“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” (Lily Bollinger)
Working at a winery that makes sparkling wine is one of the best parts of my job, it is also one of the most challenging. In the wine shop, on a daily basis I hear our visitors remark that our sparkling would be great for New Year’s or their anniversary…and it would be. But the message I feel I am always trying to share is that sparkling, or champagne or prosecco or any other bubbly is a wine. Despite the fact that it contains 49 million bubbles it deserves to be treated like any other wine. You wouldn’t think twice about opening a white or a red wine any day of the week. So why not open a bottle of sparkling on a Thursday, because it’s almost the weekend or your power bill arrived and it was either higher, or better yet lower than you expected. Sparkling is not just for special occasions it is for everyday and we all need to drink more bubble for no reason.
Everyone says they have a bottle that they are saving for a special occasion. My advice is don’t wait for that special occasion, they don’t always happen like you expect. Instead open the bottle of sparkling and make the occasion special. You can always replace the bottle with another for that far off special day. At our house every gathering starts with bubble, usually sparkling or prosecco. We find it gets everyone into a celebratory mode regardless of the occasion.
Sometimes I wonder if people get hung up on not having the right glassware. Not everyone has a bunch of champagne flutes in their china cabinet nor does everyone want the hassle of washing them every time. Enjoy your sparkling in a regular wine glass. You will be amazed at how much more of the aromatics of the wine come through and it will take away the stuffy feeling of having to enjoy it in a flute. Don’t get me wrong flutes lend something to the celebration but they are not a must have to enjoy sparkling.
This year make a New Year’s Resolution when you are toasting with friends or family with your celebratory glass of sparkling in hand to drink more bubbly for no reason. I guarantee it will be the easiest resolution you have ever tried to keep. And remember life is a celebration!
P.S. If you want to know more about how sparkling is made watch this great video. /blog/how-sparkline-wine-is-made
The choice to use cork as a closure for wine is something of a contentious debate. While there are many arguments in favour of a manufactured screw cap closure, or Stelvin Cap as it is known by popular trade name, there also exist many arguments against.
Blue Mountain continues to use all natural corks. This is partly due to the availability of top quality corks, and the increased quality of the cork available to us. It is also a style of winemaking that we feel has worked for us. Oxygen transfer, or lack thereof, into the bottle over time is a significant factor in how a wine ages over time, and we have reached a point where we know how our wines age in the bottle given the methods we have been using. A changeover to a metal screw cap would dictate a new approach to making our wines, and would also take time to understand whether or not we had made the correct choices in type of enclosure, type of glass, cap liner porosity, etc.
While there is certainly a place for the screw cap, we are sticking with the natural cork for our wines based on experience and testing over time. While we would never say never, at the moment there's just something satisfying about popping a cork. Call us old fashioned, but we like it that way.
What do you think? Do you prefer cork or screw cap?
Every year for the past 22 plus years there has been a familiar face at Blue Mountain Vineyard during harvest. This person is a very special member of our harvest team and although not paid for his many hours of labour, he is appreciated for his genuine heart and the great personality that he brings to Blue Mountain. Hank Stefaniak although technically a member of the family has been coming to Blue Mountain Vineyard faithfully every year for as long as there have been vintages.
Living on the Island those early sojourns were sometimes short as for a while he was still working in Education as an administrator and educator. In the beginning 4 day long weekends were all he could get away for but eventually he voluntarily chose to book vacation and spend his week or two of holidays in Okanagan Falls. Since he retired in 1997 he manages a full month or more whenever possible.
This year I had the opportunity to meet Hank and to chat with him about his experiences during various harvests at Blue Mountain Vineyard.
What are some of the jobs you have done while you were helping out with the harvesting? In the early days I photographed many of the days during production and much of the construction and planting that was happening. These pictures were used for promotional pieces and marketing mainly. (Hank was the very first person to photograph the iconic image of McIntyre Bluff that graces the labels of all Blue Mountain Wines.)
More recently I did spend a little time in the vineyard pruning. I have been mainly in the cellar since, hosing down bins, driving the forklift, barrel curing, topping up barrels, cleaning and rinsing tanks, what I call grunt work! In terms of the wine making and testing....not so much.
Do you have a favorite job in the cellar? Not really, I just do whatever needs to be done although pump overs, climbing ladders and hauling skins were more fun when I was younger.
Anything you dislike about working harvest? Wasps
Most memorable harvest and why? 1996 ...it was super cold and Ian and Jane had the crush pad set up behind the building. There was a makeshift bin dump and I was scraping berries in with my arm and rain was pouring down off the gutters everywhere. It wasn’t bad just freezing cold.
