Saturday, December 11, 2010

What's Been Happening In the Cellar for the 2010s?

A couple weeks ago I attended an industry forum in the Okanagan Valley.  Growers, winemakers and other principals gathered to informally discuss and digest the year that was vintage 2010.

The consensus:


People that have grown grapes and made wine in the Okanagan Valley for 20, 25 and 30 years agreed it was the oddest year for weather.  It was a growing season rife with unpredictable patterns and events.

Having said that, there was also consensus that some of the curveballs that were launched by Mother Nature were not impossible to hit.  Look for more than a few home runs coming out this season. 

I'll get more information out to you soon about the wacky weather in general.  But first, I want to tell you about what is happening with Black Cloud and how we fared.

After 2009's short crop, I didn't want get caught with another small production year.  The 2009 will only be around 125 cases.  With our established vineyard source still recovering from 2008 and 2009 winter damage, we chose to engage an additional new vineyard that's just coming on-stream to guarantee 250 cases.

We're excited to start working with this young fruit and look forward to what flavours evolve as the vineyard begins to mature. Keith Loveridge has started a number of different Pinot Noir clones on his Naramata Bench ranch and from all appearances it looks like a promising site.  We took delivery of his first commercial pick in mid-October.  Being so young, there's not a lot of balance or expression of terroir established yet.  But the fruit did get some great red berry flavour.  At this time, we anticipate the Loveridge Ranch lot to end up in our Fleuvage tier.

The Remuda Vineyard in Okanagan Falls came through with flying colours.  Not quite the crop load when it is at it's best but with all the rich, structured flavour we've come to expect.  I'm confident we're going to have another remarkable Altostratus.

Both wines are now finished alcoholic fermentation and are completing malo-lactic fermentation.  Now we let the wines naturally clarify and the barrels to work their magic.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Getting Your Hands (And Lips) On Black Cloud Pinot Noir

It's true.
We only make Pinot Noir.
We decided to just specialize in this magnificent grape because it has so many different manifestations.  We're going to indulge that difference and allow each season to define itself in every cru.  For now we have the 2006 Fleuvage and the 2008 Altostratus.

Easiest way to get some? Just email . We're featuring free shipping to most parts of the Lower Mainland for the month of December.  And very reasonable rates to other places in BC and beyond.

Our current offerings:

2006 Fleuvage (.750 l)  $19.99
2008 Altostratus (.750 l) $27.99
2008 Altostratus (1.5 l) $65.00

If you'd like to patronize our re-sellers, here is an updated list:

Our fans in Alberta can get in touch with

The Wine Shop in Calgary
They carry the Altostratus and can re-sell to other licenses as well.
Here's their Facebook link

The 'A' means they carry the Altostratus. Otherwise, Fleuvage or both.
Amante - Penticton - restaurant
Bainbridge - Burnaby - liquor store
Black Iron - Penticton - restaurant (A)
Brentwood Bay - Vancouver Island - liquor store
Brewhouse @ Whistler - restaurant
Broadway Wine - Vancouver - both
Bowen Island - liquor store
Fire Fly - Vancouver - liquor store (A)
Fire Fly - Maple Ridge - liquor store- both
Garrison - Chilliwack - liquor store
Gudrun - Richmond - restaurant
Hamilton Street Grill - Vancouver - restaurant
Kits Daily Kitchen - Vancouver - restaurant (A)
Liberty Granville Island - Vancouver - wine store (A)
Naramata Heitage Inn - Naramata - restaurant (A)
Naramata Store - Naramata - liquor store
Newport Liquor Merchants - Port Moody - liquor store
Ocean Point Liquor - Squamish - liquor store
O'Hares - Richmond - liquor store
Passa Tempo - Osoyoos - restaurant (both)
Raven's on the Beach - Harrison Hot Springs - restaurant
Royal Oak Liqour Plus - Vancouver Island - liquor store
Saanich Liquor Plus - Vancouver Island - liquor store
The Strath Ale Wine & Spirits - Vancouver Island - liquor store
Squamish Liquor Store - Squamish - liquor store
Victoria Liquor Plus (Douglas) - Vancouver Island - liquor store
Whatcom Wine - Abbotsford - liquor store
Woodys - Coquitlam - liquor sotre
Yaletown Brewing Co.- Vancouver - restaurant (A)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Understanding Wine and the relationship between the wine, the drinker and the chili.

