Ruminations: One of the Wine Industry’s Colossal Questions


Lots of things to think about in this post by Valerie on The Demystified Vine. She even included me in it! (Thanks Valerie!) If you didn’t catch her podcast before, look for it below (it’s Podcast 138). She’ll also be making an appearance again in a soon to be released podcast.

Originally posted on The Demystified Vine:

On January 31st, 2014, at the Vancouver Public Library, wine lovers and experts alike had the opportunity to come together to discuss one of the wine industry’s colossal questions: Does wine begin in the vineyard or in the winery?

Some of British Columbia’s biggest names were in attendance at The Grape Debate to assist with the discussion, including:
*Sid Cross — Honorary President of the International Wine & Food Society
*Ann Sperling — Winemaker for Sperling Vineyards and Clos du Soleil
*Val Tait — Co-owner and GM at Bench 1775
*David Scholefield — VP Wine Strategy, Wine Advisor, Okanagan Crush Pad
*Kathy Malone — Winemaker for Hillside Winery
*Howard Soon — Master Winemaker for Sandhill Wines

The debate was moderated by talented DJ Kearney.

Many folks were discussing their points of view prior to the panel sharing their viewpoints, and it was intriguing to see how intently folks…

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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Podcasts


Podcast 139 – Wine Tour Companies, Part 1

grape escapes
…and WE’RE BACK!!

DSC_1503Wow, it’s been a while since the last podcast. I can’t believe it’s taken this long but that’s the way the old cork crumbles. My voice is finally back in shape enough to be recorded properly without sounding like a sick duck and so here we go with a podcast series on wine tour companies and why you should use them on your next trip.

The first in the series starts with Dino from Grape Escapes Wine Tours out of Penticton. He grew up here so he’s seen it all and has a huge amount of local knowledge. He’s proud of his home and it shows.

Have you been on a tour with Grape Escapes? Have you used any tour company for a wine tour? Did you have a good time? Would you do it again? These are the things inquiring minds want to know. Leave a comment below about your experiences with a wine tour company. I’ll be posting my own thoughts on future posts about this topic.

It’s not a focus group, it’s a wine blog. However, when travelling to wine country I strongly suggest filling up your iThing with Wine Country BC podcasts so you’ll be ahead of the game when you get here.

Cheers from wine country!


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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Podcasts


Decanting with Luke

Another TV spot with Marji on the local cable channel here in Oliver, BC, the wine capital of Canada. This time I’m talking about decanting wines and why you’d want to do that. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in TV Segments, Video Tastings


How I got into wine

(This post was inspired by Calli’s recent article about her thoughts on wine in university culture, which is where I really learned to appreciate wine for the first time. Here goes…)


I have vivid recollection of walking between the aisles of wines in the local liquor store in the small town where I went to university and completely ignoring them on the way to buy whiskey. Or gin. Or Southern Comfort. Or whatever spirit had piqued my interest.


What I loved about booze was that it wasn’t beer. I never really liked fizzy drinks of any kind and beer wasn’t for me. It was also a little too monochromatic for my liking and the world of spirits offered a huge diversity of flavours that I found thrilling. Sweet drinks like White Russians (just like The Dude) progressed to Whisky Sours, and Alabama Slammers which lead to gin & tonics which ended up at CC or Jack on the rocks and then finally Scotches neat. I had a few friends who used to drink wine but I didn’t see the appeal.

And then I met a girl.

She came from a family that drank wine with dinner most every night. When we had special dinners together, she would bring a bottle of wine. (She had to bring the wine glass too, if I remember, because heathen that I was, I didn’t have any.) Aside from making the meal appear a little more classy, she explained to me how wine cleanses the palate and can could enhance the flavour of food. The palate cleansing concept was the first part that I related to the most. I always loved how the first 1 or 2 bites of food tasted, especially if it was something that I really loved. But a few bites into the meal though, it would lose something. It was still good but it didn’t have that same blast of flavour that I’d had.

Sumac 1997

Wine gave me the excitement of that first bite back again after every bite. Taking sips of wine every few bites refreshed and cleansed my palate making the food’s flavour exciting again as if I were back taking the first bite. Beer or booze couldn’t do that and I was intrigued. It was my first entree into the wine world and it had me hooked.
But then I went shopping for wine. What the heck was all that stuff on the label? **$20** for a bottle of wine?? No way! Who would ever pay that much for a bottle that would last one meal? A bottle of whisky wasn’t cheap either but I could get at least a couple of semesters out of a 26 of CC, especially if it was just one in a small collection of bottles. I couldn’t wrap my head around paying anything more than $10 for a bottle of wine. What is it about wine that makes it worth that much to some people?

So I bought what didn’t look too weird. I knew enough that bottles with French labels were going to be more authentic than ones with penguins on them.

“Where did that penguin come from?”

“From next door.”

“Penguins don’t come from next door, they come from Antarctica.”

