Wine Notes

Tiberio Trebbiano D'Abruzzo 2021

Abruzzo, Italy

Note: Chill me for 40 minutes!

Few winemakers in the business are as loved and adored as Cristiana Tiberio. Part earth-mother, part social butterfly, she doesn’t forget a name or a face and is always generously sharing wines with everyone she meets. If there’s one wine Instagram account to follow, it should be hers. If you’re not swooning over the lush Abruzzo countryside, you’ll fall in love with her two huge Maremma sheepdogs, who look like fluffy clouds bounding joyfully across the landscape.

Abruzzo, a large mountainous region east of Rome, is Italy’s most forested region. Like many southern areas of Italy, it is best known for full-bodied and brooding red wines, but we are captivated by the white wines (and rosés!) made from their indigenous varieties. Cristiana preserves the rugged beauty of Abruzzo on her farm by adhering to strict regenerative and organic principles. She only plants indigenous varieties on the property to protect flora and fauna. This is pretty much impossible to achieve in North America, where wine grapes are not indigenous to us, so it is extra cool to see viticulture practiced in true harmony with nature.

One thing that permeates Italian wine study is the arguments over which grapes are what. With over 600 indigenous varieties, many growers believe that they have a unique in the vineyard. As you can imagine, it is hotly debated! Cristiana is a wealth of knowledge in the debate about the Trebbiano Abruzzese grape. It is a delicately perfumed grape with wonderful acidity and fleshiness, but Christiana notes that many growers say they have it in their vineyards but, in fat, have more common Trebbiano Toscano. Cristiana has had her grapevine material DNA tested to ensure she has this rare grape, and the wines are fine enough to prove it. 

As with most wines we offer, Tiberio Trebbiano is ready to drink right away. However, Christiana notes that with a few years of bottle age, this wine can produce a beautiful honeyed aroma and slatey, minral notes. So, even though Christiana’s wines are poised for everyday drinking, they are very special treats that we feel so lucky to get to sip with you!

Las Moradas Albillo Real 2019

Vinos de Madrid, Spain

Las Moradas was born on the eve of the new millennium with a mission to save old vines, particularly Garnacha, which had been undervalued and unloved in the vineyards. In the 1980s, much of central Spain exploded with big new brands making bulk wine at extremely low prices, and in many cases, over-production meant it was too expensive to farm old vine vineyards given the low price farmers could get for their grapes. 

Winemaker Isabel Galindo saw these beautiful old plants (some vines are over 100 years of age) as an opportunity to share the history of the Gredos area and formed the wine project of Las Moradas de San Martín. She farms organically with some biodynamic practices and keeps winemaking technology and intervention to a minimum to highlight the natural balance of old vines. Old vines are especially important in dry climates where older roots reach deep into the soil to search for water (it is illegal in Europe to irrigate vines in mot regions, unlike in North America, where irrigation is fairly standard practice). 

The winery is located an hour west of Madrid in an area called the Sierra de Gredos. It is categorized by the Gredos mountains that keep evenings cool and winds that can wick moisture away from grapes, making it ideal for organic and low-intervention farming. Gredos has seen a renaissance in the last 20 years, with young producers finding old vineyards into which they are breathing new life. 

Though Garnacha was the grape it started with; Las Moradas has expanded to include several indigenous and rare grape varieties that are truly worth celebrating. Albillo Real is mainly found around the Madrid area, though the term Albillo is used around Spain to refer generally to several different varieties, so it can get confusing. The ‘Réal’ Albillo gives beautifully honeyed and textural wine with soft acidity and a full body. We love this wine with stuffed piquillo peppers, a regional specialty, or a richer fish dish like grilled tuna or mackerel. Wait until sundown and crack a bottle at Spanish dinner hours (we’re talking 9, maybe even 10 pm if you’re feeling saucy) to get the full effect! 

Therianthopy 'Le Maillot' Cabernet Franc 2021

Creemore Hills, Ontario

Note: Chill me for 40 minutes!

No, it isn’t a new type of therapy or an apothecary, or a perfume shop. Therianthopy is a mythic-literary term that references a human-to-animal shapeshift, kind of like a reverse anthropomorphosis if you remember that term from high school English! Think of Zeus as a swan or people turning into werewolves for reference. The meaning of this term points to the fact that winemaking is, in essence, shape-shifting. Grapes shift from juicy clusters into beautiful boozy liquid, in a somewhat mystical process known scientifically as fermentation. However, there is still so much we don’t know about the science of how it all happens, and isn’t that something to revel in? Therianthopy is a new wine label from Niagara, Ontario, bringing this sense of wonder and love for transformative experiences into fun and fresh wines. 

And what about the name, ‘Le Maillot?’ In French, it means swimsuit and is referencing the fact that this is a summery Cab Franc and not a full-bodied and oaky style as we are used to seeing in both the Okanagan and Ontario. So while it may not exactly be swimsuit weather anymore, this extended summer weather sure puts us in the mood for one! In fact, there is a tiny addition of Pinot Gris and Muscat to lift the floral and fruit aromatics of the dark and herbal Cab Franc, which makes the nose of this juicy wine extra swoon-worthy. 

The label art for Therianathopy wines is pretty special. French illustrator Michel Tolmer pens all of the quirky-cute illustrations, which gives the wines an extra dimension and conveys the wild creativity that goes into the bottle. Michel’s work is particularly centred around the wine world and can be spotted gracing the halls of many wine bars in Paris and the Loire Valley, where you may also find him sipping some Cab Franc!

To borrow from Mark Cuff, importer and winery partner, Le Maillot is the ‘quintessential glou glou’ and ‘red wine for the beach.’ Because we seriously believe summer is a state of mind and that good wines have their own moods, wait until you really need to turn up your thermostat (potentially soon!) and let this bottle transport you. 

Johannes Zillinger 'Velue' Zweigelt 2020

Weinviertel, Austria

The Zillinger Estate has been a prominent fixture in the Austrian and organic wine world for some time, but these wines have only recently arrived in BC. Like many of his neighbours in the Weinvertel area in Eastern Austria, Johannes grows a mix of red and white grapes, most of which are indigenous to the area. The Zillinger family has been growing organically and biodynamically since before it was cool – they celebrated 36 years of organics this vintage. Johannes notes that avoiding chemistry of all sorts is always a goal in his winemaking. His vineyard is Demeter-certified biodynamic, a rigorous international certification that means a total lack of synthetic pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and instead espouses the use of organic compost as “teas” spread over the vineyards. A major principle of biodynamics is keeping close attention to the lunar calendar, which dictates what days work in the vineyard. This makes it very tough for a grower to go on holiday, but the grapevines are very, very happy!

Butterflies grace all the labels of the different wines to signify that they are a part of his ecosystem and show that organic and biodynamic approaches can produce beautiful and harmonious wines by keeping yields low. Low yields (meaning the amount of grapes you can get from a given plant or vineyard) are often touted as being important in quality winemaking and concentration of flavour and can also keep the vines from being overworked. 

We’ve had several iterations of Zweigelt in APÉRO’s past, and the consensus is that the grape is fresh and ready to party. While this Zillinger bottling also expresses more earthiness and structure, it is right on-brand for Zweigelt and is deliciously low in alcohol, so you can enjoy a bit more without feeling overly indulgent. 

The name ‘Velue’ for this Cuvee refers to the original name of his village and the old willow trees that still stand there. Though we don’t have an abundance of willow trees here on the west coast, I think drinking it under a west coast cedar or one of the many cherry trees in the city will suit this zingy, zesty wine just fine. 

Jean-Paul Brun 'Terres Dorées' Moulin-à-Vent 2020

Beaujolais, France

Note: Chill me for 40 minutes!

From our earliest days in wine, Beaujolais had a hold on us. It is delightfully termed ‘the picnic wine’ for its suitability with lots of different foods. Gamay’s light and juicy nature and broad food-pairing ability make it the perfect Apéro wine. The region is also well known for amazing quality wines that aren’t quite at the sky-high prices of many of their Burgundian neighbours. 

However, Jen-Paul Brun does not make typical Beaujolais. He makes ‘Burgundian Beaujolais.’ Well, what exactly does that mean? Beaujolais, home of the great grape Gamay, is synonymous with a winemaking technique known as ‘carbonic maceration,’ producing a very aromatic and fruity flavoured Gamay.  This technique, which involves picking the grapes and leaving the whole grape bunches and berries fully intact, is practiced so widely across the region that we consider it the quintessential Gamay flavour. However, JP Brun prefers to pick, de-stem and crush the berries to make a more traditional red wine fermentation because he believes this expresses a more refined version of his wines. This means no candied flavours in their Beaujolais, but we often get a lovely tomato wine and earthy flavour from these wines. While we love lots of wine made in the carbonic method, we can’t help but agree: the wines of Terres Dorées are lithe, elegant, harmonious wines that we love to have at the dinner table and beyond. 

Within the area of Beaujolais, there are ten different ‘crus’ or special villages that give their unique personality to Gamay from their specific soils, hills, and aspects in the area. Moulin-à-Vent means windmill, and there are still super old-school ones in the area when you visit! It is best known for giving a strong and brawny style of Gamay and is widely known to be the most age-worthy of all Beaujolais crus. As Gamay is a grape that is very light in tannins, it’s important to note that the firmest and fullest-bodied Gamay is still fairly medium-bodied and apéro friendly. This is also the original red to drink with a slight chill, so hold on to those last summer vibes and pop it in the cooler already!

