Cool rain did nothing to dampen warm, cozy sentiments at the BC VQA‘s 20th Anniversary wine tasting last week at the Vancouver Convention Center. The event featured pioneers of BC wine who forged a new industry out of the orchards, and who brought old vintages from their wine cellars.
There was Tony Stewart of Quail’s Gate, Gordon Fitzpatrick of Cedar Creek, Stephen Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Walter Gehringer of Gehringer Brothers, George & Trudy Heiss of Gray Monk, Roland and Adolph Kruger of Wild Goose, Howard Soon of Sandhill/Calona, Harry McWatters of Sumac Ridge, Walter Huber of Hainle/Deep Creek, and reps of Mission Hill. Essentially, BC Wine Hall of Famers.
Godfather Harry McWatters took the crowd of mostly media on a juicy trip down memory lane. Back to the time when winemakers had to decide upon a proper acronym for their fledgling organization – ABC or BCA, McWatters couldn’t remember which side he was on – until a 1990 lunch where a representative of the Ontario Vintners Quality Assurance board suggested they join them as “VQA.” When the 1995 Free Trade Agreement provoked big changes in the nascent industry, and “when the Queen drank BC wine, everybody started asking ‘where can I get this stuff?’” McWatters finished by thanking the media who helped spread the word, and as someone who has been promoting BC wines to a skeptical California since about 2002, I felt mildly vindicated.
For me, this was a great chance to chat with the old timers, but to the winemakers, it seemed like a class reunion.
“To be here, in this room with all these guys, is absolutely fabulous,” gushed Walter Gehringer, from behind his wine bottles.
His 1994 Auxerrois tasted smooth and graceful, still retaining some elegant white fruit flavor.
“Auxerrois is a delicate wine that shouldn’t age, but this one does,” he said, as if surprised.
At the Wild Goose table I met both Adolph and Roland Kruger. Adolph told me that he’s approaching his 79th birthday, but doesn’t feel it.
“I feel like I’m living on borrowed time,” he said. “The last 20 years has just – boom – gone. I don’t know where it went.”
Like it’s founder, the Wild Goose ’99 Riesling still had lots of life in it, and the ’04 Mystic River Vineyard Gewürztraminer showed the kind of honeyed apple and apricot most vintners can only wish for.
My favorite old white wine came from the biggest producer in the Okanagan Valley: Mission Hill’s 2001 Chardonnay. It had the most tropical fruit of all, with good body, fresh mouthfeel and the kind of minimalist oak treatment I wish more winemakers would adhere to. There were some good old red wines, but the Mission Hill ’99 Oculus beat them out in longevity, showing well-integrated tobacco leaf, smoky fruit and spicy oak on a smooth palate with a finish that wouldn’t quit.
Tasting where BC’s VQA wines have been has given me a renewed sense of where they’re heading – nowhere but up.
Topping off a busy week of wine tastings, I had the pleasure of meeting Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd at Yew Restaurant, and shot some video of him showing off his bartending chops.
“Tom Cruise, I am not,” he cracked, in one of his few comedic moments.
Aykroyd is on tour to promote his Crystal Head Vodka: made in Newfoundland, quadruple distilled and triple filtered through Herkimer diamond crystals. Check out his infomercial on the website.
It seems the Ghostbuster is truly obsessed with the paranormal, and in designing the bottle, he copied the famous 13 crystal heads, like those featured in Indiana Jones – Kingdom of Crystal Skulls. I found the vodka to be super smooth and virtually tasteless, which is what good vodka is supposed to be.
Akroyd is still on tour with Crystal Head, so watch out, California! He’s coming to the Sacramento BevMo on September 29, San Diego’s Alberston’s on October 23, and Costco in Van Nuys on October 30.
What a wild and crazy guy.
I’ll see you at the Wines of Chile trade tasting on Thursday, October 7, here in Vancouver.