Many Vintages Ago

Front and back labels from Nk’Mip Cellars’ 2000 (their first vintage?) of Chardonnay.

A strange book appeared in my line of sight after moving some items around in my storage room. There were three books, each containing wine labels that had been soaked off their bottles. Most were labels from Italy, France, Spain, and BC but there were some others in there too. Some had early tastings notes scribbled on the pages and others only had the labels. Each one brought back memories from a long time ago.

Being conscious of time changes as we age. As kids, we might have thought that the days at school were too long, the summers were too short, and every new school year felt like it was never going to end in October but suddenly went by too fast in June. In my twenties, it seemed like time was perfect for the pace of life I had then. After my kids were born, things felt like they were speeding up. Years went by more quickly somehow.

Is this a sign of a mid-life crisis? Ha! Perhaps.

Wine lovers seem to have a particular fascination with time, like we always try to remember particular years as vintages. Some years were better than others. Wine regions in the world are more or less sensitive to those good or bad years. Anyone in the wine industry here will have opinions and definite memories about a particular year based on their own personal experiences from that year.

2003 – “Bad fire year. I had ash all over my car during harvest.”

2009 – “That was the year of that frost in early October! Remember that?”

2011 – “F%^k.”

I recently discovered a small collection of labels that I had saved, starting from when I first moved to this province in 2000. It also happens to represent my first few years learning to wine. The more that I tasted and explored, the more that I wanted to learn. It was the beginning of what would become a journey into a sensory adventure that is still going on today.

Gwen and Cory Coleman were the first winery owners that I annoyed at their Langley property. I planted vines there, performed at the anniversary party with a band for 3 years, and volunteered for 2 harvests. They were always gracious and eager to answers any of my questions.

I read everything and anything I could get my hands on about wine. My ex-inlaws gave me wine books for Christmas and provided some great wine tasting experiences. John Schreiner’s books were easy to find in the library and at book stores and provided a wealth of knowledge about BC wine. Anthony Gismondi’s columns in the Vancouver Sun, subscribed to Wine Access magazine and bought others when I could. I learned how opinionated wine could be, which not only drew me into it further but also introduced me to the language of wine criticism. I knew that I had to be a part of it somehow.

We were so enamoured with this wine at the time that it caused us to visit the winery in 2003.

I volunteered at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. I met all kinds of people who were also interested in wine as well as people in the BC wine industry – Roland Kruger and Harry McWatters were two that I distinctly recall from those days. The more people that I met, the more they told me about what they knew and their experiences with wine. It was fantastic.

After moving to the Okanagan, blogging started to become a ‘thing’. I started this blog in 2009 as a front for the podcast that I produced with my friend and co-worker the late Aaron Olfert but soon grew to include a whole bunch of great people, some of whom are now winemakers. I attended wine bloggers conferences and met even more people. This was at the beginning of social media which only accelerated networking to new parts of the country and other countries. I even presented a seminar on podcasting at one of the conferences.

It turns out that blogging was really the gateway into other things like writing (first guesting on others’ blogs and then at Wine Trails magazine. Somehow – I’m still not sure how – this progressed into books and then teaching at Okanagan College. One things really seems to lead to another and the journey seems to be continuing to evolve. It’s little wonder that wine is really the great metaphor for life in that way. A good wine should change and evolve in the bottle as it ages and then potentially again the glass as you experience it. There are a lot of possibilities in every bottle and every sip. This wine journey of mine has taken me to a lot of different places with a lot of different people.

All that from finding a bunch of old labels stuffed into books. Where did your journey start?