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Archaeological evidence of ancient winemaking

Humans have been drinking wine for a really long time according to archaeological findings dating back thousands of years. In the last few years alone, archaeologists in the Middle East and Mediterranean have found vats, pressing platforms, jugs and even cups to support that red wine has been enjoyed for centuries.

EarlyWine

France

In June 2013, Popular Archaeology announced early winemaking evidence found in Southern France by a team of French and U.S. archaeologists. A pressing platform as well as imported Etruscan amphorae (pottery introduced by ancient Greeks) was found in an ancient Port site named Lattara. Marking and material show that the amphora pottery was made in central Italy.

FranceWinePress

*Wine press found in Lattara. Credit: Michael Py*

More specifically, the artifacts were found in a merchants quarters where the walls date back to 525-475 BCE. The pressing platform is dated at 425 BCE. Residue left on these tools was tested positive for compounds of Eurasian grapes and wine similar to those found in the Middle East.

Armenia

Armenian, U.S. and Irish archaeologists found the oldest winery in an Armenian cave back in September of 2010.  This site is also the exact location where the oldest shoe was found, a mere 5,500 years old.  In the winery a wine press, clay vat, grape seeds and even an animal horn cup were found. These artifacts are said to be over 6,000 years old and made during the Copper Age (4100 B.C.E.). To put the evidence in perspective, during the Copper Age, humans also invented the wheel and domesticated horses.

ArmeniaVats

*Vats found in Armenian cave. Credit: Gregory Areshian*

Archaeologist Gregory Areshian of UCLA told National Geographic, “This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production.” Fortunately, this evidence was well preserved due to layers of sheep dung and the limestone walls. Chemical analysis of the artifacts showed red wine was made in the vats.

Italy

Many winemaking sites have been found in Italy. Today however, Italian archaeologists are attempting to make red wine exactly how ancient Romans used to. At the University of Catania in Sicily, research manager Mario Indelicato has lead his team in planting vineyards of Nerello Mascalese, using ancient techniques of using wooden tools fastened with canes. They expect 70 litres for their first vintage in 2017.

 GrapeHarvestGod

*Dionysos. Roman God of Wine*

During the winemaking process, Indelicato says, “We will not use fermenting agents, but rely on the fermentation of the grapes themselves, which will make it as hit and miss as it was then.” Fermentation will take place in terracotta pots lined in beeswax. The pots will be buried in the ground up to their neck, allowing the mouth to be exposed to air.  No modern chemicals will be added, instead, water and honey will used to sweeten the flavour and minimize acidity.

OldestWineBottle

Thousands of years have passed and wine is still a valuable and cultural addition to a meal with friends, or unwinding at the end of the day (we can thank the Greeks for that). Clearly technology and practice has allowed for us humans to create complex wines in state of the art wineries, but we have to thank the genius passed down from ancient ancestors. Who knows where wine will be centuries from now, but we do hope WineCollective is still delivering the juicy goodness to your front door (potentially via aircraft and/or teleportation).


We dare you to try these ‘wines’!

Apparently, the world is running out of grapes. Or at least that is what some individuals around the world must be thinking as they create wines from the most bizarre ingredients.

While some of these wines (if we can call them that) actually sound delicious and drinkable, others are down right twisted and disturbing. I apologize in advance if some of the following information seriously grosses you out.

Coconut Wine 

Known as Vino de Coco, coconut wine was founded by George and Tila Paraliza after returning to their homeland, the Philippines. George was hopeful in creating wine from the world’s most divine coconuts and putting the Philippines on the front page of the wine industry.

Coconut

Entirely organic, Vino de Coco is made of the fresh sap from the flower of the coconut tree. First established in 2010, the Paralizas follow strict guidelines developed by the Philippine Coconut Authority in order to harvest the coconut sap for their winery. Several wines are produced at Vino de Coco including a Dry Red, Sweet Red and Sweet White.

CocoWine

Considering the nutritional value in coconut, Vino de Coco has many benefits. Today, the wine is making its way towards international distribution and is easily found throughout its homeland. George and his fans aim to make Vino de Coco the Philippine’s National Drink.