One of the biggest hurdles a producer of wine will have to leap is the preconception the end user (consumer, drinker) has for your product. 
Trying to solve the riddle of what the consumer wants is a fools' game.  In other circles it's called "chasing the market".  As soon as you change your style and purpose, the market shifts, leaving you as yesterday's child.
What is the best wine and best way to make wine?  It's extremely subjective.  That's why I make wine that I like.  Wine that I will drink , that my friends and family will drink and, along the way, some people agree with what I do.
It's a lot like chili con carne.
That's right.  Spicy meat stew.
Because no one can agree what's the best way to make it and everybody has their favourite versions and that includes the vegetarians. 
Chili (the peppers) with meat (of some kind) is a North American (primarily Texan) variation of something that has been going on for millenia.  Ever since humans started preferring their meat singed by the flame, they've been looking at whatever nasty little beast they've managed to kill that day and asked,
"How the hell am I gonna make that taste good?".

Using local produce to flavour and/or preserve the meat is a time-honoured trick of history's chefs.  Like keeping wine in oak barrels, often the necessity of the times becomes the preferred style.
A complete history of chili is here.
Here's how I make mine.

Start with your meat.  The basic is some kind of ground beef.  But if you want to be real use some tough cut like chuck or hanger steak.  Remember, cookie was looking at some tired piece of mystery meat that was all dried up and turning a funny colour.  And he was also looking at a herd of tired, hungry range hands who needed food.  If you can lay your hands on it, use game.  That gets closer to what the frontier cooks had to use.  I've used ground moose.

Next, your chilies.  Seek out some nice dried peppers that are remotely close to what you want in a finishing flavour.  I don't go for scorching hot anymore; I prefer an earthy, slightly tannic pepper with some bitter notes.  You can get these at any decent specialty grocery store.  I'm using anchos/poblanos.  Pasillas are also good for this.  Here's a rough guide.  Of course, your tongue is the best research.  In the bowl in the photo has some fresh stuff from my garden that I'll use to 'finish' the chili towards the end. First thing, let's make tea.

Fire all those dry, crusty peppers into a pot and simmer in about half the pot of water for an hour or three.  You can remove the stems and shake out a few seeds to start if you wish.  I tend to do that at the end of the tea pepper steeping ritual.  While you're waiting for pepper brew, chop onions.  I like onions in my chili,  There's no rules but part of chili tradition is to use what you have on hand.  I like a  medium sized onion to every liter of chili I make.

Fire those onions, finely chopped, into your destination pot.  A little oil of your choice brought to heat will help.  Wait til they're translucent and remove to a side dish.  If it's been a couple hours we can start working the peppers.  If not, grab a beer and go see if the game is on the TV.  But set the timer or else the whole effort good go in the loo.

Let the pepper bath drain through a colander into a bowl.  Stir about to allow the peppers to release all their liquid goodness.  Reserve the liquid!  You'll need it thin your chili or your paste.  More on this shortly.
As you can see, I'm a tomato man.  I love the tomatoes.  I've got a couple pints of my garden's bounty(vintage 2009) ready to go in the pot. Tomatoes, and how much you put in, is a matter of taste. Which brings me to beans.  I like beans.  I like beans a lot. I even like beans in my chili con carne.  But I do not put them in until the service.  I do not cook my beans into the chili.  Do what you wish, use the beans you wish.  But I do not include the beans in the chili automatically.
Here's the pepper tea, still steamy.
Next, after allowing to cool, it is time to process the peppers.  I remove the stems at this point as I don't want an overdose of tannins and phenols. Whatever.
It all goes in the food processor.  How do you like my vintage Cuisinart DLC-10 Plus? Still works like a charm.  Process it to mush, use a little pepper tea if you need to thin it and make it a little more mixable.  Get it a little thinner than toothpaste but thicker than gravy.
Look at mine!

Not done with it yet.  You can throw it in like this but you'll be picking pepper skin and seeds out of your teeth forevah! I toss mine in an old fashioned food mill at this point to get nothing but pure pepper goo.

So I mill it down.  At this point you will have to taste it.  Depending on what peppers you have used, this may be a a bit of a shock. Have some milk on standby.  It's essential to know what you've created so you can gauge the addition of pepper paste.  Who is your target palate?  How much heat are you going to bring?  This is a little like tasting red wine out of the barrel in the spring right after the fall harvest.  You get a sense of the direction your little production is going to take.  Of course, while I'm doing this, I'm also browning the meat in the same pot I started the onions.  A little oil helps, especially it you're using very lean meat.  No salt or pepper.  Let the eaters add theirs later. 

