Poor old muscat, for too many years it has been relegated to a few roles, mostly used to make frizzante (a lightly sparkling wine) or as a very sweet dessert wine. But once in a while it is given an opportunity to take its rightful place at the table, so to speak, with an artfully crafted vintage like that created by Joie Farm.

I must admit, I am a sucker for a dry or off-dry muscat (as is my wife). There is a definite reason Joie Farm calls it “The Pure Grape”. Few other grapes leave such a grape-like essence behind after fermentation.

The 2011 Joie Farm muscat leads with a distinctly floral nose, with orange blossoms standing out alongside the signature musky grapeness. This forward grape blends into candied lemon in the body, with hints of other citrus peeking out. The finish leans toward dry, but I suppose there is just a hint of sweetness remaining if you look for it.

All in all, this is a excellent example of what can be accomplished with the humble muscat. It offers a somewhat exotic alternative to the more familiar sauvignon blancs, pinot blancs, and pinot gris’ that abound in the BC market. Intrigued? Be sure to track down a bottle or three while they last.


Availability: Recently released
Price: $23
D’s Rating: 4/5
Notes: Something different, something great. Smells like the breeze on a hot summer’s day in a garden.

As promised, here are a couple of the fine offerings carefully created at the Okanagan Crush Pad:

2010 Haywire Pinot Gris

Haywire Winery has a few things to teach some other BC Pinot Gris’ with their 2010 vintage. The wonderful scent of lime zest leads into a balanced body of lemon citrus with great, full mouthfeel. Finishes dry and lingers. A great example of the varietal and a top-notch single vineyard Pinot Gris.

Availability: Unsure of retail, can be purchased direct
Price: $23
D’s Rating: 4/5


2010 Bartier Scholfield Rose

I am of the opinion that not enough people in North America are drinking good rose. The fine folks of Bartier Scholfield are looking help us change our drinking habits with their very nice Gamay Noir rose. This salmon coloured juice starts with the scent of strawberries and white fruits, leading to a crisp body of sweet tart cranberry. The finish is as refreshingly dry as the south of France.

Availability: Unsure of retail, can be purchased direct
Price: $19
D’s Rating: 4/5


I don’t know about you, but one of my way-down-the-road dreams is to one day have my own winery. Yes, I do realize that is a bit of a pipe dream, but it doesn’t hurt to dream big. The effort and monetary investment required is huge, which definitely puts the thought more into wishful thinking territory for most of us. That is, until the forward thinking folks at the Okanagan Crush Pad came along. Their idea was simple – build a state of the art facility which allows multiple small wineries to work together. Through this shared equipment and expertise, they are able to produce and market wines of the highest quality at reasonable prices. These virtual wineries are able to purchase beautiful local grapes and translate them into great wines without the staggering set up costs generally required by new wineries.

I admit I was a little skeptical at first, but after tasting a few of the very good wines from Haywire and Bartier Scholefield (reviews to follow soon, I promise), I am pleased to say that they have convinced this skeptic. Perhaps the dream of having my own label grace a bottle of great BC wine may not be quite so far out of reach after all. In the meantime, I highly recommend trying whatever Okanagan Crush Pad made wines you can get your hands on. If you can’t find them locally, go here to order your very own mixed case.

Back on track?

Yes, I am posting again. I am still working some long hours at my day job, but after a trip to Burgundy and a winter of drinking great wine I feel the need to write again.

As I try to figure out my format and schedule going forward, I will be bringing you a few wine related articles.

Here is an amusing rant via video which pretty much encapsulates my feeling on Robert Parker and his ridiculous ratings and rapidly eroding credibility these days.

Let’s talk about Champagne for a minute. No, not all that sparkling wine that everyone for some reason refers to as Champagne, but the real deal from that little region in northern France.

Now I truly enjoy the real stuff, but I also drink the other stuff – prosecco, cava, and a few domestic sparkling wines for good measure. These other wines generally offer much better value for your dollar, though as with most wines, quality can vary greatly depending on the producer. There is, however, something about Champagne. Perhaps it’s the history, the strict controls on production and grapes used, or just the French mystique, but few things in life are more evocative of style, grace, and sophistication than a bottle of beautifully chilled Champagne. What generally stops me, as well as many others from popping a cork on a nice bottle of the good stuff (or sabreing one, but that’s for another post) is the price.

