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
Behold! Your new seasonal B.C. wine guide which tells you exactly what you need in your glass from now till June. We’ll be taking in everything from new releases and interviews with winemakers to explaining B.C. wine basics so you can up your grape game and sniff, swirl and sip like a boss. Cheers!
Read on for 8 reasons to indulge in B.C. wine this spring...
1. Hot events and openings
The Garagiste North small producers’ wine festival is happening on April 22nd, so bag a ticket now to check out cool artisan producers such as Kitsch and their pretty pink Pinot Gris that’s crisp and apple-y on the nose and peach bright on your tongue.
The Wine For Waves spring release of the Naramata Bench Wineries in association with the Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise event is happening on April 28th at the Four Seasons. Always a fun event to taste new release wine and eat delicious Ocean Wise food whilst raising money. Get your ticket now!
Summerhill Pyramid Winery is creating three new tasting spaces and has plans for a couple of very cool tours too, taking in the vineyards or the Pyramid.
Speaking of tours, Mission Hill is offering sommelier-guided tours (I took one and it was so much fun) packed with behind-the-scenes info and a chance to taste direct from the barrel). Try the "Taste of Mission Hill Family Estate Tour." It’s reserved for a maximum of eight adult guests per tour (at $65 per person) and includes wine tastings, cheese and charcuterie.
There are still tickets for the Bacchanalia Food and Wine event in Penticton on May 6, showcasing 60 wineries and 240 wines.
2. WTF is Ehrenfelser?
How do I say it? Imagine it’s pronounced like a girl’s name: Erin Feltzer and you’ve got it.
What is it? This white grape has a German background and it’s fruity and aromatic, basically a cousin to Riesling and Gewurtztraminer.
Why should I drink it? Well, it’s kinda cool that pretty much only Germany and Canada has this (thanks to a quirk in B.C.'s wine industry history when it was planted here in trials in the late 1970s) and if you don’t like the acidity of Riesling but do love a fresh bright aromatic white, this could be your new spring crush.
Who has it?
Summerhill: Sweet but nowhere near syrupy, this beautifully balanced wine is like a summery kiss in a glass: all apricots and orange blossom. Thoroughly drinkable all by itself and even better with salty prosciutto and a creamy burrata.
Gray Monk: Perfumed, light, and bright but a little sweeter than an off-dry wine, this is more of a pre-dessert, after-dinner or possibly a breakfast wine. Packed with apples, pears, grapefruit and peach flavours, maybe have this instead of a smoothie.
Cedar Creek: They call it fruit salad in a glass and I’m not arguing with that. This delicious bright wine is full of intense cantaloupe and peach flavours that positively cry out for opening maybe a second... (or a third?) bottle.
3. Focus on Lake Country
B.C.’s Lake Country takes in some dazzling lake and mountain scenery and equally excellent wineries, which all neatly combine within the Scenic Sip tour within a 20-minutes radius of Vernon. Don’t miss out on these wines...
50th Parallel Estate Winery: Set on sloping hills of pink granite rock, this winery focuses on aromatic whites. Look out for their Pinot Gris, a bright fresh and pretty drinker with a whoosh of apricots and pineapple.
Gray Monk Estate Winery: The oldest family-owned and -operated winery in the Okanagan, Gray Monk offers up really affordable wines and a terrific variety of some rare grapes such as their Pinot Auxerrois (pronounced ox-air-wah) a delish peachy easy drinking sipper that’s perfect with salads, or their Rotberger, an ideal light red (almost a rosé) to pair with turkey. They also make some divine velvety reds with grapes from East Kelowna for their Pinot Noir and the Black Sage Bench in Osoyoos for their Meritage.
Ex Nihilo Winery: Think rock-and-roll decadence blended with art and wildly drinkable wines at this ‘diamond in the rough’ on 10 acres of steep hills overlooking the lake. They make softly acidic aromatic whites and a terrific cool buttery Chardonnay with floral jasmine and stone-fruit notes at the end. Don’t miss their exceptional 2015 Pinot Noir.
Arrowleaf Cellars: It’s all about the fruity bold grapefruit notes of the Bacchus at this winery with a great outdoor patio overlooking the lake.
Sparkling Hill Resort: After a tough day tasting wines, make sure you unwind with a stay at Sparkling Hill Resort, a twinkling gem of a spa hotel with some 3.5 million Swarovski crystals to dazzle and delight. Rooms have gorgeous views over the lake with big-enough-for-two tubs. The Kurspa offers up seven different steams and saunas, along with two pools, a vast hot tub and plenty of peaceful space to enjoy that dazzling view.
