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Column: Virtual tastings - connect, learn, and enjoy!

A personalized virtual tasting of different wines from the Okanagan Crush Pad
The Narrative Pack of Viognier, Viognier Syrah, Syrah Viognier, and the optional XO Method.

Looking for a unique way to entertain friends this Christmas Season? Why not host a virtual wine tasting.

The Okanagan Crush (OCP), a leader in organic wine production and innovative marketing, has four virtual wine packages for their wine brands allowing you to bring the winery into your home. Each package is accompanied by an instructional video link led by Andrew Raines, Brand Ambassador at OCP. “Through this period people are not being able to connect and wines are always a connector,” he said.

I reviewed the Narrative Package, which showcases Rhone varieties and the Okanagan terroir with its fresh acidity and fruit forwardness. The price for three wines is $94.70 with shipping included.  For $119.60, you can add pink rosé to add even more sparkle to the tasting.

The video begins with the 5 S’s: Sight, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Savour. Raines explained, “It’s very entry level but it shows you how to understand and taste wine like a pro, how to get the most out of the wines, and then use the wines in the pack to educate how to taste wines to the next level.”

Our first wine was a festive sparkling 2018 XC Method ($24.90; 87 points). A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in Summerland and Oliver, secondary fermentation occurred in state-of-the-art Charmat tanks which lie on their sides. Raines explained that XC, Roman numeral for 90 is the number of days the wine lies horizontally. “You still get a lot of those toasty notes like you would with a Champagne,” he added.

Raines stated that OCP’s owner, Christine Colleta is passionate about maintaining a sustainable footprint. Using a crown cap on the XC instead of a cork, cage, and foil saves half the metal and weight.

I enjoyed the XC’s delicate peach, red fruit and brioche flavour. There’s a generous mousse, with a sweetness balanced by the abundant acidity because the grapes are picked early. Raines suggested serving it with seafood, curries, and Thai cuisine.

The 2018 Narrative Viognier ($20.90; 90 points) has an amazing floral character with hints of spearmint, which jump out of the glass. On the palate there are delicious orange and nectarine flavours.

“We believe in concrete,” Raines declared. Slow fermentation in concrete tanks has created an intense textural viscosity with this dry white.

Want to get out the best in Viognier? Try it with dishes flavoured with almonds, citrus, stewed fruits, and Thai basil or tarragon.

Next, is a wine that reverses a traditional style of Syrah/Viognier by going 80% Viognier: 20% Syrah. Raines introduced this 2019 Narrative Viognier Syrah  ($20.90; 88 points), “It’s a very fascinating rosé, unlike any rosé you’ve ever had before. I love this wine because you get true varietal benchmarks.”

It’s a dark rosé, ideal for the holiday season. Raines explained that the Viognier draws more of the pigment out of the Syrah skins as it co-ferments in stainless steel..

On the nose you get spicy and savoury notes from the Syrah and floral notes from the Viognier. On the palate there’s a lush texture with black cherries and pepper from the Syrah and the Viognier characteristics are there to make this dry dark rosé concentrated and complex.

Rosé should be drunk year-round; it's incredibly food-friendly.” declared Raines. “This will really go well with grilled salmon, salad, or cheese.”

A more traditional blend of those two common Rhone blending partners is the Narrative Syrah Viognier ($29.90; 92 points) with 87 % Syrah and 13% Viognier. The grapes were co-fermented in clay amphora and left on skins for nine months enhancing the aromatics and providing a silky mouthfeel.

Raines admitted I’m a huge fan of clay amphora. It really adds a lot of complex notes to the wines. It’s far more interesting than adding new oak or used oak.”

What’s also interesting about the vinification is the addition of extra Syrah fermented in concrete and aged in amphora adding spice and texture while spotlighting rich red fruits. It gives it a bit of a dusty note, a bit more earthiness or terroir.

The aroma is complex with smokey barbecue meats, along with cherries and plums, florals,  and herbs. On the palate there’s black pepper, violets, blackberries along with blueberries, and forest floor. The Viognier lightens up the Syrah a bit, balancing it and making complex.

For more information on Okanagan Crush Pad Virtual Tastings and a Personalized Tasting Experience with a Wine Expert visit Individual OCP Narrative wines are available at the VQA store at Ironwood.