Wine O’Clock

Roses are red.
Wine is also red.
Poems are hard.

I enjoy drinking it. A glass, perhaps, or a bottle. Or two bottles, really, depending on the celebration (or lack thereof). I know that red wine goes with red meat, or does it? I also know that a good label, regardless of its contents, is enough to make me buy the bottle.

I know that I know very little, which is why I'm so enthusiastic to spend a weekend with local wine rep Lisa Marie Ritchat – whom I've deemed to be a wine goddess – at the Nelson Wine Festival.

Lisa, general manager of the Northern Bar and Stage, discovered a love for wine many years ago. Working as a server in two well-received restaurants in Fernie, she developed a plethora of wine knowledge through self-teaching and wine seminars that she carried with her to the Northern. When wine rep Christie Cronie approached her about representing Whistler Tree Wines in the Kootenay region, she took the position.

“The wine industry is tight-knit,” she says. “I've been buying wine from these people for so many years that I was welcomed with open arms. I'm very thankful for that.”

We drink coffee and chat along our drive before arriving in Castlegar, where Lisa is scheduled to do a tasting for a new wine bar that has just opened. I sit with her and the owner as she explains the different wines, and then the fun begins.

We sample.

Lisa explains to me why we twirl our wine in its glass, before smelling it and then drinking. I've always skipped right to the drinking part. By the time we leave I'm feeling quite delightful (I'm withholding ­ I'm a little drunk). I tell Lisa and she laughs.

“Welcome to being on the road,” she says. “You're always kind of drunk, kind of tired, kind of sober and kind of hungover.”

Indeed, when we arrive in Nelson we settle into our room at the Adventure Hotel before making our way around town, taking in various restaurants and bars. I have so much fun that before I know it we've eaten three dinners and find ourselves at The Falls Music Lounge, sipping sassy cocktails and visiting with other wine reps. We arrive back at our hotel at 3am.

The next day we adventure around Nelson, and then prepare for the festival. Before setting up we head across the street to Sage Tapas & Wine Bar for an early dinner. We were here last night, but the food and the people are so marvelous we've come back.

We sample a Chardonnay and other wines alongside the most decadent grilled ceasar salad I've ever tasted; creamy, crisp, crunchy prosciutto and capers atop. If I could spend every weekend preparing for a wine festival I'd die happy. Fat, and happy.

Soon we set up our table at the festival, an array of wines from six different vineyards on display, and wait for the wine enthusiasts. Lisa teaches me a bit about the wines I'm pouring – Church and State's Lost Inhibitions line. And then they come; people wielding wine glasses eager to drink as many varieties as possible.

I realize that people love a good label. I explain the Lost Inhibitions line to guests, two wine varieties with a fresh alternative to traditional wine labels. There are 150 different labels in rainbow lettering; You stay but the clothes go and I'd shave my legs for you are a couple of personal favourites.

When people ask, I try to explain what the wine tastes like, and then I settle for the truth.

“I don't know much about wine,” I say, my cheeks flushing.

“We don't either!” two girls yell back to me.

I watch as Lisa explains her selection of wines to interested sippers. I realize what I've figured all along - there is an art to wine, but it isn't just for the connoisseurs. Everyone can enjoy a glass, or several.

When the festival ends we find ourselves out with friends. Indeed, this tight-knit group of wine-specialists is more welcoming than I could've imagined. Lisa has been a gracious host to an uneducated lover of wine and, in the process, we've become friends. That's worth celebrating over a glass of wine. 

Lisa, you had me at Merlot. Whatever that means.