Kitsch 'Esther's Block' Riesling 2018

Kelowna, BC

Kitsch Winery is up in the newly named South Kelowna Slopes GI (meaning Geographical Indication, a delineated area that shares similar geological and soil features). We are so excited to see Kelowna highlighted as a special growing region because it is very unique within the Okanagan; being further north and higher in elevation than many other areas, it is one of the coolest points in the valley. At their ‘Estate Garage’ (the winery is located at their rather stately home, though the winery has a bit of a cool ‘unfinished’ look to it, as it is still very much a working winery and reflects that vibe). Kitsch focuses primarily on white varieties, which perform well in the cooler reaches of the hills and allow them to hone their craft as winemakers more specifically. 

Riesling is somewhat of a hallmark for wineries in Kelowna. This Esther’s Block Riesling is a special wine from Kitsch for a couple of reasons: it was made by our friend Grant Biggs, the winemaker at Kitsch until 2019. While he’s since made tracks to Ontario, we were fortunate to get a special allotment from the winery of one of his last treasures: the 2018 Esther’s Block Riesling. Planted in 2013, it often has beautiful stone fruit flavours and a deeply aromatic quality – something we love about Kelowna Riesling. This was a dry vintage of Esther’s, which has been released as a sweet and dry wine in the past. 

We love dry riesling for its racy acidity, mouthwatering limey fresh flavours, and its ability to show deep mineral flavours. The 2018 vintage is also starting to offer some of the incredible aromas that develop in the bottle: those steely, cereal and nutty notes that will only keep on giving as the wine matures in the cellar. Even though deciding when a bottle is ‘ready to open’ is a personal choice, we feel that this wine is at a perfect balance between its youthful flavours and some bottle development – a real treat to get our hands on this one now, so we don’t have to sit and wait. 

This wine perfectly illustrates why riesling (plus many other white grapes!) can age beautifully even with only a couple of years in the bottle. 

Soalheiro Alvarinho 'Classico' 2020

Vinho Verde, Portugal

Soalheiro is an ultra-modern winery making super traditional wines, located in Portugal at the northernmost tip, so close to the border that you can see Spain from their windows. They specialize in Alvarinho, a grape widely grown in the historical region of Monho, where Vinho Verde is made and in Spain, especially near the Rias Baixas region. 

Vinho Verde, a term most of us have heard before but only vaguely understand, is an important but complex category of Portuguese wine. Meaning ‘green wine’ in Portuguese, it is often a delicate, floral wine which refers to both the beautiful lush green landscape and the near-green hue in the glass. Some entry-level options have a light effervescence to them and can be a touch sweet. These wines are often blends, but Soalheiro is focused on Alvarinho, which they believe to be the highest quality grape. Many Vinho Verde wines are charming and fun but bear almost no resemblance to the serious, complex, and mineral-laden styles that Soalheiro produces. 

As a grape variety, Alvarinho is known for being quite aromatic, with a medium body and fresh acidity. Soalheiro’s northern position is Portugal means it retains super fresh acidity, which you may have noticed that we love here at APÉRO. The area of Melgaço, where this winery is located, is a specialized area in Portugal just for this grape and often gives delicate herbal aromatics and a rich and fleshy pear flavour on the palate. Though Vinho Verde is typically light in body, the wines of Soalheiro can be medium to full in body, expressing the full range of citrus, stone and tropical fruits in their many different cuveès. Though they only work with one grape, they make over 12 wines with it, including sparkling, skin contact and dessert versions. They also extoll the virtues of Alvarinho with some age and note that the wine develops delicate honeyed flavours after a few years in the bottle. 

Alvarinho is the perfect food wine, as it has lots of texture and weight to work with a variety of dishes. Something like cod and corn fritters, or the classic pairing of tomato and seafood soup called Mariscada, is hearty and delicate and it is the perfect September dish for Soalheiro!

A.A. Badenhorst 'Secateurs' Rosé 2021

Swartland, South Africa

Adi Badenhorst is potentially the most important winemaker in South Africa, but not for the reasons you might think. Though Adi’s wines are dynamite and we love drinking them, his impact on the community and deep commitment to making the world a better place through responsible farming and employment are why we care so deeply about what he is doing. 

We visited Adi’s winery over two days in 2019 – in most places, it’s rare to visit for more than a couple of hours,  so this was very lucky. Adi talked about his appreciation for and preservation of the local fynbos, a local term for the collection of bushes and wild vegetation that often adds a beautiful and delicate aroma to the wine, and why old vines are important in this landscape. 

Old wines interact with their environment more naturally, needing less irrigation and sending roots deep into the sub-soil to contribute to soil structure and below-ground beneficial fungi systems. Adi’s commitment to the environment is evident in his willingness to plant many different native plants and species, even if they aren’t the most financially lucrative plants to work with. However, when asked why he planted agave and red bush team, Adi reveals his true purpose for expanding production. “It’s about giving jobs, Maude.” He recognizes that creating jobs from the land he is responsible for is the most essential aspect of his business, more than doing what seems to be the most profitable. Because the unemployment rate is high, he began tea and tequila production to employ as many workers in his community and provide training for new opportunities down the line. Ultimately, that is the kind of thinking we need more of, not only in South Africa’s precarious job market but in the global wine trade. 

This rosé is the perfect example of why wine is more important than nailing exact flavours and tasting notes. Yes, this wine is made from old vines and is super delicious, but more importantly, it participates in the preservation of the land and the people that live in this corner of the world, and *that* tastes better than words can describe. 

Kir-Yanni 'Cuvée Villages' Xinomavro 2019

Naoussa, Greece

Note: Chill me for 30 minutes!

The arrival of Kir-Yanni is hopefully a sign of good things to come in BC. For years, we’ve known that there are cool, fresh and interesting wines being made in Greece (heck, it’s the birthplace of many grape varieties and wine styles that we know and love today!), but we rarely see it here on shelves. So we feel super lucky to get to introduce you to this elegant Greek red from one of its most respected producers. 

Though they started out planting many of the French so-called ‘international’ varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet 
Sauvignon, the most exciting part about Kir-Yianni is their mastery of indigenous Greek grapes. We often feel this way across the world – grapes that are native to a region have evolved over hundreds of years to perfectly suit that environment, and we tend to get excited about them! Kir-Yianni has set the gold standard for the indigenous grape of Naoussa, Xinomavro. The name comes from two words, ‘Xino’ meaning sour, and ‘Mavros’, meaning black. High acidity and deep colour don’t make this an easy wine to make, but it merits comparison to the famous Sangiovese grape from Tuscany for exhibiting both finesse and power. 

The Kir-Yianni winery project was born in the 1990s by Yiannis Boutaris, who grew up in the wine industry in the famous Boutari group of wineries, a true giant in the Greek wine industry. Wanting to do somethingfocused and thoughtful, Yiannis was inspired by Xinomavro and the privince where it is most famous, Naoussa. THe wines are farmed at a higher elevation, so they exhibit beautiful tension, acidity and balance. We are excited to have this and many more versions of the wines! 

This wine is a savoury sipper to enjoy with dinner, either a super traditional pairing – a backyard lamb spit-roast would be ideal if you’re feeling ambitious, or even a casual take-out donair if you’re slightly less inclined for several hours of prep time. Either way, this Greek grape is a dream with food, and speaking of dreams, we’re drifting off thinking of the white-washed hillsides of Naoussa as we write to you…

Kitsch 'Esther's Block' Riesling 2018

Kelowna, BC

Kitsch Winery is up in the newly named South Kelowna Slopes GI (meaning Geographical Indication, a delineated area that shares similar geological and soil features). We are so excited to see Kelowna highlighted as a special growing region because it is very unique within the Okanagan; being further north and higher in elevation than many other areas, it is one of the coolest points in the valley. At their ‘Estate Garage’ (the winery is located at their rather stately home, though the winery has a bit of a cool ‘unfinished’ look to it, as it is still very much a working winery and reflects that vibe). Kitsch focuses primarily on white varieties, which perform well in the cooler reaches of the hills and allow them to hone their craft as winemakers more specifically. 

Riesling is somewhat of a hallmark for wineries in Kelowna. This Esther’s Block Riesling is a special wine from Kitsch for a couple of reasons: it was made by our friend Grant Biggs, the winemaker at Kitsch until 2019. While he’s since made tracks to Ontario, we were fortunate to get a special allotment from the winery of one of his last treasures: the 2018 Esther’s Block Riesling. Planted in 2013, it often has beautiful stone fruit flavours and a deeply aromatic quality – something we love about Kelowna Riesling. This was a dry vintage of Esther’s, which has been released as a sweet and dry wine in the past. 

We love dry riesling for its racy acidity, mouthwatering limey fresh flavours, and its ability to show deep mineral flavours. The 2018 vintage is also starting to offer some of the incredible aromas that develop in the bottle: those steely, cereal and nutty notes that will only keep on giving as the wine matures in the cellar. Even though deciding when a bottle is ‘ready to open’ is a personal choice, we feel that this wine is at a perfect balance between its youthful flavours and some bottle development – a real treat to get our hands on this one now, so we don’t have to sit and wait. 

This wine perfectly illustrates why riesling (plus many other white grapes!) can age beautifully even with only a couple of years in the bottle. 

