With so much delicious B.C. wine out there, and new wineries springing up almost every day, it’s hard to know where to start drinking… until now
Harvest is done, snow is coming, so surely now is a terrible time to visit wine country, right? Wrong! The pre-festive-season visit is a wine lover’s secret: there are so many fun events and open houses at wineries. You can make appointments to visit your favourite spots to buy direct from the cellar door (with no summertime crowds!) and all the hotels have great off-season rates. Pair an Okanagan visit with some skiing or boarding at a local mountain and you’ve got the makings of a new fall tradition.
Read on for all you need to know about B.C. wine this fall...
1. Go to all the cool events!
Okanagan Crush Pad EventsSummerland wineries add some sparkle to the season with their annual Light Up the Vines event, with a sneak peek on November 24th and then the main event on December 1st and 2nd from 3 to 8 p.m. On offer: tastings, food pairings, holiday decorations, seasonal refreshments, festive food to buy, outdoor fires and music, plus special offers on wines, ciders and beer. Collect five stamps from members to complete a Light up the Vines passport and be entered to win a prize package valued at over $500.
Go back to school at the Vinstitute at Intersection Winery on Road 8 in Oliver for a Winter Wine School series beginning November 18th and running until March 24th with classes every second Sunday. The sessions are $25 each, last two hours, and typically explore six wines from a variety of B.C. wineries. Subjects covered include Cabernet Franc, dessert wines and bubbly B.C. wines.
Wineries in Okanagan Falls will be filled with the festive spirit on November 17th and 18th for their Holiday Cheer open house weekend where all 14 of OK Falls wineries will be open for tastings, food pairings and some great gift ideas. Spreading that cheer a little wider, all wineries will be collecting non-perishable goods to donate to local charity Helping Hand’s Christmas Food Hampers.
Enjoy a weekend of food, wine and winter adventure at Sun Peaks Resort with the first annual Savour the Sun festival from December 7th to 9th. This brand new event brings together the deliciousness of Oliver Osoyoos Winery Country and the snowy fun of Sun Peaks Resort, so by day you can ski the slopes and by night enjoy the trio of fun food and wine paired events on offer. I love the sound of the ski in/out mid-mountain reception on the Friday night!
Wineries in Oliver and Osoyoos are celebrating their Winter in Wine Country event from November 23rd to 25th with special tastings, fun gifts and plenty of festive cheer.
Following in the Beaujolais post-harvest party tradition, Mile Zero Wine Bar in Penticton will be hosting an Okanagan Nouveau night on November 17th. Expect plenty of French-inspired food from Craft Corner, a 9 p.m. fashion show, live DJ and, of course, wine aplenty with a glass of Tall Tales Wines Syrah Nouveau on entrance.
2. Ask a somm: Fall reds with CinCin wine director Shane Taylor
Kevin Clark"With the fall season upon us, there’s an opportunity to pair some stellar wines with the chill in the air," says CinCin wine director Shane Taylor. "The Okanagan Valley produces some top-notch Pinot Noir and this varietal works wonderfully with how we eat in British Columbia. I was fortunate to be able to make a Pinot Noir from the Garnet Valley with Matt Dumayne from the Okanagan Crush Pad last year. Dilettante Pinot Noir will make your mouth water, has crunchy red fruits and is built to last.
"SpearHead Winery may have had to change their name for legal reasons, but their GFV Saddle Block is so good I'm surprised it's not illegal! Tremendous bang for the buck for a local single vineyard Pinot Noir.
"I love white pepper, Montreal smoked meat and bacon fat. All aromas and flavours you get from B.C. Syrah. C.C. Jentsch Syrah and Le Vieux Pin 'Cuvee Violette' are two of the best examples of this noble variety.
"Now, for two wines off the beaten path that focus on Italian varietals... a tip of the hat to both wineries for pushing the envelope and making wine that doesn't involve the bottom line but is a passion project...
"Stag's Hollow 'Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard' Dolcetto is very unique. An Italian varietal that you rarely see outside of Northwest Italy that’s grown in our very backyard. In the glass: dark fruit and a warm, embracing body with a huge crush-ability factor!