Thankfully this year was the complete opposite and Hank got some lovely long warm days on the crush pad. On behalf of everyone at Blue Mountain Vineyard thanks for all you do Hank and all you have done in the many years that you have been coming to help out with harvest. Your smile, great work ethic and sense of humour are greatly appreciated. See you next year!
The booming of propane run air cannons in the vineyard are a sure sign harvest is close to being in full swing. The cannons are used in many vineyards to scare away the birds when the grapes ripen. Some vineyards put nets over their vines to keep the birds out and often that occurs when the wineries are making ice wine as these grapes need to stay on the vines well into the winter. But birds are not the only creatures that love the taste of ripe grapes. Deer can also be very good consumers of grapes if they get loose in a vineyard and our resident black bears can eat up a whole row in very short order. At Blue Mountain we have put an 8ft fence around our vineyards to keep the deer out and as the bears dig under the fencing we have had to electrify the fencing to keep bear damage to a minimum.
All this to protect the 80 acres of grapes we are using to make our wines. In the cellar, Matt and the crew have harvested 68 tonnes of fruit to date. These Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris grapes have been pressed, pumped into tank and then left to sit for 24 hours. This lets any particles settle out. The juice is then racked and inoculated with commercial yeast selected from the Champagne region of France. The majority of this juice will be fermented in tank with only about 10% being barrel fermented in older French oak barrels for approximately 3 months. The portion in barrel is to add complexity to the sparkling wine.
So that completes our sparkling grape harvest. The crew gets a much deserved rest for the next three days and will be ready to go again on Monday when we start harvesting the Sauvignon Blanc for the table wine off of our Horse Thief high density vineyard for our cream label Sauvignon Blanc.
A big Blue Mountain welcome and thank you to Lisa Andrews from Rogers & Co in Toronto, Ontario who is helping us this week with the harvest.
The Okanagan Fall Wine Festival is fast approaching and events are selling out on a daily basis. If you haven’t already booked where you are staying and what you are attending now is a great time to make those decisions.
In Okanagan Falls we are gearing up for a number of events at local wineries and in the community. We have some great guest houses to stay at in OK Falls as well the Oliver and Penticton areas are only about a 15 minute drive away.
Here is an overview of some of the many events taking place in Okanagan Falls over the next couple weeks.
September 29, 2012
Harvest Dinner at Stag’s Hollow - 6pm - SOLD OUT
September 29, 2012
Wild Goose Autumn Barbeque - 12:00 noon
Join the Kruger family and celebrate the wine festival with their annual BBQ. This event is in celebration of harvest and their newly opened tasting room and covered patio. There will be live music, great wines and a selection of foods from their BBQ. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by calling the winery. 250-497-8919 www.wildgoosewinery.com
September 29, 2012 - Centennial Park in Okanagan Falls - 8am - 8pm
Wild West Fest
Bring the family to the wild, wild west in Okanagan Falls. Start with a pancake breakfast and enjoy the Pony Express Parade. Take in the Trading Post Exhibitor Fair or try your luck at the Wild West Bingo Hall. There is something for everyone including a watermelon crawl and an ice cream slam. www.wildwestfest.ca
October 4, 2012
Harvest WORK DAY & Lunch at Noble Ridge - SOLD OUT
October 4, 2012
Blue Mountain Vineyards Wine Dinner - Harvest Golf Club in Kelowna - 6:30 pm
This is a great opportunity to savour the flavours of the elite wines of Blue Mountain Vineyard. Treat your senses to an evening of the phenomenal wines of Blue Mountain Vineyards which will be perfectly paired with a locally inspired five course culinary creation from Executive Chef Dan Werry and his culinary team. Live musical entertainment. Reservations required . Please contact Ryan Brown or Amber Kisling at 250-862-3177
October 6, 2012
The Cat’s Pajamas - Kraze Legs Vineyard and Winery
1920’s Slang Trivia & Wines paired with cheese, chocolate and fare. Event details at http://www.krazelegz.com/news-and-events.html firstname.lastname@example.org 250-497-6957
Enjoy your Okanagan Fall Wine Festival!
Ian and Matt pay careful attention to the type and quality of barrels used at Blue Mountain. In the video above, Ian explains some of the technical aspects of coopering, and the reasons behind the choice in French Oak barrels for the Pinot Noir.
While the oak for the barrels may come from several different oak forests in France (mainly Vosges, Tronçais, and Allier) the cooperage for the barrels used here maintains consistent density throughout the barrel. The barrels are also divided into different toast characteristics whether they be light, medium, or heavy toast.
