Thin-skinned, difficult to cultivate and needing lots of attention — pinot noir grapes are not for the faint of heart.
“With pinot, you either like it or you love it,” said Jak Meyer, owner of Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls which specializes in pinot and chardonnay. “Ever since the movie Sideways with Richard Dreyfuss pinot started getting lots of attention. He had this big dialogue on how merlot is so bland and pinot is the holy grail of wine. It had a huge impact on the wine industry and pinot noir itself.”
So much so that festivals for the specific varietal are popping up around the world and people from across Canada and beyond will be attending the third annual B.C. Pinot Noir Celebration in Kaleden on Aug. 22. The event showcases wineries from the valley and across the province.
“Not only are we having media from New York and London coming, but we have seen tickets being sold across the country. It is a great way to showcase our wineries, but also to give people another reason to come to the beautiful Okanagan,” said Meyer, who hosted the first event at his winery in 2013. “They come for the pinot festival but what brings them back is the whole package of wine tourism, lakes and all the other things there are to do here.”
Widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world, the grapes have found an area to thrive in the Central Okanagan. The B.C. Pinot Noir Celebration had steady growth over the past three years with just over 100 people attending the inaugural event. Meyer expects 300 this year.
“It is something that we hope really becomes a signature event in the Okanagan. This varietal does very well here and we want to let the world know it,” said Meyer.
Producers in the valley know the varietal is being taken seriously and the industry is striving to elevate and improve the quality and reputation of B.C.’s pinot noir.
“We’re seeing more of an emphasis and a thirst for the delicate, subtle, elegant pinot noir,” said Howling Bluff Estate Winery’s Luke Smith, who along with Meyer and David Paterson from Tantalus Vineyards created the event. “More than any other wine, it reflects the terroir authentically, meaning the dirt it is grown in and the seasons. It is a very difficult grape to grow, requiring lots of attention and control, but when you achieve a beautiful pinot noir it is very gratifying as a winemaker.”
This year’s event is the most ambitious yet. The wineries were selected by blind tasting by the Vancouver Chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.
The celebration has partnered with Visa Infinite and the BC Wine Institute. As part of their Wine Country Program, Visa Infinite is hosting a celebration dinner with Decanter Magazine’s Steven Spurrier at Liquidity Winery on Aug. 21, featuring chefs Rob Walker, Vikram Vij, Trevor Bird and Dilan Draper. Spurrier is arguably one of the top wine critics in the world.
At the main event, held at Linden Gardens in Kaleden, guests will enjoy a Summerhill Pyramid Winery sparkling wine reception with guest speaker Spurrier, followed by breakout sessions alongside the pinot noir winemakers. A blending session will give those in attendance the experience of making pinot noir. Following will be a canapé competition with celebrated Okanagan chefs Chris Van Hooydonk (Artisan Culinary Concepts), Alex SIelmann and Jason Leizert (Gorgeous Georgia’s Homemade Ice Cream) and Calgary chef Draper (Avec Bistro). Capping off the evening will be a family-style dinner prepared by Artisan Culinary Concepts, paired with pinot noirs, accompanied with live music by the Young’Uns.
For more information about the B.C. Pinot Noir Celebration, or to purchase tickets, visit www.BCPinotNoir.ca.