Andi Weigand 'White' 2020

Franken, Germany

Note: Decant me!

In Germany, we’re pretty used to hearing about (and loving) Riesling. While it is their hallmark grape variety, it is not their only one! Many German regions specialize in a variety of grapes beyond Riesling, and the region of Franken is no different. This area is located in Northern Bavaria, best known for beer production, whereas most wine-growing regions are in the country’s western reaches. This small and special spot is best known for white varieties – mostly Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau – which thrive in this cool, continental climate.

Andi Weigand is a fairly young winemaker, having started at his family’s property in 2015 and leading their conversion to organics and low-intervention winemaking in 2018 – hence the cloudy appearance of this unfiltered wine. Andi cites his dad’s support as instrumental in this project, as many of the local grape growers in the area tend to work with large co-op operations and have a relatively conventional approach. His second major help is his dad’s old vines. Most of them are over 60 years of age at this point, meaning they are balanced and concentrated in their fruit production, making sophisticated wines that speak beyond the traditional image of the region. He works with the traditional varieties of Franken, which are historical but not widely-known varieties outside of Europe.

The first is Müller-Thurgau: a variety produced by an accidental crossing of Riesling and Chasselas, though it is very different from its parents! It brings fresh acidity and beautiful low-tone Bosc pear aromas. Next is Silvaner (sometimes spelled Sylvaner in French), which brings a brooding, earthy quality to the blend that is unequalled by the more aromatic white varieties. It brings depth and complexity to wines, and though it is native to the Franken area, it is widely planted in Alsace and Austria. Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau make up the base of this white blend, though it also incorporates a touch of Riesling and Scheurebe for aromatic intensity.

Ultimately, we are super excited to get all of these distinct and unique grape varieties in one big fruit salad (maybe the driest and lightest fruit salad, it should be said!), so we think this bottle should be drunk in the same spirit, with a big colourful group of friends!

Antonio Scala Cirò Rosato 2021

Calabria, Italy

As it always is with wines, the first thing you notice is the label. This one is hard to forget: the punchy graphics give a 1960s vibe that puts you in the mood for a dance party, a Mod-themed party or even just a hip pair of Elton John sunglasses.

 

So what’s in the bottle? A fresh and punchy Rosato (that’s Italian for rosé!) that happens to pair so well with fresh summer picnics and salads, especially with fresh heirloom tomatoes (luckily, they are finally in season!), olive oil and Maldon salt. It may be a bit too hot to do anything else these days…

The grape to know here is Gaglioppo (How fun is that to say? The pronunciation is exactly how it looks!), a full-bodied grape indigenous to Calabria – the ‘toe’ of the boot of Italy. Thought to be related to Nerello Mascalese of Etna in Sicily, the wines show slatey minerality and are quite hard to find, as there aren’t many planted! Though most red Gaglioppos are often high in alcohol and tannins, the Scala family always aims to make lighter and fresher versions of the grape and have become well known for this style of juicy and bright wine. This Rosato perfectly encapsulates why Southern Italy is a great wine region to source from because, unlike many other better-known wine-growing regions in Italy, the appellations and grapes down here are lesser known. So leave the big names for others while we indulge in the trade secret wines of Ciro in Calabria!

The Scala vineyards have been certified organic since 2016, with an eye toward preserving the indigenous flora and fauna of their unique corner of Italy. They have lupines (tall stick-like plants with bell-shaped flowers, often in a dusty pink shade) growing throughout the vineyard to help restore nutrients to the soil. This allows them not to add synthetic fertilizers, which can be harsh for the soil to absorb and can be harsh on plant root systems!

 

In the true Scala label spirit, put on The Beatles and drink the bottle from a cocktail glass. It pairs well with flower power and mod mini dresses!

Keenan & Zoë Chardonnay Pet-Nat 2021

Summerland, BC

Keenan Thrussell and Zoë Jacoe spend their days at Sage Hills, the organic winery started by Keenan’s parents back in 2007. They’re located in Summerland but source grapes from special vineyards in different regions, like this Chardonnay vineyard in Cawston. Here, they have introduced a fresh perspective on both farming and winemaking, incorporating gentle vineyard techniques (check out their Instagram for videos on shoot tucking and pump-over techniques for gorgeous colours and deep wine insight!) Though Sage Hills is the main winery brand, they have started their own personal label to introduce experimental and fresh styles of wine, like this rich yet zesty Chardonnay sparkling.

Keenan and Zoë explain their winemaking philosophy very simply: nothing added, nothing removed. While it sounds simple, in practice, this can be a very difficult way to make wine! To achieve a perfect wine while working without more conventional winemaking products, Keenan and Zoë work with the lees in the fermentation to keep their wines fresh without preservatives like sulphur dioxide. Lees are the dead yeast cells essential in converting juice into wine (yeasts + sugar = alcohol), and once they have made the wine, they fall dead to the bottom of the tank, but their work isn’t done! They can still protect the wine from the ravages of oxygen, contribute beautiful toasty and savoury flavours, and are typically employed in making sparkling wines and still chardonnay wines. This wine embodies the classic chardonnay juxtaposition of linear acidity and freshness with broad depth and leesy doughy texture on the palate – it’s hard to resist!

We are deep believers that there is a Chardonnay for every occasion, and there is also a Chardonnay for everybody – this one is definitely for us. It is also the best candidate for bubbles! In most sparkling wine, there is often a small amount of residual sugar left to offset the racy acidity; this is one of the many reasons bubbles are an ideal food pairing. Spicy foods are a major food pairing challenge, but this fresh bubble is a marvel with chilli spices or stinky cheeses at Apéro time, so put some spiced nuts and Chaumes on your board and pop a bottle!

Rubén Diaz 'Paso de Cebra' Garnacha 2018

Cebreros, Spain

Note: Chill me for 30 minutes!

Rubén Diaz hails from the town of Cebreros, nestled into a mountain range called the Sierra de Gredos; he makes wine under the D.O. of Cebreros (the Spanish term for designation of origin, the official classification of regions). The Sierra de Gredos lies just one hour west of Madrid, in an arid climate perfect for growing grapes, especially Garnacha, a very drought-tolerant, sun-worshipping grape. While a hot and dry climate often gives full-bodied and baked fruit characteristics to wines, the mountain range’s elevation gives freshness and cool breezes so that Rubén’s wines are bright and lively. 

Rubén was called to winemaking in his youth when he heard about the pending destruction of an ancient parcel of vines. His grandparents had a vineyard that was to be pulled out, and he felt moved to protect the beauty and the history of these plants that were older than everyone he knew. So he started asking questions about viticulture and learning from his father, slowly moving in to making more experimental wine and finally finding a balance of hands-off winemaking that showcased the purity of his fruit. This passion is evident in the wines, which focus on Garnacha and indigenous white varieties. This Garnacha cuvée is from five different vineyards in Cebreros between 650 and 850 metres altitude, ranging from 60 to 100 years old. The old vines, which grow freestanding in the vineyard in the ancient way (unlike many newly planted vineyards, which use trellis systems and posts to support the vines), give complexity and balance to the wine and make drinking it genuinely like drinking a little bit of history.  

To us, this Garnacha represents the gateway into Spain’s often overshadowed great wines: wines that tell a story of where they are from, made by passionate producers dedicated to their craft and heritage, from historical indigenous old vines grown sustainably. How much more special can this get? 

Not only do wines like this inspire us to intellectually, but they are an honest pleasure with the most down-to-earth and joyful things of life: sharing food with the people you love. This Garnacha is perfect for a simple BBQ, like mushroom burgers or marinated chicken thighs, which is hopefully coming into heavy rotation on your dinner schedule these days! 

Jérémie Huchet 'Les Montys Le Parc' Muscadet 2020

Loire Valley, France

Most European wine regions are named after the place they come from rather than specific grape varieties, which can be tricky to navigate. In the case of the Muscadet region on the Atlantic coast of France, though, considering the cool, coastal climate it is from rather than its DNA helps us get a feel for its profile.

Melon de Bourgogne is a confusing name for a grape. Firstly, the wines rarely taste like melons – they are usually light, citrusy wines (this particular one has a soft fleshy pear flavour, but that’s about as ripe as it gets!). Secondly, the grape isn’t grown in Bourgogne (though it likely originated there) but in the Loire Valley, just west of the city of Nantes. Because the Muscadet appellation area is right on the water, it certainly makes sense to drink it with seafood. It is one of the quintessential wines that define the “grows together, goes together” pairing rule, which basically means that wines that evolved historically in a given region tend to pair pretty well with foods from that place. Nantes and the mouth of the river are famous and notable areas for oyster harvesting, so Muscadet and oysters are a natural pairing. Muscadet is one of our go-to styles of wine for summer because it is so light and fresh and tastes like the beach with notes of wet rocks and salty ocean spray.

Jeremie Huchet inherited his family estate in 2001 and began converting the farming to organic, now farming over 64 hectares without pesticides or herbicides. He is the fourth generation of winemakers in his family and is also one-half of the Jeremies behind Les Bêtes Curieuses, a project he started with fellow winemaker Jérémie Mourat to explore the many different terroirs of Muscadet and brings some understanding to the versatility of the grape – cool!

