By Tania Thomas
Early November is a perfect time to head to Whistler, a majestic resort town nestled in the Coastal Mountains of beautiful British Columbia, and take part in Cornucopia; an 11-day annual Fall Celebration of premier food and wine.
This great event, 17 years running now, offers a great variety of interactive seminars, delectable winery dinners, gala wine tastings and those famous after-parties. It is an epicurean extravaganza not to be missed for locals and visitors alike.
Friday events started with the BC Wine Institute’s, VQA Trade Seminar “Unmistakably Ours,” that explored what is truly different and special about BC wines compared to the wines from around the world. In a blind tasting, three BC Merlots and Syrahs were compared to their global counterparts from other international wine growing regions. Merlot, the most planted grape in BC, displays a great structure with more tannin and acidity. It is more often full-bodied than the softer, mellower version known in the rest of the world. The best examples offer flavours and aromas of raspberries, plum, ripe cherries, coffee and chocolate with plenty of structure for graceful aging (if you can only keep your hands off of them long enough).
Tasted against Washington’s Pedestal Merlot 2008, Chilean Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre 2007 and Saint-Estephe’s Chateau L’Argilus du Roi 2009, they were in great company. The three chosen BC Merlots were River Stone Estate Winery Merlot 2011, Painted Rock Estate Winery Merlot 2010 and Sandhill Small Lots Block CB Merlot 2010, all from the BC VQA Okanagan Valley.
Syrah, the most exciting grape now growing in BC, delivers tons of ripe fruit and a fresh palate with well balanced acidity and tannin and peppery notes. With these elegant, complex, age-worthy wines, it’s becoming clear that BC is crafting its own “Syrah style.”
Tasted against South Australia’s Penfold’s St. Henri Shiraz 2009, Chilean Montes Alpha Syrah 2009 and Saint-Joseph’s Chave Offerus 2008, BC’s Orofino Scout Vineyard 2011 Syrah, BC VQA Similkameen Valley, Burrowing Owl Vineyards 2010 Syrah and CedarCreek Estate Winery Platinum Syrah 2009, both from BC VQA Okanagan Valley, stood their ground and proved they can compete with their global counterparts indeed.
Just a few decades ago, British Columbia was thought of as a backwater for wine production. However, now, especially the Okanagan Valley, it is no longer simply the “land of beaches and peaches”. It is rightfully emerging as a serious contender in a production of complex, full-bodied red wines, vinified in BC’s distinct style and showing a sense of place and top quality. These wines are “unmistakably ours” and without any doubt worthy of competing on a world stage.
From a very young age, Tania helped with picking grapes in her family’s Croatian vineyards as well as with wine making. Later, she lived abroad in London, England, Milan and Venice, Italy and explored the food and wine cultures while also traveling extensively throughout Europe.
While living in Toronto, Tania completed studies with the International Sommelier Guild. She continued her wine education with the prestigious, internationally recognized Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), based in London, England, and in 2007, received the WSET Level 3, Advanced Certificate in Wine and Spirits.
In March 2013, Tania was awarded with a Certified Specialist of Wine designation by The Society of Wine Educators, based in Washington, DC, and is currently preparing for their Certified Wine Educator exam.
Tania has since started her own business and offers sommelier services, consulting and wine tastings via RunawayGrape Guided Gourmet Food & Wine Tastings.