I am a relative newcomer to Lillooet, having moved here three years ago. I am a transplant (a little plant humour for you) residing at the intersection of Highways 12 and 99. I know you have seen me because so many of you honk your horns or call out as you drive by. Thanks for a lovely warm welcome to Lillooet. We didn’t know we had so many friends who are just so darn happy to see us out here all freshly pruned and tied up. You humans are a strange lot! We let the field workers think you’re waving and honking at them, but we know you only have eyes for us, the grapes.
Please allow me to formally introduce myself and my fellow grapes. “Vigates, my name is Riesling, pronounced Reeesling.” I am aromatic, racy, expressive and rarely oaked. As the Cabernet Sauvignon of the white grapes, I can be made into entirely different wines with different tastes depending on where I am grown. In wine lingo this is referred to as the terroir. I age splendidly, something I know you humans really value. Yes, that was me you read about in the paper. I am the 2011 Riesling, 100 per cent estate grown grape who won Fort Berens a gold medal and best in show at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition.
Moving west, next to me in the field is “Chardonn-eh.” Chardonn-eh originally hailed from Burgundy but is leaving his French roots behind in an attempt to embrace Canadian culture. He has Canadianized his name so as to better blend in. Chardonn-eh is easily impressionable and more versatile than me because he does not have a strong flavor of his own. Chardonn-eh responds well to manipulation, such as barrel fermentation and/or oak aging. He takes on whatever character the winemaker desires and because of this he is the winemaker’s pet. He can be vivacious and sparkling, refreshing, unoaked, oaked, rich, buttery and sometimes even sweet.
“Eh, Merl; what did the grape say when he was squeezed? Nothing! He just wined.” Ha- ha. We grapes have quite the sense of humour and I get him every time with that one. Merlot jokes just never get old. Our buddy Merlot is planted on the southwest corner of the field; he is the one with long legs and not just on a wine glass.
Merloooo, is another “Frenchie,” hailing from Bordeaux. However, Merlot thinks he is from Camelot; he is such a lover and he can blend. Why every time that big blue truck with the extended cab starts driving back and forth on Highway 99, Merl just cannot help thinking of all those cabs… sauvignon, franc…Sorry big blue truck, while you can get Merl thinking about cabs, you are just not his type. He is the biggest Meritage on the block, winning awards, busy melanging with the muscled Cabernet Sauvignon and the aromatic spicy Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon but quicker to bud and ripen. This quickness trait allows the vine to thrive in cooler northern climates. That’s why Cab Franc lives here in the field with us and Cab Sauvignon does not.
We grapes know medals can really change the way people feel about us and we know money may not buy happiness but it will buy wine. With wine everyone is happy. Further, we know wine drinkers make grape lovers. There is no shame in our field for we have not zinned. It’s just not hot enough here to grow Zinfandel.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir live in the central field; they keep busy with the tedious work of scaring off bears and deer while we guard the fence line. The Pinots are a very distinguished lot; even Sigmund Freud has made reference to them saying, “Pinot Noir lovers suffer from Pinot Envy.” Pinots are deeply rooted in religious culture when the monks of old were the viticulturalists and winemakers. Pinot means monk. The monks made wine for church services and ceremonies, and of course they made liquors, such as “Benedictine” and brandy, for the after-church parties.
Grapes are like God, church and state. They can be enjoyed even when they are not understood. Humans are more like wine. They start out as grapes. They grow and then get stomped on, and then are kept in the dark until they mature. And hopefully they'll turn out to be something we would like to have dinner with. Oh my, that was just more fun than a grape in paradise should have. I just love grape humour!