This wine was made in concrete, an environmental choice of vessel for wine fermentation because it doesn’t require extra energy to cool the tank but stays naturally cool on its own. This concrete fermentation and fleshy texture give this wine a fresh sake vibe, and a more fruit-forward style of Muscadet than usual – our minds go straight to take out sushi at the beach. 
Muscadet is the quintessential summer thirst quencher, so drink it cold and drink it up!

Roberto Rodriguez Corinto 'Super Estrella' 2020

Bío Bío, Chile

Not Ice Cold Please!

Roberto Henriquez might be the most exciting winemaker in Chile. Working with extremely old vine material (some vines are 200 years old!), he makes unusually beguiling wines: they don’t taste like other wines from these grapes or smell like much of anything we’ve ever had before. This might be because his vines are so old and well-adapted to their environment that they are making something unique.

Born in Concepción, Chile, Roberto trained as both an agronomist (studying soil and the growth of plants in soil) and an enologist (the chemical study of fermentation and winemaking) at university before setting out to make his own wine. In so many ways, Roberto’s wines are part of his connection to his Mapuche heritage, which means he is uniquely qualified to tell a story about his land – much more than most winemakers can say. Though Vitis Vinifera was not an indigenous plant in Southern Chile, where Henriquez works, the advent of the vine here has mirrored the struggle and the strength of the Mapuche people. For him, organic vineyards are a solution to the many systemic ecological issues created by colonialism and the governance of settlers. In an industry that often wants to remain apolitical, Roberto makes a quiet but fierce statement about agriculture as a means of survival for both the Mapuche people and as a means of repairing the damage done to the earth by monoculture farming. Through farming, he believes “we can recover respect, integration, justice, balance and co-existence.” A pretty powerful message for what, on the surface, might just seem like another bottle of wine.

So what is Corinto, anyway? It is a grape widely planted in Bío Bío, and is also known as Chasselas in Alsace, where it is often blended with aromatic varieties. The grape has also gained notoriety in Switzerland and is prized for a full body and rich, silky texture. Henriquez notes that few people cared for the grape in the last century, but his century-old vines are extremely expressive and fresh. Made by the traditional way of fermenting the grapes with their skins for many months (yes, an orange wine), the full spectrum of flavours continues to evolve in the glass into a true “thinking wine,” so open with friends and get ready for a big conversation.

Birch Block 'Endless Summer' Rosé 2021

South Okanagan, Bc

You know we are deeply excited by our local BC wineries, and we always look forward to seeing new wine projects cropping up with each vintage, especially when they come in super practical and sustainable packaging. Birch Block is the latest offering from the Okanagan. The Bancroft family bought 5 acres in Kaleden in the Okanagan Valley and planted Pinot Noir on soil entirely unsullied by any chemicals or pesticides – it was previously grazing land for animals, so it was the perfect place to start organic farming.

Though the Bancrofts own and planted the vineyard, the wines are made by consulting winemaker Jordan Kubek of Lightning Rock, one of our favourite Okanagan winemakers and people. This makes us particularly excited to drink the wines as they marry Jordan’s talent with the sun-drenched warmth of the South Okanagan – the Pinot down here gets a bit riper and fruitier: perfect for fresh and summery rosé!

A fun and unusual fact about this rosé is that it was foot-stomped! Due to the advent of modern presses and crushing machines, foot-stomping grapes is a mostly forgotten technique – the I Love Lucy scene is almost a thing of the past (except in certain parts of Portugal where it is still deeply traditional.) Most modern winemaking teaches us that oxygen and exposing the grapes to it during the winemaking process is generally risky. However, foot-stomping has some beneficial side effects: the human foot is very gentle in how it crushes grapes. Seriously, it may sound bonkers, but stomping on something is a softer way to break it than crushing it between steel panels or in a balloon-style press that many wineries now use so that it can yield a more delicate and less tannic wine. It is a technique mainly used for red wines, but if done very gently (or perhaps by a very delicate and gentle stomper, like we imagine winemaker Jordan to be), it yields a rosé as crisp and delicious as this one.

Production of all the Birch Block wines is super-small, and for the moment, it is limited to rosé, but stay tuned for red in the fall… For now, however, what could be more perfect than an endless summer feeling?

Roche 'Vig' Zweigelt 2021

Naramata, BC

Roche is located on Naramata Bench, overlooking the picturesque Lake Okanagan at the beginning of the winding Upper Bench Road. The winery fuses organic stewardship of the land with a light and elegant touch in the winery – a pretty ideal relationship if you ask us.

Pénélope and Dylan Roche come from two seemingly opposite sides of the BC wine business. Pénélope wwas born in Bordeaux, growing up in a winemaking family in a château in famous Pessac-Léognan. This family tradition counts Pénélope as a 6th-generation winemaker! Dylan’s family is from BC, and he grew up in North Vancouver but has ade wine in Chablis in Burgundy and taught sensory education in Bordeaux. Avid travellers in their respective youths, the two met in New Zealand and moved to Bordeaux, where they both began working in the winemaking business. They moved to the Okanagan Valley and started Roche eleven years ago. Their experiences in viticulture and enology shaped their dream to build a winery that represented both traditional Bordeaux styles of wine as well as fresh and zesty white and rosé wines that speak to their vision of the Okanagan. 

Though we have loved the wines for years, we are super excited to see the new labels, as this new watercolour art and ‘Vig’ line of wines reflect Pénélope and Dylan’s commitment to constantly evolving. The watercolours that grace the new vintage are by Victoria-based artist Andrea Soos, whose artistic process mirrors the Roche approach of allowing pieces to evolve as they are made. 

Roche grows some unusual varieties for B.C., blending two into this rosé. Zweigelt is an Austrian variety, perfect for fresh, light reds that give this wine a beautiful berry pink colour. Schonberger gives a light floral quality that lifts this rosé and makes the palate super zippy. She’s summer in a glass!

Montalto 'Pennon Hill' 2019

Mornington Peninsula, Australia

Note: Chill me for 30 minutes

We know Australia is a big country and, for the most part, a hot one. However, at the Southernmost tip of the state of Victoria, the climate feels a bit more like coastal BC – cool, sometimes fairly rainy, and refreshed by ocean breezes. The fresh climate here means that the wines are not the big, dense, dark Shirazes and Cabernets that many people know from Barossa or South Australia, but a delicate and nuanced style of wine. Mornington almost exclusively grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – preferring to focus on these Burgundian varieties to focus their craft. At Montalto, winemaker Simon Black has been making these two varieties for over 12 years, so his expertise is pretty honed in.

The estate is a masterclass in biodiversity – a massive flower and herb garden graces the space around the winery, with vines on all sides and a gentle knoll in the centre of the property that they refer to as “the gums.” The gums are essentially a small woodland of gumtrees, which surround a pond and a small, almost jungle-like ecosystem that feels alive with flora and fauna but has a perfect picnic table should you like to grab a bottle and basket and trek down there.

Gumtrees, or eucalyptus trees, are common across the Australian continent and often cited as a telltale “Aussie wine” flavour. Much speculation has been made about whether or not the trees give this flavour to vines that grow nearby, and no doubt, many wines in South Australia do exhibit this piercing herbal eucalyptus note. Montalto’s wines don’t quite show it overtly, but the wine’s gentle rosemary and lavender aromas remind us of their wide and wonderful garden.

In the picnic spirit of Montalto, we love this Pinot on a checkered blanket with barbecued chicken and summer salads. Pinot Picnic Party sounds too great to pass up!

Claus Preisinger 'Puszta Libre' 2020

Burgenland, Austria

Note: Chill me like a white!

Claus Preisinger is one of the most dynamic winemakers working in Austria, period. Though barely 40, he has been making wine under his own label for 20 (!) years and has mobilized a movement of young winemakers looking to define sustainability, regenerative farming, and fresh, low-intervention wines. He was an early adopter of the ‘Pannobile’ association in his region, which was revolutionary for his small village of Gols and for European winemakers to gather to share ideas on an individual rather than a government-based level. Pannobile prizes respect for the land and terroir, to preserve traditions in Burgenland. Claus is one of their most vocal and recognized members.

So, what about his wine? Puszta Libre is a blend of Zweigelt and St. Laurent. This cuvée is a super fun one (and can’t you tell from the packaging?!) that is meant to be consumed in its youth and served straight out of the fridge. However, it is also an excellent example of a wine that needs a light decant, or a vigorous splashing and swirling in a large glass (fun practice!) to blow off the “matchstick smell” in the wine – what is commonly referred to as reduction in the wine world.

Reduction can happen when winemakers protect the wine from oxygen exposure during the winemaking process to keep fresh fruit flavours in the wine. Many great wine styles across the world can be a little reductive in their youth, which helps keep them fresh. In fact, Claus cites using reductive techniques as a more natural method of preserving his wines rather than preservative additives.

His farming principles are based on the biodynamic philosophy that all vineyard inputs should be minimal and natural. Puszta is a wine for picnics and late nights – it is the ultimate ‘glou glou’ wine – a wine for drinking and purely enjoying not for making overly precious, hence the coca-cola label reference. Switch it up and serve a chilled red as your next apéro; Claus would approve.

Pieropan Soave Classico 2020

Veneto, Italy

Pieropan is the Soave to end all Soaves. It is the Meryl Streep of the region – the one producer to beat, but also the one that lifts up all the other Soaves. It is the benchmark and beloved producer in a region that can sometimes be dominated by big, powerful co-ops that squish out the little guys – Pieropan is a shining light. The family has been making Soave here since the 1970s, gradually acquiring some of the greatest vineyards in all of Soave.