"LaStella Winery also focuses on Italian themes and their Arioso shines the spotlight on Sangiovese. This varietal is a typical "Mama's Boy" that doesn't travel well outside of Tuscany but—in this case—they nailed it: its big brooding fruit with elevated tannins beg for a prime cut of beef."
3. Focus on… Okanagan Falls
Adrian PhotographersIt may not have the big-name recognition of Kelowna or Osoyoos, but for my money, Okanagan Falls, which lies between Penticton and Oliver, is one of Canada’s most unmissable wine regions. Home to some of the best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Valley, and some kick ass bubbles (hello, Noble Ridge!) and Riesling too (I’m looking at you, Synchromesh)—and also where you’ll find the legendary Tickleberry’s ice cream parlour serving up wildly oversized cones, plus a gorgeous beach with a terrific pet-friendly section—Okanagan Falls has plenty to offer. Pick up a selection of OK Falls wines from your local independent wine store and start planning a visit soon.
- Pentage – Definitely a wine-geek fan favourite, this small winery is known for varietals which aren’t spotted in the Valley too often, and their classic Rhone varietal blends are superb. On the white side, try their Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier blend or hop to their GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend for red.
- Meyer Family Vineyard – I’m in love with the Chardonnay here. Splurge and get the Micro Cuvée to experience pure heaven in a bottle or try the Chablis-style of the Stevens Block. On the Pinot Noir side, bag the McLean Creek which is always a winner.
- Wild Goose – Not only do they have a tasty BBQ restaurant onsite, the Smoke & Oak Bistro, but they have award winning Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer and some of the best prices for top level wine around.
- Blue Mountain – You probably know 'em for their sparkling, but oh my, check out their Gamay, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So, so good.
- Liquidity – Happiness can be found with a glass of crisp Chard or Pinot Gris and a charcuterie board here on the sun-trap patio at the bistro with a billion-dollar view.
- Painted Rock – Upscale, ultra-premium wines perfect for special occasions such as birthdays, or rainy Thursdays… Hint, hint, it’s all about the Syrah here for me, and their super sexy silky Merlot.
4. Ask a somm: Fall whites with Shawn Soole, head bartender at the newly renovated Pagliacci's, Victoria
"Chicken pot pie wine, is it possible?" questions Shawn Soole, head bartender at Pagliacci's. "It is with Le Vieux Pin’s Ava, a blend of Viognier, Roussane and Marsanne. This is the one you’ll crave with a slice of pie, whether chicken pot or spiced apple. It has a warm mouthfeel with weight from the Marsanne balancing the length of the Viognier and Roussanne; herbal tea and orchid fruit with a toasty brioche and honey make this your fall food find.
"Joie winemaker Heidi Noble just gets me. She looks in to my oeno-soul and sees what I need. This Viognier is no different. Honey, citrus and honeydew melon with minerality for days; cook yourself up some curry and enjoy while the snow falls outside.
"I love Chardonnay and Bartier Brothers’ Chard is reminiscent of the style of Chardonnays that I started in the industry with: big, bold, lees-forward with rich flint that lingers into fireplace smoke on a dewy morning in the country on the palate long after the sip is gone. Begging for pumpkin soup—hell, why not use a splash in the soup!
"I discovered Coolshanagh wine five years ago when owner Skip Stothert was doing the rounds in Victoria, hand-selling restaurant to restaurant. Another bold Chardonnay but the flintiness is balanced with strong acidity and texture; a B.C. re-imagined Burgundy with brioche, citrus, ripe pear and baked apple, this wine screams for some cold water oysters au natural.
"Look beyond the usual varietals this season and check out two of my favourite B.C. whites. Arneis means little rascal in Piedmontese and Mooncurser’s Arneis is just that. Bold yet approachable especially for the autumn weather on the West Coast; whether it’s a brisk, sunny day or a wet, blustery night by the fire. Green plum, pear and fresh flowers ebb out the end of summer and wraps you up in a warm rascally blanket.