The selection of the wine barrel has a significant impact on the flavour profile of the wine, so we hope you'll enjoy this video if you're interested in learning about some of the behind the scenes decisions here at the winery.
Our Brut Sparkling wine is made in the traditional method, or Méthode Traditionnelle as it is in Champagne.
The blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris is fermented with yeast in the bottle to create the bubbles. Over the aging process the bottle is riddled (rotated) through a series of positions until it eventually ends up top down, or sur pointe, as they say in France.
The yeast ends up settling in the neck of the bottle where it is then disgorged; the removal of the yeast plug. The wine is topped up with a dosage, which can be anything from wine, to sugar water, and is then corked and ready to sell.
The entire process typically takes 3+ years from start to market. If you're keen on understanding more about the process Ian gives a detailed explanation in the video above produced by our friend Chris Stenberg at Vine & Beach.
The first Pinot Noir grapes for our Sparkling Wine have been handpicked on this cool September morning by our amazing Mexican crew. And they look beautiful -- clean, evenly ripe, and with the needed acidity for Sparkling Brut.
In the early morning hours on Thursday we started unloading approximately 49 bins of fruit, or 7.8 metric tonnes from our Horse Thief Vineyard planted in 2007. Before we started up the press all the staff gathered for a traditional toast to the new vintage, with sparkling wine of course!
With Charles transporting the fruit from the field, Christoph and Felix running the forklifts, the fruit was fed into our membrane press and whole cluster pressed. The first run juice or Cuvee makes up 75% - 85% of our crush. The berry remains or pomace were returned to our compost pile and the free run juice was put into stainless steel fermenters.
We whole cluster press to get minimal skin contact as these Pinot Noir grapes are destined for our Brut Sparkling Wine. We keep all the fruit separated in these tanks, not only by vineyard, but by different sections within each vineyard, while the grapes ferment. This is to try and best preserve the unique terroir of each site. Matt oversees it all; keeping everything organized by labeling the unique lots of fruit.
After pressing, the juice is pumped into tank to let the solids settle. This clears the juice and prepares it to be racked tomorrow. If you come and visit us, you’ll see our bins of Pinot Noir grapes lined up where our visitors usually park, where they’ll stay nice and cool in the evenings, and be close enough to continue pressing in the early hours of the morning.
Looking ahead this week we will harvest Chardonnay and a small quantity of Pinot Gris all from our Horse Thief Vineyard. These will be used to make up the blend for our NV Brut.
Although it hasn’t been as long of a day as many we will face in the coming weeks, it has been a very exciting first week of vintage! Welcome back to Blue Mountain vintage veterans Charles and Felix, and for first-timer Christoph, who was very much appreciated in the cellar. The Chocolate Chip Cake was delicious and appreciated during the busy day. Thanks Jane! All in all it has been an excellent start to the 2012 Harvest.
To be continued....
Ian Mavety gives some insight into the Gamay Noir varietal, and in particular the 2011 vintage at Blue Mountain Winery. Typically Gamay can be a lighter red wine crafted in the Beaujolais style, but can also be a slightly heavier wine like a Beaujolais Cru, as the 2011 vintage at Blue Mountain is.
Someone once told me that you know you're from the city when you don't know what a tomato should taste like. While that may be quite a sweeping statement, I fully understood what they meant when I bit into my first heirloom tomato.
Compared to the commercially grown tomatoes I had been eating from my local grocery store, these typically farm fresh, somewhat mutant looking tomatoes had such a rich texture and flavour.
Heirloom tomatoes lack a genetic mutation that allows them to come out looking "perfect" like the commercially grown tomatoes found in most grocery stores. The shelf life of an heirloom tomato is also considerably shorter than that of the other varieties, so it must be harvested and eaten in a short time frame. This results in only the freshest of tomatoes, and the best taste!
Some of the more popular types of heirloom tomatoes around the Okanagan include the Green Zebra, Black Krim, Brandywine, Early Girl, and the Ida Gold.
Pairing tomatoes with wine can be a bit tricky, but something that compliments the acidity and fruitiness of the tomato without overwhelming it is key. On the white side of things think Chardonnay, or a white with a rounder mouth feel. Pinot Blanc may also be a better choice than Pinot Gris as it tends to be a little less acidic. A dry style sparkling wine can also compliment heirloom tomatoes well.
If you're in the Okanagan around the end of August into mid-September, be sure to check out our farmer's markets for the best selection of heirloom tomatoes and be sure to sample all of the beautifully odd looking varietals.