A representative from Gray Monk Estate Winery pours a sample during a recent festival in Castlegar.

GORD TURNER: Tasting new wines always worthwhile

At the Castlegar Winefest on April 1, more than 30 wineries will be displaying their wares and offering sips of their latest wines.

At the Castlegar Winefest on April 1 this year, more than 30 wineries will be displaying their wares and offering sips of their latest wines.

Among these will be the top-notch wineries you’ve tasted from before such as Tinhorn Creek, Gehringer Brothers, Desert Hills, Dirty Laundry, and Quinta Ferreira. Their 2016 offerings will be worth the price of admission alone.

Each year, however, the Winefest Committee invites a few new wineries to come to Castlegar and show off their current reds and whites. We may not know the quality of their wines until we stand in line and have a few different sips, but often we’re surprised at what they have to offer.

Once you’ve been impressed by a particular wine from a new winery, you’ll want to visit (as we do) that winery itself. They’re not that far away — either in the Okanagan, Shuswap, or Creston areas. Our Columbia Valley winery, Columbia Gardens, is not new, but it is the closest, and usually their “Garden Gold” and Gewurztraminer are decent white wines.

New wineries to the Castlegar Winefest will include Ursa Major Winery, Tipsy Hills Winery, MOCOJO Winery, Intersection Estate Winery, Poplar Grove Winery, La Casa Bianca Winery, Young & Wyse Collection, and Maverick Winery.

Add to these the newest West Kootenay winery from the Fruitvale area, SOAHC (apparently CHAOS reversed). When you step up to these new wineries on April 1 at the Castlegar Complex, you can take a number of approaches. If you simply taste everything these wineries have to offer, you will not make it through the evening. You have to realize this is a sipping event — not a see-how-much-you-can-consume event.

During the evening, you can select three or four wines from 30 wineries, so that’s a lot to choose from. So you need a strategy. For example, you should begin with white wines and stick to one varietal, say Gewurztraminer, for the first round of the floor. Then you might circle back tasting only Riesling or white blends.

You should leave the sipping of reds until midway in the evening. Then in order to compare the reds, it’s essential to stick to one varietal, say Pinot Noir, for a circling of the floor.

Next, you can try the Merlot from several different wineries until you discover which one you like the best. It’s also important to pause for a bit and partake of the available snacks. That way you can take a break from wine and spend time going over in your mind the best wines you’ve tasted. When you return to the winery tables, you might look for late harvest or ice wines to cap the evening.

I’ve had a look at the list of wineries coming to Castlegar this year, and I’m quite taken by a few of the names. Tipsy Hills, for example, indicates you might get a bit “tipsy” sipping their wines, while Monster Vineyards could evolve straight from horror fiction. I have no idea how MOCOJO came by its moniker, but Ursa Major has its roots in the stars.

Obviously, a number of wineries are linked to nearby landscapes such as Poplar Grove in Naramata, Skimmerhorn at Creston, and Columbia Gardens from Trail. Others are named after the owners or their families such as Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery and Lang Vineyards. Then there are the “cute” names such as “Squeezed” Wines and “Forbidden Fruit” Winery.

Clearly, there will be enough selection of wine to satisfy everyone. Last-minute tickets can be purchased at Oglow’s Paints or Bubblee’s Liquor Outlet or from Sunshine 2000 Rotary members.

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