Just as the browning
is coming to an end, turn down the heat and add your garlic to taste.  I loathe the bitter, angular taste of burnt garlic.  But I love garlic done right. That's why I always make sure the heat is indirect and not on a bare cooking surface.  Now it's time for the bulk of the non-meat items.

Here are the tomatoes, lightly fried onions and the pepper paste.  Plus some fresh bits from the garden.

Stir it all up and let it simmer.  To thin it, use the reserved pepper tea (will add a richer, spicier effect) or beer ( has an intriguing nuttiness).  If your add-in bits of tomato, fresh pepper and such thin the chili too much the only approved (by me) thickener besides slow reduction is masa (corn flour). 
Again, use the pepper tea to mix a masa slurry and then dribble/mix it into the chili.  Tastes great right away and even better refrigerated and warmed up next day.
And that's how I make wine.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Taking A Closer Look At Biodynamic Agriculture and Wine

  In the world of vine growing and wine making there has been a rising interest in an agricultural school of thought called biodynamic.
Based on the writings and lectures of Rudolf Steiner, this form of agriculture intends to produce fruit, vegetables and grains (in fact, all products of a farm including animals) by using the natural rhythms of the land and treating the farm like one living organism.  It's all explained here.
I think the interest in BioD is a natural progression of an agricultural community that is trying to be more of a land steward than a land 'user'.  Words like 'green' and 'sustainable' pepper the media these days when talking about any innovative agricultural movement.  Marketers are well aware that a few key words will engage a public becoming more convinced that their trip to the supermarket can be their contribution to saving the world.

Does Biodynamic farming produce better grapes?  I didn't know.  And I still don't.

