BCWineLover picks two winemakers to watch in 2011

Bill Eggert with Stacey in his barrel room
Bill Eggert with Stacey and I visiting his barrel room

It's been a while since we've featured a cross-post from BCWineLover.com on CityCaucus.com. With the holiday season in high gear and more than a little wine flowing, we share the following look back at our BC wine experiences in 2010.

There is no doubt that Fairview Cellars Bill "The Bear" Eggert is one of the most colourful characters in the Okanagan wine scene. Somehow I feel that Bill would have been right at home with the folks who pioneered the land above Oliver, BC where his luscious grapes ripen in the sun. Eggert's winery is a very small operation, but the quality of his wine leaves a very big footprint.

Famous for his reds – a Merlot, an exceptional Cabernet France and a to-die-for series of Cab Sauv's – Bill wandered into white territory to produce a very distinctive Sauvignon Blanc which is usually sold out.

Our visit to Eggert's wine farm this past summer was too brief but one of two really wonderful experiences for us. The other was another brief visit further up the Okanagan Valley on the Naramata Bench. Van Westen Vineyards is another very small winery driven by a lot of heart of its two proprietors – Robert Van Westen and his lovely wife Tammi.

rob-reviewWe literally were at the end of our day and the doors were about to shut at Van Westen's cinder block winemaking facility tucked along Aiken's Loop. When we arrived with a pair of friends they told us they didn't even have a glass to pour any wine in – but lucky for us we carry a set with us!

In both of these visits, one in July and the other at the beginning of September, we were invited to taste from the barrels of each of their cellars. In Bill's case we tried out his upcoming Cabs, and one left me weak in the knees. He smiled and said that one's not quite ready yet, but he knows it's special.

Visiting Rob's barrel room was similarly snug. He opened a barrel of Malbec that was a real treat. Apparently wine writer John Schreiner tasted it and said to Rob, "somewhere an Argentian is weeping."

Why both of these experiences stood out from so many others in 2010 is the fact that we really saw the passion of those who are behind the wines. For both Eggert and Van Westen who run very small operations, their work is both a struggle and a joy. They are also both helping to make British Columbia among the world's most noteworthy wine regions.

We got our hands on one of the last bottles of Van Westen's Viognier in stock, and for us it provided a special moment back home. Over the holidays we broke out some of our last stock of Fairview Cellars (a Cab Franc) and can't wait to get our hands on more.

We have so many lovely memories of our wine experiences in 2010 – the Inniskillin Ice Gate at Richmond's O-Zone during the 2010 Games; the 2010 SOWA Banée last April; our fantastic tour of the Okanagan in the lovely July heat, and our brief stop on the Labour Day weekend. We were treated so well by so many people like the folks at Road 13, Hester Creek, Noble Ridge, Marichel Vineyards and Burrowing Owl.

We can't wait for the 2011 season to begin again and for us to return. Thanks to all, and see you again soon.

– cross-post on BCWineLover.com by Mike