Saturday, April 19, 2008

Progress and Discovery/ Pruning and Coza!

Despite some labour shortage issues the Township 7 Vineyards in Langley, BC are beginning to to show well and I think we've just about caught up to where we want to be.

A lot of the older vines (seven years plus in very vigorous soils) need some significant pruning to shed some old wood that was beginning to be more of a problems than a benefit. So the vineyard is a little more streamlined now and as a result, I think we're going to have a healthier environment for this year's crop. There may be a little less but, if we can keep the mold and mildew at bay, it should be easier to get ripe.

Check out the video posting to enjoy some of the wacky weather the are is enjoying this weekend. It's been a very slow start to the growing season in Langley and in the Okanagan valley.

While I was in Langley I had the opportunity to enjoy a meal at Coza! Tuscan Grill. (They like to add an exclamation point. That will be the last time for me.) The interior is warm and inviting with subdued lighting and jazzy canned music. I was immediately greeted by smiling hostess (Caitlin?) and shown to my seat. Being solo, I sat at the bar and enjoyed the Calgary/Sharks game on a big screen while sipping a well-deserved ale in a frosty sleeve.

I started with the carpaccio. It was one of the best I'd had in some time. The house drizzle across the paper thin beef was a perfect combination. I liked the added garnish which was almost a mini-salad with fresh tomato and a caper berry.

Hard-working men who work long days in the field are entitled to substantial and flavourful food so I rewarded myself with the sirloin treated with gorgonzola butter. The mains come with a choice of pasta or potato so I opted for the Tuscan mashed potatoes. My cut was cooked perfectly to order and everything on the plate was beautifully accomplished. With my bistecca, I ordered a three wine sampler. I had about 50 ml. each of three reds. After some deliberation I decided the Rosemount Grenache-Shiraz blend had enough acidity to provide the kind of counterpoint I think the rich meat dish required.

I'd recommend Coza! if your're looking to break out of the chain store rut and would like some great food, attentive service and an overall welcoming environment. Now that I've scouted it out by myself, I'm ready to return with a group.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wine Payola Is Alive and Well.

While talking to people about the wines I make and the wines coming out of the Okanagan Valley and BC the conversation inevitably turns to availability. People want to know where they can get our wine so they can enjoy it at home with their friends and family.

Township 7 has pretty good distribution around the Lower Mainland and we're working at spreading the love to Vancouver Island and other areas in the province. Some of the other wineries I'm familiar with are in most areas of B.C.

But it's getting tougher for new wineries and new labels to get onto the store shelves. Why is that?

I was out and about last week in Vancouver and realized that an old practice was becoming more and more prevalent. Individuals and businesses are being paid to stock certain brands. On the flipside, some restaurants and shops are demanding a certain fee to carry a line.

I'm not naive; this isn't news. It's always been the case. There has always been somebody who was willing to add a few bottles to an order or make some other little gesture to secure a spot on the shelf or a choice restaurant listing.

It was always there in the shadows. But now it's not so backroom. It's unofficial policy for some.
The result is that big producers are dominating stock lists like never before. A few multi-label houses are calling the shots; allowing smaller independents to take a few slots here and there.

Established small wineries should be able to maintain their foothold. But I wouldn't want to be a new brand going into this market. There are some big sharks on the prowl and blood in the water.

But that's business. Nobody said it would be easy to establish a brand. So who loses out besides the small, new winery? Probably only the consumer. If a big house decides that saucy import Green Appendage must be on every wine list then that is what the consumer will see. And they've got the muscle to make it happen. So everyone drinks Green Appendage and misses out on one of the small guys.

The upshot is: look for lists that are less diverse that carry fewer small, independent producers. These are the houses dominated by the big players. Solution: know who owns the brands and avoid "owned" establishments. Support restaurants and shops that demonstrate balance and fairness.
Or don't because you just don't care.