I remember the night I tried my first drink: Smirnoff Ice. I am the fastest human alive I yelled while running drunkenly across an open field in Toronto at twelve years old. I thought it had given me superpowers.
The first time I tried rosé was quite a different memory. I’m at a grungy high school party, it’s late, and my friends aren't there yet, when a stranger offers to pour me some “it-goes-down-like-juice” wine. Since I expect it to taste like lemonade and be instantly intoxicating, I’m like, ya whatever,while leaning against the kitchen counter in my Bootlegger pleather jacket.
Of course, the wine tastes the way all chilled wine tastes when you’re seventeen and broke: bitter and served disrespectfully at room temperature. A few glasses give me no more than a sugar rush and a wicked hangover; no superpowers.
The disappointment of this introduction was significant enough for me to swear off rosé for years – condemning it to the list of things not to be revisited again, right there among spray tans and Nicholas Sparks novels.
In 2016, we now live in a wine world where, for the first time, North America is producing something unlike the pink sugar-water of my adolescence. Today’s rosés are considered elegant and refreshing.
How I would go about cracking the door back open to the world of rosé started at Vancouver Urban Winery, sitting at a table with its wine director, David Stansfield. The subject of my interview, of course, being VUW’s summer vino trio - three new Okanagan grown, Railtown made wines consisting of a Merlot, a Pinot Gris and VUW’s first-ever Rosé.
“Remember when we called it blush? It sounds like a lost Prince album. Or white zinfandel, which is neither white nor zinfandel,” Stansfield says of the North American rosé mishap.
In front of me are three bottles, all considered the perfect introduction to B.C. wines by Stansfield’s standards. A black berry and dark plum, fruit-forward merlot, a pinot gris that has a bit of texture but is more crisp than anything, and the coveted rosé with an alcohol percentage sitting modestly at 10% (less sugar means less alcohol). All three are high in drinkability and low in complexity to appeal the neighbourhood folk; something you can bag up and take back to the party or drink on the walk there. Essentially, wine not to be saved but consumed.
“This,” Stansfield says while swirling his glass, “is an acid-driven, dry, fresh rosé.”
I feel like now is the time to warn him about my rosé-bias.
“I have to warn you,” I say as my glass is poured. “I swore off rosé a long time ago and haven't tried it since.”
He encourages me not to be so narrow-minded. And that was that.
I recently came across an article about an experiment from Columbia University neuroscientist Daniel Salzman, in which he said that no event or object is ever experienced in perfect, objective isolation. It is instead subject to our past experiences, our current mood, our expectations, and any number of incidental details.
My first experience with rosé was nothing short of uncomfortable. Now, nearly a decade later, I have a glass in my hand in the presence of good company, sitting at a table in the rustic settlement building on a beautiful Thursday afternoon.
If Salzman is right, these emotional associations will, in turn, affect what I taste.
Stansfield explains that the rosé is made from fruit grown in the calcium-rich soil of the iconic Sperling Estate Vineyard and based on the Provençal-style of rosé (simple, dry, crisp, and fruity without being syrupy-sweet). The pale pink colour gives way to notes of fresh strawberry and grapefruit with a clean finish that’s distinctly B.C. He is proud of how the wine turned out. “It’s pretty rad,” might have been the exact words.
Wine, Stansfield tells me, is a living, breathing thing. You have to take every bottle on its own terms. And so, basking in the ambiance of this moment, I raise the glass to my lips. For whatever reason – viticulture or circumstance - it tastes wonderful.
VANCOUVER URBAN WINERY
The small lot wines are made in-house from 100% Okanagan grapes by Winemaker, Kelly Symonds and Associate Winemaker, Lynzee Schatz. All three summer wines are available exclusively at Vancouver Urban Winery’s boutique, located inside The Settlement Building (55 Dunlevy Ave).
Hours: Monday to Friday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.
THE SETTLEMENT BUILDING
Phone: +1 (604) 566-9463
Facebook: /The Settlement Building