Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Get To Know... Valeria Tait

Photo Courtesy Bench 1775
Valeria Tait
Vintner, General Manager, Bench 1775 Winery
Oliver, BC

With a background in Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and a degree from UC Davis in Oenology and Viticulture it's of no surprise that Valeria Tait is a strong believer that good wine starts in the vineyard.

But farming is more than an applied science. One must combine facts, experience and feelings to get the most out of the land. A self-described romantic with a scientific education and many years working at successful wineries like Painted Rock and Poplar Grove has equipped Tait with the ideal skill-set to produce great wines, from the ground up. 

Get to know Valeria and get to know the wines of Bench 1775 a bit better...

Key wines to try:
Chill: 2012201320142015

Glow: 201320142015
Sauvignon Blanc: 201320142015

1. What do you enjoy most about making wine?
The variability that comes up every year because of climate differences and the effect that climate has on fruit expression.

2. What inspired you to become a winemaker? 
When I tasted a fine Alsace Riesling for the first time as a young drinker (of sweet German whites) and finding out the differences between those two wine styles is the fruit and the way the wine is made. Eye opener to say the least – more like an epiphany.

3. What causes you the most stress during harvest? 
The long exhaustive physical demands of harvest and trying to get everyone to treat the last bins of fruit as carefully as the first bins of fruit – and in a cold year, that the tannins will get physiologically ripe.

4. What is your favourite and/or least favourite wine cliché? 
Every cliché is my least favourite – in particular, when winemakers say the following: ‘ it’s about the terroir’ – of course it’s about terroir, there is nothing else. or ‘this wine is premium quality’ – most winemakers are putting their best efforts out there, let others decide what they think of the wine.

5. Away from the cellar and vineyard, what’s your greatest passion in life?

6. After a long day of work in the cellar, what do you turn to for refreshment? 
Not surprisingly … wine.

7. If you could take credit for one other BC wine on the market today, which would it be and why? 
Wow – that’s not a fair question because all efforts are team efforts unless you are making 1000 cases literally with no physical help.  I think it is fair to say that I have had a significant influence on Mission Hill, Painted Rock and Poplar Grove because of my approach that wine is made in the vineyard, meaning the fruit expression and ripeness in the vineyard drives the wine program.

8. Of the wines in your portfolio, do you have a favourite food pairing to go with one of the wines? 
Too many – it depends on the time of year and my mood. Right now Bench 1775 Glow Rose and salmon, Bench 1775 Cab Franc with roast pork …

9. What do you think will be the next big trend in BC wine over the next few years? 
The phenomenal growth in BC wine consumption and the dwindling supply of fruit.

10. Screwcap or cork? What’s your preference? 
Depends on the wine. Screwcap for wines that I want to retain brightness and balance (the more delicate reds) and cork for wines that will evolve as they age and they need air ingress. I am a romantic – so natural cork will always have a place in my heart. The romance of opening the bottle, the people and communities that are kept alive by purchasing cork, the traditions!

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017 IconWines.ca

Featured Wines: Guado Al Tasso

If the wine showcased in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email (JCarrier@everythingwine.ca) or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's Morgan Crossing location in South Surrey.

Guado Al Tasso

By Jordan Carrier

It’s important to remember how bizarre it was that Sassicaia actually worked. It was grown in Bolgheri, a Tuscan backwater that was, in the 1970s, known only for cheap Rose wines that Italians used primarily for tolerating their extended families at picnics. It was built with alien French grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, both of which were well suited to the terroir but highly controversial in such a traditionalist viticultural region. Most offensively to the skeptical rural Tuscans, Sassicaia sold for a premium price, higher than many of the most revered Chianti Classicos, a move that seemed arrogant in a society where you were supposed to know your place. When the wine first came to market, it was largely laughed at.
Well, nothing eases skepticism like success, and after Sassicaia claimed first place in the 1978 Decanter magazine (in a blind tasting of Bordeaux, no less) the gold rush began. Traditional Tuscan houses – many of whom had mocked Sassicaia at first – poured in to Bolgheri to buy up vineyards and make Cabernet. Well, all except for one.
The Antinori family, one of Chianti’s oldest houses, already owned vineyards in Bolgheri. The elderly Nicolo Antinori held a large chunk of land (where he, naturally, made cheap Rose) close to Sassicaia, which he split between his two sons. Black sheep Lodovico Antinori, persuaded to return home from his worldwide surfing sabbatical by this bequest, turned his chunk into Ornellaia, while older brother Piero Antinori, the family’s chief winemaker who had enjoyed his own recent success with Tignanello, created – you guessed it - Guado Al Tasso.
Guado has been one of my favourites since I started doing this. It drinks at or above the level of Sassicaia and Ornellaia (indeed it’s often rated higher than those wines) but sells for half of those prices. Classic Cab notes of cassis with Tuscan herbs build towards a ripe, robust frame (think 2009 Left Bank) with depth, pent up energy, and a killer grip at the end. At November’s Antinori tasting, this 2013 Guado was the clear favourite, besting the famous 2013 Tignanello* and even the flagship 2011 Solaia. I know many of you were waiting for it to arrive, I’m sorry it took so long!
Antinori Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore 2013. 97 points James Suckling, 96 points Robert Parker, 12 wooden 6-packs available, $95.99 +tax
55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, with a 100% chance of awesomeness.
*Tantrums work, FYI. I screamed like a toddler when I sold out of Tignanello 2013 and the agent gave me some more cases. If I initially had to tell you no (and sorry again for that), or if you tried it already and simply must have more, I can do that now.

Happy drinking!