Pursuing my growing thirst for Okanagan Valley wine, and particularly the white wines, I recently got in touch with the winemaker at Red Rooster Winery, Karen Gillis. Taken by a sample bottle of her 2011 Reserve Gewürztraminer , I wanted to know more about this specific wine from British Columbia (BC). "Gewürztraminer is a grape that I particularly enjoy working with in BC," Christine explained. "Up and down the valley (120km long), it really shows itself differently north to south valley. It grows like a weed, and can be fussy in the winery, but the rewards are great when it goes well." I couldn't agree more about the results, so I had a few more questions not just about this specific wine, but also about her background in food science, and what food pairs well with the Gewürztraminer and other offerings from Red Rooster Winery.
A lot of times Gewürztraminer can be heavy and oily but the Red Rooster was very light, fresh, and aromatic. And quite dry. Is this a product of the winemaking? The climate of the Okanagan? Specific practices in the vineyard?
A bit of both. 2011 was a cool year for us, so ultimately mother nature crafts the wine. My philosophy has always been to keep it simple and show the wines the best I can. In the vineyard we are fairly consistent and farm according to best practices and each grower tries to deliver the best quality fruit possible. The 2011 blend comes from several different locations in the Okanagan, part of what makes it special.
How has your background in food and food science helped you as a winemaker?
My love of food (eating) and food science make me who I am. I think my peers would describe me as optimistic, focused, and goal orientated. Perhaps that is the logical side of the science speaking. The ability to craft fine wines is similar to cooking and eating; it is what drives me everyday.
Since you have so much food experience, what are some of your favorite local foods to pair with the Gewürztraminer?
There is a great Indian restaurant in Oliver, the style [of the food] lends itself to our Gewürztraminer. I am also a big fan of all the local cheeses in the area; you can’t go wrong sitting on the patio, fresh baguette, cheese, Gewürztraminer, and a good book.
How about a food pairing with some of the other wines you make?
I am particularly fond of smoked duck that one of the local artisans make; it’s fabulous with our Reserve Pinot Noir. Nothing beats a hearty lamb stew and the Reserve Malbec. Our Patio Chef, Darin Patterson, makes these amazing skewers of chicken, beef, and lamb served with quinoa salad, and salted cabbage; they're fabulous with our Pinot Blanc. There are so many to choose from it’s hard not ramble; you’ll have to come and try yourself. [Duly noted! --Jameson]
Are there grape varieties you are experimenting with you think show promise?
We’ve been working on our Golden Egg Blend for a couple of years, it is Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre based. It has been very interesting to grow and watch develop. It has great white pepper and brambly fruit characters. We age it in new and one year old French barrels to get a subtle hint of smokiness; it’s really quite lovely. We have had a few cool years (not it’s ideal growing climate), [but] I’m excited to see how they react to warmer growing conditions and how that may change the profile of the wines as they develop into mature vines.
If you still have a thirst for Okanagan Valley wine knowledge, jump to my interview with Christine Coletta of Haywire Winery. And Luke Whittall of Wine Country BC gave me a thorough overview of the British Columbia wine scene.