Calgary Wine Life: City & Country, YYC’s Urban Winery, Part I

26 04 2020

By Peter Vetsch

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Calgary’s craft beverage game has been significantly elevated in recent years.  When I first moved here for good in 2005, the idea of buying small-batch booze made locally was barely a possibility, let alone a point of pride.  Fast forward 15 years and a tweaked legislative regime, and our fair city is now home to over 50 breweries (and even a brewery district), multiple distilleries, and a surprising number of cideries, complete with a now-permanent homemade presence in restaurants and retail outlets.  But even with this dramatic expansion in Calgary-created alcoholic options, I can’t say that I ever expected that we would have a fully functioning wine producer within our civic boundaries.  Well, colour me an insufficient visionary:  meet City & Country, Calgary’s first ever urban winery.

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Located just east of Macleod Trail and just south of Erlton, a couple minutes north of Alloy restaurant, City & Calgary is a bricks-and-mortar winery as of this year but has been a producing brand for a couple of vintages before that.  Owner and hospitality industry veteran Chris Fodor and his wife Karen have long had a dream of making their own wine, and they accomplished that goal in 2017 with some assistance from friends at Pentage Winery in the Okanagan, which served as their initial base of operations.  A 2018 vintage in BC followed, but the Fodors’ dream was not site-limited:  the ultimate goal was to establish a production facility in an urban locale and to source grapes from a variety of different regions, both inside and outside of Canada.  As long as the fruit (or pressed juice or must, depending on the supply arrangement) could be transported quickly, safely and in a temperature-controlled manner, this setup offered greater flexibility, more winemaking options and the ability to avoid, or at least mitigate, the vagaries of weather, animals (damn you bears!) and other local conditions in a given region and vintage.

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In 2019, the Fodors obtained the necessary funding to set up their urban winery in Calgary, moving production to the city late in the year and officially opening the doors of City & Country winery on February 1st, 2020.  The cosmos, of course, scoffed at mortal dreams and aspirations, and the Fodors’ grand opening lasted only a month and a half or so before the doors were forced to close back up as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response directives.  Like so many others rolling to adapt with the times, City & Country is still trucking along virtually, focusing on its online storefront, offering up its wines to retail locations in the province and arranging for contactless deliveries.  They are the only Calgary wine business I’ve seen to date to offer free delivery across Alberta, available on all orders over $60.  They have assembled 3-bottle and 6-bottle tasting packs allowing people to sample both their base lineup and some limited-edition specials, complete with tailored videos, tasting notes and pairing recommendations.  They continue to run their business and pursue their dream, in a world that makes no sense but that needs wine more than ever.  I recently got to raise my first ever glasses of local wine to their vision and toast to their continued efforts to make us a winemaking town. Read the rest of this entry »





April Fools’ Day Tasting

3 04 2013

It all started with an offhand remark from my friend Tyler.  “Hey, you know what we should do?…”  It soon became a plan.  The lineup was decided, the wines were procured, and a date was chosen…really, the only date that fully suited an event like this.  On April 1st, we sat down, twisted off some caps and got down to drinking some of the most popular and reviled wines on the planet.  Happy April Fools’ Day, everyone.

Oh yes.

Oh yes.

I should pre-emptively intercede to point out that we didn’t just do this to be the online jerks who make fun of cheap wine.  Like it or not, the wines picked for this tasting are embedded in global drinking culture, are a gateway for many people to more serious bottles (the marijuana of table wines, I suppose) and have had a market position that can only be described as dominant.  As someone who has studied wine quite a bit over the past few years, I had heard a ton about all of them:  Baby Duck, Canada’s most successful retro sparkler.  Mateus, Portugal’s top export and once the world’s best-selling wine.  Gallo White Zinfandel, flagship of a wine “fad” that continues in full force to this day.  Black Tower and Blue Nun, continual influencers of global opinion of an entire country’s wine tradition.  And Naked Grape, one of the most likely local inheritors of the legacy of these cheap and cheerful drinks.  I had never tried a single one of these wines, and my desire to do so was more than just morbid curiosity.  I was hoping to discover both what has made these bottles so iconically popular for so long and whether the suspect reputations that preceded them into the tasting room were well-deserved.  Let’s find out.

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