 

Tiger Bone Wine

Although the practice that has been illegal since 1993, China is now allowing Tiger Wine sales – in a very undercover sort of way. Obviously, this custom has huge protests against it as tigers are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of tiger products such as fur, teeth and apparently bones for wine.

In China it is believed that tiger bones have medicinal capabilities and are thus soaked in wine for long periods of time. The bones are removed before bottling and price is determined by the amount of time the bone remained in the wine.

Kitty

 

Durian Wine

Singapore scientists have managed to turn the world stinkiest fruit into wine, how fortunate for us. Durian fruit has actually been banned from public locations in Singapore because of its smell, so why someone would want to put it in their mouth is beyond me.

no_durian

The wine, created by student researchers at the National University of Singapore, has received mixed reviews. Some describe its texture as buttery and creamy, others say, “Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” Better yet, it apparently tastes like “onions garnished with a gym sock.”

Lucky enough, the low alcohol content of 6% is said to diminish the fruits nasty smell.

 

Honey Wine 

Sounds fabulous after the last two, doesn’t it? Honey wine is actually very popular for Saint Patrick’s Day as it is a solid Irish tradition.  Known as Mead, the wine is fermented honey that can be made into various styles, such as dry and sweet wines. Producers also bring in fruits, herbs and spices to mix in even more delicious. They are even built to cellar.

OliverHoney

Honey wines are produced around the world from some pretty decent sized wineries (for example: Oliver Winery) that own bee colonies instead of vineyards. None of us at WineCollective have yet to give it a shot, but it most definitively sounds yummy. We would love to hear if some Irish folk out there have tried it!

 

Feces Wine 

An ostensibly medicinal “wine” in Korea called Ttongsul, is made by pouring Shochu into animal or (the most popular) human feces until it ferments. While it may not be the easiest drink to find, Ttongsul is still available in traditional restaurants and favoured among locals.

People have played some nasty tricks on others in order to get them to drink Ttongsul, without knowing of its contents. Reviews were surprisingly positive until after the experiment, when honesty played a part.

Granted, this is a traditional practice so our opinions will be kept inside WineCollective headquarters. Mainly this serves as a warning should you choose to travel to Korea at any point.

Fwine

WineCollective has a 100% grape wine only policy that we just implemented (right this second) upon learning about some of these other creations. While we would love to try Vino de Coco or Mead, we can guarantee we won’t be giving the others a try, nor forcing you to do so. If you’re brave enough and ever have the experience of TRULY expanding your palate, we would love to hear about it.


Welcome to Wine – expand your palate!

It is very typical for vino lovers to get stuck on a type of wine. Fans of red wine stick to it similar to those who prefer white wine. Regardless of the time of year or food they’re about to eat the habit usually results not only in choosing between red or white but also a specific variety.

redorwhite

While it is more than fine to have a favourite, whether that is the king of wines Cabernet Sauvignon or the party-favourite Moscato, it is also valuable in your tasting experiences to expand your palate. Trying different varieties cannot only help you to appreciate other flavours and complexities unique to each grape but also further help you to understand why your preferred wine is a Pinot.

lotsofwine

There are more than 5,000 grape varieties around the world. Tasting every single one would be quite impossible as you would have to be extremely dedicated and we would have to suggest help for your alcoholism.  Instead, WineCollective has complied a list of some under the radar wines that we enjoy or would love the chance to enjoy some day soon.

1. Assyrtiko

Originating on the beautiful island Santorini, Greece, Assyrtiko is a white skinned grape with lime aromas. The crisp taste goes hand in hand with any Greek dish, fresh grilled seafood or Asian inspired cuisine.

In the mouth Assyrtiko is typically sweet or dry with a medium length finish. Floral and citrus flavours are expressed on the palate. The wine typically holds some peppery spiciness to is as the vines, which take up 70% of Santorini’s plantings, are grown in volcanic soil.

Santorini

Assyrtiko wines are not challenging to find, especially if you are in any Greek restaurant as they are very fond of their wine. I have had the joy of trying a few Assyrtikos and highly recommend you give them a taste as well. They have fresh and fabulous characteristics, perfect for summer!

