My good friend Rick Van Sickle (winesinniagara.com) asked me to contribute to his #CanadaWINE150 project. I was happy to oblige …
When I first arrived in Montreal, I was amazed to see how liquor was sold. Going to the SAQ in those days was more like going to an English bank: you walked up to a wicket and gave the clerk a number.
He or she would then return with the requested bottle. And I think you had to sign something. The only difference was: in the UK we never tipped the teller for advice!
We’ve come a long way since then, although when it comes to liquor regulation, especially between provinces, we still have a long way to go.
I was lucky enough to arrive in B.C. at just about the right time: when most Okanagan wines were still something to be sneered at. And France owned 50 per cent of the market.
The entire B.C. industry was based solely on volume. Stories abound of how growers would turn on the sprinklers the day before the buyers showed up, so they’d be able to bill the maximum weight possible.
Somewhere along the way my interest was piqued by food, only to be joined by wine. Richard Carras, of Vintage Consultants, told me I had to write about wine. I was highly intimidated but jumped in.
Thanks to a few people I was soon connected to the then very small band of visionaries who felt there was a future for wine in B.C. — and in Ontario and elsewhere.
The very first wine tour I went on involved a five-hour bus trip to Blue Mountain — to witness the miracle that was Ian Mavety’s Pinot Noir. More Okanagan tours followed, including more than a few to see Harry McWatters, who, you could say, had somewhat divergent views from Ian on all things VQA.