Wine Notes

Rieslingfreak No.33 Riesling 2022

Clare Valley, Australia

You can’t help but notice the name, can you? Self-explanatory and yet vaguely mysterious at the same time, the wines of Rieslingfreak are as surprising and exciting as their name suggests.

Riesling is very typical to the Barossa area, which was heavily populated by German settlers in the 19th century, and the grape still thrives today, especially in the Eden Valley, nestled in the central-east of Barossa, and the Clare Valley further north in South Australia. However, what’s particularly special about Australian Riesling is its classically dry style – so bone dry, citrusy and lean that you forget that some Rieslings are sweet at all!

So, how did such a seemingly modern and kooky winery get founded in such a historic and traditional region? There are plenty of wineries that are born of a general love for wine, a love for a place, (or in some unfortunate circumstances, a love for the idea of owning a winery as a status symbol, a reality we can’t ignore these days…) but very rarely is a winery born from such a singular vision and dedication as John Hughes’ love of Riesling.

The freakiness and the willingness to go all in on one grape is necessary in a contemporary world where it is easy to attempt to be a jack of all trades and become a master of none.

With such a lean and zesty wine as this, some pairings may be in danger of overwhelming the delicate structure. We love this wine with sushi, like chopped scallop rolls, sashimi and delicate crudo-style dishes. However, it is worth noting that if you have a dry wine with spicy food (because, generally speaking, sweet is the best pairing with spicy), it should have a lower alcohol level to make the pairing more harmonious. In a rare instance, Rieslingfreak No. 33 has only 10.5% alcohol, making it a good contender for this possibility. This dry, lithe little wine is quite the zesty lime-flavoured number that is singular in the wine world – a fun one to introduce to your margarita-loving friends, we think!

 

Mersel Red Velvet 2021

Wadi Qannoubine, Lebanon

Chill me like a white | I have sediment, it's ok!

With the wine world being so vast and historic, it’s hard to point to too many pioneers in the industry at this point. Many people are doing a few new or experimental things, but Eddie has some genuinely next-level ideas about winemaking and fermentation.

Mersel first started with the idea of making something non-mainstream in Lebanon. Being born and raised in Australia, he doesn’t speak French and didn’t want to associate Mersel with the French influence in winemaking that is common to his region of the Bekaa Valley – many other producers take names like “Domaine” and “Château” to speak to their French connections. Eddie’s wines are something else, though – historically more deeply Lebanese but also influenced by his life around the world and his desire to make some dang tasty wine.

His passion is to develop wine using local Lebanese indigenous grape varieties and suitable varieties for the Bekaa Valley climate. Mersel Wine was the first to develop a Piquette and PetNat, and he has been dabbling with skin-contact wines since 2016. The Red Velvet is something different still. This wine is made in a fresh and juicy light red style, intended to be drunk cold, much like a white wine. The winemaking process here is referred to in the wine world as ‘whole cluster’ and ‘carbonic’ and is very much a different style. It means that the entire grape bunch gets tossed right into a sealed tank, and the weight of the grapes above crushes the berries, giving herbal resin notes to the aromas from the stems melding into the fresh fruitiness of the wine. It also adds a tasty candy-like note to the wine – if you love the wines of Beaujolais, you should love this one!

It’s made from Cinsault, a grape with a history in Lebanon and several other warm growing regions around the world that we love as much (South Africa and southern parts of Chile). It brings a beautiful wind-swept fruit quality that feels a bit like driving down the highway in a convertible… something like what’s happening on the label, you might say!

 

 

Manoir de la Tête Rouge 'Bagatelle' Saumer 2019

Loire Valley, France

Chill me for 30 minutes.

As you read this, legions of sommeliers, importers, and winemakers converge on the Loire Valley in Atlantic France for La Dive Bouteille, the planet’s biggest and wildest natural wine fair. Held in cavernous underground chalk cellars where wine has been made for centuries, it’s where the who’s who of the natural wine scene gather for big parties and even bigger pours.

This is where Manoir de la Tête Rouge is located, a region celebrated for its age-worthy Cabernet Franc. Here, we find a gem that’s not only classic but downright cheeky. At Manoir, organic and biodynamic farming is more than just a trend; it’s a way of life. Since 1998, they’ve been tending their vines with love, embracing biodynamics fully in 2010. And where do these magical grapes call home? A Domaine built in 1649, adding a touch of history to each bottle.

Guillaume Reynouard, the guardian of these 10 hectares of vines, harvests from 6 different plots of Cabernet Franc, all from around the AOC Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame, which sounds like it might be located near the river in Paris, but is actually a church of the same name near the river in the Loire, where Eleanor of Aquitaine once spent some time!

Enough history, though. What does Bagatelle taste like? Think classic Loire Valley Cabernet Franc with a juicy twist. Tomato leaf and fresh raspberries dance on your palate, but there’s an unexpected depth that makes it a marvel with food. Maude discovered this gem over a decade ago at Salt Tasting Room, and it’s been stealing hearts ever since.

Pair it traditionally with charcuterie and cheese, and you’re in for a treat. Feeling adventurous? Try it with cod brandade and romesco sauce – a red wine pairing that’s as unusual as it is super fun because the tomato leaf quality in the wine plays upon the roasty red pepper notes of romesco sauce. Hard to beat! But let’s keep it no-fuss, true to Bagatelle’s name. In every sip and bite, Manoir de la Tête Rouge Bagatelle invites you to revel in the joyous spirit of the Loire Valley’s playful winemaking.

Casali Viticultori Lambrucone NV

Emilia Romagna, Italy

Lambrusco, by any other name, is a wine that trades on pure delight and deliciousness. It isn’t precious or worried about being ‘intellectual,’ but brings so much to the table as a food wine, and not just any food wine, either. This wine is from the mecca of Italian food regions – home to Prosciutto, Mortadella, Parmigiano and the real OG balsamic vinegar. What grows together very much goes together in the province of Emilia-Romagna. Rich foods are plentiful here if you didn’t notice, and the zesty acidity of this wine, coupled with the refreshing nature of bubbles, makes this an ideal pairing. Maude’s recent trip to the region highlighted the deep traditional dedication to food and wine production here. Maude thought it was best with Calabrese pizza, which is perfect for a little spice and sausage!

At its most basic, Lambrusco is a frothy (or “Frizzante” in Italian) red sparkling wine. Suppose you’ve been with us at Apéro for a while. In that case, you’ve likely been introduced to this lovely category, and in BC, we generally have a great representation of exciting and accessible versions. Lambruscone is a newer appearance in the market that we are so excited to share with you because it packs a real punch flavour-wise. They come in all shapes and sizes, but if you love juicy or even fuller-bodied reds, this darker Lambrusco style is made for you – it’s pretty bold, yet refreshing, and has a hint of sweetness on the palate that lifts the berry flavours right out of the glass and keeps this deep sparkling red in balance. In fact, “Lambruscone” is a name to reference the style of Lambrusco you would find in every trattoria in the region in the 70s and 80s, but amped up a bit – hence the “one” that is part of the name.

That being said, the old-school vibe of this wine is unmistakable – Casali Viticulturi was founded in 1900, so you’d better throw on a vintage Italian record and pop this bottle!

 

 

 

Weingut Malat 'Crazy Creatures' Grüner Veltliner 2022

Kremstal, Austria

Grüner Veltliner is a modern success story of a grape that went from zero to hero in 20 years. Truly, nobody in the 1990s was drinking Grüner… now it feels illegal to have a wine list without at least one option! It has a fresh, crisp palate and often a beautiful herbal aroma, smelling lightly of white pepper and arugula, earning it the moniker ‘salad wine’ and famously pairing with all manner of green vegetables. It has always been delicious and drinkable, but for many years, nobody outside of Austria paid it much attention – in fact, even in Austria, Riesling was planted at all the best vineyard sites, and Grüner was relegated to the lesser spots. However, it’s a household name now, and we have a whole host of styles available to us in BC, including this new import from Weingut Malat.

Kremstal, where this wine is from, isn’t the most widely known wine region in Austria but quietly produces some outstanding and slightly spicy Grüner Veltliner and Riesling that is long-lived and full of verve. Located in the northeast of Austria in the Niederösterreich region, Kremstal is small but mighty, cradling the edge of the Danube River that flows through much of Central Europe, from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea.

Under the worldly vision of Michael Malat, the estate has evolved into a leading force in the Austrian wine scene, blending tradition with modern techniques to craft wines that showcase the unique grapes and styles of Kremstal. They first made their name for sparkling wine but are now famous for various styles.

Michael Malat is a fifth-generation winemaker of the Malat estate who is equally known for traipsing through vineyards as he is for waterskiing up and down the Danube; the sense of adventure he brings to the wine is evident in the brightness and zestiness of the wine. Though “Crazy Creatures” is a nod to the beautiful flora and fauna that live throughout the vineyard at Malat, we get the sense it may also be about the winemaker himself!

