Anthony Gismondi: Yearning for years gone by

Anthony Gismondi believes this year’s offering may be the finest vintage ever produced in B.C.

Article content

The notion of vintage wines continues to fade as the field of wine welcomes new voices to the arena with other priorities. It used to be that vintages were analyzed from start to finish and then compared with previous years for clues to whether or not the wines coming out of a specific growing season could be expected to be as great, good, indifferent or worse than previous years.

There was a time when the pros would recite all the Bordeaux vintages that count like 1945, 1953, 1961, 1966, 1970, 1975, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1990 and well, you get the picture, years mattered. Most winemakers, growers and owners championed the best years, as did writers and professional tasters.

Yet, something happened on the way to retail stores, lifestyle magazines, the internet, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et al — vintage designations began to disappear.

It makes sense that talking about the quality of any vintage only works when it is considered to be of good or great quality. Today many retailers and restaurateurs conveniently ignore the vintage on their lists, often citing variability of supply and the cost of keeping up with the ever-moving once-a-year vintage changeovers. It is also a lot easier to sell a brand than a year, giving you even more licence to ignore the vintage report.


Article content

Ascending New World producers in warmer regions were quick to point out that in places like California, Australia, South Africa and even South America, vintage wasn’t that important because the weather was the same every year. And it was true, at least before global warming began to wreak havoc, causing wildfires, drought, and now unimaginable one-off weather events like torrential rainfalls, floods and frost events that can wipe out a vineyard in a day.

High-tech has become a game-changer too. From ultraviolet lights that effectively and safely kill powdery mildew to optical sorters that select only the finest fruit with accuracy and ease and many more advances, technology is beginning to rebalance vineyard charts no matter the weather.

We bring this up today because as the province begins to reopen and you return to visiting local wineries, you will happen upon possibly one of the finest vintage ever produced in B.C. — at a time when producers have the knowledge and the wherewithal to do something with a stellar year.

So do you want to know what year that is? If you are going to spend your hard-earned money on expensive wine, you should. I’m have been a fan of 2013, 2016 and 2017, but it is clear to me already they will play second fiddle to 2020. The crop was small and will disappear fast, but I can confirm that the quality is excellent based on some early tastings. But don’t take my word for it, this is what several highly-respected B.C. wine folks are saying about 2020 as they begin to roll out their wines.


Article content

• David Paterson, GM and winemaker at Tantalus: “It’s the best Pinot Noir I’ve seen in 12 years in the Okanagan.”

• Severine Pinte, viticulturist and winemaker Le Vieux Pin and LaStella: “The fruit quality was excellent. The wines are balanced and healthy with great natural acidity and nice ripe tannins.”

• Karen Gillis, Vineyard Operations Manager for Andrew Peller: “The wines are more balanced with great acidity and structure. They have balance, complexity and freshness that should age beautifully.”

• John Weber, owner and winemaker at Orofino in the Similkameen: “I am seeing see exceptional aromatics, especially among the Rieslings and Gamay.”

• Sébastien Hotte, winemaker/viticulturist at Harper’s Trail in Kamloops: “A nice summer without any heat spikes and a long fall extending the growing season by a few weeks assisted in reaching a good level of ripeness. The wines are showing good acidity and a bright profile.”

• Heleen Pannekoek of Fort Berens in the Lillooet region, reflected on conditions similar to the Okanagan: “The crop load was very low, due to smaller bunches and fewer bunches, but the wines have good flavour, moderate alcohol levels, and a somewhat lower acidity than we are used to in some of the wines.”

• Bailey Williamson, Winemaker at Blue Grouse: “I am happy with the wines, in the typical fresh, light style that makes Island wines so pleasing with food. The Pinot Noir looks to be maturing beautifully in barrel with focused fruit and precise acidity.”


Article content

Williamson confirms what we have always known, the vintage matters every year.

Weekend wine picks

Mateus Rosé N/V, Douro — Bairrada, Portugal

$9.99 — $17.99L I 87/100

UPC: 5601012011500

The iconic Mateus Original Rosé is a light, fresh, barely frizzante Rosé created in 1942 and first shipped at the end of Second World War. It has since lived through several pink revivals. Expect a perfectly pale raspberry colour and a fresh, uncomplicated fruity nose that stems from a mix of Baga, Rufete, Tinta Barroca, and Touriga Franca. Summers are hot in Portugal, and this wine was designed to cool you down without any pretence. It’s ready to go for patio season, and with its shining screwcap, it couldn’t be easier to crack a bottle and begin the party. Serve with sunshine.

Mayhem Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$15.65 I 87/100

UPC: 626990352532

Much like last year, this youthful showy pungent Sauvignon demonstrates the versatility of the Naramata Bench. Expect an intense grapefruit, passion fruit nose and palate that is reminiscent of Marlborough but $5 cheaper. It’s aged on its lees until bottling — super value and fun. It’s the Mayhem style we applaud. I’m impressed with what you get for the money and suggest it’s perfect with west coast mussels or clams. Select private wine shops.

Tinto Rey 2018, Dunnigan Hills, Yolo County, California, United States

$19.99 I 88/100

UPC: 859551001444


Article content

It would appear the iconic Spanish grape Verdejo has found a home in Dunnigan Hills, California. Tinto Rey is an 89/11 mix of Verdejo/Chardonnay fermented in neutral French oak barrels and stainless steel for five months. The nose is a savoury green affair with bits of fresh-cut apples flecked with lime zest, although the addition of Chardonnay and oak unnecessarily fattens the wine, in our opinion. That said, many will love the creamy style and butter notes. Ready to drink and food-friendly, the winery suggests serving it with creamy cheeses, spicy shrimp or a salmon salad.

