Uncorked celebrates the science of wine

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      We all enjoy traditional winemaker dinners and walk-around tastings, but there’s a pretty cool local wine event on the horizon that offers so much more.

      Uncorked: A Celebration of the Science of Wine is going down at Science World at Telus World of Science next Thursday (November 14), and it’s jam-packed with fun programming featuring a quintet of British Columbia’s best wineries.

      Those five wineries—Mission Hill Family Estate, CedarCreek Estate Winery, CheckMate Artisanal Winery, Martin’s Lane Winery, and Road 13 Vineyards—may all be owned by the modern B.C. wine industry’s pioneering Anthony von Mandl, but they are all run and expressed as unique entities, each with its own focus and character.

      The main component is a walk-around affair with tasting stations and small bites from both the Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill and CedarCreek’s new (and incredible) Home Block restaurant. Beyond that, there are Q & A sessions with each of the winemakers in attendance, plus seminars on everything from the science of blending wine to aging wine to technology to organic farming. There will be a sparkling-wine lounge featuring Mission Hill’s EXhilaration brut rosé, a silent auction, and much more, with proceeds going to Science World’s On the Road education program.

      It’ll be a fantastic opportunity to get to know each of the wineries better.

      Let’s run through ’em, with a recommendation from each for those who want to brush up beforehand or play a little at-home tasting version.

      I’d venture that Mission Hill Family Estate needs no introduction to anyone reading this column.Established in 1981, the West Kelowna winery has been turning heads for decades, particularly since winning the best-Chardonnay trophy in 1994 at London’s International Wine & Spirit Competition. With vineyards up and down the Okanagan Valley, Mission Hill makes a variety of styles in many tiers, from its Estate Series to its Legacy Collection, which is home to the jewel in the crown: the Bordeaux-inspired red blend Oculus. Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Pinot Gris 2018 ($21.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) is a well-crafted homage to B.C.’s most-planted white variety, with honeyed peaches and apricots snug against a little nougat, with amiable, mouthwatering acidity.

      CedarCreek Estate Winery in Kelowna was founded in 1986 by Ross Fitzpatrick; it was sold by his family to von Mandl in 2014. The winery continues to excel with cool-climate wine styles, with winemaker Taylor Whelan’s Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Noir especially counted among the Okanagan Valley’s best. CedarCreek Block 3 Riesling 2018 ($29.99, cedarcreek.bc.ca/) shimmers with citrus, Granny Smith apples, and pink grapefruit, with a perfect kiss of sweetness on the lengthy finish.

      Winemaker Phil McGahan of Oliver’s CheckMate Artisanal Winery keeps his focus on premium Chardonnay and Merlot coming from local vines upwards of 40 years old. The attention to detail is impeccable: all fruit is hand-sorted, wild-fermented, unfined, and unfiltered, each wine a well-built tribute to this land. CheckMate Artisanal Winery Opening Gambit Merlot 2014 ($85, checkmatewinery.com/) is my favourite B.C. Merlot ever, full stop. Aromatics of potpourri and dried blueberries lead to a palate awash with dark cherry, black licorice, espresso, and mint, with perfectly integrated tannins and extraordinary finesse.

      Back up in Kelowna, Martin’s Lane Winery offers the same level of quality and precision, here solely focused on Riesling and Pinot Noir, handled mighty well by winemaker Shane Munn. The guy comes to the Valley via New Zealand, Burgundy, and Barolo, but these wines are quintessentially Okanagan. Charming as all get-out, Martin’s Lane Naramata Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($100, martinslanewinery.com/) is, for my money (or, ideally, someone else’s), a stunning example of the possibilities of this variety in that region. Layers upon layers of balsamic, clove, blackberry, white truffle, sage, and toasty oak are all in sync, making for a harmonious bottle that will lie down a half-dozen years, easy.

      Finally, Road 13 Vineyards’ stewardship moved to von Mandl in late 2018; however, former family coproprietor Joe Luckhurst is still at the helm as general manager. During the past few years, the Oliver winery has tightened its focus on Rhône varieties like Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne, working with fruit coming from both the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. They have a well-deserved full trophy cabinet for wines made from these grapes, but for me a perennial favourite is their sparkling Chenin Blanc. The current edition, Road 13 Vineyards Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2015 ($39.99, road13vineyards.com/), is laden with Asian pear, marmalade, and brioche and comes from a home block of vines that were planted in 1968; that’s plenty of time to build character.

      For more on Uncorked, and to purchase tickets, visit ScienceWorld.ca/Uncorked/.

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