2. Caberlot

If you guessed that this red grape is a cross of Cabernet (Cab Franc to be exact) and Merlot, you are absolutely correct. Unfortunately, only two hectares in the entire world grow the vines to produce such a treat. Belonging to a single estate in Tuscany, Caberlot is owned by Bettina and Woolf Rogosky after it was found in an abandoned vineyard in the 1960’s. When travelling to Tuscany, be sure to stop by and say hello. Maybe they will share their exclusive wine.

3. Furmint

Used to produce Tokaji wine, Furmit is a noble grape found at a small town near the foot of the Tatra Mountains in Hungary. Dating back to the 1600’s Furmint is said to be absolutely delightful with flavours of marmalade, carmel and raisin on the palate.

furmintgrapes

4. Ortega

While the grape originated in Germany, Kent, England has become the most recognized area for Ortega as it tends to thrive is cooler climates. England also saved the variety from becoming extinct. Ortega produces a white wine with “keen” acidity, gooseberry and floral notes. It could be the next big thing in British wine.

5. Tyrian

Genetically bred in Australia with a hybrid blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Spanish variety, Sumoll, Tyrian is one of the newest grapes on the block. The dark skinned grape itself ripens very late in the growing season, thus is requires hot summers and warm days in early fall. Since it takes a long time to reach harvest, Tyrian wine is deep in colour with a bright hue. Notes of plum and violets take over on the palate.

McWilliams

*McWilliams Hanwood Estate Winery Cellar Door. Photo John Eggers.

McWilliam’s Wine in Australia currently grows and produces Tyrian wine that receives positive reviews: “Firm, generous and rather robust red with some very promising dark berry and plum fruit. Aromas of raspberries, cherries and redcurrants with meaty, gamey undertones.”

6. Chenin Blanc

A white grape similar to the fruitiness of a Riesling but with earthy qualities the wine tends to be more full. If you haven’t heard of Chenin Blanc it is not nearly as uncommon as others on our list, so go and find some!

Chenin Blanc wines are very versatile. Depending on production and the ripeness of the grapes during harvest, Chenin Blanc can produce sparkling, super dry, semi dry or sweet wines. A medium body shows flavours of honey, pear and earth minerality on the palate followed with a long finish. Food pairings are also in a wide range including seafood, white meat, vegetarian or spicy dishes.

WineCollective has featured the 2011 Spier Chenin Blanc and found it have tropical notes such as pineapple and melon. We recommend you serve it at 8 degrees Celsius and try it with sushi!

Spier---Chenin-Blanc-2011

7. Valdiguie

If you enjoy a Merlot, this variety may be for you. The grape originated in France and is expressed as a light and sweet Merlot.

Once brought to California, winemakers renamed the grape Napa Gamay, but the title was banned because it was thought to be confusing. It is recommended to drink Valdiguie slightly chilled to enhance the fruity and plum red flavours. Enjoy alongside spicy fish or chicken.

8. Agilianico

A Mediterranean specialty that grows plenty in southern Italy. However, historically the grape originated in Greece and was brought to the boot. The grapes produce a very heavy and in depth wine. The full-bodied texture with high tannins and acidity may be a lot to handle but the wine is perfectly balanced with black fruit when produced well. Small-scale plantings of Agilianico are located in Australia, California and even Texas.

aglianico

9. Carignan

An incredibly difficult grape to grow, Carignan needs warm and dry climates and plenty of time to reach superb fruit quality. It is speculated that the origins of the grape lie in Spain, where is produces dark wines with black fruit flavours, licorice and spicy accents. Typically the wine is blended in red wines with plenty of aroma and flavour where Carignan can fill in body and rich colour. A varietal vintage or blend makes a great pair to spicy meat balls or eggplant lasagna.

10. Pecorino

No, not the cheese, however, it does taste delicious alongside the white wine. Pecorino, a light skinned grape, is grown in Italy’s eastern coastal regions, specifically Abruzzo. It ripens very quickly and can be harvested early either to produce dry mineral wines or a blend component of Trebbiano. By itself, Pecorino wine is straw yellow in colour with a floral bouquet of acacia and jasmine.

