Wine and the River, 2014

I am not drinking it as I write (I swear) but rather musing over ROAM’s evolution as an adventure company with respect to the grape.  I do not know what exactly it is about wine and wineries but ROAM has a long history of being associated with some of the world’s best varietals.  Perhaps chance or simply an issue of demographics?  Or maybe wine drinkers enjoy the wilderness for similar and often the more subtle reasons why they enjoy wine.  I am not sure what it is but there must be some correlation? 

A wonderful guest and avid fly fisherman, Dan Duckhorn, once said to me “if you want to make millions in the wine industry start with a billion.”  He speaks from experience as Dan and Margaret Duckhorn co-founded  Duckhorn Vineyards  who are major producers of wine in California.  A year later, Tom Baldacci came to Chilko on a father-son trip shortly after establishing Baldacci Family Vineyards in the Stag Leap District of Northern California.  Originally a real estate investment, something about the land unlocked Tom’s imagination. 

Working for George and Martha Butterfield in 2000, I learned more about wine in one year than I had learned in my cumulative lifetime.  They are partners in not one, but two different Premiere Cru vineyards in France.  Unknowingly, I once betrayed the Butterfield’s during lunch at a famous New York eatery.  Dining with Tom Matthews of Wine Spectator, I inadvertently agreed with his assertion of a certain bordeaux being tastier than a burgundy we were trying, not realizing it was one of George’s.  Martha quickly defended her husband’s honour by saying “Brian’s palate prefers bulls blood” which was, to be fair, an accurate description.  At that juncture of my life, I was more akin to purchasing wine based on price thus making “on sale” my favourite grape.

As my palate has matured (yes, only my palate has matured), I was lucky to make the acquaintance of Robert Wolfe.  A former wine critic and writer, Bob started a cool organization called the Oregon Pinot Noir Club.  I worked a river trip with Bob when he was sommelier on a fancy-pants Y.P.O. trip down the Colorado.  For those unfamiliar with Y.P.O., its an acronym for Young President’s Organization and is where super successful rich people hangout and travel together.  To join you need a minimum net worth that slightly exceeds my guiding salary. 

After some successful wine trips in California, Oregon and even Idaho, the program moved north and had a variety of interesting guest hosts.  For a number of years we focused on BC wines with local expert, Jon Langilles, from BC Wine Guys who has an extensive knowledge of the great local BC vintners and a cellar to match.  Other trips had vintners, Deb and Dana, from Cantinian Wines in Mendoza covering a variety of Argentine wines and last year the theme was Chilean to be reflective of the great Futaleufu River trips in Patagonia.

For 2014, we have Matt Brewster featuring Spanish and Portuguese wines.  Matt spent many years in the wine importing and sales industry and has personally tasted more than 30,000 wines (a lofty achievement I hope to match one day).  The event will be on the Chilko River June 21st and features two nights at Bear Camp followed by a 6-day river adventure and the longest day of the year for drinking vino around the campfire!

 The Wine on The River Trip is always a joyous event and Mr. Brewster’s notoriously heavy pours will certainly keep things flowing.  If that is not enough evidence that wine and adventure are a perfect pairing, believe Homer as he wrote:
“It is the wine that leads me on,
the wild wine
that sets the wisest man to sing
at the top of his lungs,
laugh like a fool – it drives the
man to dancing… it even
tempts him to blurt out stories
better never told.”