To find out a little more I helped organize a field trip to Washington State to meet with renowned biodynamic vineyard consultant Philippe Armenier . Mr. Armenier generously donated some of his time in between consultations with his Washington and Oregon clients.  Our group consisted of about 15 winemakers, growers, resellers, winery owners and some enthused members of the wine drinking public.  We travelled first to the Tri-Cities area and then to the Walla Walla valley to view the vineyards, walk the land and taste the wines.
On Monday, June 28th, we travelled first to the Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) where we visited Hedges Cellars.  About 40 acres there is dedicated to biodynamic practices.  Vineyard manager John Gomez introduced us to the property and gave his impressions on what the effects of biodynamic practices were.  As a winemaker, I was interested to hear that the Hedges wine making team had nothing bad to say about the biodynamic fruit in comparison to what they grew by conventional methods.  Gomez passed that tidbit on as well as his assertion that he "thinks a small portion of biodynamic vineyard out of the total acreage is a good thing".  He admitted to being skeptical at first,  but now in year three, he was ready to accept that it was a good way to grow grapes.  Hedges was already pretty 'green': no herbicides had ever been used in the vineyard.  He seemed to enjoy the fact that he was presiding over an on-going experiment.  He did lament that he couldn't devote more time to it.
Out in the vineyards, we learned from Mr. Armenier how biodynamic practices encouraged a link between the plant and the soil and supernatural forces that are in all living things.  It's about bringing balance to the vineyard through the use of preparations and treatments that perform certain tasks to enhance the agriculture.  Emphasis was placed on allowing three years to pass before the BioDy effects begin to show.
We tasted the tendrils of growing vines, first from the BioDy and then from the neighbour's conventionally grown vines.  I've never tasted tendrils before.  They were sharply acidic, tangy and sour.  Some of our group professed a fondness for the BioDy tendrils.  I felt they were equally unpleasant.  The BioDy tendrils seemed more like unripe apples.  The conventional tendrils seemed earthier or more tannic.  I hope I never chew either again.  Frankly, I find it quite doubtful that the taste of a tendril in June has anything to do with a grape in October. It's about as accurate as gnawing on the hoof of a cow and then surmising what the rib eye will taste like.  More about cow later.
In many vineyards there is an attempt to mulch or compost vine and waste grape material back into the vineyard.  There are recognized obstacles to this, not the least of which is making sure the pH of the waste material is compatible with good soil conditions.  For that reason, it's important to compost and balance any soil augmentation materials heading into the vineyard.  Mr. Armenier's thoughts on this practice are clear.  Under his BioDy protocols, no grape waste is returned to the vineyard.  In the Hedges' compost we saw only earth, manure and straw.  Suffice to say, the post fermentation grape waste created more problems than it was worth.  In addition, it was suggested the living vines may somehow sense the return of the now 'dead' grapes and certain 'feelings' of remorse may be experienced by the vines at the arrival of their offspring's wasted remains.
We concluded our visit to Hedges with a marvelous light lunch served to us on the front patio of the chateau with a couple of the Hedges family in attendance.  I had the opportunity to demonstrate my cherry pit spitting prowess.
During the afternoon our group split into several smaller expeditions.  Our pack traveled to Pacific Rim in West Richland.  If you're not familiar with this Randall Grahm project, they do a lot of riesling.  And virtually no red.  Which is odd considering they're in sight of the Red Mountain AVA, famous for great reds.  This state of the art facility is jaw-droppingly awesome in so many ways.  Sophisticated yet basic, tech-driven but true to wine making art.  From a winemaker's perspective, it's a great facility and the wines are remarkable at every level.
We overnighted in Walla Walla and included a group dinner at Whitehouse Crawford.  Much of what we saw and heard that day help fuel some lively conversation.  From my observation it was clear that people were beginning to fall into two camps:  those who were increasingly skeptical about biodynamic practices and those who were becoming more enamored of this new agricultural method.  I use the word 'new' because that aspect was stressed on several occasions.  Having only been developed since 1924, the biodynamic method is relatively new when compared to other forms of agricultural practice.
Next day it was time to visit Cayuse Vineyards. Just across the Oregon state line but still in the Walla Walla Valley, Christophe Baron (the gentleman at left) has created stunning results from land most would have viewed as wasteland.  And he's done it biodynamically.  The wines he creates are formidable and exclusive.  They're pretty much 'cult' status; available through a futures program by way of a (full) mailing list.
At Cayuse we were able to see a greater portion of the biodynamic farm functioning.  Draft horses, used to tend the vines, grazed in a nearby field.  Pigs, cows, rabbits, fowl and enormous compost heaps all had their place. It began to look less like the monoculture vineyards we're accustomed to seeing and more like a farm from the old days.  Everything had a distinct yet co-dependent role in the biodiversity of the property.
We were also treated to a viewing of the horn pit.  Cow horns are stuffed with manure and left buried on the property for a period of time.  The composted material that results is then used in one of the biodynamic preparations.  There are many preparations or treatments.  Their use is strictly dictated by the biodynamic code and the timing of certain astrological incidents that allow full use of the cosmic powers around us.
Preparing these treatments is a structured activity.  In fact, at Cayuse, a specialized device consisting of two copper cylinders is used.  Like two old open washer machines, the contents are agitated and stirred with unique paddles as instructed by a programmable logic control (PLC).  With the PLC, the contents are stirred first one way for a set time and then reversed.  Mr. Baron and Mr.Armenier set up the device and filled the tubs with water to demonstrate it for us.  Although no actual preparation was involved, Mr. Armenier asked many of the group to touch the water that was being stirred, noting that "it was no longer just water, it changes into something else".
We concluded our visit with another beautifully catered lunch, presented in the Cayuse cellar, joined by standout Cayuse wines and consumed on the sunny crush pad.
In the cellar, hovering above the centre of the room 5 meters above our heads was a giant paper mache pig.  Strapped to the pig was a cartoonish rocket.  Little wings also adorned the pig, which was painted in many colours and designs.  The pig seemed to be a symbol for something.  That against all odds and popular wisdom, it would appear that a pig could fly (with a little help).  The same pig in a slightly modified form adorns one of the Cayuse labels.
As our time with Mr. Armenier drew to a close over lunch, I found myself suddenly aware of who might find biodynamic agriculture an attractive route.  Is biodynamic right for you? The answer, in part, is perhaps. 
If you're comfortable with the spiritual, if you're open-minded about the world around you and the possibility of the supernatural, you're going to love biodynamic agriculture.  Acceptance, or surrender, to the rules of biodynamics means you don't have to rely on science anymore. You can follow the biodynamic way and know truths about how the universe and the world functions in the cyclical pattern of seasons.  Life forces, unexplainable and defying examination, inhabit the ground, the air and living things.  BioDy will allow you to make all of this work in harmony.
In this way, biodynmics differs little from various religions and other dogmatic, faith-based movements.  A certain degree of acceptance is required.  It's all about linking the soil, the place, the animals and the cosmos and using their life forces to create what we need.  It's about trust and taking the leap.

Like to know more?
There's a forum thread here at Wine Beserkers that makes for some stimulating reading as forces on both side of the issue duke it out.  Included are many interesting links supplied by Brigitte Armenier, Philippe's wife.

Here's how Valeria Tait, one of our participants on the Washington road trip, summarized her experience.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Let's Play a Wine Game!