Poppy Shake Pinot Noir Pét-Nat 2022

Summerland, BC

We are finally reaching an age in our BC wine industry where we see the apprentices and the assistant winemakers grow up and do their own beautiful and personal things. Such is the story of Poppyshake Wines, made by Kathleen Sinclair, formerly an assistant winemaker at Bella in Naramata, so it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about bubbles. Kathleen began Poppyshake as a personal and side project from her main gig, but like many great and deeply personal projects, it has blossomed into the full show. She made the wines and ciders (yes, there are ciders too, and they’re fabulous!) at Creek and Gully in Naramata, weaving Cidermaker Alyssa Hubert into the production of them and developing a style of fresh, tangy wines that have as much colour and verve as their beautiful floral labels.

Kathleen’s story of coming into winemaking is common for new and upcoming winemakers in BC: purchasing a swath of land or inheriting a plot from one’s parents isn’t really on the table in our new region, and yet very pricey real estate market. Hence, things begin slowly as a side project, buying grapes from friends of friends and finding apples in neighbouring yards where they might not get picked otherwise. Though the notion of the “estate winery” has been built up on a pedestal in wine, it isn’t really the model we see for many of our young and most exciting wine projects in our region at this point.

This wine and all of the first Poppyshake wines were made from Okanagan fruit, and in the Okanagan, but the siren call of the island was too strong, and Kathleen is now relocating production to Saltspring, where she grew up. This will be the last vintage of fruit and winemaking from Summerland, so treasure this fresh bubbly— in all of its bright, white raspberry freshness— as both a tasty treat and a beacon of history!

Luckily for Kathleen and Dave, Pinot Noir has quickly become the star grape of Vancouver and the Gulf Islands, and the wines of Poppyshake are set to grow and blossom into the future alongside it….

 

 

Longavi 'Glup' Pais 2021

Maule Valley, Chile

Chill me for 30!

When learning a new language, the onomatopoeia is always an exciting area to explore: these words sound like what they mean: Boom! Wham! Splat! Glup! Whether in English or Spanish, you get the sense that you’ll empty this bottle pretty quickly.

País is not a word you often see written on bottles outside of Chile, and it means ‘country’ in Spanish, so the term doesn’t exactly evoke wine right away. However, it is one of Chile’s oldest wine grapes, and for many years, it was also not written on bottles in Chile, even though the grape variety has been grown here longer than anything else. The País grape was brought to South America by colonial Spaniards in the 15C and was planted up and down the coast of South and North America; in the north, it earned the colloquialism the ‘Mission’ grape because it was planted by missionaries looking to make sacramental wine. Longavi País is not much like your run-of-the-mill church wine, as it is deeply crushable and thirst-quenching.

The Longavi winery is a few hours’ drive North of Santiago, located in the Maule region. As the region is a bit south of most of the major wine-growing regions, it benefits from a slightly cooler climate and can give fresh wines with lower alcohol—because, of course, the further south we go in the southern hemisphere, the further one is from the equator and the hot, hot, heat!

Longaví means ‘snake’s head’ in the Mapuche indigenous language, and the meaning is derived from a nearby massive crater at the foothill of the Andes mountains. In 2012, two friends— Chilean Julio Bouchon and South African David Nieuwoudt— came together to form Longaví, incorporating organic and no-irrigation viticulture with a delicate hand in the cellar.

Now that we know some history, what about País in the glass? It has a very pale colour, a distinctive dried sage scent and a light, fresh profile that easily slides into the chill-worthy red category, a favourite of ours for Apéro, so go and glup glup this zesty juice right up!

Domaine de Marcoux 'Raison de Loup' VDF 2022

Rhône Valley, France

Domaine de Marcoux is situated in the super-fancy French wine region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the first wine region of France that enshrined wine law into their region, describing what grapes winemakers were allowed to use and how they were allowed to make their wine if they wanted to write the prestigious and storied named of Châteauneuf on the label. These rules (of which there are quite a few!) became the basis for an entire set of laws across France called the AOC system, or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, which is not dissimilar to the specific production guidance one must follow for making the famous cheeses of Roquefort, Comté or perfectly stinky Époisses de Bourgogne. In order to produce their serious, contemplative Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, Domaine de Marcoux must follow rules about yields, grape varieties and ageing in the cellar to write the name of their region on the label. However, you know that the French spirit of apéro cannot be dampened, and sometimes, we must tell the rules to get lost. Thus, we are excited to introduce to you the wine from Domaine de Marcoux that doesn’t follow these many rules, a wine they called ‘Raisin de Loup.’

Raisin de Loup translates from French to English quite literally as “ Wolf Grape,” which generally speaks to their wild and organic vineyards but is also the name of a wild nightshade plant that grows all around the southern Rhône vineyards. Domaine de Marcoux and the town of Châteauneuf are located in the Rhône Valley, a region known best for blends of Grenache and Syrah, which is exactly what we have here in this bottle, a blend that’s perfect to take to the table with a savoury roast or stew.

While the official legal term has transitioned away from vin de table (seriously, it is a full-time job keeping up with wine laws and terms… which is why you have us to do it for you!), we love this name. Table wine is wine you drink at the dinner table; it is uncomplicated, delicious, and easy-going; it is wine for everybody, and a wine for all occasions, like right now, perhaps?

Swerwer 'Red Blend' 2021

Swartland, South Africa

Chill me for 30!

One of the most important pieces of the wine world is that even though two people might be from somewhere completely foreign, speak different languages, and have opposing lived experiences, they can come together over a bottle and find common ground in the pleasure of it. Jasper, the winemaker and proprietor of Swerver, looks right at home at Como Taperia pouring Cinsault as he does puttering in his winery in the Swartland.

Jasper is one half of the Swerwer wine project, where his partner Fransizka’s family has been growing grapes in the Swartland for years, and she manages a balance of old and new vines like Cinsault, Grenache, and Tinta Barocca, all three grapes that are in this bottle! As you may remember from apéros past, Cinsault is an emerging signature red grape of South Africa, hailing originally from the south of France but presenting a bit like Pinot Noir – fresh, delicate red fruit and a light and juicy palate. Grenache thrives in warm, dry climates like Swartland, so it is perfectly suited here, which leaves Tinta Barocca as the mystery grape. Of Portuguese origin, Tinta Barocca has recently been cropping up in South Africa due to its suitability to a Mediterranean climate and light floral notes. In the Douro Valley, where it typically goes into Port production, Tinta Barocca gives a deep, inky purple colour to wines, but here, Swerwer uses it to provide structure and a bit of tannin.

The Swartland is South Africa’s hotbed of creative, new, and young winemaking, where the cooling breezes of the Atlantic Ocean to the West keep the vineyards from getting too hot, so the resulting wines are fresh and crisp. One of the exciting things about the Swartland is adaptability and a willingness to experiment- because so many wineries are new or run by the next generation, they are willing to take chances on lesser-known grapes like Tinta Barocca, for example.

We feel so proud and excited to be able to share this wine with you after many long months of working with importers to try and get them here, so at long last; please welcome these thoughtful wines to BC!

Domaine de la Grosse Pierre Beaujolais 2021

Beaujolais, France

You know you’re doing something right when Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine and esteemed critic (she is basically the Anna Wintour of the wine world), calls your wine “fragrant, delicate, mouth-filling, and seriously underpriced.” Luckily for us, that’s just how she described this gorgeous and translucent Beaujolais from La Grosse Pierre, so we’re lucky to enjoy it now – though we suspect prices may not always be so in reach after that kind of press!

This tiny Domaine of 9 hectares started when Pauline Passot, who had grown up in a wine-growing family, decided she wanted to stop selling the fruit she grew and make some wine herself. She had worked as a sommelier in France and abroad, serving the great wines of France and formulating her preferences for style and varieties while she worked. Many winemakers spend time working in cellars and vineyards worldwide, but working as a sommelier gives Pauline a special talent for truly tasting all the world’s great wines. She returned home to Beaujolais, began growing fine organic grapes for several years, and sold them to Beaujolais luminaries such as Domaine Lapierre and Domaine Foillard. If these grapes are good enough for some of the region’s best winemakers, she reckoned, they’re good enough to make something lovely on their own! In fact, Pauline’s first vintage was 2018, so all of this happened in a pretty short timeframe!

Beaujolais, based on the grape Gamay and located just south of Burgundy in eastern France, is often referred to as “the picnic wine” because no matter what food you pair it with, it’s likely to be pretty delicious. In Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France, it is often enjoyed with a rich and fatty cuisine because the high natural acidity of Gamay cuts through all the richness of the dishes. So, if you’re in the mood for Fromage de Tête (literally “head cheese” in French, though it is a bit more like a terrine or paté as there is no actual cheese involved), crack this bottle and drink up!