Quails 2000Of course, the more dinners we had, the more I learned about what wines I liked and what I didn’t like. I quickly learned that some wines tasted great with some foods but not others. White wines tasted weird and got lost amongst our spaghetti dinners. Steak and red wine developed a close relationship almost imediately.

My girlfriend’s father made wine from kits and that inspired us to have a go at it ourselves. We bought a carboy, and starter kit and turned her kitchen into our winery and her bedroom room into the cellar. It was… educational. We enjoyed it but it never seemed finished somehow. It lacked the polish and lustre that ‘real’ wines had. It was different somehow although at the time I couldn’t have put into words what it was that made it so. Whatever it was, it started the ball rolling for me and the world of wine seemed open and ready to explore.

After moving to BC, the wine culture was almost impossible to miss. The local wine stores had large sections of BC wines and there were even whole stores that sold nothing but BC wines – still a shocking concept to visitors from other markets. It was immersive and I loved it. I started buying books and learning about wine as much as I could. But sometimes reading about vines and wine wasn’t enough – I wanted to get my hands dirty. In 2005 I volunteered to work at Township 7 Vineyards in Langley planting grape vines in the spring and harvesting in ’05 and ’06. I loved the experiences, the people that I met, and the memories of working with the grapes and vines. It was my first experience walking into the wine shop with a winery owner who said, “Thanks for helping. Why don’t you pick out six bottles of your choice.” I really must thank Gwen and Corey Coleman, the original owners of Township 7 Vineyards in Langley, who were my first and warmest welcome into the wine industry in BC.

Scan20010From that point 9 years ago until now, it’s been a wild ride of learning, tasting, talking, drinking, working, more tasting, and selling wines while meeting some of the greatest people around. Those experiences aren’t really that different from what I would have had if I hadn’t joined the wine industry. They are possible to get elsewhere in organizations like the BC Wine Appreciation Society, attending Wine Festival tastings, private tastings, or visiting wineries frequently. They are available to anyone who is interested in wine.

I find that the more experiences I have with wine, the more comfortable the knowledge becomes. I’ve also found that the more I think I know, the more I find that I don’t really know anything at all. Wine should be an experience. I’m thankful for those that have allowed me to share in those experiences and I enjoy sharing those experiences with others – one of the reasons that I started this website and podcast. Have fun finding experiences with BC wine!

Cheers from wine country!


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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Podcasts


Return of the “Wine With Luke”

Here’s another segment I filmed at Tinhorn Creek’s wine shop last month. (It sure is easier to do videos like this when other people do the editing.) Enjoy!


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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in TV Segments, Video Tastings


Wine Bars and Why They Are Awesome


As I write this (ok, type this), I’m sitting in Vino Volo, a wine bar at the Detroit airport, while I await my connecting flight to a destination farther away from my home. Somehow that was the next logical sequence to connect me to Spokane, WA which is where my car is parked. (It’s a long story which may or may not be included in a future post on the very topic that brought me to Raleigh, North Carolina in the first place…)

In any case, while staying for extra time in Raleigh, and in some of the airports that I’ve seen on the way there and back, wine bars have been included amongst the throngs of stores that now make up the typical American airport / shopping mall. They should maybe be called airport centres from now on because they seem to be a conjoining of the two buildings’ functions – the utility and security of an airport paired with the vapid retail experience reductionism of a shopping mall.

Wine bars may be the most interesting new experience to be created in the social lives of individuals since the invention of wine. The big question is, why did it take so long? The bigger question is, why can’t we have these in Canada or BC?

Here is why I love wine bars (based entirely on the 3 that I experiences on this trip);

1 – They are the ultimate ‘social’ without the media. Through common interest in wine, I met lots of people who I would otherwise have never met. During the recent ‘snowpocalypse’ in Raleigh, North Carolina, I met Emily who worked at a bank nearby and had given up trying to drive her 4×4 home after making it only 2 blocks in an hour during the worst part of the storm. She got a hotel room and enjoyed a flight of wines in the wine bar called The Wine Feed, where she had people to talk to and enjoyed an hour of her afternoon instead of sitting miserable in traffic. Our group stayed there trying glasses and flights of wines for at least a couple of hours before heading out to dinner. Granted, we had time to kill but the time went by in a flash and with some great conversation. Isn’t that why humans are social?

2 – They are clean and cultured. This is subjective however and the word ‘cultured’ sometimes comes off as a bit snobby. Snobby they aren’t, or at lest the ones that I saw. Most of the wines topped off in dollars at about $25 and many were in the $6-15 range. Even if you know nothing about wine, staff will help you find something that you will like. If I wasn’t sure about a wine, they would immediately offer to pour me a small sample (just like in a wine shop tasting room) so that I could decide if I liked it or not before buying a glass. Try asking for a sample of beer or cocktail at any regular bar and see what happens.

