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Victoria Pub Wins The Irish Pub of the Year in North America

Celebrating a Meeting Place of Friends at Irish Times in Victoria, BC

Photo Credit: Mister Pixel Photography

Winery owners Judy and Skip Stothert love celebrating their family traditions. When they started Coolshanagh Winery in the Okanagan, they didn’t hesitate to name it “Coolshanagh”, a Celtic word that belonged to Judy’s side of the family.

“Coolshanagh” means a “meeting place of friends.”

For generations, Judy’s family started using the word “Coolshanagh” under letterheads and soon enough, her cousins named their houses as Coolshanagh. This soon became a family tradition and carried through to multiple generations in celebration of the friendship between family and friends.

Although not entirely certain, the Stotherts share that the word “Coolshanagh” originated from Judy’s grandfather in Ireland and then eventually landed in Canada with his immigration to Newfoundland and Victoria.

When the Stotherts heard that Victoria’s Irish Times Pub won Irish TimesThe Irish Pub of the Year in North America (chosen from 16,000 Irish pubs worldwide), they were ecstatic! This achievement follows Irish Times’ wins from previous years: Top 10 Irish Pubs Outside of Ireland in 2015; Best Pub in the City (8 out of last 12 years).

The Stotherts are fortunate that their Coolshanagh Chardonnay is listed by the bottle at Irish Times Pub. However, that wasn’t the celebratory aspect. It was how impressive and honourable this accolade is and the perfect fit between Coolshanagh and Irish Times Pub. It’s almost serendipitous.

Tracing back to family traditions, Coolshanagh originated from Irish roots then eventually arrived in Victoria, like Irish Times. Irish pubs are known for their unique, cozy and friendly ambiance. This, like Coolshanagh, makes a perfect place for the gathering of friends.

Join us in celebrating this beautiful friendship between Coolshanagh and Irish Times by visiting the pub the next time you’re in Victoria!

How Impressive Was This Award for Irish Times Pub?

16,000 Irish pubs worldwide were screened for this award, including UK, Ireland, Europe, North America and more.

  • Irish Times Pub was shortlisted in six (6) competing categories:
  • Best Irish Pub of the Year in North America
  • Best Bar Person
  • Best Marketing Campaign
  • Best Chef
  • Best Food Experience
  • Best Craft Beer Experience

Congratulations to our friends!

- From Skip and Judy of Coolshanagh

 

Singletree Welcomes the Harvest with Community Social

According to general manager Andrew Etsell, visitation at Mt. Lehman's Singletree Winery is up more than 100% over last year. "We're not just busy on the weekends, but every day, Wednesday through Sunday. This is because more and more people, especially from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, are realizing there's a new winery literally at their back door. Through tastings at trade and media events, along with strong accolades from wine journalists, the word is getting out there about Singletree." singletree family

Next up for #winelover-s is the winery's first annual Mt. Lehman Community Social, on Saturday, August 20, from 5:30pm until late. It's a free event for the community to connect, socialize, and come together as one. All are invited to bring a favourite dish to share at a potluck, family-style feast, with the Mt. Lehman Community Association sponsoring live music from Langley's alternative folk-rockers, Prairie Dance Club.

New vintages of Singletree wine will be available for purchase by the glass or by the bottle, alongside craft beer on tap from a local brewery, and other non-alcoholic beverages.

Laura Preckel of Singletree says, "We want to bring old neighbours and new friends together. We're inviting the Mt. Lehman community, their friends and family to bring a dish and to raise a glass with us. It's about giving back to our community through sharing. And what a better way to do that than with a glass of wine?"

Indeed, wine lovers are increasingly adventurous and are not only seeking wine that reflects a sense of place, but are interested in unique vineyard experiences.

"We've been holding more winery events, including our popular concert series, and our (usually sold out)  painting parties in the vineyard," says Andrew.

Singletree painting party

The winery is very foodie and family-friendly. Visitors to the tasting room can purchase specially-selected local cheese, charcuterie, fresh breads and crackers from the wine shop, and take them to its newly-licensed picnic area, where they can also enjoy wines by the glass or by the bottle. It's al fresco dining at its best!  Plus - the family lends everyone a picnic basket with glasses, plates and cutlery, to complete the experience. There are always games and toys for kids at the picnic area, and families are encouraged to get up close and personal with the vineyards that surround the winery and tasting room.

"We've also been receiving numerous requests for onsite weddings," continues Laura. "Surrounded by vineyards and farms, with mountains in the background, it's the perfect site for a rustic valley wedding."

Singletree at night

Up next for the winery is arguably the most important event of the year... the HARVEST!