 

 

Istine 'Rosato d'Istine' 2021

Tuscany, Italy

Chianti Classico is one of our favourite regions of the world to visit. Rolling hills, olive groves, and cypress trees fill the air with their gentle fragrance, the produce and cuisine are some of the most iconic in all of Italy, and the biodiversity (unlike many other wine regions, where forests and meadows have been wiped out in favour of vines) is stunningly abundant. It is one of the oldest and best-known red wine regions on the planet, and we always marvel at how delicious the wines continue to be despite Chianti being so renowned as a household name. However, though the warm Tuscan sun provides an ideal climate for organic and low-input farming (which this Rosato happens to be!), it tends to be warm and sunny through the growing season and is best for growing red grapes rather than white. So what do you do when you want a light, crisp wine for apéro? Rosato, of course!

Rosato, the Italian word for rosé, is growing in popularity in Italy because many of the red grapes of Italy have bright acidity to make perfect pink wines. This version is made from Sangiovese, the signature grape of Tuscany. It is a more savoury cold-weather style, ideal for a Turkey feast or Mediterranean snacks – we’re thinking of a spread of roasted red peppers, pecorino cheese, olive tapenade and delicious crusty bread, for example!

Istine, this newly imported winery to BC, is located in the hilltop town of Radda in Chianti, where the higher elevation leads to a more delicate style of wine, fresher acidity and more herbal notes. Though the area and the vineyards are old, the estate of Istine is young, started in 2006 by the Fronti family, who cite pride in their peasant ancestry in the area. This is apt to note because of course many of the most famous Tuscan estates have been passed down through noble and exorbitantly wealthy families, so it feels good to us to support the little guys.

Peter Wetzer Furmint 2021

Sapron, Hungary

BC is having a bit of an Eastern Europe renaissance these days, with new wines coming from the Czech Republic and Hungary and opening up a part of the wine world we didn’t know much about. One such winemaker is Peter Wetzer, and we’re thrilled to finally try these wines. Peter grew up in a winemaking family, and while he studied the world of wine, he realized he vastly preferred the wines made without much intervention, fermented without added yeasts, unfined, and unfiltered. In 2007, he purchased five different vineyards around the town of Sopron, in the northwest part of Hungary. Peter Wetzer’s approach is edgy, and the wines definitely follow suit.

The wine in your hands here is made from a grape we rarely saw written on bottles 20 years ago, but today, it is fast gaining an appreciation for its minerality and light herbal lift. It is most commonly seen in the sweet wines of Tokaji, delicious honey-tasting wines made from small, shrivelled berries infected with the noble rot that gives them their signature honey and candied orange flavour.

In some ways, Furmint is similar to Riesling. It has super bright, mouth-watering acidity, a stony fresh minerality and lovely lemon-lime fruit. This means lots of Furmint pairings are in line with dry riesling – think hamachi crudo, seared tuna crusted with Tajin lime seasoning (if this spice isn’t in your pantry already, you are missing out!) or marinated artichoke flatbread – light, fresh flavours to pair with a light, fresh white wine!

Finally, we try not to drone on in our apéro notes by talking about overly technical details like soil type or winemaking specs, but we would be remiss not to mention that this Furmint is grown in a single vineyard on the side of an inactive volcano! The Somló volcano is home to a small wine region called Nagy-Somló in Northern Hungary, and the grapevines grow in soil that is made up mostly of volcanic ash and ancient igneous rocks formed by eruptions past. Though this volcano has long been extinct, the black soil and gorgeous, flinty-tasting and almost smoky minerality of the wines leave a lingering memory of what once was…

Jean-Yves Millaire 'Pépette' 2022

Fronsac, France

I have sediment, it's ok!

The bubbly before you is a Fronsac first for us to have in an Apéro pack. For those unfamiliar (we imagine most will be – this is a tiny area, and we don’t often see these wines!), the appellation of Fronsac is located in the Bordeaux region of France, where much of the wine culture is built around large and stately châteaus and firm red wines that represent much of what we don’t always seek out in wine: lavish use of oak, supremely high priced wines, and incredibly formal and fancy culture surrounding the business of wine. However powerful this image is, there is another side to Bordeaux that includes small and thoughtful farmers. We are excited to explore the sub-region of Fronsac through the lens of farmers and small-family producers.

Fronsac is located in northern Bordeaux, on the other side of the bank from the city of Bordeaux. It is notable for a high percentage of Cabernet Franc vines – this grape is not as popular elsewhere in Bordeaux – and we love to see it! This wine may not quite look like Cabernet Franc at first glance, however, as it is bubbly and pale in colour, but the herbal notes of fresh pine and rosemary remind us of the herbal nature of this red grape. This wine’s light and frothy bubbles are textbook fresh and zesty Pét-Nat and beg to be opened up in as celebratory a fashion as the label art suggests!

Jean-Yves Milliare adheres closely to biodynamic principles, meaning no synthetic chemicals are used in his vineyards, and only natural teas and composts are incorporated into his farming methods. He converted his vineyards to biodynamics from organics in 2009 and found that the increased microbial activity in the soil helps his vineyards to flourish without the need for pesticides and herbicides. The focus on farming for Jean-Yves is so exciting for us to see in Bordeaux, where organics and biodynamics were eschewed for years due to pressure from rain and challenging weather. However, perhaps this Pét-Nat from Bordeaux is the shape of things to come!

Stefan Meyer 'Ein Liter' Silvaner 2021

Pfalz, Germany

The unsung grape Silvaner has lived in the shadows of its more famous vineyard mates for years. Despite being grown across the cool climates of north-central Europe everywhere from Alsace, France to Alto Adige, Italy and in smatterings across Germany, Silvaner (or Sylvaner as it is written in French) has not achieved the fame that many other widely planted white grapes in these regions have. However, the southern German region of Pfalz (the P is almost silent if you’re getting around to pronouncing it) produces some savoury and very intriguing Silvaner wines when the grapes are in the right hands, and we’re so lucky to place this Pfalzian Silvaner in yours!

Silvaner wines often have quite a full body but fresh acidity to balance the weightiness of the grape, though this version from Stefan Meyer isn’t the full and round versions one often sees from Alsace. Stefan’s vines have some age – at 40 years old, they give more depth and concentration to the wines while maintaining brightness and nerve. A zippy white like Silvaner is an ideal pairing for cheese boards and their many accoutrements like pickles and grainy mustards, and this 1-litre size is perfect for sharing – so that’s you sorted for your next dinner party!

The Meyer family has been farming in Pfalz since the 1600s, and though Stefan’s labels read as incredibly modern, he is quick to point out that the work of his father and grandfather before him is always with him and frames all his decision-making. He feels lucky to have inherited such a special place and wants to honour that history and bring it forward into modernity.

In the vein of inheriting the earth, all work in the vineyard is organic (the estate is working toward organic certification through Ecovin), and all Stefan’s wines are spontaneously fermented, meaning no added yeast in the winemaking process and a hands-off approach to the fermentation. Though this “low intervention” method feels like a contemporary trend, it’s actually the oldest method of making wine and speaks to a pre-technology era that Stefan would be pleased to call his own.

 

 

Cosmic Vinyaters 'Destí' 2019

Catalunya, Spain

I have sediment - it's ok! | Not ice cold please!

It’s not often that we tell you that wines are out of this world – heck, most of the time, we’re trying to tell you that they are very of this world – being specific to a time and place and grown thoughtfully or perhaps even organically in the earth. Cosmic Vinyaters are all about the far-out, however, which means they deeply consider the moon and the stars as much as they do the roots and the plants. The winery is located in Agullana, in North-Eastern Catalonia, slightly north of the city of Barcelona in Mediterranean Spain, but also not far from the French border, giving this winery a global and celestial focus simultaneously.

Wine-grower and star-reader Salvador Batlle is committed to farming his vineyards in a natural, ecological and biodynamic way that respects the earth and listens to the rhythms of the moon, the tide and the seasons.
This skin-contact (meaning that white grapes were made like red grapes, with their skins in the ferment to give a little added texture and hint of tannin) wine is made from the romantic and exuberantly aromatic grape of Muscat of Alexandria. Muscat-based wines can often be sweet, though this version is dry as a bone and more savoury than juicy-fruity. As a pairing wine, this bottle can handle umami-rich foods like mushrooms and root vegetables but has a brightness and freshness that doesn’t require food at all.

To speak to the soul of this wine, however, the name must be considered. The cuvée of “Desti” is so named to convey the importance of “knowing how to get the best out of situations because fate has decided this on your life path.” Taking the concept of destiny further, winemaker and vine-tender Salva has woven sacred geometry into his winemaking and farming, with many wine labels incorporating vectors or other sacred symbols. The weathervane on this groovy orange wine’s label feels very much like a farmer’s epitaph: destined to be shaped by the weather, whatever it may be.

La Miraja Grigolino 2021

Piemonte, Italy

Chill me for 40 minutes

Italy, as we often remind you, keeps us excited about wine because of the sheer number of different and unique grape varieties they grow – it’s never boring to drink Italian! However, we drink an inordinate amount of wine from the northern region of Piemonte because the average quality is often relatively high. It’s also because of how uniquely savoury and complex so many wines are from this region of rolling hills, truffles, and rich buttery pasta. We love wines made from the Grignolino grape because they are light and fresh, which stands in some opposition to the deeper and fuller reds of Piemonte made from the Nebbiolo grape, the region’s primary grape.