Camembert cheese, white wine  and pear; selective focus

WineCollective aims to provide you with the most fascinating and diverse wines available in our packages. We hope one day to have all of these wine varieties included in our repertoire. Until then, we challenge and encourage you to taste as many unique varieties as possible and expand your palate. Who knows, you may even find a new favourite among the list!


Wine festivals to enjoy this summer

Blue skies and warm weather are here which means its finally summer vacation time! If you have yet to plan a getaway and you’re not concerned about a family friendly destination, then why not let your taste buds guide you to an upcoming wine festival?

festival

Here are a few of the best wine festivals for July, August and September in Canada and the United States. If all of these clash with your calendar, WineCollective encourages you to go ahead and research other events that showcase our favourite pastime.

California Wine Festival. July 18-20, 2013

The California Wine Festival takes place in two parts. Unfortunately, the first already happened in Orange County but you can still attend part two in Santa Barbara over what promises to be a vino filled three days. This festival is also helpful for those travelling from outside of California as it runs from Thursday to Saturday (Sunday is used to recuperate so you can return to the office Monday morning).

Festival events include an “Old Spanish Nights” wine tasting, as well as a “Beachside Wine Festival” showcasing unlimited wine, food, cheese and even craft brew tastings at a large variety of restaurants. Tickets and passes for the festival range from $120 to $310 USD, depending on which events and admissions exclusives you prefer.

santabarbara

 

Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food and Wine. July 25-28, 2013

Celebrating the wine regions of British Columbia and incredible cuisine from Vancouver Island, Taste is a uniquely Canadian wine and food festival. The festival includes a “Trade Tasting” for approved industry members who want to showcase and share their product. “Taste the Difference,” is a wine and food tasting event for only $79 that includes over 100 B.C. wines and local grub.

Taste also includes seafood cuisine and wine tastings, a brunch and bubbly tasting, tea tasting and a “Weird and Wonderful Grapes” workshop; these are just a few of the events during the weekend. Tickets can be purchased for the many individual events and range from just $20 to $90.

Taste

 

Beaver Creek Wine & Spirits Festival. August 9-11, 2013

Presented by Wine Spectator Magazine, this festival is held at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, U.S.A. With obviously easy to find accommodations, the resort’s location lets you experience the town, mountains and golf apart from the three-day event.

The festival holds a variety of events including simple tastings, and Italian wine seminars and cooking demos. There is a “Pastries and Port” pairing class as well as a hike through the mountain trails that will lead you to different Italian wine tasting tables for $90. Events range from $20 to $130 at Beaver Creek, a spot guaranteed to impress with beautiful scenic views.

BeaverFestival

 

Niagara Wine Festival. September 14-29, 2013

Kicking off with the 62nd annual Niagara Wine Festival Grande Parade, this wine event is packed with two weeks worth of events. Across Niagara, guests have the pleasure of experiencing spectacular wine and culinary tastings, extreme charity races, vineyard picnics and professional live entertainment.

Tickets for the festival come cheap at either $30 or $40 per person and include six experiences per pass. Additional prices are added on for specific events.

NiagaraFest

 

Many of these festivals (and others) make quick and easy weekend trips. If you want to avoid travelling to a handful of different wineries, a wine festival is a fun alternative. Experience food, culture, good times, and wine of course all in one place for a great price.


Petite Rivière Vineyards

When thinking Canadian wine, our minds usually go to Niagara or British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Way out East however, Nova Scotia is producing quality wines that may just need a little push to be experienced by all of Canada.

Petite

Petite Rivière has been making wine for 10 years along the south shores of Nova Scotia in the LaHave River Valley where vineyards have been present since the 1600’s. While their vines have been around for centuries, Petite Rivière is showing that their new winery has something to offer as Nova Scotia wine, not only to the locals but also from one Canadian coast to the other.

Jillian Mouzar of Petite Rivière says the vineyard has a “laid back and serene old French feel” that has welcomed the public for three years now. The winery offers wine tours every day at noon, opening doors for learning about the differences of land, grapes and terroir in their small region. Mouzar says the tour finishes with wine and cheese pairings where guests are invited to try their premiere white wines and “Elite Reds.”

