SIPPABLE HISTORY: VALLEYS OF WINE
By Roslyne Buchanan.
Whether you’re a wine lover, history buff, or someone who likes to better understand the place she or he lives, the recent book release of A Taste of British Columbia’s Wine History: Valleys of Wine by Luke Whittall will enrich your knowledge.
It’s sippable history like a great bottle of wine. Like small lot estate wine, I snapped up my copy quickly to make sure I didn’t miss out. This taste of BC’s wine history is suitable to drink now and to cellar for years to come. Each time you return to it, you’ll notice other nuances.
To augment my appreciation of it, I attended the Sipping History seminar Luke led at the BC Wine Information Centre. Held in conjunction with the mid-November book arrival, Luke led this seminar in which we could literally taste some of the history. It was a night of brown paper bag pouring so Luke could introduce a range of wines without our biases limiting the discussion. Oh, the nostalgia as Luke provided samples along with the backdrop of history that shaped each vintage! As usual, the BC Wine Information Centre delivered on its mission to present events that are fun and informative. By the way, Luke works there which gives you a good chance to get your copy personally signed if you pick it up there.
If you’re reading this post before December 6, 7 to 9 pm, consider grabbing a ticket to attend ‘Valleys of Wine by Luke Whittall Book Launch’ at Mile Zero Bar in Penticton. Tickets are available on eventbrite.ca for $10. It’s bound to be an informative evening as Luke discusses his journey in researching the book.
Published by Whitecap Books Ltd., Valleys of Wine is available on its website, at amazon.ca, and fine bookstores, specialty shops and wineries. Luke has painstakingly researched this book for years and I love that he took the time to talk to icons of the industry and the unsung heroes and sometimes villains. As he notes, stories vary from one winery to another and one stakeholder to another so examining them all and creating “the first comprehensive text in decades to look at the actual history of Okanagan wine” adds rich context.
Luke notes on winecountrybc.blog/tag/alex-nichol that Alex Nichol, who started Nichol Vineyard in Naramata, was the last to write a concise history of BC’s wine industry in his book, “Wine and Vines of British Columbia” in 1983.
Along with my regional wine guidebooks by John Schreiner, Garth Eichel, and Tarynn Liv Parker; and broader regional culinary books by Jennifer Schell, Jennifer Cockrall-King, Heidi Noble, Rod Butters, Julie Van Rosendaal, Shelley Adams, and Brandi Parnell, Luke’s Valley of Wine will no doubt get dog-eared in spending as much time in my hands as reference as on my bookshelf.
Valley of Wine is presented as “a regional history examining the trends and industry regulations that have continued to shape a thriving part of BC’s economy”. Luke offers “a detailed look at the evolution of BC wine from the earliest vines in the mid-19th century, to the estate wineries that have elevated British Columbia’s wines to the international stage”.
Luke dedicates this book to Aaron Peter Olfert, another dear, departed friend who also worked at the BC Wine Info Centre, and whom he attributes as “the person largely responsible for starting me down the path for this book”. The forward is by none other than John Schreiner and the introduction begins with a quote by recently departed industry icon Harry McWatters, Time Winery, whose “untimely” death was the subject of: gonzookanagan.com/harry-mcwatters-gonebeforehistime-not-before-his-time-winery
With experience working in vineyards, cellars, tasting rooms and wine stores, as well as producing his own podcast and blog “Wine Country BC”, teaching at Okanagan College and writing for various other media, Luke provides a knowledgeable voice. That scholarly approach is tempered with his lovely sense of humour, in part due to his experience to performing to his audiences as a musician. You’ll often find Luke at South Okanagan wine events playing his guitar.
Valleys of Wine is a long read while easily consumed in small sips. It contains maps and is peppered with fascinating historic and more recent photos of BC’s wine regions. The Table of Contents points the way to the well-conceived logistics of the reference book.
The one weakness that I discovered was the Index, in which some notable interviewees and elements contained within the book are missing. Luke, who did not have a final opportunity to proofread the index, for example, cringes McWatters isn’t listed in it. While the glitch is a bit annoying as you scan back into the book to review a section, in the end you’ll want to read every word so you don’t miss any of Luke’s research.
Featured photo: A TASTE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA’S WINE HISTORY: VALLEYS of WINE on display and ready for Christmas purchases at BC Wine Information Centre, Penticton. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.