It was early 2010 when I’d made the decision to take the big leap from working in the restaurant industry to becoming a self-employed wine consultant. As I was winding up the last few weeks of a three-year gig running a Vancouver wine bar, an unexpected phone call changed the course of what I’d had planned for the next six months. A friend was running the food and beverage program at the Okanagan’s Naramata Heritage Inn, and had offered me the opportunity to spend the summer assisting him and grabbing the reins of the wine program. It was a rare chance when the stars were aligned just enough that spending a vintage ‘living the dream’ right in the heart of wine country seemed doable.
As I pulled up to his house on Naramata’s Old Main Road with luggage in hand mere weeks later, I was already charmed by the sun dappling on the lake, the quail scurrying around and the surrounding vines springing into action. As I was led to the house’s guest bedroom, there was a knock at the door.
Stepping in with a grin was Jak Meyer, the proprietor of Okanagan Falls’ Meyer Family Vineyards, who had just been visiting with Chris Carson, his winemaker, who lived in the next house down the road. He’d heard I was making the big move, saw me towing my stuff inside, and thought to be neighbourly, stopping by to welcome me to my new home.
Over what turned out to be a rather cool vintage, I watched one of Meyer’s Chardonnay vineyards next door flourish and got to know Chris Carson fairly well. I learned that his keen and savvy propensity for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir was a result of experience in New Zealand’s Central Otago and in Burgundy which, of course, is mecca for those varieties. The guy does things old-school with grace; we’re talking stomping the grapes with bare feet because it’s less harsh on the skins and everything.
Yup, it wasn’t the hottest of summers, but those who were smart about handling their fruit on the vine ended up with stunning wines, lively with natural acidity and great concentration. I toiled away in the Inn’s charming little cellar, got to know many of my neighbours, chatted at the pub with winemakers about how things were going and what their current week entailed, and enjoyed so many other aspects of being witness to the day-to-day life of a vintage.
I’ve long admired the wines of Meyer, and I love that every time I open a bottle of their Tribute Series Chardonnay, from the vineyard I lived mere steps away from, it takes me back to that time and place, the warm welcome, and those few months when I got the rare opportunity to ‘live the dream’.
Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. He’s not half as fancy/boring as that sounds. He Tweets and Instagrams @KurtisKolt.