3 – They are accessible. Wine bars sometimes have lots of extra information about the wines. They all have (or should have) friendly and knowledgeable staff who are passionate about wine and keen on sharing that knowledge with you. The staff that I saw all fit this description and here eminently thrilled just to be able to work with so much wine all the time.

4 – They are comfortable. Unlike bars with tall bar stools or hard wooden booths, wine bars have easy chairs, comfortable stools with back rests, and lots of space. It’s a more humane experience than having to stand at the side of a dance floor all night or leaning against a wall. Wine bars aren’t dimly lit and mysterious (or even dangerous) because otherwise you can’t see the wines properly. They are usually brightly and neutrally lit. They don’t have loud music because you can’t hear the other people at the table or bar clearly.

5 – They promote wine and relaxation. Traditional bars promote stimulation – loud music, flashy lights, drinks that are designed to get you drunk. I’ve never really understood why people go to bars to meet people when it seems that everything that happens at a bar is designed to keep people from communicating on any level at all. Loud music prevents conversation (intelligently sober or sloppy drunk) while dimmed and flashing lights prevents anyone from actually seeing anyone else properly. The florescent lights that bars turn on at the end of the night are called the ‘ugly lights’ for a reason. There’s nothing social about these places at all.

Wine is about interacting with others even if it has nothing to do with the wine itself. It’s a more honest and real experience that doesn’t allow you to hide behind any flashy lights or distractions. Yes, loud thumping music is energizing and it makes you move and have fun which is all great. Dancing is and has always been a fun social ritual and that won’t change. But what has changed is the distracting sound level of the music, which I find totally discourages any communication or socializing at all. Wine bars have brought back the social and civil.

And this airport traveler thanks them for that. Cheers!



Posted by on February 14, 2014 in General, Rants


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Discovering Wine in University

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One time Luke and I were brainstorming for articles I could write and he mentioned ‘how students discover wine in university.’ As I am currently completing my final year at UBC, I suppose I have an inside scoop. In all reality, university students bring a bottle of Yellow Tail to a party and think they’re the epitome of class.  They proceed to drink that entire bottle, and come morning experience one of the worst hangovers they will ever have. They then swear off all wine for the foreseeable future. Really, students only learn that too much of a good thing (that is a subjective term in this case) might not be the best thing.

Unfortunately, my own university experience has been drastically different. I say unfortunate because being able to enjoy an $8 red is a lot kinder to the bank account than having a palate that demands wines of a higher calibre which usually come with a higher price tag. I have been involved in BC’s wine industry since I was 19 and skipped the quintessential cheap wine enjoyment period.

While students may not appreciate wines, there are many opportunities to learn about them. UBC has an Introduction to Wine Science class (FNH 330) that is taught by Dr. David McArthur, who also trains the VQA panel.  I have taken his class and it is a fair representation of how wine is made, how to taste wine, and how to interpret labels (even those confusing German ones). UBC also offers Continuing Studies on understanding wine for adult learners.

Not at UBC? No problem. The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses offer several levels of wine education (Foundation, Intermediate, & Advanced) all the way up to a diploma. WSET’s lower courses are perfect for beginners and progress into detailed courses aimed at aspiring wine industry professionals. WSET courses can also be taken in most of Canada’s major cities.

These courses are all very helpful, but this is an article about university students. We’re broke and likely don’t want to take a $500 wine course. So what are some inexpensive (or free!) ways to educate yourself on wine?

1. Learn how to say it properly. I cannot count the many times I’ve heard Meritage pronounced incorrectly. Meritage is supposed to rhyme with heritage, as it is an amalgamation of the words ‘merit’ and ‘heritage’. If you are unsure or apprehensive (Gewürztraminer anyone?) about how to pronounce a wine, look it up. There is this wonderful blog that acts as a pronunciation guide. These tools are at your disposal and can be the difference between impressing your date and saying the “Gewerssomething” for the rest of your life.

2. Learn how to taste. You don’t have to immediately pick up the notes of cassis and graphite, but try to muster more than an “it tastes like wine”. Learn the five S’s (See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, & Savour). You will be amazed at the difference just taking the time to properly taste wine will make.

3. Have fun with it. Start trying to pair your wine with different foods. You will soon learn what goes well together and what combinations to avoid. Wine doesn’t have to be serious, and I don’t think it should be. Organize a wine night with a bunch of friends where each person brings a bottle or a food dish. It can be a learning experience and a good time.

It is never too late or too early* to start cultivating some wine knowledge. Having a little bit of wine expertise can actually score big points in certain occasions. Also, my last bit of advice and likely the most important:

4. If it’s cheap and you love it, who cares? If you truly love $8 shiraz and do not taste any discernible difference between it and a $50 bottle, then by all means keep saving money and buy your favourite inexpensive wine. Over time your palate may change and your purchasing habits with it, but if you can get away with enjoying the less expensive wine right now, go for it!

- Calli

*Relatively speaking: within the legal drinking age of your province/state

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Posted by on January 29, 2014 in General, Wine Knowledge


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