If you invite Grignolino to a dinner party, it is sure to have a lot of friends. A light and crunchy red, the bright red berry notes mean that this wine could pair with BBQ salmon, but the fresh acidity also would endear itself quite nicely to sautéed mushroom pasta or even tomato salad. Staying true to its Italian roots or venturing into other cuisines, this wine has lots of pairing options.

The grape name Grignolino is derived from the word “grignole,” which means “many pips” or “seeds” in the local dialect of Piedmont. This refers to the fact that Grignolino grapes have a high number of seeds relative to their size, making it an annoying grape to vinify for the winemaker, so many wineries turned away from it over the years. However, if we know anything in the wine world, the more patient and willing to work hard one is, the greater the reward – and we think Grignolino is totally worth it.

La Miraja is located around the town of Castagnole Monferrato, just north of the famous hills of Barolo and east of the city of Torino. The winery is hauntingly beautiful, housed inside an 11th-century castle that echoes the elegant simplicity and delicacy of the wines themselves – though, unlike the ancient castle, Grignolino is best drunk young, so don’t waste any time cracking this bottle open!

 

Gilbert Family Wines - Pét-Nat Riesling 2021

New South Wales, Australia

I have sediment - it's ok!

For a little refresher on this deeply thirst-quenching beverage, Pét Nat, or Pétillant Naturel, is a style of sparkling wine made from one continuous fermentation inside the bottle. Carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of fermentation, so the bubbles occur ‘naturally’ in the wine. These wines often have a short fermentation and ageing period, so we can often experience super fresh expressions of varieties through this method, and this Gilbert Riesling from New South Wales down under is no different. The super lemon-lime and almost petrol-like aromas are bright and classic to dry rieslings we know and love.

Gilbert is part of new-wave Australia, in which wineries in less famous regions work with alternative or lesser-known grape varieties, often aiming to work with the local climate instead of against it by planting grape varieties that are more drought-resistant and retain fresh acidity throughout hot summers. This pet-nat is from Orange, which we can’t say is a region we hear about very often! Simon Gilbert, winemaker and proprietor, is a 5th generation winemaker, though he grew up working for many old-school big Aussie brands like Lindemans and Padthaway before starting his label in the Mudgee and Orange regions of New South Wales.

The Gilbert family winery is located in the heart of Mudgee, about an hour northwest of Sydney and not far from the Hunter Valley, New South Wales’s most famous and well-known wine region. Mudgee is cool, though, because it is home to many more old vines and has some of Australia’s highest-elevation vineyards! This means the average temperatures in vineyards here are slightly cooler and therefore suit the Riesling variety, whose home is in the chilly peaks and snowy winters of Germany.

Luckily this sparkly sip is much more delicious in the sunshine, so pack this bottle for the beach and the bike ride. What is easiest to love about this wine is how familiar yet fresh it is; hopefully, that’s a feeling that can be replicated.

Domaine Ménard-Gaborit - 'Accostage' Muscadet 2020

Loire Valley, France

Not to be confused with Muscat, the aromatic and floral variety grown in Alsace, Muscadet is the region, and Melon, or Melon de Bourgogne, is the grape variety in this wine. Melon is a light-bodied and fresh wine that can be simple in some circumstances or deeply mineral in the best examples. It is planted almost nowhere outside its home in the Loire Valley of France, meaning this unique, high-acid and light-bodied variety is truly one of a kind. The Muscadet Sèvre et Maine region curls around the mouth of the Loire River on the Atlantic coast of France – the vineyards here are kissed with sea spray and quite cool in temperature. Located just south of Brittany and Normandy, there is also a vibrant cider and crêpe culture here, but it’s the racy, local whites we keep coming back for!

The domaine of Ménard-Gaborit was Certified Organic in 2020, which is no small feat in such a cool, coastal part of the world. The Ménard-Gaborit family also claims the HVE certification in France, which stands for Haut Valeur Environmental, which also represents a significant commitment to sustainability, including water use and movement toward sustainable energy use. We’re excited to share their wines for their commitment to the earth but also because they’re deeply delicious.

Saltiness is a term we have recently really loved using to describe wine (not like french fry kind of salty, more like margarita-rim salty…) because it references not only a mineral quality in the wine but also tastes like the ocean, which Muscadet certainly does!

If there’s ever a wine to crack on the dock and slurp with some oysters, this is totally it. Failing that very maritime scene, we would recommend oysters in your kitchen, in your backyard, or perhaps on your front stoop? For the vegan set, I find wood-ear mushrooms have the same uncanny saltiness to them, so get cooking. Surf’s up, and Muscadet is in!

Intellego - 'Halagasha' Pinotage 2021

Swartland, South Africa

Chill me for 30 minutes

Back in the early days when we did our wine diplomas, Pinotage was synonymous with South African wine, and not exactly in a good way. Critics often accused it of being a heavy and inelegant grape variety, and we were not set up for excitement to taste it in class. However, upon first travelling to South Africa, Maude was lucky to get to taste several examples that were surprisingly different than what we had been taught: supple, fresh, with juicy, plummy fruit but without the deep chocolate and heavy tar-like flavours we had once been led to believe. Though the time spent in South Africa gave many significant teaching moments, the injustice against Pinotage was notable. This grape can be great as long as it’s given the proper treatment and conditions in which to thrive! For years, Pinotage had been included in full-bodied Cabernet-Shiraz blends or hung on the vine until over-ripe and not resembling itself at all. After all, if you try to make orange juice with apples, you don’t get very good results!

Luckily, Intellego, made by winemaker Jurgen Gouws, represents Pinotage’s juicy and pure side, where it can express itself with more freshness and heady aromas, as it should! This wine just landed for the first time in BC, but it is the refreshing style of red you can find around most Braais (South Africans’ favourite pastime and pride – BBQ!)

So who is Pinotage anyway? The grape is a crossing between the ever-regal Pinot Noir and Cinsault, the Southern French delicate and juicy variety we love so much. Kind of like dog breeds, vine varieties can be crossed to create new varieties, and while sometimes they look like the parents, other times, they’re completely different!

Pinotage vines at Intellego are old vines that are completely dry-farmed, as the variety is well-adapted to the warmth of the South African growing season. The name of this wine, Halagasha, is the Xhosa term for “Goal!” in soccer and celebrates Pinotage as the most South African of all wines, which feels like something worth cheering for.

 

Tiberio - Cerasuolo D'Abruzzo 2022

Abruzzo, Italy

There’s not enough time or space on the page to express how much we adore Cristiana Tiberio. A champion of indigenous varieties and a fierce preservationist of local flora and fauna, Cristiana has genetically tested all her vines to determine that they are, in fact, the indigenous varieties of her region in Abruzzo and works to make sure all of the cover crop, grasses, vegetation and plants surrounding are also all native species. She notes that ensuring plants work together in symbiosis is the best way to fight against climate change and preserve our natural world. These plants have been co-existing here peacefully for thousands of years, and the best thing she can do is to be a steward of that history.

Cerasuolo means cherry-like in Italian because the rosé colour looks like cherry juice, and the flavour is bright and juicy and deliciously deep-fruited like cherries. We know that the trend for rosé these days is to go barely-there pale pink, but we like a bit of intensity now and then! We also know that many people believe deeper coloured rosé wines will be sweet, but colour has nothing to do with it – especially when it comes to Cerasuolo – Tiberio s is always bone dry!

The list of foods this wine doesn’t pair well with might honestly be shorter than the list of things it does work with…and that’s a fact we can rarely say even about some of the most food-friendly wines we know. Cerasuolo is light enough in texture and lacks tannins to work with many traditional white wine/rosé pairings in the shellfish and salad realm – I bet a Provençal Bouillabaisse would be dynamite! Conversely, it has enough intense berry and cherry fruit on the palate to stand up to rich salamis or the local Ciabotto Abruzzese.

Like most rosés, Cerasuolo is ready to drink right away. However, Cristiana notes that this wine can produce a beautiful earthy aroma and slatey mineral notes with a few years of bottle age. So, even though Cristiana’s wines are poised for everyday drinking, they are very special treats that we feel so lucky to get to sip with you!

 

1006 Vins de Loire - 'Majorelle' Grolleau 2021

Loire Valley, France

Chill me for 40 minutes and decant me - I need air!

Caves 1006 is somewhat unusually named. Unlike 96 Tears or 100 Red Balloons, however, the number isn’t arbitrary. Instead, it references the length of the Loire River from the inland source to where its mouth opens at the Atlantic Ocean and pays homage to this unique region. Though not all vineyards are right on the river, its presence connects these areas. Caves 1006 celebrates the vibrancy of a region defined very much by water and the vines that grow near it. Winemaker Pauline Lair named it so in order to source from and represent the many varieties and sub-regions of the Loire, and we are very excited to feature a wine that speaks loudly about this magical place.