The weather in April and May was extremely hot, which gave an early boost to the vines. Although June and July have been slightly cooler than normal, if trends continue, Singletree can expect another great vintage in the Fraser Valley. Bud break started in the first week of March, four weeks ahead of schedule. Andrew is projecting to start harvest in mid-September. This will be about two weeks later than 2015, but still earlier than average vintages. They'll start the 2016 harvest with their popular and early-ripening Siegerrebe ("get siggy with it"), followed by Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, with Grüner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc to follow. Andrew is carefully watching his two acres of Pinot Noir, which he will use for Rosé and - spoiler alert - Singletree's first-ever vintage of traditional method sparkling wine.

For more on Singletree, visit www.singletreewinery.com.

Meet Steven Spurrier #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese It’s a new week to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall!

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Steven Spurrier.

Steven Spurrier - Decanter Magazine

Steven Spurrier, Decanter magazine’s consulting editor and chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards, has been a leader in the global wine industry for 50 years. Spurrier’s introduction to wine was through his grandfather on Christmas eve in 1945 when he was poured a Cockburn’s 1908 port after dinner. It was at this point that Spurrier knew he would make wine his profession; starting in cellars of Christopher and Co, he would go on to start his own wine shop, Les Caves de la Madeleine and then L’Academie du Vin, France’s first private wine school, he now is the proprietor of a 10-hectare vineyard, Bride Valley, at his farm in Dorset. This lifelong passion for wine has led Spurrier to be at the forefront of the international wine industry.

This August, Spurrier visited BC to judge in a blind tasting event organized by the BC Wine Institute and Vancouver wine luminary DJ Kearney. The event, aptly named the Judgment of BC, was fashioned after Spurrier’s 1976 Judgement of Paris event which pitted California Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons against their French counterparts and concluded with a shocking decision in which the French judges scored Californian wines highest in each category.

The Judgement of BC put local Chardonnays and Syrahs beside a world class selection from around the globe.  While the 2013 vintage from the Okanagan’s C.C. Jentsch topped the list of Syrahs, the BC Chardonnays did not fair as well with the top B.C. vintage Okanagan Falls’ Blue Mountain Reserve 2013 in sixth place.

After sitting down for a tasting with Kurtis Kolt, he left him with these words: “My message to British Columbia is that I think you undervalue yourselves: your wines are sensational.”

Both the Judgement of B.C. and Spurrier’s commentary on BC wines have been a reaffirmation that the industry is continuing to move in the right direction and has the ability to produce world class vintages. The Somm Journal has just published an article by Spurrier entitled "The Best of British Columbia", in which he gives these encouraging words; "For me, wine is the three Ps: the place, the people and the product. British Columbia ticks all three boxes with exuberance, elegance and conviction." It was an honour and pleasure to have Spurrier visit BC and taste what our region has to offer.

With all of that said about Steven, will you please help us give a big hello to him?

For more coverage of Spurrier’s visit and the Judgement of BC please visit:

“I think that was a very successful tasting,” Spurrier remarked to the Westender, “There wasn’t a dud wine in there. Syrah always has a wonderful exuberance and a wonderful expression and I found that the British Columbia Syrah were very expressive.”

“You’re not an emerging wine region but a deserving wine region” - Check out Tim Pawsey's coverage of Spurrier's visit over at Hired Belly.

John Schreiner's coverage of Judgment of BC and the C.C. Jentsch Cellars' vintage that topped the list of Syrahs during this momentous blind tasting event.  

Kurtis Kolt sat down with Spurrier for a tasting of BC wines at Chambar, learn about their conversation on the BC wine industry and their tasting notes from the evening.

Check out Kurtis Kolt's coverage of the Judgment of BC and the full listing of Chardonnay and Syrah results over at The Georgia Straight.

Daenna Van Mulligen, one of the judges at the Judgment of BC, writes a very interesting article on her experience as well as covering Spurrier's visit and remarks on her website Wine Diva.

Read Treve Ring's coverage of and thoughts on the Judgment of BC over at Anthony Gismondi On Wine.

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter

Compare and contrast: Finger Lakes Wine and BC Wine

by Sujinder Juneja #TownHallOnTour

#FLXWine vs #BCWine

We have been lucky enough to attend the 8th annual Wine Bloggers Conference, a gathering of bloggers (naturally), industry professionals and wine lovers. This year, the event was held in Corning, New York with a focus on the great wines, producers and the people of the Finger Lakes AVA.

