As a disaffected youth, I spent my fair share of time in small cafĂ©s, cramped coffee shops and impromptu art spaces – the kinds ofÂ places where larger-than-life images of found objects are projected onto once whitewashed walls while an erratic drum beat plays through blown speakers. Those places. I love those places. They take all comers and everyone mingles with the same intentional, vacant stares plastered on their faces.
It’s in one of those spots that I tried my first glass of wine. And every once in a while I remember what that a) tasted like, b) felt like and c) gave me a forewarning of. It tasted terrible. It felt freeing. It made me realize that I should never waste time on wine I didn’t like.
I’m drinking wineÂ as I write this,Â reliving memories of being at one of those impromptu art shows in an abandoned warehouse in Montreal, Quebec,Â sometime around the summer of (I think) 1994. Or maybe 1995. It’s a bit hazy. Hey, it’s Montreal. If you’re not hazy, you’re not doing Montreal right.
Located outside of Kelowna, Gray Monk is far from those artsy events in Montreal. And the 2007 Merlot I’m drinking is most definitely a good wine experience. But something about it makes me think of those times without a mortgage, without car payments. It’s youthful abandon squeezed out of grapes and poured in your glass. It’s the nights you stayed up so late that it was almost morning before you stumbled home withÂ a smile on your face, subway tickets falling out ofÂ your pockets as you tossed your jacket on the floor before you fell into bed. This wine is easy, familiar and adventurous. And it’s under $20 a bottle. You should buy one.
Wine isn’tÂ all about youthful abandon.Â Those bottles areÂ around, and they’ll happily welcome you back. But there may come a time when you want something a bit different. Unique. Unusual and unexpected. Have I got a winery – and a wine – for you.
Welcome to the new winery on the Okanagan block:Â Painted RockÂ Estate Winery outside of Penticton. I tasted their 2007 Syrah, and fell in love. This baby is sexy, smokey jazz club. Thick, juicy steak with peppercorn and brandy-dipped, hand-rolled cigars. Something curing nearby with hickory in the pot. If the allure and mystique of a speakeasy could be bottled, this might be it – and that far from does it justice. I met my first intensely crafted wine. This wine is selected, refined and lovingly slaved over. Buy it, then stash it away to keep for yourself – and maybe someone you love. Maybe.
It’s a Tuesday, and I’ve managed to visit an abandoned warehouse in Montreal and a speakeasy somewhere unmentionable – all without leaving the comfort of my home. And all through the unsuspecting glass ofÂ Okanagan wine. What aÂ great way to un*wine*d.