There are still good values to be found, even in this rarefied crowd. Gardet (pictured), Veuve Clicquot, and a few other houses offer very good non-vintage Champagnes at reasonable prices (sub-$40). This stands in stark contrast to the prices of vintage Dom Perignons, Cristals, and Bollingers. These premier names do definitely command top prices, but it is hard to argue against the history and care that goes into each bottle.

And then there are the pretenders. This article highlights the rise of a new “top tier” bottle (read the link before continuing, or the rest of this will make less sense). Stories of this sort serve to highlight that the celebrity obsessed culture of stupidity doesn’t stop at selling shoes or energy drinks. Apparently, it also works to make a cheapish bottle of bubbly instantly worth more than six times the price. Not because it’s better than its contemporaries, but because careful marketing combined with smoke and mirrors style celebrity endorsement made it cool. The ongoing deception around its re-branding and monetary backing does little to increase my belief that this is anything but a blatant cash grab, one that foolish consumers seem to be literally buying by the case.

I am aware that one lone voice railing against something like this has little to no effect. I also realize that many have been aware of this for some time, but as one who doesn’t follow this particular music scene or frequent “Gentlemen’s Clubs”, this look down the rabbit hole is news to me. The only thing we as consumers who are passionate about wine can do is to make sure that we do not support brands or labels that rely on hype and deception to drive sales of an inferior product, rather than make any attempt to bring us the best possible product they can at a reasonable price.


p.s. I have not used the name of the Champagne in question by choice. There is no need to increase its profile by having Google count one more page with its name on it.

As mentioned previously, Painted Rock Winery has been producing fantastic wines from very young vines for the last few years.

Not to be overlooked amongst the reds, Chardonnay is the one white wine that Painted Rock currently produces.

With a colour of pale straw, the first glance of the 2009 Painted Rock Chardonnay promises that this wine will not be one of those over-oaked, chewing on wood affairs.

The nose leads with soft stone fruits and a delicate floweriness, with the scent of pear bearing slightly more prominence than any other. There is also a slight toastiness about it, but it is extremely subtle and inviting.

On the tongue the flavours open further, with baked apple and a splash of citrus leading the charge. Again, the sparing use of oak helps it to shine, with just a hint of nutty, buttery flavours mixing with the bright fruits.

The finish is dry, long, and refreshing.

A Chardonnay for any occasion, Painted Rock demonstrates fanatical attention to detail once again with a white wine worthy to stand alongside their Red Icon.


Availability: Limited
Price: Moderate ($30-$40)
D’s Rating: 4/5
Notes: A great Chardonnay appropriate for drinking at any time, it leans more toward the Chablis style – letting the fruit, rather than the oak, speak for it.

Painted Rock…

Upon arrival at Painted Rock Estate Winery, located just south of Penticton on the Skaha Bench, I was not quite sure what to expect. I already knew that they were producing some world-beating wines after just a few years, but what of the actual operation? Did they have an ultra modern tasting room, coupled with a restaurant looking out over Skaha Lake? I am happy to report that what they currently have is a small prefab tasting house and a metal-sided production building. While not as impressive as some of the Taj Mahals of the Okanagan, this sends us all a very clear message that the first focus of this winery is the production of their exemplary wines; the rest can come later.

Although your first impression of the facilities at Painted Rock will definitely not be one of awe, the view is a different matter altogether. The bench slopes gently toward the lake, providing some of the best looking terrior in the area. And the grapes that grow from that soil become wine that tastes as good as any of the established B.C. vineyards’ fine wines.

Drinking these wines, it is hard to believe that the first vines were planted in 2005, with the first releases being the 2008 vintages. The depth of character and flavour show strong focus by John Skinner and his staff, not only on the choice of clones to grow in each varietal, but also in the methods used to coax the best from each grape produced.

The flagship wine from Painted Rock is their Red Icon, a Bordeaux-style blend that already has a huge following, despite having only had two vintages released thus far. For the 2009, they have taken a bit of a chance by removing Cabernet Sauvignon from the blend altogether and placing more focus on the other traditional Bordeaux components of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. A bold move indeed, but one that appears to have been a good choice as we will soon see. I will be taking a closer look at the 2009 Red Icon and 2009 Chardonnay in the next few days.

Painted Rock has, in a very short time, established itself as one the wineries to watch in the always exciting Okanangan. I cannot wait to see what a few more years maturity will bring to their already excellent wines.