Soave is one of those unique wine styles where the region has *become* the name for the wine, like Chablis, Barolo, or Chianti. The area of Soave is located in the Veneto, and the main grape variety is Garganega. Of course, you can blend in other varieties, but it is all about the Garganega. It is a variety that gives zesty acidity, lemony pear fruit flavours, focused minerality and always a lick of herbal rosemary.

Garganega may be strange to pronounce (gar-GAN-eh-ga), but it is no stranger to making beautifully harmonious wines. Though you may have heard of Soave before, it is a wine style that is not reproduced anywhere outside of the Veneto area — though we hope somebody tries someday!

Just like Meryl, Soave can play many roles. It is a versatile food pairing wine and can work with many dishes, so chances are you’ve already got a pairing in your fridge. We love it with seafood pasta and tuna crudo, and the winery even suggests it as an ideal match for asparagus, the notoriously tricky vegetable-wine companion. Soave is the perfect apéro wine because you can open it as you’re cooking dinner (who doesn’t like to have a glass in hand?), and it will go with whatever is on the table – if you have any left!

Twin Island 'Grape Friends'

Pender Island, BC

Grape-apple blends are having a moment. With winemakers waking up to the very cool and fresh potential for cider, more wineries are turning to apples (and pears, and quince, and plums!) to add freshness and zesty-ness to their bubbles (and exciting new flavours!)

The Twin Island project was born on Pender Island in 2016 after Katie Selbee and Matthew Vassilev visited cideries around the UK and Washington State and were taken by the art and preservation of historical techniques so many modern cider-makers were employing. They started their “little apple biz” with a desire to celebrate the many heritage varieties that existed on the Twin Islands- North and South Pender.

Twin Island does not have a standard orchard, with neat rows of apples and pears on one estate property. Instead, they tend & harvest ancient apple varieties already growing all over Pender Island. All of the apples they source are dry-farmed, meaning they don’t water or irrigate the trees. This may seem like an easy and obvious farming principle in the Pacific Northwest, but nonetheless, many orchardists and viticulturalists irrigate trees and vines throughout the summer. It can be challenging for plants to adapt to long bouts without water, so it is a tricky prospect to start. However, dry-farming forces plants to send their roots deep into the ground to search for water and helps them adapt better to droughts and hot weather when it arrives. In addition, many of the trees Twin Island are working with are over 100 years old, so taking good care of them is not only responsible farming but history preservation!

Grape Friends is a deep sparkling red of Gravenstein and Prima apples from Pender and Agria grapes grown in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. The apples bring fresh, crunchy acidity and lightness, while the red grapes bring texture and a deep, earthy berry quality. This bright and juicy bottle makes great friends with mortadella & quince jam but shines equally as a solo. We had it on the patio last week for Apéro and can confirm that your friends will definitely be on board too.

Clos Fornelli Sciaccarellu Rosé 2020

Corsica, France

Corsica, for those who haven’t had the pleasure (and we all should, truly), is a unique Mediterranean island – technically French, of course, but with an Italian accent and an impish grin. The sun-drenched isle is home to many grape varieties genetically linked to many well-known Italian varieties – Corsican Vermentinu is the same as Italian Vermentino, and Corsican Nielluciu is Italian Sangiovese. The grape Sciaccarellu, which represents a large portion of red grapes grown on the island, is genetically linked to the Tuscan grape Mammolo and gives delicately perfumed wines and bright cherry fruit. It forms the basis of most reds on Corsica, but we love it in a rosé for the fresh and mineral twist it brings.

Clos Fornelli is located on the eastern part of the island, on the Alérian plains overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, where it almost touches Tuscany. It makes sense, then, that it shares so many of the Tuscan grape varieties. The winery is helmed by Josée Vanucci, who organically farms all of her 40 hectares (though they grow lots, they sell about half their fruit, meaning Clos Fornelli’s total production is quite small.)

Josée farms all the classic native varieties and a handful of others, but she sites Sciacarellu as her passion project – her muse, in fact. Sciaccarellu gives a light floral violet aroma that can be overwhelmed by heavy-handed winemaking and oak treatment, so Josée takes a light hand in the winemaking. In the cellar, construction makes super gentle winemaking possible. The winery is designed to be gravity-fed, meaning that juice can be fed from tank to barrel without the use of electricity and pumps, which can agitate and oxygenate the wine.

This fresh and zippy rosé is begging to be cracked in the lovely sunshine now that patio season is again upon us- and you know they are guzzling it in the sunshine in Corse. Try it with anchovies in parsley sauce or fresh tomato salad for a truly Corsican lunch. Salute!

Suertes Del Marqués '7 Fuentes' 2018

Tenerife, Spain

Note: Chill me for 30 and decant me!

When we think of great wine regions, tropical paradises aren’t usually the first place that comes to mind. However, nothing could be more exciting than wine coming from the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morroco but politically part of Spain. Grapes have been cultivated here for several centuries, but chiefly for local and tourist consumption until the last decade. In fact, Suertes del Marques was instrumental in starting the export market’s awareness of Canary Island wines and cropped up on every cool New York and London wine list, so we feel pretty lucky to be getting these wines in BC now! Tenerife, the largest of the islands, also happens to be the centre of viticulture for this unique wine region. Grapes here are marked by sunshine and sea spray, so this juicy number will pair perfectly with salty fare like artisanal charcuterie or a cheeky pepperoni stick while you’re making dinner…

Working organically is fairly easy in the Canary Islands, as the ocean breeze keeps the vineyards dry and fresh, and the tropical sun ripens grapes quickly and effortlessly. However, working vines here is anything but effortless- vines are grown in several different ancient training systems to protect vines from intense Atlantic winds, so vineyard work can be backbreaking to navigate the old, gnarly vines.

The hallmark red grape of the Canaries, and Tenerife in particular, is Listán Negro. DNA profiling identified Listán Negro as the same as the origins of the mission grape, the first grape planted in California by European settlers and missionaries. This makes it clear that Tenerife was likely a stopover on trips across the Atlantic and responsible for the birth of North and South American winemaking as we know it today.

As a wine, Listán Negro can be pretty full-bodied and have a baked flavour. We love the 7 Fuentes because it is a fresher, lighter style, and in true apéro fashion, it is inherently drinkable—crushable, even, as we love to say these days…!

Cieck Erbaluce di Caluso 2019

Piemonte, Italy

One of the reasons we are so obsessed with Italian wine at Apéro is the sheer variety - Italy is home to over 600 different grape varieties - and new grapes are being identified and cataloged all the time. With so many different types, you have to get creative with naming them. Many of the names for grapes are inspired by the way the grape bunches or plants look. Erbaluce’s name is especially beautiful: Erba comes from the word ‘Alba’ for ‘dawn,’ and luce means ‘light.’ The name comes from the translucent soft yellow and pink colour of the berries as they ripen. So it makes sense that Erbaluce would be a delicate, ethereal wine if the name means “dawn’s light.’

Erbaluce grows in the North-Western province of Piedmont, around the tiny hamlet of Caluso, just north of Turin. Generally speaking, the Piedmont region is well-known for red varieties, home to Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto, but around Caluso, it is really only about Erbaluce. However, it only exists here – there are only about 250 hectares planted in Caluso (and therefore worldwide), so it is pretty rare stuff.

The Cieck winery specializes in this hard-to-find grape and is widely recognized as one of the best producers of Erbaluce. They make several different bottles, including a sparkling and a sweet Erbaluce, but we love the classic’s delicate minerality and lemony notes. Unbothered by fancy winemaking techniques, Cieck makes this Erbaluce to let the delicate nature of the grape shine through. In the vineyard, Erbaluce is grown in a ‘pergola’ shape, a unique Italian vine training system, where the vines are grown tall and intertwine overhead, so grape bunches brush your head as you walk through the vineyard.

When opening this little rarity, it is certainly refreshing enough to sip by itself. When it comes to food, however, lightness is key. Think vegetarian fare, salads, or even a fish crudo. Inspired by dawn, maybe even as breakfast wine… We’re not saying you *need* to wait until the wee hours to open this bottle, but how romantic would it be to stay up and watch the sunrise with a bottle of dreamy Erbaluce?

Michael Gindl 'Flora' 2020

Weinvertel, Austria

Note: I have sediments, it's ok!

Michael Gindl inherited his family farm after two hundred continuous years of his ancestors practicing mixed agriculture. He wanted to continue but improve the tradition, so he enlisted in agricultural school at the turn of the century and set about converting his farm to biodynamics.

Now, the Gindl farm has been certified biodynamic for almost two decades, and he has been as devoted to his grapes as he is to cultivating different varieties of wheat and flowers to keep a balanced and diverse ecosystem. Many different animals populate Michael’s farm: horses, pigs, cows, and Breton dwarf sheep (so cute!) who help keep weeds and grasses manicured in the vineyards.

He grows various indigenous Austrian grape varieties, of which Riesling, Scheurebe, and Gelber Muscateller are some of the most beautifully fragrant. Though Riesling is famous across the globe, the other two are lesser-known but historically significant varieties in Germany and Austria, where they are suited to cold winters and pair well with rich cuisine.