4. Sommelier picks: What reds this season?
Justin Everett, wine director, Wildebeest
Pinot Noir is really a grape for all seasons, but being a lighter-bodied red, it is especially suited to the lighter dishes we tend to favour going into spring. Its softer, silkier tannins mean it can even be a suitable pairing for pink-fleshed fish. Served with a slight chill, Pinot Noir can be the perfect accompaniment to seared B.C. sockeye salmon. Try Tantalus ‘Juveniles’ Pinot Noir 2015 or Tyler Harlton Pinot Noir 2015.
Originally from Austria, Zweigelt is a light, peppery red which is also perfectly suited to viticulture in the cooler parts of B.C.’s wine-growing regions. I like to think of it as Austria’s answer to Beaujolais and am glad B.C. joined in on the party. Zweigelt is great as an aperitif wine and its lively acidity is a great counterpoint to the fat and salt found in cured meats. Serve it with your next charcuterie board. Try Arrowleaf Zweigelt or Mt. Boucherie Zweigelt 2014.
Because spring in B.C. can still have its cooler nights, you may still want a bigger red on hand to serve with braised or grilled meat. Packed with red and black fruit and poised on a frame of ripe tannins, Syrah from the southern Okanagan ticks all of the boxes. I like Le Vieux Pin ‘Cuvée Violette’ Syrah or Orofino 'Scout Vineyard' Syrah 2015.
5. So what’s the deal with Meritage?
I know. You thought you were saying it right 'cause it sounded all French and fancy: Meri-taaaaage. But turns out it’s not pronounced that way at all. It’s a portmanteau word that’s a blend of ‘merit’ and ‘heritage’ and it’s pronounced like ‘heritage.’ Harry McWatters, ex-of Sumac Ridge, the first Canadian winery to call their Bordeaux blends ‘Meritage’ and now co-owner of TIME Winery explains why...
“The name was picked from more than 6000 entries in a contest in the late 1980s. New World winemakers needed a name to describe the Bordeaux-style blends that they were making. For a red wine to be a Meritage it needs to be a blend of two or more of the "noble" Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot (and sometimes the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère). Also, to qualify as a Meritage, no single grape variety can exceed 90 per cent of the blend.”
“I’ve been making Meritage since 1993, and my goal is to produce a wine which is greater than the sum of its parts. When you blend the Cabernet Sauvignon, it brings firmer tannins and structure, the Merlot is all about the soft velvety fruit which helps round out the wine, and the Cabernet France brings the spice. If I were serving a slow-roast prime rib, I’d pick TIME which is built on a Merlot base. But on the grill with a big steak I’d go with the McWatters; it's a bolder and more in-your-face style with a firmer Cab-Sauv base.
Pair it with: Steak, barbecue chicken, pizza, especially with spicy pepperoni and salami.
- Cedar Creek: A blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Malbec from Osoyoos, this insanely good value Meritage packs in plenty of dark berry fruit with beautifully soft tannins on the end. Great entry-level for newbie Meritage drinkers. $24.99
- Lang Vineyards: 2014 Meritage, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot. A little rough around the edges, but this cheap and cheery herbaceous-smelling blend packs in plenty of fruit with a spicy finish. $23
- Gray Monk’s Meritage is an equal blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot from the Black Sage Bench. It’s beautifully inky in colour and and has a gloriously velvety, sensuous and almost chocolate-y flavour that speaks of sunshine and warm long nights. $30.05
- Ex Nihilo, Another Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc blend with a spicy sweetness and almost jammy fig taste. Hard to resist snorting this wine it smells so decadent. $46
- Moraine 2014 Meritage, a beautifully balanced blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot that smells like pressing your nose into the (perfectly tailored) jacket of an elegant silver fox-style gentleman; all sexy leather and tobacco and tastes like soft-edged drunken black cherries and plums. $35
- Perseus ‘Invcitus’ 2013, A bright floral blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Cab Sauv and Malbec, one sniff will plunge you into a woodland grove of violets and dark, dark berries, one taste will have you hooked. $49
- Mission Hill Compendium 2012, Maybe it’s your birthday or maybe you just need a treat, this soft and head-spinning Meritage is made from Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Merlot from Oliver and Osoyoos and my tasting notes are basically just a blizzard of love hearts and exclamation marks. Soft-edged with bright blackcurrants and sage this lingers on your tongue like the sweetest of kisses. $86.25
6. Sommelier picks: What whites this season?
Lisa Haley, wine director, L’Abattoir
Semillon is usually associated with Bordeaux or Australia's Hunter Valley, but there are some producers making really lovely versions here in B.C. I love Bartier Bros. creamy, savoury version, it's full of sage and orange blossoms. Lock & Worth makes a richer, more tropical Semillon. They ferment in neutral barrels and leave it there for over a year. Don't mind the sediment. Both are perfect matches for the lighter fare we turn to in spring but are just as suited to mindful patio-sipping.
