is He Always in the Way?

Bring your own dissertation or Power Point presentation if you'd like.

Possibly write a poem for presentation about wine, safety and summer.

Hope to see lots of new faces!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Killdeer chicks hatched.

Killdeer chicks hatched., originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

Three out four ain't bad!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Killdeer in the Vineyard

We've got a nesting pair of these in the middle of the Gewurztraminer block at Township 7 Okanagan this spring. There's four eggs in the ground nest right beside a trellis post. When we get too close in our work, the nearest adult bird puts on the traditional broken wing display in an attempt to lure us from the critical nesting area. Dead serious for the bird, very funny for the humans.

Planting Anyone?

I know it's short notice but if anyone cares to join us at Township 7 Okanagan tomorrow, we could use your help.
We're doing some Chardonnay replants. We offer a few bucks, some beer and our eternal gratitude.
Come by around nine in the morning if you're so inclined. Prepare to get dirty.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Shauna and James

Shauna and James, originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

New Chard

New Chard, originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

The Cerqueira team

The Cerqueira team, originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's not all easy.

It's not all easy., originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

Friday, April 20, 2007

WIne Pouring Last Week

At Taylorwood in Yaletown. Had a hair day so on goes the Appellation America cap.
Stan Carter preaches to the converted at Township 7's massively successful open house over the the April 14-15 weekend.
It was fun to meet everybody!

Off to Utah

I'm gone for a week for an international ski patrol congress.

Hope all the running around like a decapitated chicken, getting the winery and vineyard in order, has been worthwhile.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Precision Viticulture.

PV is beginning to make some waves here.
It's all about making use of some technological analyses to help a vineyard produce better grapes.
If you're not a techie (as I am not), it's a little mind-boggling the first go around.
But don't be a Luddite. Don't be afraid of the future.
Josh got into it over at Pinotblogger - read my comment and others HERE.

All BC Winemakers and wine drinkers...

Take a moment to read this article on the Appellation America site. Clark Smith of Vinovation holds forth in a rambling but thought provoking discussion about terroir and technology.

Can't wait for part two coming on April 20th.

The subject of terroir and a sense of place in BC wines is going to become more dominant in the coming months and years. Marketers and owners (and some wine makers) are going to want to define their wines by some kind of link to the geography.

So far, there hasn't been a lot of distinction in this department around here. And, according to Clark, many Napa Cabs share that same affliction; they all taste the same and not particularly distinctive.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vineyard Demands Take Priority

This time of the year the demands of the vineyard require certain things to be done now rather than later! Nature has a timetable and we're just following along. Here the crew works on training wire for Township 7 Okanagan.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Allright! Not exactly a vineyard shot

Let's Get Together . . . Thursday . . . Yaletown.

I'm pouring the following Township 7 wines:

2004 Merlot
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Semillon
2006 Rose

and a few other surprises at

Taylorwood Wines in Yaletown, Vancouver

from 4:30 - 6:30 this Thursday.

Option A: Come early and help me carry this stuff in from the car. It'll be worth your while.
Option B: Come late and help me carry this stuff back to the car. It'll be worth your while and we can grab a bite!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Blasted Church Wine

Blasted Church Wine, originally uploaded by Cunning Stunt.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm No. 97! I'm No. 97!

Out of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of wine blogs out there, I rate number 97 on the Top 100 list by these guys.

New Winery Links

Finally catching up with my housekeeping around here and added a big whack of winery links in the sidebar.

It is by no means complete but I will keep adding the missing links as they are found.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's the KVT Maxipress 800!

It's the KVT Maxipress 800!, originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

Press for sale! More photos at my Flickr site.
Contact me at

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Taylorwood Wines, Yaletown, Vancouver

I finally made it down to Taylorwood Wines in Vancouver's precious Yaletown after hearing lots of good things and meeting plenty of people who all had a positive Taylorwood story.

The shop is well-laid out and had a great airy feel with the south-east window frontage letting plenty of light in. There's no need for a modern shop to have poor lighting so us old folks can't read the labels. Hundreds of bottles are arranged more or less by varietal. Have a staff member show you around on your first visit.

I was in on a Sunday which happened to coincide with one of their twice weekly advertised tasting events. The place had a pleasant buzz of business with customers coming and going and congregating around the hemispherical tasting bar in the back.

One of the things I appreciate in a wine shop is a sufficient, knowledgeable staff. Taylorwood scored well on this point. Selling wine is more than order taking; customers are always in pursuit of information when they are ready to select a wine they've never had before. The better the information and the delivery then the better the relationship between the two parties. In this respect they're a lot like Discover Wines in Kelowna.