At home, we love Flora with Thai vinegars, fresh herbs and Vietnamese dipping sauces!

What we love most about the Flora is that it has a heady aroma without being cloying or sweet. So often, the most beautiful bouquets of wines are followed by a sticky palate that doesn’t feel refreshing the way Flora does. Aromatics in wine can sometimes smell of sweet things – like ripe fruit or candy – despite being totally dry. In fact, one of the most exciting things about wine is how it can smell like one thing and taste like something completely different. This is what makes Flora a compelling wine to drink – it smells like lilies but tastes like lemons!

Michael aims to make harmonious wines, but more importantly, to have a holistic farm that lives in harmony with the surrounding woodland. Though he could expand his vineyard area, he chooses not to in order to maintain a diverse ecosystem and protect the natural environment of Weinvertel, the commune in which he lives and works. I think we could all take a little inspiration from his efforts to stay small and be a part of the big picture.

Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2020

Okanagan Falls, BC

Note: Chill me for 30 minutes!

Jak Meyer planted Chardonnay and then Pinot Noir at their home vineyard, McLean Creek, in Okanagan Falls and began their first vintage in 2006. Not 16 years later, Meyer is usually the first name out of local sommelier’s mouths (ours included!) when they talk about great Pinot Noir coming out of the Okanagan Valley. The wines are made by Chris Carson, who is widely cited as one of our province’s most skilled Pinot Noir winemakers. After working in Burgundy and Central Otago (New Zealand’s premium Pinot Noir region), Chris came home to BC to put the Okanagan on the map for premium Pinot Noir.

As you well know, we love our BC wine industry and love to feature a mixture of both classic and experimental BC wines. Generally speaking, the Okanagan Valley has several varieties that we consider ‘hallmark’ grapes: Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. Thanks to dedicated producers like Meyer Family, we can put Pinot Noir on this list, as they have been producing outstanding Pinot Noir for almost two decades now.

Meyer is a special kind of Okanagan Winery in that they are intensely focused on two grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is pretty rare in BC to see a winery specialize like that, as many producers have taken a wider approach to make something for everybody (some places upwards of 30 different wines!), but we love that Meyer is dedicated- it allows them to truly excel at making Pinot Noir- which is often referred to as the ‘heartbreak grape’ in the industry as it is notoriously finicky in the vineyard and challenging to make elegant in the cellar. However, when it is done well, nothing else is as delicate, complex, yet powerful.

This 2020 Meyer Pinot Noir comes from six pockets around the central and northern parts of the valley (Kelowna, Okanagan Falls, Kaleden). It is a fresh and classic expression of the grape: light in body, tangy acidity, and brimming with fresh cherry fruit. Ideally served slightly chilled with barbecue salmon with dijon and garlic, or to bring casually on a picnic – perfect for spring!

Stolpman Vineyards 'Love You Bunches' Rosé 2020

Central Coast, California

Stolpman Vineyards are located in Santa Barbara County, further south than many of the famous California wine regions, but the climate here is cooler than Sonoma and Napa, so the wines are fresh with acidity and often lighter in body. In the sub-region of Ballard Canyon, the Stolpman family planted the French red and white varieties Syrah, Grenache, and Roussanne of the Rhône Valley. They believed them to be better suited to California’s lack of rain than Cabernet Sauvignon, which was widely planted in California but required more water resources. This rosé is 100% Grenache, which echos a Provence style of rosé, as the grape is often a major part of rosés in Southern France.

So Fresh is a new label from Stolpman, focusing on what sets the Santa Barbara region apart in sunny California: freshness. This Grenache rosé highlights the ripe fruit and floral aromas that Grenache can give while remaining dry, zippy, and fun. This wine is ideal with goat cheese and beet salad or an olive and herb tapenade on crostini. A Mediterranean-inspired wine deserves Mediterranean flavours.

Beyond the wine itself, vineyard workers are at the heart of the Stolpman philosophy. While we often talk about vineyard practices and the beauty of wines, it is so important to consider businesses for their ethical responsibility to their workers (especially since viticulture has a long and dark history of labour relations). At Stolpman, they practice profit-sharing with their viticultural team and employ their vineyard workers all year round, as opposed to seasonally, which ensures dependable income and a stable lifestyle for their workers and families. Integrating your most important staff into your business plan seems like a reasonable thing to do, but it isn’t that common! We love to see producers who keep their people at the core of what they do, and we see Stolpman as a leader in their region for their thoughtful business practices. More, please!

This So Fresh Rosé is a perfect wine for the changing seasons – with a colour like cherry blossoms, it is ideal for a patio sip or in a tumbler for adventures.

Casa Belfi 'Naturalamente Frizzante' Rosso 2020

Veneto, Italy

Note: I have sediments, it's ok!

Before starting Casa Belfi, Maurizio Donadi went to school to become an oenologist, a highly specific study of winemaking and fermentation. Armed with this superior knowledge, he bought a seemingly modest patch of land in the Prosecco area of the Veneto region, in the heart of big business and industrial winemaking. With a dream of making low-intervention and biodynamically farmed wines, many of his neighbours laughed at this tiny plot of land as a David-amongst-many-Goliaths kind of scene. However, despite this juxtaposition, Casa Belfi has prevailed and makes gorgeous wines today.

This wine is one of our favourite styles for apéro: sparkling red! It is a style we have seen in Italy before, mainly in the form of Lambrusco. While this wine is not Lambrusco, being from a different region and made with different grapes, the same pairing rules apply for food and wine: sparkling red is excellent with salty snacks like hard cheeses, cured meats, and many casual Italian favourites like pizza!

This Rosso Frizzante is made from the grape Raboso. Raboso is naturally high in acidity, making it perfect for sparkling wine. It is also one of the most darkling coloured grape varieties, so the wines are inky black in colour, despite having a very fresh and zesty flavour profile. This style is called ‘frizzante,’ meaning fizzy or lightly sparkling, so it won’t have the intense bubbles of, let’s say Champagne. It is also made in a style called ‘Col Fondo,’ which means ‘from the bottom.’ Col Fondo wines are made without filtering out the yeast and sediments from fermentation. While this may mean that you get a slick of sediment in your glass, it also means that the wine is a living, evolving thing and a true representation of the magic of winemaking. Col Fondo wines are completely fermented inside the bottle – grape juice goes in at harvest time, the winemaker puts a cap on it, and then the entire winemaking process happens inside the bottle! While this is an ancient method of making sparkling wine, it is fairly uncommon to see in the Prosecco area, and only a few winemakers still practice this challenging (yet rewarding!) technique.

Fond Cyprès 'Premier Jus' 2020

Languedoc, France

Note: Chill me for 1 hour!

Premier Jus is a twofold name. In winemaking, the first juice that runs from crushed grapes is the most prized and purest juice for making wine- it is the freshest and most aromatic juice of the grapes. As grape skins are continually pressed, the juice gets more bitter and tannic, as more of the bitterness of the skins are pulled out- just like when you squish a tea bag and the tea gets progressively more bitter. Fond Cyprès’ Premier Jus is the opposite of those bitter and extracted flavours- it is all of the lovely, delicate, and raspberry-coloured wine that means it falls somewhere between rosé and light red.

While the free-run juice is definitely the best wine in winemaking, Premier Jus also refers to the first wine you reach for- Fond Cyprès wants to convey that this should be the bottle you’re reaching for before any other- the tastiest and easiest choice among the many wines on the shelf or in your fridge (if you are so lucky!) Because it straddles the line between rosé and red, it can truly be the first choice no matter the mood. Perfect for apéro hour or as the bottle you open after dinner is long done but you’re not finished with the night just yet…

Premier Jus is a blend of Carignan and Grenache, two sun-seeking red grapes that flourish in the South of France, and especially in the Languedoc, a wide region that spans the Mediterranean basin and stretches down toward Spain. Fond-Cyprès is located in Corbières, a small appellation within the Languedoc, where they have been certified organic for over 15 years. Their wine estate is part vineyard and part garden, where their dozen cats roam their organic vegetable garden, vines, and cypress trees that give the estate the name ‘Fond Cyprès.’

Though it is not an overly herbal wine, the note of cypress trees and wild mountain flowers wafts up from Premier Jus, and makes it the perfect fresh pick for opening on a sunny mountain hike or in the company of a fresh Valentine’s Day bouquet…

Pamplemousse Jus 'Pinot Pinot' Pét-Nat 2021

Summerland, BC

Note: I have sediments, it's ok!

Spoiler alert: there is no grapefruit in this wine. Pamplemousse Jus’ first-ever drop celebrates fruit of all kinds and aims to make bubbly wines that speak to the joy of drinking and the need for something joyful in the dark days of the pandemic. Plus, isn’t it fun to say?

This brand new wine label is from some of our favourite BC people. One half is the beloved winemaker of some of the most exciting sparkling wines in the Okanagan: Jordan Kubeck of Lightning Rock. The other is James Langford-Smith, hospitality luminary, long-time general manager at Kissa Tanto and now Bodega Ridge on Galiano Island. Though they’ve been friends for years, they had never worked together but partnered for this project when tragedy struck in the Okanagan, and a dear friend was unable to harvest this fruit from his vineyard. Jordan and James wanted to make sure this carefully and lovingly farmed fruit had a good home, and thus Pamplemousse Jus was born.