"Terravista’s Fandango has always been under the radar, a oenophile’s best-kept secret. Spanish Albariño and Verdejo grown on the Naramata Bench show the flavours of falling leaves; apple and peach skin with hints of acidity along with minerality reminiscent of the soils it’s grown in, finishing with bright acidity. Your underdog fall wine for all drinking needs."
5. Hip hip Syrah!
Wines of British ColumbiaOver the past few months of tasting wines for the fall column, I realized that I’m having something of a Syrah moment. Fruit-forward, beautifully perfumed, silky with just a whisper of pepper and spice, B.C. Syrahs are a thing of beauty. Some of the acknowledged best come from skilled winemaker, Severine Pinte at Le Vieux Pin, which you can try by the glass at a few spots in Vancouver including Acorn, Nightingale or Le Crocodile. Once you’ve got Syrah-fever, here are five more to try...
- Winemakers Cut Syrah 2016 ($30.34) – On the nose this is all smoke and juicy plums, but one sip and it's smooth tannins, blackberries and a hint of spice.
- Orofino Wild Ferment Syrah 2017 ($29) – Soft pepper, black fruit and that excellent ‘wet stone’ mineral finish that screams classic Similkameen terroir. A super refreshing sense-of-place wine.
- Hester Creek Syrah Viognier 2016 ($28.95) – Deliciously grown-up with no peppery edge at all, just smooth kirsch cherries. Delish!
- Indigenous World Wine Single Vineyard Syrah 2016 ($28.99) – Whoosh of cherries and a kiss of something warming and spicy on the finish.
- Road 13 Syrah-Malbec ($32.17) – I assumed this would be so big and bold but no! Dark berries, fruity and smooth. Just lovely.
6. Eight whites to drink right now
- Summerhill Riesling 2017 ($28) – Organic, biodynamic certified and 100 percent gorgeous. Peach. Guava. Super fresh and fruity.
- Marcus Ansems Rachel's Viognier 2017 ($30) – Peachy, honeysuckle and a hint of hazlenuts, I adore this single vineyard white from the makers of Daydreamer wines.
- Clos du Soleil Fumé Blanc 2017 ($21) – Bright fresh pineapple and mouthwatering acidity. Bring me oysters!
- Fitzpatrick Runabout White 2017 ($16.50) – Gorgeous tropical fruit on the nose, like plunging your face into fruit salad. Nice zippy acidity too.
- Vin Amité Chardonnay 2016 ($31.90) – Light and pretty with a wonderful silky-smooth mouthfeel and a gentle kiss of oak.
- Bench 1775 Post Modern Chardonnay 2014 ($22.90) – Silky, not too fruity and layered with a gorgeous flinty minerality. There’s only a few cases of this delicious wine left, order online and thank me later.
- The View Gewurtztraminer Revolution ($19.95) – Gosh, this is lovely! And perfect with raclette cheese. Think orange blossom and creaminess it this floral, light and bright.
- Stoneboat Pinot Gris ($19.90) – Crisp Granny Smith apples and a melon-y nose. This is just the summeriest happy drink and it goes weirdly well with crisp sour pickles.
7. Meet the maker: Karen Gillis, winemaker, Red Rooster Winery
What’s your go-to fireside wine?
For a summertime fire, I have friends on Pender Island and whenever I go there, we stop at Sea Star Vineyards. They have some great aromatic whites that are perfect for fireside sipping. For a wintertime fire, sparkling! All sorts, but my go to is Blue Mountain Brut. It reminds me of Christmas Day... read a book, snuggle in a blanket and drink bubbles.
What food-and-wine myth would you like to dispel?
That Chardonnay doesn’t go with red sauce! A great oaked Chardonnay like Tinhorn Creek’s with spaghetti is amazing.
What should we be drinking from Red Rooster and why?
How do you choose just one?! Our Rare Bird Merlot is my go-to red. It drives me crazy that people say they don’t like Merlot, so I strive to make a great one. Riesling 'cause I love it, and our Rare Bird Malbec grown on the Naramata Bench. It’s full of spice and cocoa and is lovely.