We love the idea of great wine without a lot of pretense, which is what BC’s beloved house wine girls are all about. If you’re not familiar, house wine is wine-consulting duo Michelle Bouffard and Michaela Morris, known for their love of wine and vast knowledge of wines from around the world. They’ve provided tasting education services for countless events and personal wine cellars internationally. Here we reach Michelle for a chat about the wine scene here in BC.
BLEN: Tell us a bit about how house wine came about.
MB: It all started when Michaela and I met in 2003. I was hired to take over her position at Marquis Wine Cellars as she was leaving to buy an import business. Over the course of my three-week training period we discovered that we loved working together and wanted to find a way to continue doing so! As it turns out, Michaela’s business deal fell through and so we decided to form a partnership and launch house wine together. We’ll be celebrating 10 years as a business in November.
BLEN: How have your business services evolved since you started?
MB: We started providing personal tastings in homes but soon developed the business into a much broader scope of services. Honestly, we didn’t really have business plans or a strategy. We just slowly started expanding and meeting the needs we saw as they arose. One of the biggest demands we’ve had is for Cellar Management services, which has become a big part of our business. And of course, most people know us for our corporate and public events, where we provide educational wine tastings.
BLEN: Tell us about some of the work you do specifically with BC wines.
MB: We provide tastings at many events that explore wines from around BC. For example, Sip into Spring which is all about exploring BC wines, and features approximately 30 wineries and Best of the West, which focuses on local food and wine pairings. Best of the West happens in August as part of the Harmory Arts Festival in West Vancouver.
BLEN: What would you say distinguishes BC from other wine regions in the world?
MB: Having traveled extensively to the world’s most notable wine regions, I can say that visually BC is one of the most beautiful wine regions.
BC is a young wine making region and I believe the best is yet to come. The quality of wines will continue to improve as we mature as a wine region and gain more knowledge and experience.
That’s because each wine region has a distinct wine climate and the key is to match the right type of grape with the climate. It’s very important for wine makers to choose to make wine that is suited to the climate vs. going with popular grapes. In BC, the more we understand the sub climates and what really grows well, the more exciting wines we’ll see emerge from this vibrant community of wine makers.
BLEN: Which grapes tend to do the best in BC?
MB: It varies greatly from the North to South of BC, and within the Okanagan. For example, in cooler pockets Riesling does really well. Tantalus is making some fantastic Riesling, and is at the forefront of making a dryer Riesling here in BC. Cedar Creek and Mission Hill are also making a fantastic Riesling.
BC has a great potential for sparking wine. The temperature differences between day and night temperatures preserves the acidity in the grape, which is key in making a delicious sparking wine. Blue Mountain makes a great one.
For Reds, I’m most excited about Syrah, which tends to do really well in the Naramata Bench area. We recently did a tasting between BC and other Syrahs in the world and BC did extremely well. Nichol Vineyard makes a great Syrah.
BLEN: And finally, we have to ask: What’s your favourite BC wine?
MB: Well, I can’t pick favourites! But one of the wines I’m most excited about right now comes from a tiny winery in the Similkameen Valley called Little Farm Winery. I love both their Riesling and Chardonay. This is a winery to watch out for!