Taylorwood is the kind of place I want to sell my wines. I want people with a genuine interest in good wine and a passion for great wine to handle my best products. That's why Township 7 has wine at Taylorwood and why I'll be encouraging my other clients to have their wines there.

Online Wine Course is Concise And All-encompassing

I recently discovered an online wine course that really impressed me.

I am a bit of a skeptic. I figured there's no replacement for just flinging yourself at gobs of wine and trying to muddle through as best as possible. Perhaps emerging from sensory battle with a slightly lop-sided palate. Perhaps with the help of a slightly biased friend.

Taste of the Vine Free Courses is the perfect tool for anyone at any level of wine knowledge who wants to improve and measure their ability to enjoy wine.

The course is engaging and well-designed. There are great graphics and clearly composed content. A lot of thought and energy has gone in to the production.

Some of the features I liked (and I'm still in the process of discovery):

  • you can check your progress with a visit to the wine cellar to see how many bottles (points) you've amassed.

  • you don't have to take it all in one shot. As a registered user, you can sign in when you want and pick up where you left off.

  • The colour diagrams (as example of the tongue and the taste defined areas), are medical text accurate.

  • I like the idea of a wine tasting course in my home. Takes the issue of transportation and safety right out of the picture.

There's actually two courses. One is called the Instant and the other is the Complete. It's up to you decide what suits you best.

From the perspective of someone who tastes and works with wine everyday, I think the Taste of the Vine Complete Wine Course is a winner. Many of the details are part of my daily routine but there were points where I learned something new on practically every second page.

Soon I'll be referencing parts of my tongue with the appropriate latin terms. If nothing else, my geek stock will soar.

Friday, March 02, 2007

NEW site for help wanted et cetera

I'm in the middle of creating a new service for all the winery, vineyard, wine equipment, wine store and such businesses in BC. It's a site where you can list for free whatever it is you are looking for.

Still working on it but here's the address...

Wine & Vine BC WANTED

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Global WIne Stocks Widget

If you look over in the right hand sidebar, you'll see a new widget from GWS or Global Wine Stocks.
It's a fun little gadget that finds any wine you're looking for and tells you the price and where it can be purchased.
It's kind of fun and handy at the same time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

They Love me in the Old Country

It's a well-known fact that the Irish are mad for wine made in B.C. Here's a demonstration of that feeling. There's a standing offer of a bottle of wine for the best picture of the week featuring the Wine & Vine BC URL. Extra points for tasteful displays of female skin, of course.
This one was taken in a bottle shop in Belfast, I believe.

James, you can pick your bottle up in person.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Work in a Winery

This is your last chance to work at a winery, newbie.
As mentioned in a previous post, I'll be hiring a passionate, driven zealot for a short-term experience at Township 7 this spring.
If you or someone you know finds this interesting please don't hesitate to drop me a line now.
I make my decision tomorrow afternoon at beer o'clock.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Biodynamic Approach in the Vineyard

It's no secret that in the world of wine the biodynamic approach to growing grapes is enjoying considerable attention. More vineyards and wineries are experimenting and adopting this way of harmonizing their production with the cycles of nature.

Today I had the opportunity to attend a biodynamic panel tasting presented by the Trialto Wine Group. Not only were there representatives from the presenters but also each winery sent one of their top people to answer questions and present individual wines. In most cases, it was the winemakers themselves.

