January 12, 7pm          By: Dddd

I was invited to join the January meeting of the Nanaimo Winemakers – like many events today this was a virtual meeting using Zoom. I was intrigued to find out how a club celebrating the enjoyment of wine and winemaking would bring in the New Year.

President Andrew Fox welcomed 35 members and 20 spouses, some dressed in outstanding style – albeit from the waist up – hopeful of winning a prize! As I sat looking at my monitor, one by one they appeared: some without video, some without audio but helping hands soon had them operating in the fast lane. There were masqueraders, there were tuxedo clad men looking like Hollywood stars, ladies in their finest with earrings dangling, jewels flashing and hair straight from the local salon. There were mavericks, hats galore and lots of laughter.

Cindy, who doubles as Minister of Social Events and Education,  introduced a new raffle wine event for the next five meetings:

After a brief business session, Cindy then introduced the guest speaker Jason James from Sumac Ridge/Black Sage. Jason would be giving a talk on making sparkling wine the Methode Traditionelle way as well as how Steller’s Jay Sparkling wine is made.

A week before, all 47 members had been gifted with a bottle of Steller’s Jay Sparkling Wine from Nanaimo Winemakers hand delivered by Cindy Scott or Doug Markin. Jason’s talk was very well received and was followed with a video on how to open a bottle of bubbly with a sabre sword. Club member Don Graham was the sword master.

Seemed like quite a lot of wasted bubbly to this writer. Finally, Cindy gave a short presentation on the different methods of making sparkling wine and members were asked to sample the Steller’s Jay wine and a Jacob’s Creek Sparkling wine made in a different method. Your writer had no idea how different wine glasses could influence the enjoyment nor that different methods produced different quantities of bubbles. Apparently, wine enthusiasts count the bubbles!

Later, I would discover that Champagne could have a million bubbles! Perhaps, by now I was mishearing things and was experiencing CO2 shock – but whose counting anyway!

Cindy then had a very disturbing announcement to make. Members of the Club Executive Team had not followed what they and the Government preached regarding safety and isolation over the festive season. Cindy then showed a video of five members of the Executive caught frolicking in what looked like Caribbean or Hawaiian waters over the holidays. She did point out that if any member wanted to remove a guilty member from the Executive then they had to take over their responsibilities. This seemed to quieten down the rowdy protesters rather quickly! Click on the play button below!

The next to last item on the evening’s agenda was a PUB STYLE QUIZ with fifteen questions focused around sparkling wines. The winner, based on the honor system, with TEN correct answers was a Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence and Jane Matthews. I must say, to an outsider this was greeted with less than enthusiasm. Apparently, Mr. Matthews is a frequent winner of club raffles and “rescued” gold medal wines. In fact, I thought I could hear shouts questioning the enumeration system and suggesting the tally was rigged! Remains to be seen if anyone can bring convincing evidence before Mr. Matthews spends his $15 gift card.

Finally, the evening came to a close with the award for Best Dressed Couple. Elaine and Tim Peligren were the winners and your writer was in agreement as they blended masks, hats and elegant outfits – a bit of fun and whimsy!

All in all, your writer had almost as much fun as the club members and would enthusiastically recommend others to join future meetings. $50 membership gets you in the door which appears to be a ZOOM door for most of this year.

In America, the species of oak typically used is the Quercus alba which is a white oak species that is characterized by its relatively fast growth, wider grains and lower wood tannins. It is found in most of the Eastern United States.

In France, both the Quercus robur (common oak) and Quercus petraea (white oak) are considered apt for wine making; however, the latter is considered far superior for its finer grain and richer contribution of aromatic components. French oak typically comes from one or more primary forests: Allier, Limousin, Nevers, Tronçais and Vosges. The wood from each of these forests has slightly different characteristics.

Prior to the Russian Revolution, Quercus petraea oak from Hungary was the most highly sought after wood for French winemaking. The trees in the Hungarian Zemplén Mountains grow more slowly and smaller in the volcanic soil, creating fine tight grain which sequentially lends itself to a very delicate extraction. The hemicellulose in the Hungarian oak breaks down more easily, and conveys an exceptional selection of toasted, vanilla, sugary, woody, spicy and caramel-like flavors – imparting these aromas with less intensity, and more slowly than American or French oak.

Many winemakers favor the softer, smoother, creamier texture that Hungarian oak offers their wines.

Barrels are constructed in cooperages. The traditional method of European coopers has been to hand-split the oak into staves (or strips) along the grain. After the oak is split, it is allowed to “season” or dry outdoors while exposed to the elements. This process can take anywhere from 10 to 36 months during which time the harshest tannins from the wood are leached out. These tannins are visible as dark gray and black residue left on the ground once the staves are removed. The longer the wood is allowed to season the softer the potential wine stored in the barrels may be but this can add substantially to the cost of the barrel. In some American cooperage the wood is dried in a kiln instead of outdoor seasoning. While this method is much faster, it does not soften the tannins quite as much as outdoor seasoning.