Cheers to SpierHead, winner of best new winery!

It is quite obvious that we at WineCollective LOVE wine, and everything about wine! We are passionate about discovering new, and unique wines from all over the world. We also love sharing all kinds of wine news with our members, especially when we get the chance to congratulate one of our favourite B.C. producers.

SpierHead Winery in East Kelowna, has won the honour of 2012’s Best New Winery of the Year presented by the Okanagan Wine Festivals Awards.  Along with this great accomplishment, SpierHead also won silver and bronze medals for several of their wines. The 2010 Pinot Noir was awarded a silver medal, the 2010 Chardonnay and the 2010 Pursuit both received bronze. Many more of our BC favourites were also recognized.

SpierHead’s Riesling has also received great acclaim, and is worth picking-up if you can find it. Western Living listed SpierHead as one of six new wineries to visit. On a recent visit to SpierHead I learnt the unfortunate news that most of their single varietals, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are sold out. You can still purchase the popular blends, Pursuit and Vanguard as well as their Pinot Noir at the winery.

Hard at work, sampling the fruits of SpierHead’s labour. Note that all the photography and artwork by co-owners Brian Sprout and Virginia Stanton is available for purchase. Photo credit: Judy Bishop- The Travelling Eye

If you have the chance to visit SpierHead, I highly recommend stopping by.  They are located in Kelowna, and have a beautiful setting and picnic area to enjoy while the weather is still accomodating. The tasting room staff are delightful and full of great information on the area and wines, of course.

I can’t forget to mention, the most important member of the SpierHead family, Corky. Corky is the winery dog, who even has a wine made in his honour (only available upon visit to the tasting room)! No visit to SpierHead is complete without playing “chip and fetch” with any golfers’ best friend; Corky will retrieve golf balls pitched into the field on SpierHeads property.

Corky, the most talented, golf ball-fetching winery dog in the Okanagan.

If you aren’t lucky enough to visit SpierHead this year, make sure to visit them online. You can join the SpierHead Winery Wine Club and start receiving shipments from the Okanagan’s Best New Winery of the Year!

Bill Knutson, co-owner of SpierHead, and myself enjoying the August weather in the shade of the winery. Photo credit: Judy Bishop- The Travelling Eye.

Why we love Spanish wines

WineCollective has grown an affinity for Spanish wines, and for good reasons. We have found a trend in Spanish wines, affordable prices that over-deliver on quality. Not only are we discovering great values, but there are both wines with some ageing potential and ones that are ready-to-drink now at around $20.

What does Spain have that other mass producers don’t? Unlike other international producers that export a majority of their “ready-to-drink” table wines to North America, Spanish wines contain native varietals, are produced at less tonnes per acre than most, and come from quality, old-er vines. Richard Jennings of RJ on Wine notes that, “Spanish wines are not only great bargains, they are also ideally suited to the American palate.” Spanish wines tend to be approachable and are versatile for food-pairing.

Spain is the world’s third largest producer, and has more land under vine than any other, yet has not sacrificed quality in their high-volume production. Also, Spain has stayed true to varietals that are producing exceptional fruit in the region rather than concede to produce mainstream grapes starting with “C” as Bill St. John says in Uncorked: Spain conquers.

Wine Access has listed some recommend Spanish wines that are available in Canada. WineCollective is showcasing some of our favourite Spanish wines in our September packages too.  Don’t worry if you missed out this month, there will definitely be more Spanish wines in WineCollective’s future!



Pisano from Uruguay to Calgary

WineCollective has been a fan of Pisano since last February, when we featured their Tannat and Merlot blend, Cisplatino. We were first drawn to the producer purely because we have never featured an Uruguain wine, and we love finding something new! Not only did the Cisplatino exceed our expectations, it is budget friendly too!

While Uruguay is considered a new-world producer, the Pisano family has been producing wine for the past six generations. The combination of Italian wine-makers, French grapes and Uruguayan terroir result in a unique and exciting style of wine. The Pisano vineyards of 37 acres have a handful of different varietals, with the majority being Tannat, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and which produce 16,000 cases per year.

The 2009 Pisano Cisplatino was a great success on WineCollective, we received great feedback from our members.

The pairing of this wine with 5 year old aged cheddar was incredible. We also put our wines through a wine shower – and more recently with a vinturi – this opened the fruit tastes so much – no wonder it went so well with the aged cheese. We will definitly add this wine to our list of favorites – especially for wine and cheese parties. -Susan E.

Lovely palate, delicious with Enchiladas!!! -Wendi R.