Grolleau is a unique grape variety, which gives a delicate red colour in the glass, crunchy red fruit, and fresh peppery flavours. It is planted throughout the central Loire Valley but was outlawed for inclusion into the official AOC red wines (The French Appellation system, which strictly controls what grapes can be grown where), believing that it did not have enough body to make a compelling red. However, when treated well and farmed thoughtfully, many young growers have discovered that Grolleau is the perfect antidote to many of the overly alcoholic and over-oaked reds of the past 30 years.

This particular wine is made from one single vineyard in Angers, in the centre of the Loire Valley, surrounded by many medieval and early modern châteaux. Cave 1006 works with different individual growers, all of whom farm organically, to find great vineyards and create a series of single-vineyard wines from across the Loire, something that is rare in the region as small producers tend to concentrate in their one area, or larger producers make big, regional blends from many sites.

As might happen in the Loire, we suggest pairing this wine with duck rillettes and perhaps a saucisson sec – the peppery freshness of the wine is perfect with a salty and peppery snack. However, it might be delicious enough to open on its own and stare at that dreamy watercolour label…

Lock & Worth - Apricot Hill Rose 2022

Naramata, BC

There are wineries in every region, including the Okanagan, that may call themselves iconic, and that’s fair enough. Sometimes those wineries make the most noise, build huge facilities and fancy tasting rooms, and enter their wines in global wine competitions. There is lots of love and interest in this kind of winery, and we see and hear about them often. Lock and Worth did not do any of these things, however, and we love them for that.

The wines at Lock & Worth are not splashy or lush; they are cool, calm, and collected. The crepe-like paper minimalist label, the pure and fresh yet fruit-driven wines, and the quiet and steady commitment to thoughtful farming and organics – these are the makings of an icon.

Unbothered by fanfare, winemaker Matt Sherlock (the ‘Lock’ part of Lock & Worth) has crafted some of our favourite Okanagan wines; perhaps you remember that we’ve featured them in Apéro before. The wines are worth repeating, however, because they are expressive of their vintage and because they’re just that deliciously drinkable. The winery is nestled into the Naramata bench, where much of their fruit is farmed, but Matt has located several parcels across the Okanagan that speak to their ideals of freshness and concentration.

This new vintage of Lock & Worth Rosé is such a coveted bottle that it’s only released to their wine club. Luckily we could snag a few precious bottles for this month’s Apéro – and it’s finally starting to look like rosé season! This rosé is one of three (yes- they make three- from three different vineyards and in three very different styles) made at Lock & Worth, based on Merlot and grown at Matt’s home vineyard, Apricot Hill.

Minimalism is the name of the game at Lock & Worth, so don’t overdo the food pairings on this rosé: fresh and simple spring fare like quiche with leeks or asparagus as it is coming into season. Some tough-to-pair veggies will work nicely with this bright, delicious rosé that highlights herbal aromas but tastes like fresh berries.

Heidi Schröck - Grauburgunder 2019

Burgenland, Austria

Not ice cold please!

Heidi Schrock is an exceptional winemaker and a trailblazer in winemaking, not only in her own region but across the globe for working with traditional varieties and styles. She is based in the small, autonomous commune of Rust in Eastern Austria. Rust is unlike other Austrian regions in that it grows many Hungarian varieties, is close to the border with Hungary, and is quite a misty little town perched right on the edge of Lake Neusiedl. It is well known for making sweet wines and ripe yet deeply complex white wines that can age for many years.

Grauburgunder translates quite literally from German to “Grey grape of Burgundy.” In English and French, we know this grape best as Pinot Gris, which doesn’t grow so much in Burgundy anymore (it has been supplanted by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, too!) but is from the same parent family as Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. As grapes get older, they mutate more and more, so it tends to be the case that the oldest grape varieties have the most versions and relatives. Heidi is passionate about representing historic varieties and has worked to also revive the historic ‘Ruster Ausbruch’ sweet wine. She was instrumental in convincing her neighbours to include the once-almost-forgotten wine into Austrian wine law.

So, what is Heidi’s version of Grauburgunder? Because of the misty and lakefront vineyard sites in Rust, this wine has a little bit more body and texture than many Pinot Grigio from Italy or Pinot Gris from the Okanagan. These grapes hang long into the fall and ripen to give almost ginger-spice flavours and a round, dappled texture. This kind of rich white wine is so perfect for food; you have oodles of options. Try with chicken pot pie, nettle, and ricotta dumplings or turmeric and coconut curry— think rich and warm flavours to compliment this supple sip.

She works the vineyards organically, now joined by her sons, and only ever ferments with indigenous yeasts, respecting the long historical traditional winemaking practices of Rust. The aim is to honour the place and the wines that are unique to it. Most importantly, though, as Heidi says, “The wine’s gotta taste marvellous.”

Borgo Paglianetto - 'Terravignata' Verdicchio di Matelica 2021

Marche, Italy

Though the history of Verdicchio in Italy is quite long, the Borgo winery’s history is relatively short. Formed in 2008, the winery is co-owned by five partners who wanted to see a deeper focus on organics in Matelica wines, a small mountainous wine village in the Marche region. Though there are several producers who practice organics, the certification process (evidenced on the back of bottles in Europe by a little green flag with a leaf on it) can be gruelling and expensive, which means many small producers never bother to fill out the paperwork for the credit. However, Borgo Paglianetto has always seen this approach as necessary and has placed its organic status at the centre of its identity and approach.

Verdicchio is a white grape native to the Marche region of Italy, where it grows both near the sea in the area of Jesi and inland in the Matelica region on a verdant green mountaintop. The Matelica area is located in the Apennine Mountains and has a cooler and more continental climate than Jesi near the sea. The region’s vineyards are planted at higher altitudes on steep hillsides, which can influence the ripening of the grapes and give the wines brighter and fresher acidity and distinctive herbal character. The Matelica area definitely is aptly named, as it’s pretty hardcore. The soils that the grapes grow in here are full of chalky limestone deposits that give the wine a unique and specific mineral flavour – like the cool scent of a running river or waves on the beach. This minerality, combined with zesty lemon and almond skin, makes most Verddichios utterly irresistible to us. The wines of Borgo Paglianetto are new-to-market but very classic and exemplify the term tension (a feature of acidity and an overall zippy fresh quality – wines that make you feel like you’re walking on a high wire!).

Winemaking here is deceptively simple: organic Verdicchio grapes are fermented in stainless steel without added yeasts and then bottled. No muss or fuss, these wines are meant to be enjoyed with seafood and fresh fare like arugula and fennel salad. Verde, after all, means green, so get some together!

 

Casa de Mouraz - Branco 2020

Dão, Portugal

In 2000, Sara Dionísio and António Ribeiro worked as a dance teacher and arts magazine editor in Lisbon when they felt called back to their agricultural roots growing up in the country. So they quit their jobs and started Casa de Mouraz. It was a scary choice but one that has truly given them the ability to live in harmony with nature and produce wines that reflect that same harmony.

Casa de Mouraz is located in the Dão wine region of Portugal, between the cities of Lisbon and Porto, just south of the iconic Douro Valley, and both regions are home to the grape Touring Nacional. However, Dão also has a deep and devoted focus on white varieties. The winery is known for producing organic and biodynamic wines that focus on preserving the local grape varieties.

As the Ribeiro family has been involved in winemaking in the region for generations, Sara and António produce a range of the region’s traditional varieties: Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen, Encruzado, and Bical, but in a new, fresh, and somewhat unconventional way.

In addition to its many varieties of vines, Casa de Mouraz has oak, pine and chestnut forests and one particularly unique type of tree: cork. Cork trees grow a soft and spongy bark that is harvested from the tree to make corks for wine bottles, and it can take up to ten years to grow thick bark suitable for wine corks. They are committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices and are certified organic by the Portuguese agriculture ministry. It’s common to see these trees when driving through the Portuguese countryside, but even cooler to see a wine producer who has committed to a circular and integrated production of corks within their own winery and farm.

This Branco (Portuguese for white) is a field blend of 15 different local Portuguese varieties from 50+-year-old vines and would pair perfectly with an array of sushi and even the aromatic toastiness of miso-based sauces and soups – though the textural nature of this wine is versatile enough to go with so many options. For all of their diversity efforts, the wines of Casa de Mouraz wines deserve a place in your heart and your fridge.

Artakama - Muscat 2021

South Okanagan, BC

Named after a storied and important ancient Persian noblewoman, Artakama means ‘the search for truth.’ This couldn’t be more fitting for the wine they’ve made this year, as Muscat is a grape that most wine drinkers vaguely misunderstand. It is very true that lots of Muscat-based wines are sweet (think Moscato D’Asti or Late Harvest Muscat from Alsace), but that’s not all they are! This example is explosively aromatic, dry, zippy, and definitely worth finding the truth about.

