Monday, September 19, 2016

In Praise of Canadian Wine, and Hip Culture

August was a bittersweet time to be Canadian.

On the sweet side, our country "showed up" to the Rio Olympics, winning 4 gold medals and a record high 22 overall medals-unheard of in previous summer games. Canada proved to the world that we are a force to be reckoned with in women's swimming, women's trampoline, and men's track and field, among other sports. But we also excel in winemaking, especially with Riesling and Chardonnay in the Niagara region of Ontario, and with the Bordeaux varietals in the Okanagan. The problem? The world has yet to realize it. Notorious Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer has noticed and has mentioned this in some of his monthly columns. Hopefully this will be the catalyst to put Canada on the worldwide wine radar. I decided to celebrate our Olympic gold medal wins by toasting the athletes with some of the Okanagan's fine red wines. 

Our first gold medal win was by Penny Oleksiak on August 11th in the women's 100m freestyle. Penny really did Canada proud by winning a total of 4 medals in the Rio games! To celebrate her gold medal win, I selected Nichol Vineyard's Nine Mile Red Blend.

Composed of Pinot Noir and St. Laurent, this unfiltered red opens with a bouquet of strawberries and forest floor that follows through to the palate, along with flavours of underripe cherries and a hint of cooked mushrooms on the finish. Surprisingly smooth for an unfiltered wine, with silky and focused tannins. The Pinot Noir really shines through on this wine! Drink now, or cellar for 3-5 years.

Our next gold medal in the games was won by Rosie MacLennan on the trampoline on August 12. Celebrating a back-to-back gold medal win was extra sweet for her as she suffered a concussion in 2015. Because of all the therapy she required to get her ready for Rio, I found it fitting to select Therapy Vineyard's 2009 Merlot to toast her with.

Deep garnet in colour, showing its age with aromas of pepper and musk on the nose. A lush, full body and mouthwatering acidity open the palate, alongside flavours of raspberries, pepper and asparagus. Tannins are muscular yet refined and there is a herbaceous hint on the finish. Drink now.

Derek Drouin was Canada's third gold medal winner in Rio, winning the men's high jump event on August 16. I selected Kettle Valley's 2009 Merlot to celebrate his victory. 

Image result for kettle valley 2009 merlot

A pronounced nose of red currants and cedar leads into a palate of fresh raspberries, cloves, and a hint of smoky cedar. The acidity is refreshing, and tannins are faint and soft. Cherry notes stand out on the long, smooth finish. A fantastic expression of Okanagan Merlot that pairs well with grilled red meat. 

Canada's fourth and final gold medal was won by Erica Wiebe in women's wrestling on August 19. Since I had to finish on a "punny" note, I selected the 2013 Cellar Hand Punch Down Red blend, created by Black Hills Estate for all the smackdowns that Erica laid upon all her opponents to become the Olympic champion!

 Image result for cellar hand punch down red 2013

A real gem of a wine! Bright ruby in colour, the wine will draw you in with a sweet bouquet of ripe cherries and orchids. Racy acidity and velvety tannins seduce on the opulent palate, along with flavours of raspberries, smoke, and a tiny whisper of fresh basil on the long finish. Extremely well structured and vivid. Opens up nicely now, or could age another 5 years in cellar.

Perhaps one day Canadian wines will be known around the world, but we still have a long way to go. As more global wine experts discover the region, and Kelowna tourism increases, BC Wine will slowly find their place in the worldwide spectrum. In the meantime, more for me!

And now for the bitter. Gord Downie, the lead singer of Canada's legendary band The Tragically Hip and our country's unofficial poet laureate, announced his diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. The band decided to tour one last time for all the Hip fans to say goodbye and enjoy one last concert (or more for the lucky ones). On August 20, the Tragically Hip took to the stage one final time and many hardcore fans stated that "Canada was closed" that evening as we celebrated our national music treasure and our culture. Gord and the Hip's songs make us all proud to be Canadian, while also reminding us of our own borrowed time through the song "Use it Up":

Use it up
Use it all up
Don't save a thing for later.

So go ahead and drink the wine. Don't save those bottles in the cellar for a special occasion for too long; no one knows how long any of us have left. Savour the sweet sips, as well as every moment in life and love. 

"No dress rehearsals, this is our life." - Gord Downie, Ahead by a Century