Purchasing gifts for wine lovers is easier than you might think. They (or we!) tend not to be snobs, just regular folks who enjoy a glass of wine with their meal or social occasions. And they tend to enjoy local products, which makes it just that must easier.
Choices have expanded recently, with news from Skimmerhorn Winery that Al Hoag has added spirits to a lineup that already includes a good selection of wine and the popular port-style Old Koot. Earlier this year he fired up his copper still to produce Proof Positive, a spirit distilled from grapes, and Cherry Bounce, a kirsch flavoured with cherry juice, cinnamon and cloves. And now, with winter settling in, he’s added Apple Pie Moonshine! It is an eau de vie made from McIntosh apples, with cinnamon, cloves and a bit of brown sugar making it taste, as Al says, “like a slice of apple pie.”
The wine shop in Erickson is open through Dec. 21, Wednesday through Sunday, and also features the full Skimmerhorn selection of wines. Kootenay Crush white blend, Marechal Foch, the popular Foch-Pinot Noir blend called Devil’s Chair, Pinot Gris, Ortega and Autumn Tryst are all good choices. On a chilly day, the fireplace warms the room and adds ambience to the friendly welcome visitors always enjoy.
Next door, the tasting room at Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery might be closed for the season, but there is plenty of activity going on behind the scenes. A harvest that was spectacular in quantity and quality is now being turned into wines that will be released next year.
Fortunately, Baillie-Grohman wines are available in liquor stores throughout the area, and Creston’s BC Liquor Store has a fine display of its products right beside the VQA shelves. Available wines include Cab Franc and Pinot Noir Estate, both big-time award winners this year. The Cab Franc earned one of only five platinum medals in the 2014 BC Wine Awards. The Pinot Noir? No biggie — just a gold medal as the top Pinot Noir in the entire province!
But wait, as the old TV ad used to say. There’s more! BG blends — Recolte Blanc and Recolte Rouge — have become hugely popular and, let’s face it, there aren’t many wines that will pair up with your turkey dinner more nicely than lovely Blanc de Noir that features a cranberry aroma! Grab a few bottles if you find them — they are sold out at the winery.
More exciting news from Baillie-Grohman owners Bob Johnson and Petra Flaa is that a sparkling wine — a Creston Valley first — is bottled, labelled and ready to go, pending a thumbs-up from the liquor control board. Bob says it might not be available until early in 2015, but it’s sure to be a hit — stock up when it hits the shelves in local stores!
Finding wines made at Wynnwood Cellars, just north of Wynndel on Highway 21, is a little more challenging. A lot more actually, after a good year in the wine shop left it pretty much sold out. But a great harvest — with the maturing vineyards producing double the quantity from previous years, and with fantastic quality — bodes well for 2015 and beyond. I’m betting a call to the winery might allow the canny shopper to purchase a gift certificate or two to ensure the wine lovers on your list don’t miss out on new releases. Meanwhile, check out private liquor stores in the area and inquire about Wynnwood wines — you just might get lucky!
As I’ve mentioned in the past, we buy nearly all our wine directly from wineries, so some of my recommendations aren’t always easy to find. But labels to look out for include Serendipity, Oliver Twist, River Stone, D’Angelo, Perseus, Burrowing Owl and Summerhill Pyramid Winery.
I’m a little partial to the latter, being in the midst of research for a book I am writing about Summerhill and the Cipes family. Summerhill is Canada’s first all-organic winery and is also a leader in biodynamics and sustainable practices. The fact that all of its wines spend some time aging in a pyramid that is an exact scale model of Egypt’s Great Pyramid is a bonus, and the owners believe that without a doubt that it adds to the quality of their wines. Winemaker Eric von Krosigk is especially brilliant with sparkling wines. I am a huge fan of Cipes Blanc de Noirs and Cipes Rose, as well as the ever-popular Cipes Brut. Summerhill sparkling wines have won awards all around the world, and for good reason.
Of course wine doesn’t only come from wineries and stores. Creston Valley Winecrafters has a great selection of kits that allow for wine and beer lovers to roll up their sleeves and participate in the making of their favourite quaffs. Kits have improved by leaps and bounds in recent years and U-brew fans have increased dramatically in response. Friendly, expert help is only a short drive away to the shop on Highway 3 in Erickson.
Wine and spirits lovers also appreciate gifts of books, food and art, and locally there is always a good selection to choose from.
Black Bear Books and Kingfisher Used Books are always good sources of reading material and Kingfisher has a section of wine and recipe books that is always worth checking out.
Who doesn’t love receiving a gift basket? Tigz Designs on Canyon Street offers a great selection, some of which include local wines and juices. They can also create custom gifts for that special someone. Morris Flowers always has excellent gift ideas, too.
A visit to the Harris family’s organic farm in Lister is a perfect opportunity to stock up on Kootenay Meadows cheese products that are always a hit when paired with wine. Or without wine, too, for that matter.
And shoppers should not miss out on the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market, where a huge array of gift ideas awaits. Be sure to stop by the booths of Tabletree and William Tell for proof that delicious bottles don’t have to include alcohol. Locally made juices are always a hit in our family, and some will surely make their way to Calgary for our Christmas celebrations.
For the beer lovers on your list, and there is probably more than one, the Beer Gear Store in Columbia Brewery is open Monday to Friday year-round and it has a huge array of clothing and gift items. And beer, too!
The real point to all this is that shopping can be fun, and local, too. Chances are that if you drop into the spots mentioned here, or any local shops, for that matter, you will find unexpected surprises and service from people who are also your friends and neighbours. It’s a fine way to get into the spirit of the season.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. His website,www.lorneeckersley.com, features a collection of columns, stories and photographs about wine, beer and spirits, food, travel and arts.