Tag Archives: Victoria

Worldly Wine Weekend

6 Oct

Lately, my diary has had more drinking engagements than Hemingway did during his Paris years. Not that I’m complaining – in fact, even to my liver’s protestations, I say: let’s get the diary filled!

So, it is with eagerness that I write about a wine festival I will be heading to this weekend put on by Virgin Wines. Yes – Branson has his hands in this pie too!

And although it is happening the day after the much anticipated TWE Whisky Show, I’m hoping my hangover won’t be so bad that I can’t cope with some beautiful Bordeaux or charming Chardonnay.

According to the people helping run the event – which happens from 11:30am-4:30pm Saturday at The Lawrence Hall, near Victoria in London – there will be more than 250 wines available to sip and sup, and a load of food companies offering their wares too. All for the measly sum of £15. Not bad at all, I say!

If there are still tickets available, I’d grab one now – I’m sure many a Gwiltypleasure will be satisfied…

Tickets are available from the Virgin Wines London Tasting site here for £15.

Spirit of Victoria

5 Jul

On my continual quest to find good, unique booze, I recently came across a fantastic little outfit producing some of the best spirits I´ve  tried of late.

Nestled away up a country road on a former vineyard in Saanich, just outside Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, is the small, artisan distillery called Victoria Spirits, which produces Canada’s first premium gin – along with a selection of other products like hemp vodka and orange bitters.

It’s a family affair, with everyone from the mom and step-dad, to the son, daughter and in-laws contributing in their own small way, from marketing and label design to, of course, lots of taste testing.

It all begins in a small workshop with a wood-fired still, made by third generation still makers in Germany.

On the day of mine and my father´s visit, Peter Hunt, the master distiller, was whipping up a batch of hemp vodka. The golden pipes of the still were snaking around a large, copper orb where the various ingredients that comprise each tipple bubble and brew, like a witch’s cauldron on Halloween. Inside the 217 litre pot – which is sealed like a bank vault – were thousands of toasted hemp seeds bobbing around in liquid. It smelled oily, nutty and intoxicating, sure to cast a spell.

It’s a labour-intensive process – because it’s a wood-fired still, the process needs to be controlled throughout the full six hours and wood added every five to 10 minutes to keep the temperatures perfectly balanced. But this is what makes it a grand example of an artisan distillery.

After checking out the ¨lab¨ we headed upstairs to try out the final product. And I wasn´t disappointed.

The signature gin is rich and flavourful, with each of the 10 botanics that it is comprised of (things like orris root, coriander, star anise and, the classic, juniper) working together rather than overpowering. The Oaken Gin – or aged gin, which Hunt jokes is the “gin for whisky drinkers” is distinct, slightly oakey and a far cry from the products a corporate distiller would pump out, while the Left Coast Hemp Vodka is nutty and much fuller than any ordinary vodka, leaving an oily aftertaste that is pleasantly surprising and could easily be drunk on its own over ice.

The company is growing strong, and will soon be in stores across Canada – my only fear…everyone else will find out about it and I won´t  have any to myself!

Brilliant B.C. Beer Bottles

30 May

I have recently left my “new-found” home (ie: England) to come back to my “home” (ie: Canada, birthplace etc) for a bit of a visit. I have been in London for  nearly four years and in that time, I nearly forgot how fun the labels on artisan beers are here in B.C. The same can really be said for most of the west coast of North America (think: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver etc). What is so fantastically brilliant is the cheekiness of the artwork and downright delicious flavours that one can find hiding away in a bottle of beery goodness.

Take these three beers, for instance, which I recently grabbed off the shelf at random in the liquor store (sadly, booze isn’t available in supermarkets here! Quel shame!).

Three handcrafted beers wait to be drunk down: Brother Thelonius, Deckhand Belgian Saison, and Elysian

Now, I chose them not only for their funky designs but because of their descriptions and strength (all around 8% ABV – I like my beer strong). In England, I’d probably pick up a Belgium beer or two from Sainsbury’s, say, but they wouldn’t come with this saucy styling, such as Lighthouse’s Deckhand, whose busty babe on the front has already riled some feathers for being a wee bit to forward with her décolletage. 

Despite being chosen at random, none disappointed. The Deckhand was light, fruity and yeasty, with a very bitter aftertaste; our too-cool-for-school Brother Thelonius was flavoursome with a metallic scent, ruby colour and dark, rich taste; and, the Elysian was a bit, well, hard to pin down – mostly because I was too wobbly for words by this point, but the bottle’s cloaked sorceress certainly pleased my taste buds.

At the end of the day, what really rocks my world is the fact each of these beers are only around for a short time, a whimsical whipping up by the artisan breweries that craft them and their designs. And, because people out here support their local, small brewery, I’ve no doubt beauteous bottles and beer will continue hitting liquour store shelves. Now, if only I can convince them to export to England…

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