The strong acidity and balanced finish of this wine provides a most interesting taste experience. A variety of strong cheddar and spiced cheeses was an excellent pairing. – Steve M.

When we received an invitation from Whitehall Agencies to try the line-up of Pisano, we jumped at the opportunity to sample more wines from Uruguay! Selkirk Grille‘s Gallery Room in Heritage Park hosted Pisano and served an amazing, and filling lunch paired perfectly with the wines.

First up was the Pisano Rio de Los Pajaros Rose, paired well with great conversation on a sunny day in Heritage Park. The Rose is 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Syrah from the Progreso Coastal Region. A great watermelon/strawberry in colour, with smooth lush tannins and fresh acidity. This would be a great find to enjoy during our ‘Indian Summer’.

The sparkling Brut Negro Tannat from Pisano was unique and definitely only for those who dare to try the newest and most interesting in wines. It was drier than Lambrusco, but still had a juicy quality that was mouth-filling and refreshing at the same time.


The first course was a pan seared Black Bass cheek served on risotto with Tannat glazed wild mushrooms and fried parsley and capers. The bass was paired with the Pisano Cisplatino Tannat/Merlot. Check out YYC Wine‘s review of the Cisplatino.


The main course was a beef-duo of braised bison short rib and petite tenderloin with potato and parsnip puree with black truffle jus and foie foam. The short rib was marinated over-night in the wine that was paired with the meal, the 2007 RPF Tannat.  A great theme over the course of the lunch, not only pairing the wine with the food, but using the wine in the food’s preparation.

The 2007 RPF was intense and dark! The nose was rich and concentrated, over ripe plums, and cedar with earthy grit. The palate had layers of black cherry, blackberries and plums, with grippy tannins and huge body. I would definitely recommend decanting for at least an hour before serving.


Dessert was decadent chocolate duo of hazelnut pate and chocolate gelato with vanilla cassis coulis. We sampled the Exte-Oneka Fortified Tannat as the last Pisano offering.

From the winery on Exte-Oneka Fortified Tannat : Combines ancient and traditional vinification techniques used for Port, Recioto and Amarone. The grapes used for ETXE ONEKO Tannat come from old vineyards of non-clonal selection with high-density plantation (5000 plants per Hectare) and low production (5000 Kg./Ha/ year). With these vineyards planted by Don Cesare Pietro Secundino Pisano in 1942, we obtain high concentration tannins and delicate flavours and aromas. The grapes are left hanging on the vine until they have lost sufficient humidity and their skin has shrunk. Part of the grapes are harvested for vinification while a small lot is left still a few more weeks to continue dehydrating on the vine and gaining botrytis flavours and aromas.

If you are new to Tannat, Pisano would be a great introduction into the varietal. Although Tannat originates from Basque in South-West France, it is the most widely grown grape in Uruguay. French Tannat is know for adding strong tannins to blends, mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc.

Tannat produced in Uruguay is suprisingly refined with black fruit and ripe tannins. Top producers of Tannat in Uruguay, including Pisano, are creating wines with Tannat that are more old-world in character, while newer vines are bridging the gap to newer world characteristics. For perspective on the size of Uruguay’s production, 7.9 million cases are produced in total on 11,000 hectares each year, compared to South America’s largest producer, Argentina with 124 million cases on 207,000 hectares. What Uruguay lacks in quantity, they make up for in quality.  EnRoute Magazine shares more inside to the Tannat grape in Urguay, and the rise of it’s prominence in the region.

Ignacio Martinez was the Pisano representative presenting the wines, and sharing tonnes of information on the region and their production. Pisano is only one of twenty producers from Uruguay to export their wines and the majority is sent to Brazil. Currently in Canada, Pisano is only available in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Stay tuned WineCollective members, there may be more Tannat in your future!


From Italy to Calgary with Wine!

All around the world people took part in Donnafugata’s Night Harvest. We couldn’t have been more pleased to have shared in this invite among BonVida Wines,  WineCollectiveTannic and everyone who stopped by to take part in this worldwide event. People here at the office and those following online got to see a harvesting up close and personal, with the winemakers, Antonio and Josè Rallo!

We were very lucky to have Mark Bata here from BonVida Wines pouring the impecable wines and sharing all his knowledge about Donnafugata. It was a great night with great food and wine! Thanks to everyone who came out!


Bartier Bros. Tasting @ Avec

WineCollective was invited to Avec Bistro for an afternoon of wine and hors d’oeuvres hosted by Plaid Cap Imports.  We sampled the Bartier Bros. line-up alongside delicious canapés of gravlax and a selection of cheese.

