Tasting: A sneak peek at a musical wine tasting

I have many talents, but being musical is not among them. Try as I might, I just can’t keep time or carry a tune.

But a tin ear is no barrier to music appreciation. My disorganized iTunes collection is crammed with an assortment of genres, ranging from latin jazz and ’60s folk to baroque and death metal, among others.

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Like music, wine is extraordinary for its diversity. It can be appreciated in a range of styles to suit any mood. And like music, you need no formal training to enjoy it. Perhaps this explains why the two complement each other so well.

Those who enjoy the nexus between music and wine will be well-served at next week’s Uncork Your Palate fundraiser for the Victoria Conservatory of Music at which attendees will be the first to sample spring releases from 19 different Naramata Bench wineries while enjoying live music.

As with inspired musicians, several Bench winemakers are renowned for bringing talent and innovation to timeless traditions. The following is just a small sampling of the diversity and range one can expect, and a handful of unqualified music suggestions to match the tasting experience:


The Little King 2010

Elephant Island Orchard Wines

750 mL, 11 per cent ABV, $25

Best known for its award-winning dessert wines, Elephant Island also makes remarkable sparkling wines from orchard fruits.

This bottle of bubbles is a refreshing and reflective sparkling wine in many respects. Salmon-coloured in the glass, it is infused with vertical streams of pinpoint bubbles that transport restrained aromas of granny smith apple, raspberry and a hint of minerality. The perception of sweet red fruit is balanced by tart apple and bracing acidity.

(Of note, the owners of Elephant Island, Miranda and Del Halladay, made this lovely wine as a tribute to the life of their late infant son, Rex. All proceeds from the sale of The Little King are donated to the Pediatric Nursing Education Fund.)

Suggested music pairing: Flight of the Bumblebee, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.


Semillon 2012

Lake Breeze Vineyards

750 mL, 13 per cent ABV, $19

I sang the praise of Lake Breeze’s 2012 Pinot Gris in my last column, but another noteworthy offering is their 2012 Semillon.

Pale gold in the glass with piercing acidity, this wine has notes of green apple, lime zest, gooseberry and fresh-cut grass, with a delightful whiff of kerosene. Love child of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc? You be the judge.

Suggested music pairing: New World Symphony, Part 1, by Antonín Dvorák.


Blanc de Noirs 2013

Poplar Grove Winery

750 mL, 13.2 per cent ABV, $25

To be sure, rosé is the unsung hero of the wine world. Unfortunately, a lot of people dismiss it as cheap sweet wine, largely because, well, much of it is. But not always. A good dry rosé, such as this blend of Malbec, Merlot and Syrah, combines ripe red fruit character of cherry and strawberry with peppery spice, balanced acidity and slight astringence from tight grippy tannins. Versatile enough to pair with most any food.

Suggested music pairing: Use Me, by Bill Withers

Merlot 2009

Poplar Grove Winery

750 mL, 15.4 per cent ABV, $30

Forget what the movie Sideways had to say about Merlot. In the right place, and in the right hands, it is capable of great things.

So it is with Poplar Grove’s 2009 Merlot. Oxblood in colour, this luscious wine has concentrated character of plum, fig, black cherry and chocolate, kissed by black sage and cedar cigar box, all wrapped in smooth velvety tannins.

Suggested music pairing: Puttin’ on the Ritz, by Fred Astaire.


Petit Verdot 2009

Kettle Valley Winery

750 mL, 14.2 per cent ABV, $38

Better known as a supporting character in Bordeaux blends, Petit Verdot is rarely bottled as a standalone varietal. And it takes guts to plant this late ripening variety north of the 49th Parallel. Nevertheless, the folks at Kettle Valley Winery think the risk is worth it.

In this case hand-picked grapes harvested precariously late in October produced a profound wine remarkable for its dark ruby colour, structure and concentrated character of blackberry, currant and violet. Twenty-one months aging in French oak also imparts integrated notes of pencil shavings, leather, vanilla and cedar.

Suggested music pairing: Take Five, by The Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Note: Uncork Your Palate is a fundraising event to support the arts through music education and performance at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. It takes place at Crystal Garden, 713 Douglas St., on Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. to 9. Tickets $95. More information at vcm.bc.ca.

These and other Naramata Bench wines are available at select private stores and restaurants in Victoria. More information at naramatabench.com

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