While I usually don't do wine reviews I think a few notes about what we tasted will help illustrate what was being presented. None of these wines are from BC so that makes yet another departure from the blog theme. Let's just let that go for today.
Domaine Ostertag Heissenberg Riesling 2004 -
Baked pear and raisin with some petrol notes in the nose. Excellent tree fruit expressions in the palate with good acidity and lingering finish. Definitive Riesling.
Nicolas Joly, "Clos de la Coulee de Serrant" 2005
The nose was all baked fruit and pastry and slightly oxidised. Somewhat attractive when coupled with rich flavours of papaya, ripe apple and perfect balance of acid and residual sugar.
Chenin Blanc is the grape.
Domaine de la Soufrandiere, Pouilly-Vinzelles "Les Quarts" 2005
A vibrant nose of spice and flint. Minerally tones and balanced use of oak in the mouth. The acid is right on, the finish is long. A delicious wine.
Domain Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint Georges- 1er Cru "les Saint Georges" 2004
Opens with clove, dusty raspberries, pepper and cardamon in the nose. The flavours of cane berries are balanced against minerally/earth notes. Some austerity as this wine just begins to age. Great tannin structure. Would love to taste again in a year or two.
Felton Road, Pinot Noir Central Otago 2005
A perfume nose with plenty of rose and blackberry. I wrote rose twice in my scribblings. Tremendous fruit driven palate of rich raspberry and dark cherry. Slightly drying.
A good example of why New Zealand Pinots are rocking the wine world.
Paul Dolan, "Deep Red" Mendocino 2004
Raspberry, blackberry, violet and white pepper. A bold structured palate with big fruit, good oak integration and tannins suggesting a long life. Didn't get the exact make-up but Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah in the bottle.
Benziger "Tribute", Sonoma Mountain Estate 2003
The primary constituent of Cabernet Sauvignon makes for the tell tale briarberry notes with leather and tobacco in the wings. The flavours are rich and sinewy, lots of blackberry and tons of structure.
All the wines were produced using natural yeasts found in the vineyards and wineries. In rare cases when there is an anticipated weak natural yeast population, some winemakers said they would use the commercially prepared product. I hazard to guess that 95% of the wine produced in BC would be using commercial yeasts.
If you do the research on biodynamic vineyards and can't quite decide to do it or not, consider this:
The least expensive wine in this group retails for $49.55 per bottle. The top one was $123.00.
Two others joined the top item in the $100.00 plus category.
A quick primer on the biodynamic approach to all things grape can be had here

Friday, February 16, 2007

Township 7: Help Wanted

I'm offering a short-term entry level wine job this spring at Township 7 Okanagan.
The job will run from March 19 to April 27. There will be a minimum of 25 hours a week; most likely much more. The job will entail working in the cellar and vineyard in a variety of functions.
This is an excellent chance for someone who is thinking about getting in the business but is unsure of the long term commitment.
Must be physically fit, able to lift 16 kg. repetitively and not afraid to get cold, wet and dirty on occasion.
We will train; experience not required but a demonstrated lust for all things wine and an energetic approach to the task at hand will be an asset.
It would be helpful if you like beer.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wine Blog Awards Last Day!

Sometime Friday the 16th the voting will come to an end for the American Wine BLOG Awards.

There are several categories and this blog wasn't nominated.

But go vote anyway.

  1. you don't have to be an American to vote.

  2. there's no write in to vote for this blog if you wanted to. You can vote for me by commenting on this post.

  3. the awards ceremony will probably be a huge affair - get your tux rented now!

Check out the nominees. There's some excellent writing to be found.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Riesling is Back

I've always enjoyed Riesling. I cut my wine teeth on cheap imported German wine like Black Tower and Blue Nun (could be Austrian) and various Liebfraumilch.
For a while, the thought of an often off-dry, low-alcohol wine being the supreme expression of white wine was difficult to comprehend. But there are places where Riesling is the king and Chardonnay is just another grape. Now, Riesling is poised to retake some lost supremacy.
Read about it here . . .

Friday, February 02, 2007

Wine Tasting Reminder

Just a quick reminder to locals . . . if you're in Penticton on Saturday drop by the Wine Information Centre between 1 - 3 and I'll pour you a few samples of Township 7 wine.
Merlot, Chard and a couple rarities.
I'll be telling jokes and autographing body parts as usual.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kim Crawford 2007 Vintage Adds Value

If you read this blog once in awhile you may recall my mentions of Scott Robinson. He's the assistant at Township 7 that I depend on for his stellar performance in the cellar and vineyard.

He has accepted a great opportunity to head down to New Zealand in a few weeks to help the Kim Crawford crew put together their 2007 crush.

Speaking from experience, I know he'll have a good time and learn a lot of wine making from one of the international stars of the New Zealand wine universe.

It's a huge opportunity and we all wish him the best. We also envy his ability to depart from our late winter/early spring and straight into late summer/ early fall.