FLX_Vineyard

A diverse, progressive and passionate industry, the Finger Lakes wine region shares many similarities with that of British Columbia, where we are happy to call home. Here are a few of our observations on the connections between the two regions, for your reading pleasure:

Cool Climate Viticulture

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia are both described as ‘cool climate’ wine regions and on average, share a similar amount of degree growing days. However the Finger Lakes region experiences a highly variable climate, with cold winters, cool to warm summers and a short growing season. While there is diversity of climate within the five main BC wine regions (Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands), the climate is less extreme overall and degree days are higher on average.

FLX_Traminette

Planting Grapes To Site

The most established wine regions in the world plant grape varietals that are best suited to that particular site or climate. The most planted grapes in the Finger Lakes are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc along with a selection of lesser known Vitis vinifera (Blaufränkisch, Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni), native Vitis labrusca (Catawba, Niagara) and French-American hybrids (Traminette, Vidal, Seyval Blanc, Valvin Muscat) that suit the climate and produce balanced and delicious wines. By contrast, the top white grape varietals in BC are Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. Other crosses and hybrids such as Ortega, Marechal Foch and select Blattner Hybrids are also planted to produce successful wines. The Finger Lakes and BC wine industries began with native and hybrid varietals with the belief that they would better suit the climate, but consumer preferences in the Fingers Lakes and British Columbia are favouring the more popular vinifera varietals.

Bottled sunshine within the Ventosa Pinot Noir.

What’s Wrong With Hybrids Anyway?

Nothing. If a hybrid grape is grown on a site which allows it to mature to full ripeness, and in the hands of a talented winemaker, they can produce wines that are both balanced and delicious. It’s worth noting that hybrids sell for significantly less by the ton, compared to vinifera varietals, which can affect a winery’s bottom line. Add to that the fact that hybrids are generally less well-known and often hard to pronounce, and therefore market to consumers. One of the most vocal debates during Friday’s Introduction to Finger Lakes Wine Country panel discussion swirled around the contentious use of crosses and hybrids in the region. Consider this: if a hybrid varietal, developed specifically for a particular climate, can produce tasty wines, should they not be celebrated, granting uniqueness to the wine region as a whole? Not all winemakers are convinced. But if you ask someone like Art Hunt at Hunt Country Vineyards, he’ll tell you that his varietally-labelled Seyval Blanc and Valvin Muscat are among their most popular wines. “Millennials want to try new things,” he says. “You can taste 100 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, but wine drinkers want experience something unique.”

Judy Wiltberger at Keuka Spring Vineyards is proud to show off her Vignoles, a French-American hybrid that sells out every year. In her experience, the key is to market regionally, get people into the tasting room where people can try the wines in person. 70-75% of her sales are through her cellar door and challenging her guests with distinct varietals is a way to excite their palates with something new.

A view towards Seneca Lake.

A Sense of Community

Unlike other more competitive regions in the global wine world, the Finger Lakes and British Columbia both enjoy a strong sense of community and partnership. I know firsthand that winery owners and winemakers in BC regularly collaborate and share information and ideas that make the region stronger as a whole. The same is absolutely true for the wineries of the Finger Lakes. If you had the chance, for example, to taste the Tierce Riesling, made by Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt, you’ll know that the wine – and the wine region – is greater than the sum of its parts.

A Window to the World

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia wineries both face the double-edged sword that most of their wine is consumed in their local areas. The challenge offered by the locavore movement in North America means that major cities such as New York and Vancouver consume most of the wine produced in each respective region. Add to that the high tourism rate that each region enjoys means that most wine is sold via the cellar door, limiting the chance for export and global distribution. What this means is that fewer consumers internationally have the chance to taste the wines and understand what the region is all about. At this point, allocation to outside markets becomes a critical path to increasing the prestige and recognition of the regions as a whole.

Fox Run  Vineyards owner Scott Osborn & Town Hall's Sujinder Juneja.

With Open Arms

At the end of the day and at the end of this conference, the greatest impression left on us about the Finger Lakes wasn’t the wine. It was the people. It wasn’t just the wineries and winemakers that opened their arms to welcome us, but also the restaurants, shops, hotels and the community at large. From our first day in Keuka Lake, throughout the expertly-organized pre-conference excursion and to the last day of the conference itself, there was an excitement and overall warmth that was impossible to ignore, and wonderful to be a part of. When the wine bloggers visited Penticton, British Columbia for #WBC13 it was a similar experience as well. Community, a sense of place, and the celebration of diversity were as much a part of the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference as they are in 2015.

See you in 2016 in Lodi, California.

Bob Halifax, April Yap-Hennig, Leeann Froese, Jeff Kralik at James Melendez at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.