PetiteTour

Other tours like Nova Scotia Wine Tours invite guests to travel to several wineries in the different regions of the province. Their “South Shore Escape” highlights Petite Rivière as a destination for one of the featured private tours.

Unlike their neighbouring northern regions, Bay of Fundy and Annapolis Valley, the rocky land, soil, and coastal location of Petite Rivière provides growing conditions and climate ideal for red wine.

hjfs

2011 La Have joins grape varieties DeChaunac and Leon Millot for Petite Rivière’s most celebrated wine. Mouzar hopes that as more wines become available on liquor store shelves, people will be curious to try others like their Elite Red, 2010 Italy Cross.

Petite Rivière also launched a 2012 Tidal Bay white wine. This selection is known as Nova Scotia’s premiere white wine and has been created as a signature by various wineries in the province. While the same standards are met, including low alcohol content and use of grape variety L’Acadie, each winery has their distinct Tidal Bay vintage. Petite Rivière’s features “citrus and tropical notes with hints of pear and grapefruit.” Mouzar credits the fabulous popularity of Tidal Bay to Nova Scotians love for white wine.

PetiteTidalBay

While this new winery and region is young in the known world of wines, Petite Rivière is excited about breaking out and becoming a recognized name. The winery opens booths in 13 farmers markets across the province and multiple festivals as a chance for locals of smaller towns to try their wines. Their involvement and push to show off their products has resulted in plenty of positive feedback and growth for their winery, region and Nova Scotia wines.


Welcome to Wine – favourite regions

Familiarizing yourself with different wine regions from around the world may help you recognize grape varieties and what sets them apart in every country. Here we have the top ten wine producing countries and their regions that have made them a star.

France

BORDEAUX

BordeauxChateau

Known for its superior red wines, the Bordeaux region of France has made wine for 2,000 years and is home to 10,000 producers. Dominating in mainly Merlot vineyards, the region is also famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc; the popular Bordeaux Blend is a combination of these three favourite varieties. The Atlantic Ocean combined with the Dordogne and Garonne River provide a humid climate that spreads through the 54 different appellations which together equal 297,000 acres of vineyards. St-Emillion and Margaux are among the recognized sub-regions that make Bordeaux the largest region in France.

Treat yourself to the 2009 Chateau Domeyne St. Estèphe | Cab Sauv | $46.00

italy

PUGLIA (APULIA)

Puglia

We all know that Italy is shaped like a boot. What you may not know is that held within its “heel” is the highest wine production region of Italy, Puglia. English-speakers may recognize the region as Apulia and it accounts for 17% of Italian wine. The production of the unique Puglian grapes, Negroamaro and Primitivo (twin to the Californian Zinfandel) make up 61% of vineyards. The region’s Mediterranean climate consists of persistent sunshine and calming sea breezes that feed the vines and create perfect growing conditions. Puglia also manufactures 50% of Italy’s olives and olive oil.

If you enjoy quality for price try the 2007 Candido Devinis IGT | Primitivo | $18.99

spain

RIOJA

With 14,000 vineyards and 140 wineries, the Rioja region is able to pump out 250 million litres of wine annually that we all get to share! A friend of red wines (85% of production), Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano and Mazuelo are the four main varieties grown in the area. Previously known for their long-term aging, Rioja wineries have established methods to make wine ready to drink sooner and clarify their reserves from “Crianza” to “Gran Reserve” depending on their time spent in Oak casks. The characteristics of aging and oak are very recognizable in Rioja wine.

We just sold out of our 2010 Bodegas Altanza Capitoso | Tempranillo | $20.00

usa

NAPA VALLEY

NapaValley

A youngster in wine production in comparison to its European successors, Napa Valley, California has become highly reputable in the last 50 years. With 14 sub-appellations in 48 km, Napa Valley has produced fine quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Merlot. In 1976, during a blind judgment in Paris, a Napa Valley Cabernet beat out a Bordeaux and Burgundy wine, giving the region a giant push in recognition. Protected by the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountains, the 400 wineries owned and operated mainly by families are becoming masters of viticulture.

