Wine author Natalie MacLean is more than willing to pose for a photo mid-afternoon with a big glass of Okanagan red wine. And then polish off that glass of 2009 Montage from Naramata’s La Frenz Winery afterward.
Full disclosure: I joined her and gulped down the same
“This Montage is what I love about Okanagan wines,” said the Ottawa-based author of Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines. “It’s packed with flavour, but is balanced with nice acidity.”
I met up with MacLean at the Delta Grand hotel before her recent evening Unquenchablesession at the B.C. Wine Museum at the Laurel Building to talk wine, travel and writing.
“Of course, wine will be served at the book event,” she said with a laugh.
“I read from the book and sign the book, but people are there just as much, if not more, for the wine tasting.”
For the Kelowna stop of the book tour, the wine on offer is naturally from the Okanagan.
In this case, the Stellar’s Jay sparkling gewurztraminer and a cabernet sauvignon from Sumac Ridge Winery in Summerland.
Okanagan wine will also figure prominently in the book tour stops and tastings in Calgary on Nov. 19 and Vancouver on Nov. 21, with Kelowna’s Tantalus winery supplying its award-winning riesling.
While certainly a big fan of Okanagan wines, MacLean’s new book is a romp around the globe to find value wines.
As such the Okanagan gets barely a mention, but she promises to make it a big part of her next book.
The next book will be her third; the first was 2006’s Red, White and Drunk All Over.
Wine lovers in the Okanagan can still, however, get a kick out of Unquenchable.
MacLean hits Australia, Germany, Ontario, South Africa, Italy, Argentina, Portugal and France in her quest to talk to as many winemakers,drink as much wine, and eat as many meals as possible.
“It’s funny, bookstores don’t know how to categorize this book,” she explained.
“I’ve seen it under biographies in some stores. That’s accurate because wine is my life. It is also a wine book and a travel memoir, but first and foremost it’s meant to be entertainment. It’s funny stories where we just happen to come upon colourful winemakers, value wines and great food.”
Those value wines (which are all available at Canadian liquor stores) are listed at the end of every chapter along with suggested food matches.
Her favourite winemaker?
Wolf Blass, the guy who’s now in his 70s and has built his eponymous winery into a respected international brand.
“He’s quite randy, you know,” said MacLean.
“He told me he makes his robust and juicy shiraz wines for women because he loves women and he married four of them.”
Her favourite country visited?
“Argentina,” she said without skipping a beat.
“The contrast between the Andes Mountains and the desert is breathtaking. And the thick-as-phonebook steaks they serve there go perfectly with a Catena malbec.”
Her favourite part of the book?
The final chapter where she catches up with A Year in Provence author Peter Mayle, in where else, but the Provence region of France, famous for it’s rose wines.
“We drank rose together in a bistro. It was so cliche,” said MacLean.
“But it was also so wonderful.”
Then the inevitable question a wine author gets asked: What is your favourite wine?
“Any wine someone else pays for,” she quipped.
“I’m a wine cheapskate at heart. But if I’m going to just sip a wine for my own pleasure, it’s pinot noir.”
MacLean also keeps busy putting out a wine e-newsletter that 125,000 people subscribe to, as well as smartphone wine apps that almost as many have downloaded and writing on wine for a dozen or so publications.
You can read more reviews of my new wine book Unquenchable here.