The brand focuses on sparkling wines and is produced at Lightning Rock in Summerland, and sourced from the same area, an organically farmed vineyard just down the road from Dominion Cider. The plot has grapes interspersed with plums, both of which are so fragrant that the biggest threat to the fruit is local bears coming down the mountain for a grape snack. Luckily, they saved some for the wine!

The label, designed by graphic designer friend Sarah Kerfoot, encapsulates both the simplicity and the focus of these wines: fruit. Pinot Pinot is all about highlighting delicate fruit flavours and not messing around with too many tricks in the winery to make it taste like something else. Pinot Pinot is a blend of the two great Pinots of the Okanagan: Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. This zippy citrusy bubble has just a hint of that proper Pinot Noir earthiness, coupled with the Bosc pear fruitiness of Pinot Gris to give a fresh and juicy bubble. Pop this bottle when you’re in fun mode: a dance party, a hot tub session… because we can do this kind of stuff again, can’t we?!?

Hajszan Neumann 'Nussberg' Grüner Veltliner 2020

Vienna, Austria

We’ve introduced you to a few favourite Grüner Veltliners at Apéro, and we just can’t stop! We’re thrilled with this zesty white grape and Austrian wine in general and are amazed at how quickly it is developing. New wineries and approaches to the traditional grapes are cropping up everywhere, and Neumann is a part of this renaissance. So we’re excited to find a new one to share with you!

Austria is truly a hotbed for young winemakers and experimentation, with many young people excited to get back in touch with their roots, both figuratively and literally. Biodynamic farming and organics are at the forefront of the conversation, and at Hajszan Neumann, they have been biodynamically farming since they first started in 2006. Being ‘in touch’ with the vineyard is a literal practice at Hajszan Neumann: they believe chiefly that the vineyard communicates with the winemaker, so they spend oodles of time working every aspect of the vineyard by hand. This gives them the best opportunity to understand their grapes’ needs and do minimal damage to the soil and cover crops by running a tractor. Respecting the native flora and fauna of the region is essential, and though they are located overlooking the city of Vienna, they find inspiration in the ‘urban farm.’ The Nussburg region is a historical area in the Vienna wine-growing district, allowing people and plants to co-exist.

Viticulture has been fairly continuous in Vienna since the 12th century, which is more than most regions can say for themselves! Though it may seem odd for a large city to be in close proximity to vines, it definitely allows for more interest in viticulture amongst young people. They have all of the excitement and benefits of living in a city and can access and work in nature at the same time. The best of both worlds, really.

Speaking of best, if you can get your hands on some Vorarlberger, a classic Austrian mountain cheese, these two are a match made in heaven. If not, crack a bottle somewhere here, whether you’re in the centre of the urban metropolis or on a farm – or maybe both?

Celler 9+ 'Mèdol Selecció' Cartoixà 2018

Tarragona, Spain

In Spain, the province of Catalunya is the heart of sparkling wine production. Most Spanish sparkling is labeled Cava, which enjoys worldwide acclaim for being a traditional method (i.e. made in the same way as Champagne!) sparkling wine, but has suffered as a brand over the years for being very widespread and controlled by several very large producers. Many small Catalunyan sparkling producers who make deeply thoughtful and premium wines have sought to de-classify or break away from the Cava designation in order to set themselves apart and allow their wines to speak to their specific vineyards and house style. While Celler 9+ never officially labeled their wines as Cava, they are a part of a growing movement in Catalunya to make reflective and site-specific wines.

Celler 9+ is in Tarragona, Catalunya, a seaside city on the Mediterranean and just a quick jaunt down the coast from Barcelona. The grapes grown here are the classic Cava grape varieties of Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada. Xarel-lo, known here as Cartoixà, is the particularly aromatic grape that gives wines that smell of orchards, yellow daisies, and fennel. The grape can make sophisticated still white wine, and in this particular ‘Mèdol Selecció’ has produced a mellow savoury and toasty flavour and an almost honeyed note on the palate.

As you may know, traditional method sparkling is made by fermenting the wine twice: first to get still wine and a second time inside the bottle to make bubbles. Though it is very challenging to do so (even the greatest champagne houses do not attempt this!) they begin both fermentations for this sparkling without adding in any extra yeast and only allowing the ambient yeasts to ferment the wine. A pretty impressive undertaking, to say the least!

Certified organic as both a vineyard and an orchard, Celler 9+ grows grapes and flowers in harmony across their property and are deeply committed to using zero additives in the cellar. Try this zesty sparkling with manchego and honey or your favourite sardine conserva for a super Catalunyan apéro!

Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2019

Tuscany, Italy

When we dream of Italian vacations, we dream about Tuscany. Rolling hills, olive trees, sprawling garden terraces… what isn’t to love? Synonymous with Tuscany is the wine of Chianti. The area of Chianti spans a vast swath of Tuscany, with Chianti Rufina being a small high elevation sub-region right next to the prestigious Chianti Classico area. Chianti Rufina is the most delicate expression of the Chianti DOCG (though it should be noted, Chianti Classico is a separate area altogether), and Fattoria Selvapiana is their greatest producer.

Chianti is one of the world’s oldest blended wines. In 1872, the famous estate owner Baron Ricasoli penned the original recipe for Chianti: mostly Sangiovese, with a little bit of Canaiolo for juiciness and Malvasia (a white grape) for easy drinkable wines not destined for aging. This recipe shaped the wines of Chianti for most of the 19th and 20th centuries and, for some, caused their image (and the wine!) to be diluted. However, Fattoria Selvapiana was always a champion of Sangiovese. Though they experimented with blends, they stayed true to the Sangiovese grape and today make wines that are almost entirely Sangiovese with only 5% of the blending grapes added for a touch of softness.

So, what’s the big deal about Sangiovese? Italy’s most planted grape, Sangiovese excels in both warm and cool years and gives elegant wines with bright acidity, dusty (and sometimes very firm) tannins, and lean structure. Wines made from Sangiovese can often age for many years due to their balance of acidity and tannins. You could certainly put this bottle away for a couple of years if you want to – but we are so excited about this organically farmed, cherry-bright wine right now, we think it’s an ideal wine for dinner tonight. Try cooking bolognese or a kale and bean soup (though the leafy green has been trendy here for a decade, kale salad has been the standard in the Chianti region for centuries – ‘Cavallo Nero’ or black kale – is indigenous to this region!)

Plus, Selvapiana Chianti Rufina is the perfect wine to open with friends and challenge everyone’s preconceived notion about “common” Chianti. In the true French way, at APÉRO we love to have a good amicable argument at the table.

Vina Cellejuela 'Blanco de Hornillos' 2020

Jerez, Spain

Palomino Fino is a grape you’ve probably tried but don’t know it. As the main grape of Sherry, it grows widely across Southern Spain in the Jerez region, where 99 percent of the grapes are destined for the fortified and aged wines of Sherry - which we love! However, this grassy and delicate grape deserves to be made into a varietal wine that shows off its fruitiness and floral notes, so in recent years, several producers in Southern Spain have been making Palomino wines or ‘table wines’ as a counterpoint to the fortified sherry wines. This trend is taking off thanks to careful and respected producers like Viña Callejuela.

Viña Callejuela started in the 1970s when Francisco Blanco worked as a viticulturist in the Sherry region and began growing his own grapes in Sanlúcar. Over the decades, many of his clients were interested in buying his grapes and praised his deft hand in the vineyard. So, he began planting and purchasing vineyards across the region to experiment with different sites. Because his vineyards were so prized by the big bodegas (aka Spanish wineries), in 2005, his sons Pepe and Paco began a family winery and produced their own Sherries. The Blanco family’s manzanilla sherries are praised for their weightiness and minerality because they allow the character of the Palomino grape to shine through, rather than covering it up with high levels of fortification. So, it is only natural that if they want to show off this grape, they would make it into its own wine!

Viña Callejuela has vineyard holdings around the Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda regions, so their dry white wines can express individual vineyard characteristics best. The El Hornillo vineyard is located in Sanlúcar, right on the Mediterranean coast and practically at sea level, so this wine is the truest beach wine you can find. Cool ocean breezes moderate the sun-kissed region, and you can taste the salty sea notes in this wine. Drink with some marinated artichokes and fried sardines for the full Mediterranean vacation vibe.

Lightning Rock Pinot Noir Pét-Nat 2021

Summerland, BC

Note: I have sediments (it's ok!) &
I am extra bubbly, have a glass ready!

Have you heard of Lightning Rock winery yet? This newer winery is everything that is exciting about wines coming out of the Okanagan Valley these days! Before starting their little family winery in 2018, Jordan and Tyler spent their Canadian winters working harvests in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Chile. Back at their home base in Summerland, they both worked at Okanagan Crush Pad where Jordan was the sparkling winemaker for over 7 years. The bubbles she makes are just electric and a real focus at Lightning Rock. Tyler is overseeing the couple’s 3 vineyard sites, farming organically, with a regenerative approach and an immense respect for the land – and the grapes, of course!

 

One of the most exciting things about this winemaking couple is that they are as precise and passionate about traditionally made sparkling wine as they are creative and adventurous! This 2021 Pét Nat, also known as Pétillant Naturel or Ancestral Method, is at the most experimental end of their range. As the name suggests, this is an ancient method that requires a lot of skills and risk taking… Without getting too geeky, these wines are essentially made by bottling freshly harvested juice that is partially fermented; when there is just enough natural grape sugar left to finish fermenting in bottle and create that awesome fizz! This method is pretty much at the mercy of time and fermentation speed, which can require the winemaker to bottle in the middle of the night if need be. Otherwise, they might sleep through the window of opportunity and end up making a still wine instead. This is why Pét Nats tend to have a varying level of pressure – hence the warning to open this bottle when you have your glass nearby! Crazy but fun, right?