Doing It Right On the West Coast

When I talk to visitors to the Okanagan Valley, I find a lot of them are moving on to other parts of BC to cram in as much experience as they can.
Outside of wine country, one of the top destinations seems to be the wild west coast of Vancouver Island. Specifically, Uclulet, Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park.
To get the best out a trip to the coast, I'd recommend calling or emailing my friend Susan Jones out that way. She runs At Your Service, a concierge business for anyone who wants things done right during their visit. Her resources must be unfathomably deep because she seems to pull off the toughest assignments with the greastest of ease.
Planes, trains, boats, automobiles, fishing, surfing, whales, eating, beaches, accommodation, babysitting, groceries and everyting else; she does it.
She likes wine, too!
She's also a remarkable photographer. Her photos are here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Global Warming - Let's Just Call It Climate Change

Had a question from Paul at Inertia asking what sessions at the Unified W & G symposium I thought were best.
First I have to fully disclose that I did not attend all the sessions as I was in transit for day 1 ( Sorry, Paul) and running around Wednesday and Thursday trying to cram in as much as I could.
Second, some sessions I skipped simply because they were fairly narrow in scope. They were Californiacentric. Winery folk from outside California have to realize and accept - this is the Golden State's big show. There is an effort to cast the net of appeal wider but you still have to translate some of the data into something you can use in the jurisdiction where you make your wine.
I found the State of the Industry general session to very informative. The speakers were from diverse wine industry sectors and it was stimulating to hear their varied opinions. I'll be posting about this soon.
My favourites were the two sessions dealing with global warming. One of the take home messages was: Yes, the globe is warming and No, that doesn't mean it's going to get hot everywhere all the time.
What is does mean is that there will be some fairly rapid changes. Some places will become wetter. Some places may see wider shifts in seasonal temperature means.
Models presented by the expert speakers showed varying results but, for the most part, consistent outcomes. With a focus on western North America, for example, it would appear that an enormous section of the California's central valley will undergo "desertification" making it too hot over too long a time for all but the toughest grape varieties. Time frame? Could be as short as 30 years.
Washington State seemed to benefit most from the climate change (and BC even though the study quit at the 49th parallel). But that would hinge on other factors like pests and water.
That's right: bugs and rain.
Too much of the former and not enough of the latter.
It may get warmer and there may be more growing days but it won't be worth a thing if new pests, encouraged by the climate change, are invading new vineyards/ territory. Same goes for water. Should the climate change create extended drought conditions, access to irrigation will be essential in some areas already stressed for water supplies.
So climate change is not an 'end-of-the-world' scenario. But it will require sharp adaptive skills and canny investment practices.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Unified Wine & Grape Big Success

Just back from the big show in Sacramento. Great speakers and educational value in all the sessions and a vast array of equipment and services from hundreds of suppliers at the trade show.
Also had a great time at Mason as a guest of Nadalie barrels. Sorry about the blurry photo.
Didn't want to use a flash. Too tacky.
Should have braced the camera.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Enroute to Sacramento

In the beautiful Portland airport enjoying a local brew before heading out on my last leg.
Fantastic views of Mt. St. Helens (y'know, that one that blew up in the 80's?) on the way from Seattle.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Flattery Will Get You Noticed.

I can't read them all.
As Tom over at Fermentation had documented, there's probably over 400 wine related bloggers out there. You might want to double that number if you count the ones that are wine and something (like food or tractors or beer or pelicans).
I try to scan as much as I can, use Sharpreader and have my favourites but I get behind.
That's why I missed this one:
Matt's stuff over at Wine Detective
He had some nice things to say about the wines I make for Township 7.
He hasn't posted for awhile. Maybe we can prod him for something fresh.
If anybody runs into anything about the following items, send me a link. Thanks ahead of time.
Township 7
Stone Mountain (BC)
Hijas Bonitas
Steep Creek
Dunham & Froese

Local Wine Events on Wine & Vine

Way down at the bottom of this page is a widget for LocalWineEvents . This is the spot for finding out what is going on in the wine world no matter where you are. It's a great spot to browse. Not only can you find out what is happening in your area, you can check out what is being planned for other locales and "borrow" some ideas.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Stag's Hollow Needs A Hand - Two Would Be Nice.

Stag's Hollow Winery is looking for a warm form to take on the job of either wine maker or assistant wine maker (depending on experience).
The first class, family-run winery is located in Okanagan Falls and has just moved into a brand new production facility (winery).
Pass this on to any cellar rats you know.

Global Warming & Wine

A quick and scary take on global warming and the effect on the wine world from the lads and lasses at Decanter. It's a little alarmist and fails to mention a couple things:

  • global warming doesn't mean it gets warm everywhere simultaneously; someplaces, for example, may experience wetter weather and cooler winters.

  • while the climate will change, not all changes are detrimental.

I don't support manipulating the global climate willy-nilly through atmospheric abuse. But we've fugged it so we better deal with it.

I'm attending a couple yakfests at Unified next week on this subject so I should have some bits to relate in future posts.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Glad to Meetcha!

