News & Blogs you want to read!
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Welcome to the 40 Knots Vineyard & Estate Winery blogs. Here is where we will be highlighting events and news from around the winery. Keep up to date of the latest trends, the happenings of the winery, learn how we farm and make wine, and get the inside scoop of our new releases and events.
Layne Robert Craig
Becoming a Sipster vol. 4
Hello my friends, greetings, and salutations to you all on this auspicious day. The seasons, they are a-changing. Usually, I’d follow up with “where has the time gone?” or “this year is flying by” but that would be a big fat lie. It has been a long year for all of us and it’s not over yet. In fact for us at 40 Knots the year is only ramping up. Its harvest time!
This will be my first harvest so I am looking forward to really getting into it and learning as much as I can. By the time harvest is over I hope to have a few stories for volume 5 but first I need to get out there! I’ve been told it is hard yet rewarding work. Equal parts toil and celebration. So it’s pretty much just like the rest of life. And like life, you don’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you might just get what you need. Okay, I stole that from the Stones but the sentiment is true. You don’t always get what you want when it comes to harvest. Something all farmers know and the rest of us take for granted is that you can do everything right and still not get the harvest you want. Mother nature is a fickle mistress. Weather, bugs, gremlins, all manner of forces conspiring to decimate the fruits of our labor. Time itself is against us! In the face of such insurmountable odds, it would be easy to give up yet we perceiver. Our wine, our time, it’s all worth it. Because someday very soon we will have all the turkey and drink we want! We will give cheers and celebrate this...interesting year.
Whether its growing grapes, raising a family, or working in an office, we might not always get the reward we expect for the amount of time we put in. But if we are present and we really try, I think you will find, you might just get what you need.
Speaking of not always getting what I want but definitely getting what I need my wife Alana has agreed to help me with a wine tasting tonight!
Mike: “Hey, thanks for helping me with this tasting tonight, first off what are we drinking, I meant ‘tasting’?”
Alana: “This is our 2019 White Seas. Literally the fruits of our labor in one bottle.”
Mike: “Literally how?”
Alana: “Well, when you pour a glass of White Seas your sampling a blend of six of our very own varietals grown right here on the farm. You’re experiencing our biodynamic farming methods, our terroir, and our climate. White Seas is a beautiful representation of 40 Knots as a whole. It says a lot about us.”
Mike: “Soooo now we drink?”
Alana: “No first we look.” Alana tilts the glass at 45 degrees above the white table cloth. “What do you see?”
Mike: Mimics Alana. “What do you see first?”
Alana: “I see a pale gold horseshoe. It’s clear in the center and gold around the outside.”
Mike: “Oh I see it! Now we taste?”
Alana: “No, we smell.” Alana swirls the wine glass and inhales the bouquet with her dominate nose hole(she means nostril)
Mike: Mimics Alana “I smell fruit and rain!”
A: “That’s a good way to explain it, the fruit is coming from the varying characteristics of each varietal. The rain...minerality from our glacier tilled soil.”
M: “Seen it smelt it, now can we have a taste?”
M: Takes a sip makes an obnoxious slurping sound.
A: “How does it feel on your palate?”
M: “Like little bubbles maybe?”
A: “That's the effervescence from our bottling process. (CO2?)
M: “Interesting, what else?”
A: “Try this, take a good sip swirl it around then tilt your head forward. Pay attention to your saliva glands. This is a good way to taste the acidity or lack thereof. My mom taught me that.”
M: Follows instructions, drools saliva on leg. “So is that a good thing?”
A: “Yes! We are fortunate to have a cooler climate which means higher acidity. Which makes it easier to balance the wines acid and sucrose levels.” (FACT CHECK) What else do you taste?
M: “I guess maybe some apple, like a tart granny smith apple. But at the same time kind of peachy?”
A: “Tropical fruit, tart lemon, spice. The spice comes from the pinot noir. Juices pressed off the skins. Add spice to the finish. Similar to Gewurtztraminer.”
A: “Very funny. It might seem like a lot but its really about each person’s own palate and enjoyment. There isn’t really any right or wrong answer, do you like it or don’t you?”
M: “I love it actually. I love you and thanks for trying to teach me a few things about White Seas!”
I thank you for reading this, we encourage you to pick up a bottle of White Seas and taste for yourselves. Maybe you agree maybe you have another opinion. Share it with us and my wife will be happy to argue...with anyone...anytime...anywhere.
