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Credit: Sky Young

Vickie Sam Paget sidles up to the wine tasting bar at O'Hare's Liquor Store in Richmond

A free wine-tasting session at O’Hare’s Liquor Store in Richmond, BC helped this new British Columbian wax lyrical about one of the great loves of her life as she learned about BC wines

Oh how I wish I could enthuse eloquently about varietals and bouquets and explain why I love wine so, but I can’t. I only know that I love the stuff, so the mere thought of embarking upon a chat with an aficionado filled me with fear.

But my thirst for knowledge is such that I found myself shyly sidling up to the tasting bar at one of BC’s most eclectic liquor stores – O’Hare’s in Richmond – hoping that nobody would question my varietals knowledge or query my bouquet interpretation.

"We want to take the snobbishness out of wine because wine should be fun,” explained wine enthusiast Grant Bryan, who was happily sloshing a Pinot Gris around in a glass and winking at it as he held it up to the light. “If you like wine, then that is good enough for me. There’s no better way to learn about wine than by trying it, so just keep an open mind – and an open mouth!"

Phew… That shouldn’t be a problem.

wine-tasting2-3.jpgGrant Bryan gives Vickie Sam Paget a tour of O'Hare's wine shop in Richmond, BC

The Beauty of BC Wines

Grant is particularly enthusiastic about BC wines: "I find that BC wine producers are passionate, real, down-to-earth people. Ross Hackworth of Nichol Vineyard gave up the corporate big-shot life to make his wine, and the owner of Laughing Stock called his winery that because he used to be a stock trader.

"There is a definite romance attached to BC wines. And they taste so good here in BC – in the same way a Corona tastes better if you are in Mexico. BC has the beauty of being a region with micro-climates, so it can provide everything.”

How lucky I am to be living in such a wonderful wine-producing region; and how lucky I was to find a cheeky little sample of Pinot Gris in my hand.

Three Steps to BC Wine Heaven

Grant explained how wine-tasting is a three step process, using first your sense of sight (the darker the colour, the richer the flavour), then your sense of smell (give it a good swirl to open up the aromas), and finally your sense of taste, when you at last get to swoosh its velvety goodness around your mouth and swallow.

First up was the Kettle Valley 2011 Pinot Gris, which hails from a family farm winery on the rolling hills of Naramata Bench. Kettle Valley dazzled with its romantic pink hue and aromas of strawberry and rhubarb. "That’s sitting on the patio in the sun, right there!” enthused Grant. “It’s like summer in a glass!"

Next we tried the Arrowleaf Pinot Gris 2009, which hails from a family winery in the Okanagan Valley. “This is an altogether more crisp wine, well balanced with a refreshing acidity,” explained Grant. “And that’s half the pleasure – when a wine surprises you.”

And on to the reds… With its cherry aroma and distant tobacco notes, the Nichol 2008 Pinot Noir is a definite winner. Made from Naramata Village-grown grapes, it tickles the palate with cherry and plum and boasts an unmistakable earthiness.

And last – but by no means least – the Orofino Beleza, which hails from a family-owned winery in the sundrenched Similkameen Valley. ‘Beleza’ is a Portuguese word used to describe ‘a perfect moment or feeling,’ so I was pretty excited to be trying this wine.

"It pairs nicely prime cuts of beef," explained Grant. “And that’s one of the things about wine – it’s like music; it can transport you instantly to another place and time. You can take a sip and think: ‘The last time I had this we were having a steak and celebrating our anniversary’. Wine is like your favourite song."

I couldn’t agree more, and this little old wine drinker certainly enjoyed learning all about BC wines and she can definitely wax lyrical about her varietals and bouquets now.

How to Choose a BC Wine

  1. Go to a tasting and try some wines for free.
  2. Don’t just stick with what you know – try something new. Buy one familiar bottle and one bottle you have not tried before.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good liquor store will have confidence in what it sells.
  4. Be open. Varietals taste different if they are from different parts of the world.
  5. Take the weather into consideration. Are you drinking this wine in summer or winter?

Vickie Sam Paget is a freelance journalist who recently arrived in Vancouver. Hailing from England and having spent the last decade writing for newspapers and magazines in Ireland, Vickie is falling desperately in love with her new home. When she's not gazing in adoration at the beauty of her new hometown, she can usually be found curled up with a book or enjoying a wee pint in the nearest Irish bar.