Pacific Northwest Ski blog (and a few other places!)

Lots or reports from skiing around the Pacific Northwest, with some East Coast excursions thrown in for good measure

51 brown bags of wine …

While evocative of drunken vagrants slugging booze (or me with my roadie walking to the Atomic), brown bags are in fact an essential parts of any wine tasting. This is especially true at the People’s Choice Wine Tasting, held annually as part of the Okanagan Fall wine festival. We’d attended this event 3 years ago, and had a good time. Apart from the wine, it’s makes for fine people watching, as Kelowna’s socialites come out dressed in their finery and showing off their latest surgical enhancements.

So we left early on Friday had a very pleasant 6 hour drive up to Kelowna, BC. The perfect late summer weather made for fabulous vistas of the North Cascades and the deep turquoise lakes of the Okanagan Valley.

The event is like a regular tasting, but with an additional room for the blind tasting. You get score sheets and wander around tasting the brown bag encased wines and rating them out of 20. There were 6 categories in the blind tasting, with 51 wines to sample. A daunting effort, but it had to be done ;-}. Pass the spitoon …

We started on the sauvignon blancs, and one was obviously superior. Not surprisingly it turned out to be the winner from Jackson Triggs. Maybe the best sauvignon in the valley and a cracker of a wine. Gehringer took second with a very drinkable passionfruit number.

The pinot gris, gewurztraminer and chardonnay classes were mixed bags. Mostly nice wine, but little stood out from the pack. Two of the most reliable producers of pinot gris in the area, Gray Monk and Cedar Creek took out first and second respectively. These were both crisp, citrusy drops, best drunk soon, I suspect.

Wineries we knew little about won the gewurztraminer and chardonnay classes. A sweeter style gewurztraminer from Dirty Laundry took first place, followed by a spritzy, spicy wine from Thornhaven which we thought was marginally the best of the bunch. The chardonnay gong went to Orofino, with second place to Therapy. In our scoring these were two of six wines that were all very quaffable indeed. They make pretty decent chardy up here.

The pinot noir selection was an odd mix of somewhat light, acidic wine, but with a few stand-outs. We both though the Inniskillin Dark Horse was a cracker – smoky cherries and velvety tannins, one to leave alone for a year or two. This only took second place though, trumped in the vote by Lang Vineyards. I’m afraid I didn’t rate this highly, and Jan ranked it fourth in her list. Maybe we need to taste that one again …

Finally, and personally with a little trepidation, we got to the merlots. Three years ago I remember thinking the merlots were a pretty average bunch, with one or two half-decent wines amongst them. So what a surprise it was when, across the board, the quality of the merlots was probably the highest of all six classes. Jan’s top-rated and my second-rated won the people’s choice, another high quality, complex wine from Jackson Triggs with their 2004 Grand Reserve. Second place went to Church and State, a wine we both liked, but I at least thought was more of a pleasant, straightforward plummy quaffer.

So, some more new discoveries, and further confirmation that some of the old favorites are still producing the goods.

This is a really fun event for punters like us. It’s a shame that other wine shows don’t offer blind tastings for the public to test their taste buds. It helps develop our palates, and I’m sure the producers get some ‘interesting’ insights in to what the populace likes to knock back.

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