Calliope wine flies and vines flourish in B.C.
Calliope isn’t the first wine labelled as such in British Columbia. Named after B.C.’s smallest hummingbird (and the Greek muse of elegance), it’s a natural name for a classy bit of wine. So thought Ross and Cherie Mirko some years ago when they made wines under the name Calliope, briefly, before flitting off to distant parts to ply their winemaking skills in antipodean vineyards.
But the name was too good, so Burrowing Owl, the South Okanagan’s legendary landmark winery, last year came up with a couple of Calliope wines, just to see if they’d fly, so to speak. The Calliope program pleased many—critics, tasters, foodies, collectors—and the next vintage doubled. It now looks to be an ongoing “second label”.
Three appeared on the tasting table this summer, and here’s a closer look. Various indie and VQA stores around town have some, and there’s always the winery in the South Okanagan.
Calliope Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($16.99, 682 cases)
A sturdy yet stylish Sauvignon, this is a welcome relief from the grassy excesses of several new batches of New Zealanders. Fresh and easy with reined-in mineral flashes at the edges of the palate, there’s featherlight oak, restrained grapefruit, and lovely integration of all those components. Even the relatively hefty 13.5 percent alcohol holds it together. Food suggestions include sushi, barbecued oysters, charred, planked fish, and Moroccan-spiced sausages. Last year and the year before, Orofino made some of the best Sauvignon yet seen in the Okanagan (or, in their case, the Similkameen); they’d best look to their laurels.
Calliope Viognier 2010 ($13.99, 175 cases)
This one’s less overt than the Sauvignon; in fact, it’s somewhat indistinct in its expression of fruit. Starts slow and soft, works to a long finish, and gets mellower every sip along the way. The shy nose nevertheless expresses some violets and white peach, and there is abundant freshness in the dénouement. Viognier is taking off big-time in our various wine valleys; there might be a case here for some tweaking in time for next year’s.
Calliope Rose 2010 ($13.99, 334 cases)
This struck the panel as the best of the trio. Made from Syrah and Viognier, the latter white grape seems to have found its starring role in knitting this rich, fragrant, hearty pink wine together. There’s only a little of the candy aspect and lots of bold, fresh-bite fruit. An excellent rosé that will hold its own with anything from sea-salted potato chips to cream-laden fruit desserts.
Le Goff joins Cactus
First they hooked chef Rob Feenie to do his culinary Mies van der Rohe on the food. Now they’ve grabbed wine guy Sebastien Le Goff to tweak the wine lists. He recently joined the management team to continue building the Cactus Club service program. Come fall, he will oversee the new CC at English Bay. Le Goff starts his stint at the Bentall V Cactus Club in downtown Vancouver. In the past you’ve seen him at db Bistro Moderne, Uva Wine Bar, Cibo Trattoria, Lumière, Feenies, and CinCin, and he’s piled on his awards and accolades.
Pinnacle looks peachy
This is one for your must-do wine-and-food events list: a winery dinner, the first one for the still nice-and-new restaurant at the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier in North Vancouver. The date is September 15. Pinnacle Hotel chef Joel Green’s food is cutting-edge but real, and the new Hester Creek wines are things of beauty. They still have their Trebbiano (being the only winery in B.C. actively cultivating that delicious Italian grape as far as I know), some red and white blends, a super-red Meritage style called the Judge, and many more. If you get up to the winery, they’ve put in a new restaurant too, right next to Tinhorn Creek’s Miradoro.
Peter Lehmann Wines’ Barossa Blonde 2009 ($15.99)
Australia’s delightful blond bombshell is back in town. The perennial patio favourite has won a strong local following and here it is again: pale, crisp, and fruitful, the 2009 model features a nice ’n’ light 11 percent alcohol and a nice, light price. Clean and bracing is how it tastes, handling any sort of summery food with ease and versatility. It likes long meals from appies through to dessert, and everything in between. It’s sat near the top of my annual list of best import whites for a couple of years running, and will be heading there again by the look—and taste—of things. It is a specialty listing at the LDB but widely stocked. If you can’t find it, always ask.
B.C. wineries grow
When I first came to Vancouver, there were four B.C. wineries; now there are over 200. Recently, the B.C. Wine Institute sent a memo correcting me on its 2011 B.C. Wine Grape Acreage Report: there are actually 210 licensed grape wineries (plus a few fruit wineries and meaderies), with 24 additional growers planning a winery. Plantings are up, and the split is fairly even: 48 percent white, 52 percent red grapes. And the top 10 by acreage planted? From first to last, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. Go on, add your dream to the numbers. You’ve always wanted to start a winery.