Welcome back, friends! This is Part 3 of my ongoing foray into grape life. It has been a tough few months for all of us, yet here we are and I am very thankful. I’m thankful for health and safety of our friends and families. I’m thankful that I was able to continue to work this whole time. I am thankful to all the frontline workers who had our backs throughout! I'm sending a huge shout out to everyone who donated community cups. It was a pleasure delivering them to the R.C.M.P. officers, the Comox by-law offers and the hospital and ambulance essential workers. A lot of love was shared over the past several months and I think it was the positivity and support that floated us through. I know that we as a local business couldn’t have done it without all the local support and the support of our wine club members everywhere. Thank you!
Some things have changed, there were hoops to jump... I mean regulations to follow in order to re-open safely. All the extra steps have slowed some of the services but increased the safety of our customers and staff exponentially. So I’d say it’s a fair trade. I wanted “Slow and in control helps keep the corona low!” on our chalkboard but I couldn’t sell it. I’ll work on some more slogans.
What I think is most important now, is that we can celebrate again. Wine Wednesdays are back, our employees are back and the tasting room is opened! In fact, one of the good things to come of all of this was the new format for tastings. My wife Alana says the tastings have become more intimate with more storytime and more sharing. More leisurely like wine should be.
Sounds nice right? I wouldn’t know. I’ve been sweating away in the vineyard here as well as the vines on Quadra! Yes, we are farming another vineyard on Quadra island, complete with an apple orchard. As well we are farming another orchard to the south of us. Rumour has it we might be dabbling in some traditional sparkling apple wine. But first I have to get through harvest.
If you haven’t been out to the winery lately, our vines are growing like crazy. I’ll add some pictures for you of both vineyards and see if you can guess which is which. The toiling is paying dividends because we got little baby grapes or “bapes” peeking out everywhere.
I keep meaning to do a smoldering exposé on how we make our traditional Brut and Soleil Rose but I'm always playing catch up with so much stuff going on! I do want to give a shout out to the amazing people who were on the bottling line the past couple of weeks, we couldn’t do it without you and I had fun popping all those bottles. I can’t express enough how much support and dedication it takes to keep a winery as large as 40 Knots going. It literally takes a whole community. That’s why I’m so proud when we are able to give back. The donations to our frontline workers or Agriculture for Autism initiative Brenda and Layne have been involved in for six years or the open vocal support of our LGBTQ community, I’m going to put an, etc here because I could go on and on but that’s what being part of a community is. I for one am proud of our not so little farm. We are cultivating grapes and love. Come by and visit soon, bring your whole family.
Becoming a Sipster Vol.2
This was my mantra while I was trying to figure out how to write Volume 2 of becoming a Sipster. I am now reconciling the person I have become, with the one I was, when I started the first blog. I had some grandiose ideas back then. I had a planned trajectory for how this series of little stories would transpire. There have been at least four months between Sipster Volume 1 and now. I have learned much more about the art of winemaking and the joy of sustainable farming.
A lot of parallels can be made between life and wine. I’m sure better writers than me can really wax-poetic about the life cycle of grapes and how it symbolizes the life of a human being. But that’s cheese and I’m not in the cheese-making business. Although as a side note Natural Pastures are true artisans. I digress.
A lot of parallels can be made between life and grapes. Both are subjected to mother-nature and both have some of their own control. At the same time, they differ on the most fundamental level. Making wine is structured, carefully planned, and well thought out, followed by concise execution. Life is chaos with many more effects beyond our control.
As I drive through the vineyard on my repurposed golf cart, hauling organics to the compost pile, I marvel at the rows upon rows of precisely pruned vines. Their twin cordons just now sprouting little fuzzy buds at almost the exact time they did last year and the year before that. The symmetry of the careful spacing and design matched by the symmetry of their growth from all the years they existed on our land at 40 Knots. It’s beautiful and their wonder isn’t lost on me. There is something pure about all those acres teeming with new life. I am beginning to understand their life cycles, and how to support them through what Layne is teaching me. I can honestly say I learn something new every day.
Winemaking seems daunting. Foremost is the time it takes. Some of our wines have been in aging for years. And wine does not just lay around, many exciting things are happening in their vessel. Back before I even started at 40 Knots, those vines had been pruned, the grapes were harvested, crushed, filtered, and gently set to rest, year after year.
I sampled the Pinot Noir 2018 from amphora yesterday and it filled me with appreciation. This ambrosia had started its life as little fuzzy buds years ago and now it was in my glass. Soon it will be in bottles so that you may experience it in your glass. As you sip, I encourage you to think of this cycle and the history that this wine has experienced.
As I sip this history, I think about how everything changes. In a few short months, how uncertain things became. All the while this wine from out of time has just been doing its thing, impervious to the chaos of our lives.