Though there are hundreds of versions of muscat worldwide (it is home in France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, which can’t be said of almost any other grape variety!), it is always a distinctly aromatic and floral wine. Notably, Muscat is one wine in which ‘it tastes like grapes’ is really a true tasting note. At Wine School, we often teach that grape varieties have certain iconic tasting notes that are very particular to them (Sauvignon Blanc is grassy, while Pinot Noir is potting-soil earthy, for example) and Muscat’s special quality is a distinctly fresh grapey aroma. This bottling from Artakama is especially new and vibrant — it tastes like eating berries off the vine! Furthermore, this slightly cloudy and golden wine was made using the entire berry, skins and all, making it an orange wine.

So, what about the winery? Artakama is a fun, new project from the classic South Okanagan Le Vieux Pin and La Stella winery duo – Artakama is a chance for them to make fun and youthful wines that are a bit different from their traditional styles. Artakama has become integral to winemaker Severine Pinte and her team’s work – we have gushed about her in previous editions as her wines are some of our favourites in the Okanagan! Artakama proves that minimal intervention wines can be aromatic, clean, and fruit-forward — nothing added, nothing removed, says the cork when you pull it from the bottle. We love these wines to further suggest that winemakers can do both.

Drink this gorgeous juice by itself or in a little tumbler out on an adventure! Exploration and experimentation are the focus of the Artakama wines, and I think you know those are some of our favourite themes of Apéro too…

Domaine Rimbert - 'Cousin Oscar' 2021

Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Often lauded as a serious and brawny wine region of southern France in the Languedoc, Saint-Chinian is home to the Domaine Rimbert that doesn’t, in fact, take itself too seriously, as the label suggests! The winery was founded in 1996 by Jean-Marie Rimbert, who started with just a few hectares of vines and has since expanded to 24 hectares of vineyards – still pretty small in the grand scheme of things. However, as he originally trained in fruit agriculture (“the vine is a small fruit tree,” he jokes), Jean-Marie’s wines have heady fruited aromas that take him back to his roots.

Rimbert uses biodynamic and organic farming practices and focuses on expressing the identity of Saint-Chinian, characterized by rugged, rocky soils and the deep Mediterranean sun, making it a perfect home for Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah vines. Although you can find Domaine Rimbert’s classic and beloved St-Chinian wines on the shelves, we feel their other playful wines like this barely-red, juicy style are just as worthy of attention!

Cinsault features with Pinot Noir in this blend, which is unique for the area, but Jean-Marie has a small plot at a high elevation site that is cool enough to keep Pinot Noir bright and low in alcohol, making it a perfect companion to Cinsault’s crunchy red fruit profile. We think it is the ideal fun and fresh red for apéro time, deliberately made to produce a wine that is crushable for more than one reason. Cinsault and Pinot are immensely drinkable styles, being light and juicy and not overtly tannic, and the winemaker felt they reminded him of his cousin, Oscar, whose perfect hair and cheeky smile made him deeply “crushable” to everyone he met! So even though full and muscular Syrah is Domaine Rimbert’s focus, you can’t deny the drinkability and deliciousness of Cousin Oscar!

As this light red has just a hint of delicate tannin, it can work with lots of traditional white and rosé food pairings – herb-crusted salmon, fresh cheeses, or even curries with some spice can make copains (as we say in French!) with Oscar.

 

Domaine des Tourelles - Rouge 2020

Vallée de la Bekaa, Labanon

We aren’t the ones to hit you with the hard facts of wine history very often, but we rarely have big news that so deeply relates to one of the beautiful wines in your packs! Newly released this month is a study that challenges the old theory that the South Caucasus (modern-day Georgia/Armenia) was the birthplace of the domesticated grapevine. This new research shows that Vitis Vinifera – our modern wine-grape vine- was domesticated in the Levant (modern-day Palestine/Lebanon) 3000 years prior – or about 11,000 years ago. Pretty cool to taste some Lebanese wine while musing about the grapes that were tended here before Ancient Rome or Greece!

On that note, we are so excited to introduce Domaine des Tourelles – a Lebanese winery located in the town of Chtaura in the Bekaa Valley. Though it may not be 11,000 years old, it *is* the oldest running winery in Lebanon – founded in 1868 by French adventurer François-Eugène Brun. He visited the breathtaking Bekaa Valley and was compelled to put down roots. Today, the winery is run by the Issa family, who purchased the property in 2000 and continues to farm the land organically.

Domaine des Tourelles is known for producing red and white wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Viognier, and Chardonnay. Of course, these grapes aren’t the same varieties as grew here all those years ago, but these well-known French varieties can all be traced back to this historical moment. The winemaking team at Domaine des Tourelles is excited about integrating indigenous grapes into their wines in the future, too.

In addition to its wines, Domaine des Tourelles also produces arak, a traditional Lebanese spirit made from aniseed, and though it may be a stretch, we think there is a delicate note of anise on the palate of this Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend. On the property, the winery has a traditional Lebanese restaurant where they pair this wine with sfiha – a Lebanese flatbread with minced meat, onion, tomato and garlic. The aromatic spices and garlic are perfect with falafel and moussaka, if we do say so ourselves. An Arabic cheers for you: Fī ṣiḥḥatikum!

Albamar - Albariño 2021

Rias Baixas, Spain

We often discuss and feature Atlantic Spain at Apéro, so in many ways, the wines of Albamar are very much our thing. However, we rarely get to see genuinely Atlantic wines, as the vineyards at Bodegas Albamar are truly on the ocean’s edge. Albariño is their focus grape variety, and its home is here in coastal Spain: Rías Baixas. This region is synonymous with the grape and the wave-kissed salty freshness of crisp white wines.

Xurxo Alba is a second-generation winemaker at his family’s bodega and believes in honouring the traditions of their sub-region as a home to migratory birds. The Val do Salnés, their sub-region of Rías Baixas, is a protected area for birds making their trek across the continent when the seasons change and is a sight to behold if you visit in the fall. Though birds are considered one of the biggest problems for grape-eating, Xurxo and his family embrace their presence as part of the natural surroundings and work with their patterns to ensure grapes and birds are happy together.

Albariño is, in many ways, a foundational white grape of the wine world. We learn about it early on in our wine teachings, as there is quite a lot of it grown, and it represents a unique style of aromatic, light, and bright white wine. However, so much of it gets slurped up in the UK and Spain that hardly any of it makes its way to us here. We are so excited to have Albamar available to you as it represents the zesty freshness of Albariño but also the elegant and textural aspect of it – the most sophisticated and mineral version that doesn’t always get talked about.

Think about pairing this Albariño with fresh cheeses or shellfish, particularly mussels, or, if you’re shopping in a special fishmonger, gooseneck barnacles sauteed with paprika for a deeply Galician dish. So now you have some Albariño to make your mouth water and clean salty flavours to cook with it!

Clos des Fous - 'Pour Ma Gueule' 2021

Itata Valley, Chile

Note: Chill Me for 30!

Clos des Fous is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek name. In wine, a ‘Clos’ is a walled vineyard, often seen in very old European vineyards owned by the church, especially in Burgundy. Their vineyards in Itata Valley, Chile, are wild and the vines are old, but there are no walls to be seen anywhere. The ‘des Fous’ part refers to the crazy pals that formed the winery – Pedro Parra, Francois Massoc, Paco Leyton and Albert Cussen. Though twenty years later, Pedro spends most of his time as a viticultural consultant in other corners of the world, and Paco runs the winery mostly by himself, the ethos of the kooky gang remains. Clos des Fous has a mission: make unconventional wines that surprise consumers who think Chile is boring.

From the start, the project was farmed biodynamically, meaning they use only natural sprays in the vineyard made from roots, manure, and teas to breathe life into the soil. The vineyard work is also practiced according to the moon cycles, which determines the tides and the gravitational pull of water in the soil, so on certain days, there is more water available to the roots of the vines, so they do different things in the vineyards. This calendar is pretty demanding, but it helps give elegant and expressive wines and honours the plant’s internal rhythms. Pretty cool, if you ask us.

Clos des Fous farm a smattering of vines across southern Chile, and the varieties found in ‘Pour Ma Gueule’ change from year to year. We were instantly tickled by this juicy & fresh blend of Cinsault, Pais & Carignan, that is, quite literally ‘for my mouth.’ It has that inviting dry-sage scent typical of the region and is deliciously explosive in cherry and raspberry flavours with a hint of earthiness in a way that reminds us of grown-up fruit pops that fell in the dirt.
‘Pour Ma Gueule’ feels like the perfect mood for us at Apéro – made with immense care but never taking itself too seriously. So, if you’re looking to get a bit kooky with your pals, put this in your mouth!

L-ST Projects - 'A Wilderness of Mirrors' Chardonnay 2021

Naramata, BC

Note: Not Ice Cold Please!

The idea of the wilderness is something we often discuss in wine. We talk about wild fermentations or the local flora of a region. What tastes wild, and why? How do we make wine in order for it to truly express the wildness of a place, a person, or an idea? L-ST Projects is an interrogation of, among many things, what it means to be wild. Alyssa Hubert (winemaker, academic, and deeply inspiring label-maker) is still figuring out this answer. 