Pinot Gris is immensely popular here in B.C. for good reason. It's easy drinking, reliable, and pairs well with all the sushi we eat here! I am very excited about two very different takes on the grape from the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. Unsworth Vineyards first wowed me with their precise, mineral, aperitif-style one, while Alderlea lets theirs rest on the skins for a delightful pink version that drinks well with everything from BLTs to seafood pasta.
If you haven't been drinking B.C. Viognier, it's time to start. B.C. does extremely well with aromatic varieties and Viognier is a great example. A classic is the Rhone blend, 'Ava' from Le Vieux Pin; it's rich and waxy with ripe fruit and toasted grains (really!). I recommend it to guests who love Chardonnay but want to try something new. To really try something new, check out Laughing Stock's Amphora Viognier/Roussanne blend. Aged in Italian terracotta on the skins, this wine can handle poultry and pork dishes. I love it with BBQ.
7. If you like Pinot Grigio, you’ll love Pinot Gris
So you like Italian Pinot Grigio. Well, maybe, it’s not so much that you like it as you know what it is when you see it on a menu or in a wine shop and it’s usually pretty OK. But we don’t do it in B.C., right? Well, wrong.
Pinot Grigio is exactly the same grape as one of our most popular varietals, Pinot Gris. If you’re looking for a bright crisp wine, B.C. has ‘em in spades. Winemaker Ann Sperling says, “Look to the cooler parts of B.C., north from the Naramata, so Summerland, the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island if you want that elegant style of Pinot Gris. Wineries like Sperling, Gray Monk and Arrowleaf all make an elegant mineral-y Pinot Gris. Think about the climate, if you love a winery’s full bodied ripe Merlot, they won’t make a crisp Pinot Gris—their white wines will be heavier, so make sure if you’ve picked a cooler climate winery for their Pinot Gris, that they source their fruit from that area to get the wine you want."
8. Meet the maker
David Paterson, winemaker and GM of Tantalus
What’s your go-to patio wine?
I like still rosé made from Pinot Meunier, Gamay or Pinot Noir. Who makes my favourite? Me! Ha ha ha! 8th Generation is making a really good one and Moraine made a really good Gamay rosé this year off the Naramata bench.
If people are new to pairing food and wine, what is your top tip?
What you want to do is decide whether you want to match flavour to flavour, or if you want to compare and contrast. Say your food has peach or lime or popcorn flavours, you can match those flavours to the wine. I like pairings which compare and contrast. I much prefer an intense wine to use as a component of the dish—so crispy pork belly, which has an intense amount of fat or a creamy seafood linguine, I pair with a high-acid Riesling which cuts through that and you use the wine almost as a component of what you’re eating.
What food and wine myth would you like to dispel?
That snobby waiters and sommeliers are right and you are wrong. I think that’s bullshit. Trust your own palate; if you like something, then you are right. People who are new to wine shouldn’t be afraid of disliking things either. If you’re told that X is fantastic but if you don’t like it, that’s totally OK! If you like Yellowtail Shiraz, then you should drink it. I personally don’t, but I think it’s important to be open to have your mind changed. My palate has changed a lot in the eight years I’ve been making wines here and it will continue to evolve and change, so try new things because you may like them now.
What should we drink in spring 2017?
New Riesling; the 2016 is a fantastic vintage, the grapes had a long time hanging on the vines, not too much sugar accumulated in the grapes so the alcohol is fairly low but they accumulated plenty of flavour—better than any other vintage I’ve seen. Look for aromatic varietals like the 2016 Gewurztraminer or Ehrenfelser and rosés too, all of these are going to be exceptional for that longer hang time.
What should we be drinking from Tantalus?
Our new bubbles will be out from the 2014 vintage, and if you can find any of our 2014 Old Vines Riesling, that’s going to be amazing. It got one of the highest scores we’ve ever seen from Jamie Goode for a Canadian white—at 94 points it’s phenomenal and will age for a decade.