 

Now back to the yummy stuff… These gorgeous bright pink bubbles are made from the juicy and earthy Pinot Noir grape – so much intensity of crunchy red fruit zing and playfulness in this wine! A perfect celebratory or party bottle to have with your favourite snacks and welcome the new year!

Catena Zapata 'White Clay' 2021

Lújan de Cuyo, Argentina

Sémillon and Chenin Blanc are the two sleeper hits of French white grapes. Both are capable of extreme finesse and age-ability, and form the basis of some of the great wines of the world (White Bordeaux and Savennières, anyone?) Sémillon is used to being part of a blend, often paired with the highly aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, whereas Chenin Blanc often stands on its own as a mono-varietal wine and makes some of our favourite wines in South Africa and the Loire Valley. What we didn’t know, however, is that in Argentina, these two grapes have been blended together for over a century! Both grapes have a round texture and deep flavours that mesh together to make the perfect winter white.

While White Clay is a brand new wine to BC and is relatively small in production, Catena is the first family of Argentinian winemaking and now under the direction of the inspirational Laura Catena. Bodega Catena Zapata’s history of winemaking goes back 200 years in Argentina, and their success has been largely predicated on Malbec, the hallmark grape of Argentina. Not content to only make world-class full-bodied red wine, the Catena Family started the Catena Institute for viticultural research and has been looking into grape science and sustainability in their region for over a decade now. Their research has been instrumental in creating sustainability guidelines for winegrowers across Argentina, and especially in Mendoza, where it is very windy, increasingly hot, and dry, and vines have very little access to water.

White Clay comes from the Luján de Cuyo appellation, which is a cool pocket within Mendoza, the major winemaking appellation of Argentina. The name White Clay references the soil here, which is the key to making fresh white wine- the clay soil stays cool at night and keeps the vines from overheating. Without this specific soil, the grapes would bake in the sun- it’s the little things that make all the difference in grape growing.

So, when to open this fleshy yet fresh and full white wine? The citrusy, ripe peach and nutty palate calls for roast chicken with roast potatoes and yellow beets, on its own as you Netflix-binge The Tinder Swindler…

Cume do Avia 'Arraiano' Tinto 2019

Galicia, Spain

Note: Chill me for 30!

As you may remember from previous packs, Atlantic Spain is full of young winemakers reviving ancient varieties and vineyards. We’ve featured Mencia from Galicia, and we keep finding new wines that show us how truly diverse Spanish wine is. This Galician blend is something completely different, made from a handful of indigenous grape varieties we had never even heard of until now!

In 2005, cousins Diego, Álvaro, Fito, and Anxo inherited an overgrown property of their grandparents in Ribadavia, with the goal of reviving it for wine production. Though they’d never made wine before, they nearly went bankrupt buying tanks and tractors, and finally made their first vintage in 2012. Their grapes are grown from cuttings of ancient and mostly forgotten varieties, so they haven’t benefited from local or inherited knowledge about how to grow them. “We are trying to reinvent and rebuild this lost history,” says Diego. Though we see them as trailblazers, they see themselves more as historians preserving the many centuries of winemaking that without them, could be forgotten forever.

Though their aim is serious, this wine is not. The Arraiano Tinto is a blend of Caíño Longo, Brancellao, Sousón, grapes that sound rare to us, and to most Spanish winemakers, but are deeply historic and indigenous to Galicia. Caíño Longo is crunchy and red fruited, Sousón is savory and animal, and Brancellao is musky and ripe, in some ways akin to Garnacha. This blend truly captures the youthful verve of Caíño with the round and juicy palate of Brancellao. As Diego & his team learn about these varieties- so do we, and we love drinking the history.

Think of this wine as Spanish Beaujolais- fun, fresh, and stemmy (yes- we mean grape stems!) in the very best way. The herbal nature of this wine is perfect for egg noodles with fried sage, or if you’re trying your hand at foraging (maybe it’s just us- but it seems everyone has become amateur foragers as of late), roasted burdock root with sesame. However, this fresh and bright wine is light and perfect on its own in a tumbler around a campfire or on an evening stroll.

Pecchenino 'San Luigi' Dogliani 2019

Piemonte, Italy

Note: Chill me for 20!

n Piemonte, the North-Eastern Italian province is synonymous with the famous Barolo and Barbaresco wines made from Nebbiolo. Add those to white truffles of Alba, and eating and drinking here is a decadent experience. The powerful wines from here are truly magical but also often astronomically expensive, and usually require years of ageing to reach their potential. These aren’t exactly wines for everyday. For this reason, it is common knowledge that locals drink copious amounts of juicy-fresh Dolcetto.

Though the grape grows all over the Langhe in Piemonte, Nebbiolo is always given the best sites and soils, and the lesser-known Dolcetto is relegated to the lesser parcels. Dogliani, a tiny village south of Langhe, is the only region in which Dolcetto is the star and planted in all of the primo spots, so it really gets a chance to shine.

If Dogliani is the best Dolcetto, Pecchenino is some of the best and longest lived Dogliani, with 70% of their vineyards dedicated to it. The estate dates back to the 1700’s and has always been family run, as the traditions will have it, handed down from father to son for many generations. With the belief that quality is strictly related to the natural health of the vineyard, the latest generation is passionate about organic and sustainable grape growing to preserve each grape’s personality.

In the local Italian dialect, Dolcetto means ‘little sweet one,’ probably referring to how tasty the grapes are for eating (wine grapes are typically thick-skinned and not a very delicious snack!). However, the resulting wine is dry as a bone, inky purple in colour, and often shows undertones of spice, cured meat, plums and dried fennel seed. This tasty Dogliani makes us crave earthy and decadent Piemontese cuisine and helps us welcome fall.

Little Farm x Kitten Swish Piquette 2020

Similkameen Valley, BC

Note: I have sediments, it's ok!

Little Farm is a winery we know well and have followed for many vintages. One of the first truly organic and low-intervention wineries in the Similkameen (We often refer to Cawston in the Similkameen as the Organic capital of Canada, but it has only recently become a major winery destination), Rhys Pender and Alishan Dreideger refer to themselves as wine growers, not winemakers. Their philosophy is about considering the farm as a whole entity that gives back to the soil and the biosphere more than it takes. This means farming equal plots of fruit trees and ground crops as vines and carefully managing cover crops and organic inputs in the vineyards. They’ve been making fresh, bright wines for a decade now and play a key part in defining some of BC’s hallmark grape varieties- Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc.

This year, however, they made a true departure from their laid-back and under-the-radar wine style. They teamed up with bold & brilliant Brad Royale, sommelier-at-large and co-proprietor of Kitten Swish, a roving wine label that fell into disuse during COVID (but what didn’t, honestly?). Brad describes Kitten Swish as a micro-négociant, for which they source grapes and wines from across the globe to make tantalizing wines in very small quantities. It is a passion project for them, and thus they don’t force wines in vintages that don’t give rise to an exciting wine. Luckily, this Little Farm project is definitely tantalizing— they’ve made a Piquette that’s cidery and cloudy and smells like sunflowers. Being a Piquette, it is made using already-pressed skins (in this case, zingy Chardonnay skins) that are re-hydrated with water, but Rhys & Brad have gone off-book and added some Italian Plums! Italian plums, also known as Freestone plums, bring sweetness and gentle fruitiness to the ferment and balance out the citrusy chardonnay. It tastes like ‘earl gray meets kombucha meets wine’ says Rhys.

All this talk of plums makes us wonder- can we even call it wine? By any other name, it is dang delicious. Delightfully low in ABV and lightly frizzante, the tingly acidity here is the perfect apéro hour sip while you put on a record and make dinner.

De Martino 'Gallardia Old Vine White' 2018

Itata Valley, Chile

Now in their fourth generation of wine production, the De Martino family has seen a sea of changes to the Chilean wine industry in the near century that they’ve been making wine. Though initially bottled in garrafes (AKA a very massive jug!) for bulk wine production, today the De Martinos make some of the most creative wines in Chile and have become leaders in organic grape growing.

The family makes wine both in the warm Central Valley (where most of Chilean wine meant for export come from) and the coastal appellations, but this wine hails from the very unique, southern portion of the country, in Itata. Thankfully, due to its physical isolation, the vineyards here have remained mainly untouched and have escaped the more recent overflow of international winemaking consultants, encouraging a more uniform and modern wine industry for the export market.

Don’t get us wrong, Chile is an amazing source for value wines, but we think of the coastal Itata wines as a completely different category. The vines here date back to 1551 and the wines are always super fresh, have distinct personalities and are a tribute to simpler times; simple wine making equipment, sustainable agriculture, including dry farming and ploughing with horses in the vineyards.

This De Martino Gallardia is composed of the traditional Moscatel & Corinto grapes from a vineyard over 100 years old, located 22 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. It is herbal, waxy, with a core of bitter, mandarin orange that finishes with a salty minerality. Wow! A Chilean wine that has us dream about what historic wines tasted like…