Though this coming year, the project will expand to include a few other grape varieties (so stay tuned for elegant Pinot Noir bubble and ethereal Sauvignon Blanc), L-ST has been about Chardonnay from the start. Chardonnay is a confounding grape variety for many wine drinkers because though it is painted with the broad brushstrokes of bread and butter, it can taste like so many different things. French Chablis and Napa Chardonnay don’t usually have many of the same tasting notes in our books, for example. That is to say, Chardonnay shows the weather, the soil, and the hand of the winemaker, more so than many other varieties. It’s a chameleon worthy of making many versions, as they will taste immensely different every year. 

So, what about this Chard? We’ve been lucky to taste it in a few stages of élevage (one of our favourite French words that translate to the ‘growing up’ of the wine or its journey through maturation before it gets to you!), and it has changed so much. Laser-like in acidity but round, pineapple-skinned, and lemon-curdy on the palate, this wine reflects so many of the things that excite (and confound) us about Chardonnay in Naramata. 

Ultimately we are thrilled to share this reflective and reflexive wine with you – there were only sixty-one cases made – as small of a run of wine as you get in most corners of the wine world. So we suggest you enjoy these drops of golden sunbeams (an Alyssa term that we are stealing forever) with golden snacks (cheese toasties or Chicharróns, perhaps?) or by itself and let it unfurl…

Valdipiatta Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2016

Tuscany, Italy

Note: I am old, see wine note!

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: now that’s a mouthful of Italian wine that makes you feel fluent, right? Though these Tuscan wines are deeply and inherently noble in ancestry, they sometimes get overshadowed by their more famous cousins, Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino. However, don’t sleep on Vino Nobile if you love those two styles. Also based on the quintessential Tuscan grape, Sangiovese, these wines often have a savoury streak and powerful structure to pair with your juiciest Florentine steak or charred Cavallo Nero (yes, kale is a classic Tuscan green – you are welcome!).

Winemaker Miriam Caporali works together with her dad Giulio, who manages the vineyards. She went to Bordeaux to study wine business and tasting, returning home in 2002 to run Valdipiatta and take over some of her dad’s duties, as he is most at home out in the vineyard.
In true confusing Italian fashion, the locals of the town of Montepulciano can’t seem to just call this grape Sangiovese; they need their own local name for it – like seemingly every other Tuscan town that grows it! Here they call it Prugnolo, and over time, this version (or biotype) of Sangiovese has evolved and morphed into something unique. Not all Sangiovese are created equal, after all. It is also important to note that this wine and town have nothing to do with the wines of Abruzzo, made from the grape called Montepulciano. Not confusing at all!

Though we don’t often make much of ‘vintage’ at Apéro (we like tasty wines no matter when they’re made), it is worth noting that this Vino Nobile is from 2016. This means it already has a few years of age on the bottle and is from one of the most famous and celebrated years for Tuscan wine this century. It is starting to show its age with aromas of leather, tobacco and fig, with underlying bright fruit and irony-mineral flavours on the palate that beg for a rich tomato sauce to go along with it.

Note: Harmless sediments will collect at the bottom of this bottle due to its age. The easiest way to avoid sediments in the glass is to leave the bottle upright for a couple of hours and leave a little bit of wine at the bottom of the bottle. Or look up Youtube videos on how to decant wine!

Pietradolce - Etna Bianco 2021

Sicily, Italy

Though perhaps best known these days as the setting of The White Lotus Season 2, Sicily, the infamous southern Italian island province, has a winemaking history that is varied and rich. Defined by several different grape varieties, we are particularly excited about wines from Mount Etna, grown right on the slope of an active volcano. Though this makes for some hot and risky winemaking, the soils here are composed of volcanic ash that is uniquely famous in the world of wine for giving mineral-rich and fleshy wines with bright fruity qualities and piercing minerality in the glass. Mount Etna has been somewhat of a darling in the wine world in recent years for bringing this sophisticated mineral edge to the rustic image of Siciliy’s winemaking. Though red grapes make up the majority of Sicilian wine, white wines are a sleeper hit. Carricante, the white grape that makes up the majority of the Etna Bianco category and denomination, has trademark racy acidity and a full body, giving wines that are mineral-laced like Chablis but round and savory like our favourite Chenin Blancs from South Africa. Carricante is capable of remarkable complexity and can even age for several years, if you like, but are ready to drink right away as well. Pietradolce is located in Solicchata, just at the base of Mount Etna, not far from the city of Catania. They focus only on wines grown on the volcano, making Etna Bianco (white, from Carricante) and Etna Rosso (red from Nerello Mascalese) in a fresh and pure style. As Burgundy becomes harder to pin down and source these days, we often look to Etna for similar styles with lift and elegance. Like all great Italian wines it is all about the food for Pietradolce. We love to drink this Etna Bianco with Spaghetti Vongole with clams and parsley, or butter-poached halibut and preserved lemon if you’re feeling extra fancy. It calls out for seafood, but is incredibly versatile on the table with an array of Italian ingredients.

Duckman 'Nerd Duck' 2021

Bairrada, Portugal

Note: Drink me like a white!

What’s in a name? Though many wineries simply are named after families or vast and old estates, Duckman isn’t one you’re likely to forget. Considering winemaker Maria’s last name, Pato, means ‘duck’ in Portuguese though, it is quite fittingly ‘traditional’ in a sense, too. Maria Pato grew up in the world of wine working in her family winery in Bairrada, in central Portugal, and spent decades with her winemaker father in the cellar experimenting with ambient fermentations (read: making wine without added yeasts when the culture and ‘modern’ style was to ferment by adding cultured yeasts) and grape varieties that were not popular on the global market. Now, she has her own label, Duckman, which takes the core principles of experimentation learned at home and takes it one step further. This cuvée, ‘Nerd Duck’ is made up of two grapes, mostly Maria Gomes (a white grape that gives fresh and fairly neutral wines) and a red grape, Baga, which the Pato family has become known for making in a refined and thoughtful style. Though the Baga grape is now a hallmark of the Portuguese region of Bairrada, this wasn’t always the case. For much of the 20th Century, this central Portuguese region grew mostly white grapes, and their winemakers had abandoned this historic and tough grape to grow. However, in the 1970s, Maria Pato’s father, Luis Pato, shook up the local industry by planting Baga and insisting on the fact that it could make great wine in Bairrada, despite intense scepticism from their neighbours. Baga’s tannins and acidity are typically intense, so Maria uses only the skins of the Baga grape in this blend, and the juice of the Maria Gomes grape. This gives a juicy and bright fruity quality to the wine, as the Baga skins give colour and flavour, but the Maria Gomes gives the wine a softer, more gentle texture. They work so fabulously together, we hope to see more of these two grapes together in the future. Although this red-white wine hybrid needs no pairing to make it delicious, **Piri-Piri chicken** is one of the most traditional foods of the region, and a deliciously nerdy pairing if we do say so ourselves…

Clos de L'Oum 'Compagnie des Papillons' 2018

Côtes du Roussillon, France

At the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains in Southern France, tucked into the breezy moutainside and the forest lies the tiny Domaine Clot de L’Oum. This is the region of Roussillon, which is somewhat mysterious in French wine. As the country’s most Southern wine region, the wines of Roussillon in some way share more with Spain than they do with the more northerly French wine regions, making these wines exciting Mediterranean pairing wines. The region stretches along South Western France, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and not far from the Spanish border. Historically, much of the wine here was produced for bulk wine and fortified styles, but as prices rise in many other major regions, the Roussillon offers savoury and ripe wines that are still accessible and thoughtful. Reds here are often spicy and robust, and tend to be made of a blend of red grapes. As the Spanish connection is present, many of the grape varieties grown here, like Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvèdre, are also mainstays of Spanish winemaking. Clot de L’Oum works with these and many other red and white grape varieties, believing that blended wines are key to representing their terroir and in maintaining balance in a warm region where wines can reach high levels of ripeness and alcohol- freshness has always been the name the of game for this winery. Arthur and Eddy Bertrand purchased the domaine in 2020, making this 2018 bottle one of the last wines made by the original winemakers, Eric and Léia Monné. The wine is a blend of Carignan and Grenache, classic red grapes of the Roussillon region, which also tend to mimic the varieties planted in the Southern Rhône and Provence regions as well. The winery has always been farmed in a low-intervention and organic practice since the first vintage in the late 1990s, with many of the vineyard plots planted in a ‘field blend,’ meaning that all the grape varieties are intermingled in rows together, allowing them a chance to express the place and to grow to support one another. This kind of friendly and warm winemaking is exactly what we need to get us through the winter!

Benjamin Bridge - Pet Nat 2021

Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Note: I taste really good in a glass!