Moraine Pinot Noir 2019, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$27 I 89/100

UPC: 626990127833

Expect a full-blown style of Pinot Noir. It was made with the 777 clones growing at Sophia Estate Vineyard on the Naramata Bench. The nose is aromatic with spicy, earthy black cherry and a subtle twist of garlic, black cherries, plums washed in French oak. The textures are Pinot silky as the wine persists on the palate long after you swallow. It has a lot of curb appeal and will attract many who love Pinot and duck, or Pinot and a favourite ripe cheese. Winery direct/online.

Coterie of Wildeberg Cabernet Franc Malbec 2018, Coastal Region, South Africa

$27.99 I 89/100

UPC: 6009900252421

The Wildeberg way is all about sourcing exceptional fruit in Franschhoek and the Coastal Region. From these highly regarded sites, another selection makes up The Coterie. This delicious mix of Cabernet Franc and Malbec is fermented for 20 months yielding dense sweet tannins that bolster the mouth feel of this impressive red. Black plums and red cherries are all dusted with a light savoury, peppery spice. The mix is 67/33 Cabernet Franc/Malbec that you can hold for two to three years or drink now with lamb chops, meaty pasta dishes, and soft cheeses.


Article content

Confit turkey wings created by Bryan Satterford, the chef and co-owner of Juke Fried Chicken, Ribs & Cocktail Bar.
Confit turkey wings created by Bryan Satterford, the chef and co-owner of Juke Fried Chicken, Ribs & Cocktail Bar. Juke Fried Chicken

Recipe match: Confit turkey wings

Created by Bryan Satterford, the chef and co-owner of Juke Fried Chicken, Ribs & Cocktail Bar, these wings can be cooked with a deep-frying method or grilled. Satterford recommends tossing the grilled wings in the Nouc Cham vinaigrette and pickled chilies.

Confit Turkey Wings

8 whole wings or 16 pieces of turkey wings with wingette and drumette split

8 cups (2,000 mL) duck fat or canola oil (enough to cover when frying)

Rice flour (to dredge)

Torn mint and Thai basil

Toasted peanuts, crushed

Toasted sesame seeds


1 1/2 tsp (7.5 mL) sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1/8 cup (30 mL) tamari

1/8 cup (30 mL) fish sauce

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped garlic

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped ginger

1/2 tbsp (7.5 mL) turmeric

1/2 tbsp (7.5 mL) ground coriander

1/2 tbsp (7.5 mL) Thai yellow curry powder

1/2 tbsp (7.5 mL) chili flakes

1/2 tbsp (7.5 mL) Szechwan peppercorn

1/2 tbsp (7.5 mL) mustard seed

With a mortar and pestle, crush the marinade spices until they’re a fine powder. Add garlic, ginger, sugar and salt to the spices and work it to make a fine paste. Stir in the tamari and fish sauce and set aside for later use.

Rub the marinade evenly on the wings and allow to sit for a minimum of four hours, preferably overnight. After marinating, rinse the wings with cold water and pat dry.

Place wings in a large, high-sided, ovenproof pot and cover with the oil or duck fat, whichever you’re using.

Place the pot in a 300 F oven and cook slowly (confit) until wings are tender but still hold their shape.


Article content

Allow pot to cool to room temperature before removing the wings from the oil. Chill wings fully in the fridge before frying.

Heat canola oil to 350 F using either a countertop deep-fryer or a high-sided pot on the stove. Dredge the confit turkey wings in the rice flour, being sure to cover them evenly.

Tap off the excess flour and drop into the hot oil, a few wings at a time, making sure not to overload your pot. Allow the wings to fry until they become golden and the centre is hot, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the wings from the fryer and place on a rack to allow the excess oil to drip off. Repeat until all wings are cooked, be sure to give the oil a few minutes in-between batches to come back up to temperature.

Once all the wings have been cooked, place in a large bowl and toss them with the Nouc Cham vinaigrette and pickled chilies. Place wings on a platter and garnish with mint and Thai basil, peanuts and sesame seeds.

Nouc Cham Vinaigrette

1/2 cup (125 mL) fish sauce

1/2 cup (125 mL) rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar

2 tbsp (30 mL) Tamari

1 Thai chili, minced

1 large garlic clove, minced

Place rice wine vinegar, sugar, Thai chili and garlic in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add fish sauce and tamari. Allow sauce to steep and cool before using.

Pickled chilies

Chef’s note: You can use any hot peppers you like for garnishing the turkey wings. Some good medium-heat options are jalapenos, Serrano’s, birds eye or Fresno chilies.

4 oz (114 g) preferred chilies, thinly sliced


Article content

1/3 cup (80 mL) vinegar

1/8 cup + 1 tsp (35 mL) water

0.5 oz (14 g) sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

Bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt mixture to a boil and pour over sliced chilies. Cover container and allow to come to room temperature on the counter before refrigerating.

Makes roughly 16 pieces.

Recipe match

Spicy confit turkey wings can take on a fully ripe and rich red or a favourite bottle of Gewürztraminer; the choice is yours.

Sidewood Stablemate Shiraz 2018, Adelaide Hills, South Australia $23.99

Textbook Adelaide Hills with juicy, plummy fruit laced with white pepper and a spicy midpalate and finish that will stand up well to the flavourful confit.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Gewürztraminer Demeter Certified Biodynamic 2020, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada $20

This estate, certified biodynamic Gewürztraminer, presents fragrant apricot, ripe yellow apple, peach blossom, honeysuckle with ginger spicing that should melt into the spicy turkey wings.


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.