“Clean ethical wines are our promise. Great wines are not made in the tank and the barrel. Great wines come from the vineyard.” I now understand why Layne believes this. You have to believe in the product you put into those tanks, barrels, or amphoras. It will be months to years before you know the result. More important than belief is knowledge, it’s not enough to throw it all together and hope for the best. That’s where best practice and tradition comes in. Wine has been around for thousands of years and by studying the best practices of other countries and other winemakers, we can stand on the backs of giants and make a great wine that’s rooted in tradition yet uniquely ours. Even so, I suppose it’s not always perfect. Sometimes a batch doesn’t turn out the way you expect it.
Then there are all the times that bottle of vino exceeds our expectations. We come together as friends and family around the dinner table to share what man and nature have created together. Upon looking around the table, we understand that man and nature have also created energy and love around the table. Yes, we have experienced lesser wines and lesser moments. All the more reason to celebrate finer wines and special moments.
My Quest to Become a “Sipster.”
Chapter 1: Two Types of Wine.
Not long ago I thought there were only two types of wine, expensive and cheap. Even the color made little difference to me when I was expected to grab a bottle for some dinner or another at a friend’s place. I picked one that was in the middle of the road for pricing and hoped for the best. If someone at dinner recognized it and paid it a compliment, then I would take credit for the choice. If they complained I said that the person at the liquor store recommended it. So it went for many a year, buying wines at random, sometimes winning sometimes losing. I had no emotional stake in wine whatsoever. Back then I valued alcohol quantity over quality. A 24 of beer could be purchased for the same price as single bottle of wine. Economical!
Then in 2014 my mother and father in law bought a winery. Out of nowhere two very influential people, renowned in their professions, gave their notice then sold their assets in Fort St. John BC to buy a winery on Vancouver Island! You can’t make this stuff up. Needless to say, my wife Alana was a little excited at the prospect. I seen in her eyes the reflection of vines and waves, the spark of a dream she hadn’t dared dream but was now a possible reality. Suddenly I was being sent to the liquor store with concise instructions. Words like ‘pairing’ and ‘pinot something or other’ were becoming relevant to what I was purchasing. Yet I held firm, I was a bearded beer drinking man from the wild Canadian west and wine was fancy people drink.
The years passed as they tend to do and I found myself being forced to try more wine in order to be polite. I watched with feigned interest as they swirled their glasses then gingerly sniffed at what they called aroma or made comments about the clarity. “When in Rome” I thought as I copied them in order to fit in. It was a farce at first then suddenly out of nowhere I was pleasantly punched in the palate by Layne’s Pinot Noir, 2014 I believe. I couldn’t begin to quantify it. Like when I was a young lad and saw Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman for the first time, something fundamental that I didn’t yet understand changed inside of me. A veil fell from my eyes and I was rocked by the first of many startling revelations, people didn’t just drink wine to get drunk, it could taste good! Not only that but it could be used to enhance the taste of my food or the light of a sunset. I felt like I had been holding my golf club the wrong way all these years and was suddenly able to mitigate my slice. A wind from the west coast had blown clear a hidden path and to my chagrin I truly wanted to follow it.
So my quest for ambrosia began and fortunately for me I had a head start. If you haven’t yet guessed my in laws Brenda and Layne purchased 40 Knots winery and I can attest it has been a true labour of love for them. My wife Alana began spending summers at the winery helping and before long we were moving to the coast. I signed on full time December 2019 and will never look back. Everyday I learn a little more of the style and science it takes to craft fine wine and its as interesting as it is tasty. I had been missing out and I don’t want any of you to make the same mistake. Therefore, I am reaching out to all my brothers and sisters who may harbour a booze bias. Like you I love beer & whiskey, I’ve just learned that wine offers different yet equally enjoyable experience. Wine is a potent potion of love or enchanting flavour enhancer for dinner when selected correctly. It’s something you should equip in your arsenal for 2020 ladies and gents.
In closing allow me to give you this parting advice. If you think wine is something fancy for ‘other’ people, then like me you just haven’t had the proper experience. It can be as accessible or extravagant as you desire. It might also be daunting when you are just starting out, so I recommend taking the easy way like I did and learning from people who are not only knowledgeable but passionate about their product. Take the first step by coming in to 40 Knots for a free tasting. You have nothing to lose and you might just be surprised.
Tell them Mike sent you or ask for me personally, I’ll be the guy with the big black beard smiling because when you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life…maybe leave that part out if you talk to my boss.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2: Riddle Me This!