Get Stuffed - Wine Club 

White gold

Wine club explores the world of whites beyond chardonnay

WHAT: Whistler Wine Club

WHERE: BBK’s Pub

WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.

Chardonnay has long been the dominant varietal in the world of white wine. But those with a passion for vino are discovering there is life beyond the over-oaked, and some would say over-rated, chard. The newly formed Whistler Wine Club is offering a taste of two of the most popular alternatives growing in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, pinot blanc and pinot gris.

Organized by the Blackcomb Beer and Wine Store, with sessions held next door at BBK’s Pub, this is the wine club’s fourth meeting and the idea is quickly gaining momentum. The casual but informative discussions are led by beer and wine store manager Michael Kompass. Originally the goal was to educate his staff, but even without advertising, the night is becoming popular with the rest of the community.

"Because of the large amount of hospitality workers in Whistler, a lot of locals either need to know this sort of thing for their jobs or they develop an interest," says Kompass. "It’s also a nice way for our store to get more involved with our locals. And of course it’s the best way to showcase many of the great wines that we carry."

If you’re looking for an extraordinary complement to your special evening, the Blackcomb Beer and Wine Store is a good place to start. You’ll find many B.C. and international wines here that aren’t available elsewhere in Whistler, and in some cases, anywhere in B.C. Blackcomb was one of just two stores in the province selected to distributed the much raved about 1997 debut vintage of Burrowing Owl’s Pinot Gris. Its unique fresh pear flavour earned it ratings as high as 90/100 and Blackcomb was soon overrun with wine connoisseurs on the hunt for the hard to find white wine. Allocated just five cases for the entire year, the store had to insist on just two bottles per customer.

Alas, the ’97 Burrowing Owl isn’t on the menu for next Thursday’s tasting (although they do stock the newer vintages), but you will find eight outstanding wines, four blanc and four gris (rhymes with "free"), to titillate the palate and demonstrate the similarities and differences between these closely related wines. If you’ve never tasted the two side by side, they’re easy to confuse due to their fresh fruit and citrus overtones. But what might surprise you is that each come from entirely different coloured grapes. Pinot blanc is green/gold. Pinot gris is actually burgundy.

"Genetically, pinot noir is the parent grape of the pinot family," explains Cameron Cook of Carpe Diem, distributors for Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery. "That then stems out to the pinot blanc and pinot gris. They call it pinot gris because it’s a white wine derived from a red grape. In extremely hot years, the gris grape can be mistaken for the noir because it can turn very dark. And that’s why pinot gris wine can sometimes have a coppery hue, due to the very red skin. The pinot family is so close that it is not uncommon to find a cluster of gris or blanc grapes on a pinot noir plant. And from time to time, you can find all three on one cluster."

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