* In our WineCollective store, try the 2010 Yosemite View Cabernet | $18.00

argentina

MENDOZA

mendoza-argentine

Home to the world’s highest vineyards, Mendoza produces 2/3rds of Argentina’s fine wine. Within the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, the region succeeds in growing a variety of grapes 2,500-5,000 feet above sea level. More than a quarter of plantings in the area are the pink-skinned varieties of Criolla Grande and Cerez. However, Malbec is the region’s most produced wine; followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Chardonnay.

* On sale now at WineCollective 2011 Pascual Toso Reserve | Cab Sauv | $18.90

aussie

BAROSSA

Barossa is nestled within hills of the south and is Australia’s oldest wine region, made up of two valleys: Eden and Barossa. 56 km from the city of Adelaide, German settlers planted vines in the 1840’s and influenced the region unlike others in the country founded by the British. Besides their signature Shiraz grape in Barossa Valley, the Eden Valley produces plenty of Riesling (the Germans were here), Semillon and Chardonnay. The hot climate of Barossa allows grapes to ripen quickly, creating wines high in sugar with low acidity.

Always creating quality wines try 2009 Peter Lehmann VSV 1885 Shiraz | $34.51

germany

MOSEL

Mosel

Although it is only the third largest production region of Germany, Mosel is definitely the most prestigious. Famous for its steep slopes, the area is mechanically impractical and needs the expertise of manpower to weave within its incline. The slopes make for optimal exposure to the sun and heat is also reflected from the Mosel River below, making up for the cool temperatures. Without top soil, broken slate creates a unique means for growth of the Riesling grapes, known for their light and crisp flavours, low alcohol content and high acidity.

WineCollective staff loved the 2012 Clean Slate Riesling | $16.00

africa

WESTERN CAPE

The large geographical unit of Western Cape is separated into districts dependent on political boundaries and then further, wards based on terroir differences. Containing the majority of South Africa’s wineries, Western Cape stretches from Cape Town to the Olifants River in the north and eastern Mossel Bay. Shiraz, Pinotage, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc are protected within the mountain ranges, giving soft breezes to vineyards that later create well-known fresh wines. South Africa’s oldest estate in Constania was founded in the 1600’s, leading the nation into hundreds of years of wine making.

Enjoy the 2008 Lammershoek | Chenin Blanc | $24.77

chile

MAIPO VALLEY

Surrounding Chile’s capital of Santiago, the Maipo Valley is praised for its world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnays. The region is separated into three sections: Alto Maipo (2,600 feet above sea level), Central Maipo (the warmest area) and Pacific (influenced by the Pacific Ocean, and experimental with Sauvignon Blanc). Within these three districts and apart from their powerful varieties, Carmenere grapes are increasing annually and becoming Chile’s icon. Although low rainfall is to be expected for the wineries within the valley, winemaking has taken place here since the 16th century.

We recommend a 2008 Viña Tarapaca Grand Reserva | Cab Franc & Cab Sauv | $30.54

portugal

DOURO

Douro Valley vineyards

The Douro River running from Spain through to western Portugal’s Porto (Oporto) is home to the creation of Port. This exclusive wine has been cultivated in the Douro region for 2,000 years and while other nations attempt it, they can never truly re-create Portugal’s signature. Hilly and mountainous, the area grows varieties specific to Portugal such as Tinta Roris, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cao. Apart from Port, the Douro Valley also creates table wines using the same grape varieties that are becoming increasingly popular.

Expand your palette with the 2005 Quinta de Fronteira | Touriga Nacional | $21.00

Who knows, maybe one day you will get to embark on a wine tour in France or travel down under and see what the Barossa Valley has to offer. Until then, while enjoying your glass of a favourite vintage, you can not only grasp its flavour but an entire appreciation from the beautiful vineyards it came from.


An Approachable Guide or a Fun Refresher!

