Cornucopia at Whistler – Join us at the Crystal Lodge Gallery, November 12

The big food and wine festival that is Cornucopia gets underway in North America’s premier mountain resort in early November and Black Cloud will be there to take part and pour some Pinot Noir.

Now in its 20th year, Cornucopia celebrates food and drink in a big way with scores of events, big and small.

Black Cloud will be at the Crystal Lodge Gallery for a unique event that allows participants to express their artistic prowess (or lack thereof) and sip delicious Pinot Noir at the same time. It’s a great event for a date night, a girls’ night out or a chance to scratch that secret artist’s itch. If your in town, why not join us?

Black Cloud's Audralee and Bradley

Audralee Daum and Bradley Cooper – partners in Black Cloud.

Tickets go fast for these wine and art events so make sure you follow this link to secure a spot.

A trip to a French barrel factory

We seldom get a chance to see where some of the things we use on a daily basis come from.  So as a winemaker, I was thrilled to visit Dargaud & Jaegle in Romaneche Thorins, France this spring as a guest of Eric Fourthon and directorJean-Marcel Jaegle to tour the amazing facility that builds some of the best wine barrels in the world.
Eric spent a few years in the Okanagan Valley working at a local barrel maker.When he returned to France, he left an open invitation to look him up. So we did.
After a brief welcome from Mr. Jaegle, we started our tour.
At one time, before plastic and cheap steel and other modern materials, goods moved in barrels or casks made of wood.  Whether it was nails, biscuits or mackerel; when it had to ship a crate or a barrel was the only way to go.

These days, your new sneakers don’t come packed in barrels but beverage producers still make use of this ancient packaging custom to enhance their product.

If you drink a little wine now and then, especially red wines, you may know that many wines spend a period of their development in barrels made of wood, for the most part, oak.  The barrels impart flavour and allow the wines to grow more intense over time due to evaporation and transpiration.
In my role in the cellar, I’ve been treated to endless glossy images and dazzling videos of the barrel making process.  But until you actually visit, it’s difficult to appreciate the artistry and dedication to quality that occurs at every step of the barrel’s creation.

Oak from selected forests is stored in the yard where it ages over a set period, often for two years or more.





Strict rules are in effect for the oak yard. Spacing and height are regulated. One person’s stacks of valuable oak are another’s fuel for a damaging fire.


At every step, care and attention is paid to spotting defects in the oak. Here the rough cut staves are inspected for flaws.


Each piece of wood and each barrel can be traced back to the yard stack it came from, and from there, the forest it was cut from. At this point the staves are still straight and are ready to be bent into their familiar shape.


The barrels are placed in extremely hot water for a set time period and then sent directly to the machine that pulls them into shape.


The still steaming barrel has a steel cable placed around it and the wood is pulled into shape. Temporary bands are at hand to be placed over the newly shaped barrel when the procedure is complete.


Newly assembled barrels get more attention while they wait to have the ends formed for the addition of the heads.


Barrels heads are assembled on this table before their circular shape is cut.


At the end of the process, barrels are wrapped and identified with the name of the purchaser for shipping. On the day we were there, a number of these barrels were destined for Stryker Vineyards in California.

The Black Hills Experience – one of the best

We’re acutely aware that some of our fans wish we had a physical location for our winery where they could visit and live the terroir first hand. We don’t have a tasting room or a winery building to visit – for now. But we can recommend other places we think embody the Okanagan and BC wine experience.

A lot of the wineries in BC certainly don’t need our help.  But sometimes even our jaded perspective gets a wake-up call and we feel compelled to pass on what we think is essential for visitors and residents to know about.


Lately we had the opportunity to visit Black Hills in the South Okanagan and thoroughly enjoyed the premium tasting that was offered.  We hadn’t been to Black Hills since they opened their new visitor center and we didn’t intend on doing anything more than standing at the tasting bar and having a couple sips.  But once we stepped into the modern, cool reception area and took in the view, staying a little longer and having a richer adventure seemed like the right thing to do.

The wines, scenery and architecture were great.  But without a good guide the journey can be confusing or lacking. Not so at Black Hills. They’ve got some top talent twisting tops and pulling corks.  I thoroughly endorse Jeff Stewart for the way he shepherded our group through our flight of wines, offering information and insights into vintage variations and winemaking stylistic nuances.  You can book Jeff directly at when you book your tasting.

And I advise booking soon.  We were told that these custom tasting sessions are quickly finding a favoured place among wine touring visitors and this is something you don’t want to miss.

Black Cloud POP-up tasting shows off range of Pinot Noirs

Bottles of Pinot Noir wait to be sampled by participants at the Black Cloud POP-up wine tasting

Bottles of Pinot Noir wait to be sampled by participants at the Black Cloud POP-up wine tasting

The Vancouver International Wine Festival provided the backdrop for our 2nd annual POP-up Pinot Noir tasting last Saturday and the buzz inside the suite at the Hotel LeSoleil matched the general wine vibe in the city all week.

We set out an array of Pinot Noirs from the past, present and future releases to a small but appreciative crowd.  Featured during the tasting:

2012 Rose (unreleased, tank sample)

2006 Fleuvage

2008 Altostratus

2009 Altostratus

2010 Altostratus (unreleased)

2010 Fleuvage

2011 Altostratus (barrel sample)

2012 Altostratus (barrel sample)

Only about 20 cases of the 2012 Rose were made and these will be available to the Cloudy Day club members first as an add on to the regular subscription chosen.  It’s crisp and clean with a nose of raspberry and rose petals with a light cherry palate.  A great spring and summer accompaniment to any patio experience.

Be sure to read this blog for the next event featuring our Pinot Noirs.