Everybody loves a challenging mental exercise in the form of a game or contest.  While this isn't exactly a game, it is challenging.  It's called design a wine label for a British Columbia wine.  The other part of the exercise: next time you're in your favourite wine store, try to spot how many wines are not labeled according to the rules.

Perhaps you've noticed that Black Cloud Pinot Noir has a bit of an outlaw label.  You would be right to think this.

The rules or regulations are many and they're designed by authorities on several levels.  The federal poo-bahs have the Consumer Labelling and Packaging Act.  We all know (at least in this country) there has to be plenty of English/French no matter where it is sold.  As a result "Product of Canada" must also appear as "Produit du Canada".  That and a host of other terms and notes.  They also define how large the print should be for the alcohol and volume notes and how wide the space between the numerals and metric volume measurement.

Some of the rules

  • The metric net quantity must be at least 1.6 mm in height

  • There must be a space between 750 and ml

  • The above must be in boldface

  • Only this abbreviation is considered bilingual: "13.5 % alc./vol."  Make sure the periods are in there.

  • There must be a space between "13.5" and "%"

Next, if you're part of the Vintner's Quality Alliance (VQA) program and are allowed to use the insignia "VQA" there are specific rules about where it should be placed on label and bottle.  Plus, using place names as geographic indicators or appellations is controlled.

Some of these rules have good reason to be and are helpful for the consumer.

I think for a wine producer, the most contentious issue is the description of the primary display label.  Bottles can have a front or back despite being cylindrical in 99% of all cases.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which enforces the Act mentioned above, interprets the label that is thought to be the one most often used to display the product as the primary display.  It requires all the legal stuff about the colour of the wine and where it was made to be on the primary display label.  The catch is:  the producer doesn't get to decide, the government agency gets to define what the primary display label is.

If you've invested heavily in product package design it's not too much fun to have the image ruined by text that could easily be moved to the secondary or back label.

Thankfully, enforcement is sketchy.  But that's why you can find all the 'artistic' labels in the stores.  Happy hunting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Newport Liquor Merchants - our latest partner

Last week this great store in Port Moody became the latest partner in the Black Cloud Pinot Noir quest for world wine domination.
If you haven't been to this store I encourage you to drop in.  It's a great spot with friendly, knowledgeable staff.  Say hi to Janice and John and all the rest. And the neighbourhood is quite nifty with lots of other stores and services within walking distance.  You can easily spend a couple hours exploring, grabbing a meal and buying wine around this spot.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Black Cloud Honoured As One Of The 17

Black Cloud Pinot Noir was selected this weekend by the Vancouver Sun and Province as one of their 17 wines in 17 days - alluding to the upcoming Olympic celebrations beginning in the city shortly. It caught us by surprise.  We had no indication we were being considered.  If you got one of the these booklets

Turn to page 52 and 53 and there we are!

The article talks about how difficult it is to find some these wines.  Indeed, you can't just drop in to any government liquour store and expect to pick some of these wines up.  We thought this would be a good opportunity to update people regarding where Black Cloud Pinot can be obtained.  Remember, the price varies greatly with each location's mark-up.  You can always just email us ( or call  250-490-7314 and we'll ship it to you direct.  One bottle or 10 cases, or whatever amount you want.

       The Brewhouse
       Voya at the Loden hotel
       Hamilton Street Grill
      Naramata Heritage Inn
Lake Country
      Ricardo's Mediterranean Kitchen
Harrison Hot Springs
      Raven's on the Beach

Wine Stores
Bowen Island
     Bowen Island Cold Beer & Wine
North Shore
     Village Taphouse
Abbotsford / Fraser Valley
     Whatcom Wines and Spirits
     Broadway International Wine
     Liquour Plus (all three stores)
     The Naramata Store

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Large Format Wine Bottles for Black Cloud

We're planning on creating some large bottles for Black Cloud as part of our next bottling run.

I've had some feelers out there on Twitter and such, asking for opinion about the oversized bottle genre.

Most people seem to like the idea but they rarely purchase for themselves.  In fact, most people seem more inclined to purchase large bottles as special occasion gifts rather than have a few on-hand in their own cellars.

I'm pretty sure we're going to do a few.  They're great to have when a favourite charity or benefit comes calling for a contribution.  And when we have a dinner party for more than 6 guests, our large bottle will dominate the table!

Change - It had to come

Playing around with the format and theme on the site.  Bear with me.  Embrace the change.  I think I got the comment section back.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Comments? I messed up the comment thing.