At WineCollective, we enjoy all facets of wine education, but I like it it best when it’s fun. If you’re like me, check out this guy, Kris Chislett. He runs and contributes to blogyourwine, a site devoted to talking about wine in an informally informative fashion:

“Kris is one of only a few Certified Sommeliers (Court of Master Sommeliers) and Certified Specialist of Wine (Society of Wine Educators) in North-East Florida. He created this website in order to give people the resource he never had: an unpretentious, user-friendly, fun, interactive guide to the world of wine.”

The blog is a wonderful resource, both silly and fascinating, and I would have lost countless hours reading if the youtube channel hadn’t snatched that time instead!

 Addressing questions like Do all the different wine bottle shapes mean something? or What’s the deal with non-vintage wine?, the channel is an easy and approachable guide for beginners.  I found plenty of tips on wine etiquette (the cork is not to be sniffed!), terminology (wine has legs?), and info for tasting, storing, and travelling with wine.  Interacting with users, Kris also takes questions and informs in a friendly, offbeat manner while still managing to be succinct.

For me the pièce de résistance is in the nerdy details like the difference between decanting and aerating (decanting is a typically longer process), and information I would classify as trivia:

(The bonus is finding new uses for existing words).

Cheers to Kris Cheslitt for his fresh approach to wine education. We know that wine is fun, and he proves it!


Happy Halloween, wine lovers!

 At WineCollective, we love Halloween! Thinking of wine in connection to my favourite holiday, visions of vampiric indulgence from gothic chalices came to mind. The campiness of this imagery is clearly the influence of too many silly movies, so I turned my thoughts to the one area of horror we have come closest to documenting.  I’m referring, of course, to ghosts. It occurred to me that the rich and colorful history of wine would surely produce a spirit or two, perhaps even a haunted winery (can you think of a better place to spend Halloween?).

My search into the topic brought mixed results (these tales thrive best as personal anecdotes), and drew me persistently to California. Apparently, spooks in connection to wine populate the Napa Valley region where Ghost Wineries are found in abundance. These are old wineries, built between 1860 and 1900, before prohibition and the Great Depression stalled the emergence of great California wine. While some remain abandoned, and most have been converted for other functions, a few of these wineries have been restored to their original purpose.

Haunting Beauty

Mansfield Winery  (pictured above) is one of these, a restoration of the Franco-Swiss Winery built in 1876. It was acquired with a ghost story in the form of Jules Millet, one of the original founder’s nephew who was murdered onsite by a vengeful former cellar worker. It wasn’t long until the new owners were paid a visit:

“One dark and wet winter night soon after the Mansfields purchased the winery, they were dining with friends when Richard took the guys over to the winery for a little late night tour. As they wandered around with flashlights, one of the more tipsy fellows yelled out, “If you’re here, Jules Millet, knock three times!” Only their laughter broke the silence. But then the next night, six loud explosions — “pop, pop, pop, boom, boom, boom,” recalled Leslie — erupted in the bowels of their own home. Richard was away on business, so Leslie hid in the bedroom all night until the next morning when she discovered the source in her basement. “Every flashlight that [the men had] taken across the street — and only those flashlights — had exploded into a million pieces,” says Leslie. The exploding bulbs included that in a dive lamp able to go down to 300 feet; a C battery was also bent in half. “The ones that had not been taken across the street were just fine.””

Read more at Time Magazine:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1973916,00.html

The story, like many in the winemaking business, is merely a footnote to the more satisfying history of production… and it seems the Mansfields have learned to get along with their ghost. Of course, that hasn’t stopped paranormal hobbyists from reaching out to the other side. Check out the alleged EVP recorded onsite.

While the tale of Jules Millet does give one the chills, it lacks the disturbing and macabre twists the best ghost stories have to offer. It is a yarn suited to campfires but if you want an opera, look no further than the truly grotesque tale of death and madness in what is today known as the Vineyard House.

You might want to grab a bold red from your current wine package before venturing into this one…

 It’s not for the feint of heart. 

And there are many more! A true testament to wine’s longevity is its tendency, like anything that’s been around for a long time, to collect ghosts. If you visit a winery with rich local history, ask the staff or owners for their spooky stories. They’ll have them.


