Judging by the Juice: 2014 Okanagan Preview

Grape harvest in Oliver BC

Grapes being harvested in Oliver, BC. (courtesy BCWI)

Fancy yourself a wine geek? How about this?

This week I went to one of the more unusual tastings in which I’ve participated. The idea was to bring the excitement of the harvest right to Vancouver—for those of us city slickers who aren’t able to make it to the Okanagan (or elsewhere).  The B.C. Wine Institute organized a tasting of four, 2014 just pressed juices (different varieties) alongside comparable VQA wines from current releases.

juice and wines at tasting

The before shot. Things got messy after this …

Juice on the loose

Now, to be honest, tasting ‘juice’ isn’t one of my favourite things. Fermenting grape juice  just doesn’t agree with me. But a few sips don’t hurt. Plus, I was spitting. And it’s really fascinating to realise that this cloudy, often quite sedimentary liquid will one day emerge as a finished wine.

Rhys Pender at Little Farm

Rhys Pender, MW: pretty excited about the juice. After all, it was his … and it was Riesling…

The tasting was led by Rhys Pender—who knows a thing or two about grapes and wine. First of all, he’s a Master of Wine—one of the youngest around, as far as I know. Also, he grows his own grapes, while his wife Alishan Driediger  makes the wines at their Little Farm Winery,  in the Similkameen Valley.

You don’t usually get to taste free-run juice, except at the winery. As it happens, one of the times I tasted BC juice was at Rhys and Alishan’s, last year. I remember being pretty impressed, as we swirled and spit the definitely apple toned juice that would become Little Farm Riesling.


A taste of things to come

So what’s so great about tasting fresh pressed or fermenting juice, aka ‘must’?

grapes to juice to wine

Past, present and future Pinot Gris

What was fun about this tasting was that you could see that the Pinot Gris juice would indeed wind up not unlike the finished Lake Breeze 2013. And while the Gewürztraminer juice didn’t (yet) sport those classic rose petal notes, it was delicious to taste—and reminded me a little bit of quince jelly: Bring Me My Toast!


Merlot juice with berries in glass

View from above: Yup, them’s real berries… even tastes like Merlot, too

Must be Merlot …

Probably, of the the four we tasted, the Merlot must (from Sandhill, complete with a swack of whole berries!) resembled most closely the finished wine beside it. Also, again, it emphasized just how good the fruit is this year. Keep an eye out for the 2014 Sandhill Merlot, a couple of years from now.

In fact that was the overall message this tasting conveyed: 2014 is shaping up to be one of the best Okanagan (make that B.C.) vintages on record.

If you’re in the Okanagan (or on Vancouver Island or anywhere…), and have a chance to taste some juice, go for it! Not only will you get to share in the sheer excitement of harvest, you’ll get a real sense of what’s to come.



The finished wines for this tasting were all part of BC Liquor Stores current BC VQA Harvest Promotion

They offer a good cross section of the value that BC can deliver, most priced around or under the magic $20 mark. Standouts include:

NkMip Pinot Blanc and glass

NkMip Pinot Blanc. Classic Okanagan—and  the deal!

• NkMip Pinot Blanc 2013 – Hard to believe that Pinot Blanc was once BC’s most widely planted white. But when you taste wines like this you can see why. Think orchard fruits and citrus wrapped in juicy acidity—a bargain at $15.99 – 90 pts

• Lake Breeze Pinot Gris 2013 – You could really see the flavours in the must mirrored in this wine. Orchard notes on top with tropical and stonefruit and a touch of spice, juicy acidity and good length. $19 89 pts.

juice in glass

Gewürztraminer juice, had me thinking about quince jelly…

• Wild Goose Gewurztraminer 2013 – Hints of rose petal and sage on top, followed by a textured, slightly viscous palate of ginger spice, floral and mineral notes with well balanced fruit and acidity through a dry finish. BCLS $18.50 91 pts.

• Moon Curser Cab Merlot 2012. From one of the South Okanagan’s most prolific red wine producers. Solid, equal parts blend adds up to a plush and rounded drop with luscious cassis notes and blue fruit underpinned by added structure from the Cabernet. Think braised meats or hot pots.  $20.90 90 pts.

Rhys, pre seasoned winemaker bearded look

Rhys, with pre bearded, seasoned winemaker look

By | 2018-01-21T15:05:15+00:00 October 15th, 2014|Uncategorized|4 Comments

About the Author:

Tim has been covering the food and wine revolution for about 20 kilos. Count 15 kg alone thanks to the blossoming cuisine and wine culture of British Columbia, Canada. Tim’s hallmark is seeking out and recommending value wines from BC and around the world that offer quality at every level. He also scopes out noteworthy restaurants that live up to their promises—and often over deliver. Readers depend on the Hired Belly for his “Belly’s Best” and “Belly’s Budget Best” picks to help them find the right wine for the occasion. He writes, tweets and shoots his own images for columns in the Vancouver Courier and North Shore News. He also contributes to WHERE Vancouver magazine, as well as to several other publications. They include Taste magazine, Tidings Magazine, and Montecristo. His columns are frequently picked up by major newspapers across Canada. Tim is a frequent judge for wine competitions, such as Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards. He is a founding judge of The BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine. He is frequently invited to judge at The BC Wine Awards, and others. Tim has traveled to taste in many of the world’s leading wine regions, most recently in Burgundy, Argentina and Chile.


  1. sharon hanna October 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Hi Tim…..those don’t look like Pinot Gris grapes?? I have them growing in my back yard and they are a kind of grey with a blush…..hmmm. Ah well. Interesting reading about the “juice”!

  2. Tim Pawsey October 16, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Hey Sharon, You know, I thought that too but when I went on line I found a whole range of colour variation. At first I thought I might have been given the Gew grapes … but those were being passed around as gris … Have you harvested yet?

  3. sharon hanna October 16, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Hey Tim. Well, yes, I harvested some of them and brought them to the wine store on Broadway….I just noticed there are some of the PG grapes that look darker at this point. Perhaps it’s the cold?

  4. Tim October 16, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    I think it’s a ripening thing. Some strains / clones turn more red than others that are more blue gray. Plus it’s Pinot…

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