In the past, one could comment on my posts.  But I was messing around with the template and I've lost comment functionality.  Until I geek my way through this, just drop a line at if you would like to add to the discussion.

Is A New Winery In Your New Year?

Starting a new winery is a daunting task.  People come at the problem from varied backgrounds and levels of talent.  Everybody has a different idea about what makes a winery a success. But few would argue that a winery needs to be a successful business.

Often the decision to start a winery happens in the blink of an eye.  Sure, you may have mulled, pondered and ruminated about it for a decade.  But for most people, it comes down to a single moment of conviction when your passion, drive and hope come together and you say: Let's do it.

Forget about the awards ceremonies, the glowing reviews and the adoration of thousands of wine lovers: that will all come in good time.  The first thing you have to do is make sure you have a good business plan.  Without the plan, you're like a ship without a rudder.

The wine business is capital intensive at start-up.  Returns on investment are delayed, reflecting both the nature of a business linked to an agricultural cycle and a slow inventory turnover.  Investors looking to make a quick buck should look elsewhere as a five year lag before returns in not uncommon.  In fact, without proper funding, your winery could be in serious trouble by the time your second or third harvest comes around.  You may find yourself strapped for funds and without the kind of cash flow you may have expected

The wine business is heavily-weighted to a brand-driven model.  You'll soon have questions about how to best promote and market your brand. Before some of the details become insurmountable, consider engaging the services of a consultant.

In the wine industry that could be someone purely on the business side who has a familiarity with the workings of banks, government and the law.  Or it can be someone from development and production, like myself (the friendly guy in the photo), who will be able to tell you what you'll need to achieve the kind of excellence we all strive for in wine. 

Whether you're starting a new venture or working with an established company, there's never a bad time to re-visit the business plan with a fresh set of eyes.  Consider the talents of a consultant when you need to clearly identify your wine business priorities and and create viable, profitable solution.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winery Investors: We Welcome Your Questions

Over the last weekend we accepted our first Black Cloud investor participation in our company.  Our focus has been on production and brand promotion, so we hadn't been actively chasing down private lenders.
But we were happy to accept this investor's trust and belief in our vision.
One thing that has been worthy of noting: People are surprised to learn how small their stake can be.  Winery ownership doesn't require millions of dollars after all!
If you or someone you know is looking for a minority position in small, niche-market winery, drop us a line.
We look forward to any questions about our plan and how financial participation would look.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Everything We Do Now Shows Up In The 2010 Pinot Noir

People often ask what a wine maker does this time of year. Some folks are just curious, not knowing how things are. Others are already sure that we're just loafing about, waiting for the grapes to grow ripe. Or goofing around like me and my son in the photo.

Truth is: I'm working on the 2010 vintage right now. A case could be made that I'm working on the next five, 10 and 20 vintages if you want to extend the premise.

I say this because everything I do in the next 10 months culminates in that one day in the fall when the grapes are picked and we begin to transform them into wine.

Every minute decision about the vine, about the winery and about the direction of our enterprise is reflected in the finished product.

Pinot Noir is one of the most reactive varieties when it comes to stylistic choices. "Style" can be defined in everything from vinification to cultural practices in the vineyard to the type of closure used on the bottle. Some of the other varieties seem to be able to produce consistent wines under different style regimes. But Pinot Noir walks a tightrope of quality. A consistent style allows the seasonal variations to shine in each vintage while protecting the integrity of the wine.

Black Cloud is still a young concept for a brand and a winery. There's quite a bit of style evolution to come. As an example, a year ago we were still planning to make some white wine. But we've come to realize our passion lies with Pinot Noir. That's where our focus will be.

We're still working on sourcing and growing the best fruit from our team of growers. Our plan is to do more work in the vineyards that allow our style choices to be accommodated easily. We're still working on defining what we think works best in the cellar to allow the treasures of the vineyard to be properly expressed in the bottle.

Around the world over the past year there has been tremendous change due to the global economic upheaval. It affects everyone including wine making operations. The important thing about this situation for a winery is to be adaptable and to see the change as something to embrace. It's what winemakers do every harvest; observe and accept the vintage and accommodate the change. Always with the same goal, which is to produce the best wine from the best grapes available.

For Black Cloud, that means consistently producing the best Pinot Noir in British Columbia.

Readers of this post: 2006 Black Cloud Pinot Noir is available for $19.99 + bottle deposit until January 8th, 2010. Regular price: $25.00 . Please email your contact details to . We will respond to arrange payment and shipping.