Often hearted as the permanent Nova Scotian Winery, Benjamin Bridge is nestled in the Gaspereau Valley, a small region in Nova Scotia where winemaking, especially sparkling winemaking, has taken off in the last 20 years. Our cross-country love affair with Benjamin Bridge has been a long one, and we pour them at events whenever we get the chance. Though it should seem straightforward to bring you tasty Canadian wine, shipping wine from other provinces can be as complicated as importing wine from other countries. We feel lucky to share these wines as their journey here has been long and arduous! At the winery, their approach to farming is holistic and thoughtful. Always farmed according to organic principles, they use no chemical inputs in the vineyard and practice no-till farming allowing grasses and beneficial crops to grow between the rows of vines. In order to have a low-impact “mowing” system, Benjamin Bridge has a herd of pygmy goats that graze on the grass. Because they’re so small, they can’t reach the grapes and are in perfect harmony with the aims of grape-growing. As Benjamin Bridge is mostly a sparkling wine producer, they grow the classic champagne and sparkling grape varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. However, as the Acadian winters are long and chilly, they are also notable growers of the hybrid grape Geisenheim. In the wine, this grape gives an aromatic profile and zesty floral quality and bright acidity, making it perfect for Pét Nat (Pétillant Naturel, the French term for ancestral method sparkling, which means one continuous fermentation happened inside the can in order for the bubbles to arise in the wine.) Not only are cans a practical choice for sparkling wine and their lightweight and easy-to-store nature, but they’re also an environmentally sensitive choice, as aluminum is both easier to recycle than glass and lighter weight for shipping and transport purposes, leading to an overall lower carbon footprint for the wine. When it comes to taking wine on the go, we believe small is mighty and these cans are the perfect size for your pocket for ski or snowshoe season.

 

Maria Rigol Ordi Rosat Reserva Cava NV

Penedès, Spain

Cava is a curious style of sparkling. It is by now a household name and probably a style you’ve tried before, and it can be made at various quality levels. Though it is a protected term and primarily made in Catalunya, it can technically be made anywhere in Spain. Further, to be called Cava, the wine must be produced using the traditional method – a first fermentation to create a still wine and a second fermentation in the bottle, with wine aging in the same bottle for at least 9 months for wine and lees (dead yeast cells to interact and produce a toasty and creamy flavour and texture. Maria Rogol Ordi’s cavas are all aged for quite a bit longer  (their standard is 15 months, but this wine is aged for at least 18 months) than the minimum required aging period for Cava, meaning the wines have a more savoury and nutty flavour profile. The traditional way of making sparkling wine is a prolonged and labour-intensive one, but it means that the resulting wines show wonderful flavour concentration and very airy, fine bubbles that persist in the glass. “We remain ever faithful to the traditional craft of riddling and disgorging by hand, and that essential requirement for producing the best cava – giving it time”, says Anaïs, fourth-generation winemaker and granddaughter of Maria. This cava is notable in that it uses 100% Pinot Noir, and the deeper hue of rosé is due to the family’s zest for experimentation and a preference for a richer and deeper style. This rosé, or rosat in Catalan, is a part of their range called Microtirage, where they make small batches of different and new styles of Cava. Though Pinot Noir is typical of Champagne and other sparkling wines and grown in parts of the Penedès region, it is not indigenous to the area and is thus a new grape for them. We can totally share the spirit of trying something new at Apéro and get behind cracking a bottle and serving with some tasty conservas and chips to ring in the new year – Salud!

Reyneke 'Biodynamic' Chenin Blanc 2020

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Note: Not ice cold please!

Chenin Blanc is a grape we’ve featured before and love deeply, especially in South Africa, where it wears many hats. In fact, more Chenin is planted in South Africa than anywhere else in the world – even where it hails from in Loire, France! It can have oak and be quite ripe in a style that appeals to Chardonnay sensibility or a super zippy and fresh style that hints more toward the Loire valley. This biodynamically farmed Chenin hits all the bases: fresh acidity and citrus notes, round and creamy texture, and beautiful salty minerality. The depth of flavour in this wine is mainly due to Reyneke’s old vines, which are from two blocks of Chenin blanc planted in 1974 and 1976, respectively. These vineyards in the famous Stellenbosch region are registered with South Africa’s Old Vine Project, which is an organization that protects the heritage vines that thrive beautifully in the arid climate of most of the country. Old vines not only give more intense and flavourful wines, but they respond better to drought and extreme weather events, making them extra valuable and sustainable in the face of climate change. Reyneke is a rare and special producer in the wine industry because they take their commitment to their community, their employees, and the earth so deeply that it truly moves you to be better in your own life. In discussing sustainability, Johan, winemaker and co-owner, says, “sustainability is a three-legged chair: environment, people, and money.” People are willing to abuse the first two much more readily than the final option, but a business that respects all three is the only business that can truly last. With this in mind, Reyneke has built the ‘cornerstone’ cuvée into their business, with proceeds of this wine going to helping farm workers and their families with education, housing and retirement annuities. At Reyneke, they believe that the workers are the cornerstone of the business, which is an integral part of the holistic and biodynamic principles. Ultimately, says Johan, “it is not enough to remove herbicides and fungicides from the vineyards; you have to find solutions to bring soil and people into harmony.” We couldn’t agree more.

Unsworth Pinot Noir 202

Cowichan Valley, BC

Note: Chill me for 30 minutes!

Pinot Noir may be the heartbreak grape, but after more than a decade of thoughtful wines, Unsworth has proved it is worth the risk. Though the winery itself is relatively young (2009 was its first vintage), a lot has happened quickly, and they have been an integral part of shaping the region of the Cowichan Valley and Vancouver Island as a destination for lithe and delicate Pinot Noir. The great thing about delicate and aromatic Pinot Noir is how many traditional ‘white wine’ pairings you can enjoy with it. For example, Unsworth Pinot is perfect with baked salmon, or if you’re getting festive, roast turkey later this month. Winery Director Chris Turyk remembers when the Cowichan Valley was sleepy, and there were only a handful of vineyards. Having grown up on the island but attending cooking school in Napa, California, Chris has a global vision for BC’s wine industry and believes working together as a region is the way forward. Vancouver Island is one of the coolest (and wettest!) wine climates that we know, so most traditional grape-growing wisdom doesn’t apply – even if the Cowichan is locally referred to as “Canadian Provence,” they still have average temperatures that are cooler than Champagne! Winemaker Dan Wright, who just made his 6th vintage at Unsworth, believes natural acidity and the cool, misty autumn nights in the Cowichan help give this Pinot its shape and identity: “it’s a fine balance to not let technique overtake terroir,” says Dan. Thanks to this mindset, Pinot Noirs like these taste of the place, rather than the winemaker’s favourite fancy new barrel or latest winemaking tool. This summer, after extensive (and we mean extensive: you need to think about so many things – water, slope, sunshine, soil type – before you plant a vineyard!) geological and environmental surveys, Unsworth broke ground on a new vineyard site in the North Cowichan Valley. Among new Pinot Noir vines is a specially designed self-sustaining pond that will catch run-off rainwater and be used to irrigate the new vines through the drier summer months (baby vines need lots of water). We can’t wait to see more Pinot Noir from this seminal producer in the future, but for now, we leave you with this preview of very good things to come….

Le Ragnaie 'Trocone' Toscana Rosso 2019

Tuscany, Italy

Le Ragnaie is located in the picturesque Tuscan countryside in Montalcino, the hilltop town that is home to one of Italy’s most famous red wines, Brunello di Montalcino. Sangiovese is the signature red grape of Tuscany, though Montalcino is a special area in that all the wines must be produced from 100% Sangiovese, with no other grapes blended in. (Many years ago, a few famous Brunello producers were scandalously caught blending Merlot into their Brunello! It caused quite a stir, but don’t worry, Le Ragnaie wasn’t around then!) In fact, their wine was always known for the opposite style, a delicate and lifted style of Sangiovese – more like Pinot Noir than Merlot. This is because their vineyards are located at the highest elevation point on the hill of Montalcino, and the higher in elevation vines are grown, the fresher and more acid-driven the wines. Also, because the vineyard was so high on the hill, this was a traditional bird-catching spot, so the label art pays tribute to the huge nets used for hunting. Further to the point, ’Ragnatela’ means spider web in Italian, so the winery name takes inspiration from the web-like pattern on the bottle’s label. Though Le Ragnaie makes mostly Brunello, this wine falls under the wider ‘Toscana’ (aka Tuscany) label as opposed to ‘Montalcino’ as the vineyard sites lie partially outside the official appellation area. This does mean the wine is of incredible value for the quality of the fruit and winemaking, but it also represents a large proportion of Tuscan wine producers who have chosen to label outside of their traditional area names – like Montalcino, or Chianti, for example. Of course, these general Toscana wines can vary in style, and many contain other non-Italian varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, but this is pure, cherry-bright, and elegant Sangiovese, just the way we like it! This juicy and fun take on a classic style of Tuscan red pairs deliciously with many classic Italian dishes – from pasta with bolognese sauce, sausage and pecorino pizza or Tuscan kale stew; it is the perfect dinner table companion.

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…