Monday, January 6, 2020

Mireille Sauvé’s wines for a good cause

 Photo: Charity vintner  Mireille Sauvé

During the past decade, wines made by Mireille Sauvé, a Naramata-based wine educator and sommelier, have raised more than $20,000 for scholarships awarded by the 60-member Vancouver chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier.

Once again, she has released two wines for, as she puts it, “a good cause.” Both are well made, worth drinking even without the incentive of supporting a good cause.

Some time ago, she moved from being a sommelier to wine education and marketing under her own company, The Wine Umbrella. One of her two recent releases is a red wine under The Wine Umbrella label, as she begins a transition from the Dames label. It still raises funds to support wine professionals.

A recent president of the Dames chapter, Mireille has a considerable history with this organization that supports women in the wine business. She was a previous scholarship recipient through the Dames program. She credits that support for allowing her to graduate from George Brown College in 1997 as Canada’s youngest female sommelier.

Her history was detailed three years ago in a press release accompanying an earlier release of wines under the Dames label.

Back in 1991, a 22-year-old Mireille was struggling with her career. Having started working in restaurants at the young age of 14, she was an established server in fine dining with vast experience but frustrated that she was unable to find anyone to take her under their wing to attain management status; and a professional sommelier degree from Toronto’s George Brown University was both out of financial reach and necessitated a move across the country.  
A few senior women in the industry knew of her talents and ambition and encouraged her to apply for a scholarship from the local chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, money they raised throughout the year for exactly this type of need. Mireille received a generous scholarship, scored honours distinction in her course, and went on to become the youngest certified sommelier (yes, of any gender) in Canada.

Apprenticeship at a Washington State winery, work experience with Eric von Krosigk at Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards (now See-Ya-Later Ranch) behind her; her own successful wine consulting business; travels across the world judging wine and no less than three children later, Mireille had reached a level in her career and was invited to join Les Dames as member - the very same organization that had helped her to pay for the schooling she needed to reach this place in her career. Talk about full circle. 

Jumping into the fundraising arm of the chapter committees she saw an opportunity to move away from silent auctions and give back, include other members in an amazing winemaking experience and, if she was lucky, be able to involve and give back to a whole new generation of female winemakers and sommeliers by making and bottling wine with all the profits being donated back to the chapter.

Mireille started to experiment with the white wine a few years ago as she discussed her dream of creating a special Dames wine. An early prototype blending Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat was good enough to inspire her. With that presentation, the chapter approved her use of their branding and gave her their blessing to move ahead.

Under the Dames label, Mireille previously released a 2013 red (a Merlot/Syrah blend) and a 2015 white (a blend of Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Riesling) and a 2016 Rosé (a blend of 80% Pinot Blanc and 20% Pinot Noir.)

“I can only make one wine a year,” she says. Her style: “My philosophy is non-intervention.”

Her current releases are a 2017 sparkling wine under the Dames label and 2018 red wine under The Wine Umbrella.

Here are notes on the wines. Look for the wines in private wine stores.

Dames Brut 2017 ($37 for 160 cases). The blend is 70% Pinot Blanc, 30% Riesling, aged on the lees for 17 months. With zero dosage, the wine is crisply dry, yet has a creamy texture on the palate. The aromas and flavours blend citrus and brioche. The wine is elegant and the finish is refreshing. 90.

The Wine Umbrella 70/40 Red 2018 ($25 for 400 cases). This is an unfiltered blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Pinot Noir, which were co-fermented. (The other 10% in the blend is winemaking effort, Mireille explains.) The inspiration for this wine is Loire Cabernet Franc, a style admired by Mireille. Half the wine spent six months in neutral oak and the remainder was aged in stainless steel. The wine, medium-bodied and fruity, has bright aromas and flavours of cherry, mingled with hints of spice and earthiness. 90.


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