Okanagan wine country meets relaxation

There’s something special about visiting British Columbia’s Okanagan wine region.  Great weather, mountains, lakes, fresh fruit and plenty of wine. With wineries welcoming you with open arms and tasting rooms always pouring, it’s a great way to try a lot of different wines from a relatively small region. I’d recommend driving out and hitting up one of the many sub regions of the Okanagan, and if you are feeling ambitious, hit them all!  They are all within a few hours of driving.

Kelowna makes for a great starting point of any wine trip in the Okanagan. Heading south for hour or two will open you up to many vineyards in Peachland, Summerland, Naramata, Oliver, and Osoyoos. If you are not up for adventuring too far, there are exceptional wineries to fill a day in the surrounding Kelowna area, such as Mission Hill, Quails Gate, and one of my favourites, Tantalus.

The view from Tantalus

Tantalus in particular focuses on producing small lots of high quality wines. Their expertise features Riesling and Pinot Noir predominately. While there I had the chance to tour the estate and their new tasting room – which is stunningly contemporary. Some wineries charge a small amount to do a tasting, but generally speaking this fee will be waved if you decide to purchase some wine before leaving. That being said, it is quite difficult to NOT buy wine after tasting at any winery! You will likely see people loading up cases into their car!

In the past I’ve normally made Kelowna my home base to any wine trip in the region. However this time around I decide to checkout Predator Ridge to combine business with a bit of pleasure. Predator Ridge is approximately a 40 minute drive north toward Vernon, and is situated in an awe inspiring back drop surrounded conveniently by two world class golf courses.

Ridge Course - 5th hole

Our itinerary consisted of heading to the Naramata bench on one day (about 1.5 hours south), and the next day we’d be driving golf balls off of a cliff all while basking in the glorious heat (It was in the 30s while we were there). Don’t let anyone fool you, tasting wines all day is hard work and golf proves to be an excellent way to de-stress and have fun.

They just opened the “Ridge” course last year and I was anxious to check it out, since there’s been so much talk about it (Best new course in Canada – SCOREGolf Magazine and Travel Golf Network).  Playing this course was an adventure. Turn almost any corner and you are treated to a completely new view of the landscape – mountains, water, wilderness. We even ran into a few coyotes before teeing off on the second hole. The course overall is quite challenging; then again my wife managed to get a few legitimate pars and she just started golfing this year. That said, I would strongly recommend bringing a few extra balls.

Golfing aside, the resort has many amenities for almost any mood. Spa, salon, pool, gym, and even a conference center. The suite we were staying in was fully furnished with dinning and kitchen facilities, which allowed us to balance dinning in and tasting the take aways from our winery tours. On the nights when you are not into cooking, fine dinning is just outside the door.

The view from Poplar Grove in Naramata

Our winery visiting schedule was fairly regimented (it’s my job I guess), but your trip doesn’t have to be. The people at Predator Ridge put together wine bus tours right from the resort, which means you can indulge a bit more at wineries. The resort also organizes a mix of events that involve wine, food, finess and golf right at the resort. If you wanted to escape in October, they have a Fall Harvest weekend package going on right now as well.

I’m sorry, but I have to show you another photograph from the golf course.

Drive to the mountains!

Um, yeah. That photo is taken from the Ridge course, and you’re teeing up from a cliff. Since I’m still relatively new to the game, my ball ended up in the rocky area on the right. Oh well, I had a blast. Granted I was pretty sore afterwords – the Ridge course is huge!

For the most part, the prices are quite comparable to staying in a hotel room in Kelowna! If you’re interested in heading down before the season ends, there are a few specials on rates, as well as golf – Golftoberfest (golfing at more than 50% off) from October 11th to 17th. The beauty of that is the fall Okanagan Wine Festival takes place from September 30 to October 9 so it offers a perfect vacation pair. Wine tasting for a few days followed by some fall golf!

Lastly, as you may have heard, 2011 is proving to be a late harvest for the Okanagan. Which means if you wanted to catch the wineries as the season comes to a close, now is the time to head down. If you would like any tips on places to visit please don’t hesitate to leave a comment and we’ll be pleased to share!