I'll be pouring some Township 7 wine in Penticton on February 3. Try to drop by! I'm bringing a bottle or two of our 2006 Viognier (still unfiltered and in the tank) and maybe something else from the harvest. Plus I'll be tipping the 2004 Merlot for something red. Hit the button ....

Allright!, the button only works if you are Google calendar person. Just found out. How annoying.
The tasting is 1 -3 at the Wine Information Centre at Railway and Ekhardt.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The American Wine Blog Awards

Take a moment from your busy schedule watching "Fame" reruns and assembling your toe lint collection to head over to Wark's
American Wine Blog Awards
and nominate me. Nominations close Thursday so don't delay!
I'd do it for you!
I think the single subject category is the one.
If you do this I promise not to start posting stories about the cute things my dog does around the winery.

Did I say THANKS?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Eggert/Fairview Cult Update

Good read about Fairview Cellars from the talented John Schreiner. He interviews Bill Eggert on the current status of his 2,000 case winery and vineyard. Fairview always sells out and for good reason, Bill makes excellent wine. Closest thing around here to "cult following" . . .

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Dan, originally uploaded by ramblinwinegirl.

Ever wonder what aspiring wine makers do during their spare time?

Unified Wine and Grape Symposium

Starting on the 23rd of the month, the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium convenes in Sacramento.

Great sessions for wine people of every stripe.

An all encompassing trade show.

I've mentioned this before but it demands repeating.

See you there.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Another Vineyard Deep Freeze On The Way

The weather for the Okanagan Valley is forecast to head to the land of big chill. For the second time this season overnight temperatures are to plunge to double negatives, perhaps as cold as -25 C in some areas. This is a looking like a more traditional Okanagan winter - not like the balmy ones we've had over the last few years. Much of the valley still has some snow pack from previous storms (that will help insulate the vines) but the harsh temperatures are going to test the vinifera varietals - especially the young vines.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Vancouver Magazine Wine Awards

Against some pretty stiff competition, Township 7 picked up a nice accolade from Vancouver Magazine in their 3rd annual wine awards. The 2004 Reserve Chardonnay is in the 'rich white' category.
Township 7 Chardonnay Reserve 2004, B.C. $24.90 +34579 Unbelievably complex wine for the price. Bravo.

Sounds just about right to me.

BC Wine Trends - Consumer Perspective

Christina Burridge, writing in Vancouver Magazine, takes a look at the trends in BC wine consumption. It's mostly good news from my standpoint.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Could It Happen Here?

Tom is writing about and tracking developments in the wine world in Virginia. Why should you care?
What could a minor wine region's problems have to do with the enjoyment of BC wines?


First of all, Virginia is a lot like BC when it comes to wine. Huge growth over a short period of time, scads of tourists enjoying the vino vibe and lots of small, local wine makers with steady in-state fans.

The fracas in Virginia is about the rights to sell and distribute wine.
Unfortunately for the Virginia wine makers, it is now illegal to sell their wine directly to restaurants and retailers. They must use a wholesaler or distributor. There is a mark-up involved. Profits are being eroded and it looks like some wineries will have to close.

Here in BC, a winery can sell directly to restaurants. They still have to hand over a lot of coin to the government monopoly, but not as much as they would if they sold exclusively through the government stores.

In Virginia, a federal ruling said that forcing out of state wineries to use distributors while allowing state wineries to hand sell was unconstitutional. The solution? Either everybody uses distributors or nobody has to (unless they want to). At the urging (lobbying) of the distributors, the state legislators passed a law making winery to retailer direct sales illegal. So everybody has to use the three tier system (manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer).

I'm no expert, but the idea of paying another hand to do the job you were already doing sounds a little suspect.

It could happen here. The government already takes a big piece of the pie, but they want more. The opportunity to opt out of the BC Liquor Distribution system has been a natural for many small, family wineries. They don't need to have their wines scattered across the province being sold by less than enthusiastic employees. Sure, the BCLD branch had made some enlightening moves over the past decade (emphasis on wine knowledge, employee training, special promotion programs), but their prime mandate is the dispensing and metering of alcohol, a substance controlled by the government.

Given the chance, who would you want to sell your product? A passionate believer in your wine or a uniformed clerk who may or may not know a thing about the bottle in front of them?

It could happen here. A quick bit of legislation in Victoria and boom! All wines sold through Big Momma. Then they'd have their hands on all those wonderful medal winners that are garnering international acclaim.

At least until the wine maker says, "Frig it" and moves on to something that doesn't suck the life out his bank account.