1. What is your favourite grape and why?
Riesling for white and Syrah for red. Riesling has more personalities and styles than any other variety, it is so versatile. I also enjoy acidic, tart, refreshing and invigorating experiences on my palate (funny, I always loved the sour coated/tear-jerker types of candies as a kid… and still do actually!)… and, of course, I’m German. I love the smoky, meaty, sausage-y character of a rich Syrah. It may be because my dad is a butcher and smokes a lot of his own meats.
2. Best wine you have ever tasted?
Most recently, we opened a bottle of 2005 Bunnell Family Cellars Syrah Boushey-McPherson Vineyards from Yakima Valley, Washington. It was still so youthful and had a rich tannin structure and a massive palate, yet smooth. Big smoky, meaty character, you could almost chew it. Part of the wonderful experience was also the company with which we shared the experience. I can’t say it is the best ever wine (there have just been too many wines to pick just one outstanding wine), but it is one of the best recently. From 10-15 years ago, I would probably pick some Alsatian Gewürztraminer, which opened my eyes to a whole new world of Gewürztraminer and the discovery of how true “terroir” really is. There is truly nothing else in the world like the unique character found in all Alsatian wines.
3. What was your favourite visit to a wine region and why? Can you share some travel tips?
One of the standout visits for my husband (who is not even really that into wine) and I was at Ata Rangi in Martinborough, New Zealand. Not only were the wines outstanding, but the staff member that took care of us went above and beyond to help us and make us feel valued – we had a wonderful 1+ hour experience there (even my husband was super stoked about it). We talked about the area from a viticulture perspective, she printed different maps for us (and later also e-mailed us some information as promised) and she was very helpful by providing us with boxes and packaging material to help us pack our 13 bottles of wine back to Canada (even though we didn’t purchase all 13 from Ata Rangi). I have also had excellent experiences in Alsace and Rhône, but the mistake we made in Rhône was that we didn’t do our “homework” and ended up in Condrieu on a “rest” day and a lot of establishments were closed (like the main wine tasting retail outlet that could have made recommendations to us where to visit) – we ended up touring around “blind”. Also good to note that they aren’t familiar with the type of “wine touring” that we do Canada, where most wine shops are open to the public year round; a lot of the local “wineries” are right in peoples’ homes, and you end up knocking on their front doors, tasting wines in their foyers with women dressed in house-gowns and aprons or work clothes. I don’t think they are really prepared for the random tourist coming around to visit, but rather for the local merchants and retailers that probably come to bulk-buy for re-sale or use in restaurants. Take the time to research the area and make advanced appointments.
4. At what age did you taste your first wine?
I’m guessing I was probably 4 or 5, desperately begging Dad to “wet my lips” on his homebrew. I’m not sure if it was any good, because he once poured a bottle of it down the drain, thinking it was a bottle of homemade apple juice that had gone bad.
5. What inspired you to be a winemaker?
I’ve been fortunate enough to be travelling around the world since the ripe old age of 8 and enjoyed learning different languages in high school, when not busy with my nerdy science classes. I had long sought a profession where I could combine my passions of languages and travelling with my science skills and after taking a break from university and working in the Pfalz, Germany, I discovered that making wine could allow me to combine these three elements into a wonderful “lifestyle” career.
6. What would be your dream achievement as a winemaker?
To own my own boutique winery – small tonnage, perhaps some single vineyard wines.
7. What would be your last meal and what would you pair with it?
I’ve become quite a foodie in recent years, so it is hard to pick just one meal…but I bet anything with bacon would fantastic – perhaps just pounds of bacon prepared in many different ways (which would probably kill me anyways, so why not?)! I must be secretly preparing for this, as a small group of friends will be celebrating our fourth annual “Baconagan” baconfest extravaganza in September (laughing). I think a sweet Riesling or smoky meaty Syrah (or both) would pair quite nicely with bacon. Maybe that’s why those two varieties are my favourites?
8. What is unique about our wine region and what brought you here?
I was blessed to be born and raised in this bountiful wine region! What I love about BC is that we have such a wide variety of microclimates, meaning we can grow an abundant selection of grape varieties. I am pleased that our industry hasn’t tried to establish only a few “signature” varieties for our area. We are a young “New World” industry and have an increasing population of younger wine drinkers, that consumers are often looking out for “what’s new”. By making so many different wine options available, there is hardly a chance for our consumers/supporters to run out of new wines to try, which probably contributes greatly to the growth of the market share of BC (VQA) wines.
Meet The Winemaker – …Stephanie Stanley of Peller Estate Winery
1. What is your favourite grape and why?