A Taste for the Arts

Love of (and interest in) wine has opened wonderful doors for me in my life.

Tasting wine has been the lens through which I have experienced lessons in history and geography. Friends have mailed me bottles from places such as Malta, and I have had the chance to sit with vineyard owners and chat over a sandwich and a glass of their wine.

I have sat with my father and children and tasted a 165-year-old wine, five miles from where the grapes were picked on the island of Madeira.

I’ve shared Italian wines over dinner with a nun in an ossuary of the English Cemetery in Florence, where Elizabeth Barrett Browning is buried.

Here in the Yukon, it has led me to wonderful dinners in my little cabin north of town, with newly-made friends, and friends of decades. It has also given me the opportunity to take up writing this column, and sharing my experiences tasting and sharing wines.

And several times this year, businesses and organizations have asked me to participate or plan wine tastings for their customers or supporters.

Last week was such an occasion, when I received an email from the Yukon Arts Centre, asking if I would be interested in working with them to put on a wine tasting later this month as part of their season launch.

I love participating in and planning wine tastings, because it is an opportunity to have lots of two-way conversations about wines.

I am a firm believer that there is no right answer about wine… and that the tastes of any wine drinker are as valid as any other’s.

Because of my passion for wine, and some experience working as a wine merchant, I may have a little more hard knowledge, but we are all on a level playing field as far as tasting wines, and your opinion is as valid as mine.

We met and talked, we began to discuss how we might make this tasting an interactive experience, and give the attendees the opportunity to participate actively in the selection of wines to be served this year at the Yukon Art Centre bar.

We decided to use their season launch celebration BBQ as an opportunity for the public to taste and vote on the wines that will be served during the intermissions of this season’s performances.

Selecting our wines, we wanted to offer both familiar and new tastes for people to consider, and we thought we’d accompany them with some cheeses and sweets to try them with.

Since Yukoners generally gravitate toward red wines (I think it’s a function of the cool/cold climate, as when I lived in Kansas, with 35°C summers, people clamoured for white wines), we thought we’d do four reds and three whites, trying to select a broad variety of different constituent grapes to see what people prefer.

The wines that will be offered for tasting are as follows:

For red wines, we have selected Painted Turtle Shiraz ($11.90 at the YLC), a Canadian Shiraz from the south Okanagan Valley; and Menage a Trois ($19.65), a fun California blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel that we tried at a wine tasting at Bombay Peggy’s in Dawson City earlier this summer.

As well, we will offer another California red, Little Black Dress Merlot ($15.45), for those wine lovers who gravitate to that red grape, and the Argentinian Bodega Norten Lotengo Malbec ($15.40), a great example of a reasonably-priced Malbec from one of Argentina’s largest wine houses.

On the white front, we decided to go with three classic white wine grapes, but each executed in an unusual way.

The Little Black Dress Pinot Grigio ($15.40) from California is a terrific example of a Californian spin on a traditionally Italian white wine (OK, we like the label too); and a Canadian Gray Monk Unwooded Chardonnay ($20.65).

I am a fan of wines made with the Chardonnay grape, but to my mind, Australian and American wine makers uses way too much oak to flavour the wines.

Tasting European Chardonnays a decade ago was a real eye opener for me, as I discovered what I didn’t like was the oak overlay, not the grape itself. So if you think you know Chardonnay, and taste this one, be prepared for a new taste experience.

Finally, we will offer another Canadian wine, the Pellar Estates Proprietors Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (around $19).

If you are familiar with Sauvignon Blanc, you’re likely to have had a New Zealand version (yum!), or a California version (I prefer New Zealand ones), but this Canadian version will be worth a try.

The wine tasting will be just one of the events of the Yukon Art Centre’s season launch celebration on August 22, along with the BBQ and live entertainment.

We figured out a clever angle, where patrons purchasing Art Gallery season memberships will get a complimentary glass of wine at each of the gallery openings throughout the year.

This definitely makes me happy, because one of my favourite ways to enjoy art is with a glass of wine in my hand!

I’ll let you know how the evening turns out. Better yet, come and see for yourself! I’ll be pouring and chatting about the wines that evening!


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