Bartier Bros vines are located in the Okanagan Valley and the wines are produced out of the Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland. Brothers Don and Michael grew up in the Okanagan, they have great knowledge and respect for the Valley, and have proven to be able to produce some outstanding wines from the land.

My personal favourite is their Semillon, it was previously featured on, but only to members. It has intense, clean flavours, mineral complexity and bright acidity. The Cowboy, a unique blend of Schonberger and Sauvignon Blanc, was an obvious perfect selection for Stampede, if you could find it! Only 255 cases were produced and currently is available at Avec Bistro, and sold at Willow Park, Wine Ink, Highlander and few other boutique shops.




Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for BC wines



Annually, since 2003, British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor, has been announcing which BC wines, 100% grown and produced within the province, are winners of excellence.

Among the 347 wines submitted from 94 wineries this year, Poplar Grove‘s 2009 Cabernet Franc and Road 13 Vineyards’ 2011 Jackpot Viognier Rousanne Marsanne were chosen as achieving excellence along with the nine other exceptional wines selected, you can see the other chosen wines on Hired Belly’s Blog.

Poplar Grove was awarded excellence in 2010 and back in 2005. Road 13 also was honored in 2009.

Congrats to all who participated from everyone here at WineCollective!

Tasting a tank sample of Meyer Family Vineyard’s 2011 Gewürztraminer

Winemakers use samples to gain insight into the development of their wine. For the public, a barrel tasting is a great way to learn and partake in some aspect of the winemaking process. Most importantly, barrel sampling is an exclusive and fun event. You may have the opportunity to try a barrel sample if you visit a winery, and many California wine festivals are now showcasing young wines from the barrel to the general public. If you are fortunate enough to take part in a barrel tasting, remember that you are not drinking the finished product, the sample is a small reflection of what you may expect from the bottle.

Winemakers use barrel samples to check the wine’s aging and progression. Wines are constantly evolving based on hundreds of variables. After taking a sample, a winemaker may use a number of techniques to adjust the levels of sugar and acidity, and even the oaking treatment.  Peachy Canyon‘s blog notes in ‘A Crash Course in Barrel Tasting’ another important aspect of barrel samples:

“One of the more interesting aspects of barrel tasting is the incredible variation. Most wines are the result of blending together multiple barrels (if not multiple barrels of multiple varietals). Although a winemaker selects barrels specifically, each barrel is slightly individual, and there will be some variance from one to the other (one barrel, for example, might give off more of a toast flavor than its neighbor), due to subtle differences in coopering, age, and conditioning.”

When analyzing a barrel sample you are still looking at the wine as you would if it was from the bottle, but there will be certain characteristics that will be attributed to its youth and what stage of aging it is in. As mentioned in Tastes Peachy, with red wines there may be significant gas on the nose with subtle fruit notes, and the palate will tend to be overwhelmed with tannins and acidity at first taste. The most important thing to remember is that a barrel samples are not a finished wine.

We were fortunate enough to receive a sample of the Meyer Family Vineyards‘ 2011 Gewürztraminer and sat down recently to really enjoy this unique experience.

The 2011 Gewürztraminer sample was showing very well.  White varietals such as Gewurtz are not usually intended to age as long as red wines, so the time between a sample and bottling is not as long. A portion of the grapes were whole bunched pressed, which can help with the drainage of the juice from the grapes.  The remaining grapes were left with their skins for a short period, this can help extract greater flavour as well.  However, too much contact with the skins in white varietals can cause unwanted astringency in the wine; we did not notice this in our sample.  Both batches of grapes were then gently pressed, rigorous press would again induce stronger astringency in the wine. All grapes were then combined for a long cool fermentation in stainless steel vat. The cooler temperature helps create a more light and fruity wine. The wine is then aged for several months sur lie, before bottling. We noticed some bready or yeasty characteristics that would have come from the process  of leaving the wine on its lees. This process is common in Chardonnays, adding a creaminess and also affecting the clarity.

We are excited to try the 2011 Gewürztraminer after bottling and compare our previous notes. We can expect a rich textured wine with strong acidity to balance the spice and savoury qualities.

If you haven’t been invited to try a barrel sample, you may have to schedule ahead of time to find a winery that will host you. There are many more unique opportunities where you can sample wines during your holidays. Travel to Wellness has a comprehensive list of Canadian wine and food festivals where you can taste many producers in one convenient location. Closer to home, the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival, May 4-5 in Banff, is a chance to indulge in rare wines and meet some of the producers. We are also approaching the tasting season of our neighbouring BC vineyards.  Visit BC Wine for easy reference to BC wine regions and mapped locations of wineries such as Meyer Family in Naramata.


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!