Peller / Sandhill master winemaker Howard Soon, Tim Pawsey photo

Because he always is!  I like this pic of Peller / Sandhill / Calona winemaker guru Howard Soon. It was just a quick snap, taken at a recent BC Wine tasting. But it shows you exactly the way Howard is: always there with something interesting to say and usually with a positive spin.

It was Howard who came to Vancouver to give the very first winemaker’s dinner I ever went to. In those days the idea of a winemaker (especially one from the Okanagan) coming to Vancouver was quite something.

We grabbed him a glass for this shot which had something pink in it, even though he was pouring two contrasting 2011 Pinot Gris at this tasting.

Howard was part of a panel discussing wines they made in one of the toughest vintages on record. Howard, as usual, didn’t mince his words:

“We were scared to death last spring.”

Never mind.

When the going gets tough, the tough make better wines.

Covert Farms, with McIntyre Bluff in the background, Tim Pawsey photo

One of our picks from this line up (that really showed some surprisingly good drops) was the wine Howard made for Sandhill from a new site at Covert Farms, that we saw just planted three years ago.

• Sandhill Hidden Terrace Pinot Gris 2011. First release from Sandhill’s impressive project with Covert Farms, tucked away above and just north of Oliver. A leaner, more mineral and zesty toned style, wrapped in keen acidity that makes it very food friendly. Think oysters or spot prawns. BCLS $18.99

Here’s a few more worth watching for …

• Baillie Grohman 2011 Pinot Gris. Definitely a step up from last year, with some pear notes on top followed by a zesty citrus palate wrapped in good acidity. A promise of more good things to come from this new region. BCLS $21.99

• Tinhorn Creek Two Bench White 2011. This blend of mainly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, with Viognier, and a dab of Semillon and Muscat just gets better every year. Look for tropical, lychee, floral and  and a sage hint on the nose followed by a lively palate of juicy citrus and tropical flavours. A little more off-dry than in vintages past, says Sandra Oldfield. BCLS $22.99

• CedarCreek 2011 Riesling. No surprise that Winemaker Darryl Brooker brings some Niagara knowhow to Riesling. This one’s wicked, packed with lemon lime and lingering citrus throughout the mid-palate with vibrant, juicy acidity. The deal at BCLs $17.90

• Mission Hill Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2011. Good fruit and acid balance with stonefruit on the mid palate, some spicy hints and a lush end. BCLS $15.99

Today marks “Bloom” — the official release tasting of VQA BC 2011 whites to the trade and public.