B.C. Wine 101: Summer 2017 Edition

With so much delicious B.C. wine out there and new wineries springing up almost every day, it's hard to know which wine you should be drinking… until now

With so much delicious B.C. wine out there and new wineries springing up almost every day, it’s hard to know which wine you should be drinking… until now

Welcome to our summer guide to everything you need in your glass from beautiful B.C. wineries. In this edition, I’ve explored Vancouver Island to taste what they’re growing, we have top sommelier recommendations for summer reds and whites, a simple guide to understanding exactly what the heck rosé is (spoiler: it is NOT red and white mixed together), and a whole heap more.

Best read before you head to your local independent wine store or over a glass of something scrumptious… Cheers!


1. WTF is rosé anyhow?

It’s the pink swirl in your glass that screams summer, patios, and hella good times! But really, what is it? Is it red wine? White? A blend of the two? Ace winemaker Severine Pinte of Le Vieux Pin and La Stella explains all…

So, what is rosé?
Rosé is made from red grapes. For me, it’s made in the vineyard. For Le Vieux Pin’s Pinot Noir rosé, I get grapes from different vineyards in the valley to get the different characteristics from each terroir. Even if I’m using the same grapes, each different area will give the grapes a different taste from the exposition to the sun and the different soil. What I want is berries with lots of juice and when I pick them, I want them to be a little under-ripe, so I won’t pick them at the same time as the grapes I use to make red wine. I want them to have fresh, fruity aromas and preserve some natural acidity.

How is it made?
Rosé is just made by taking red grapes and putting them in a press or a tank. It sits (depending on the grapes) for a couple of hours or 24 hours and that extracts the colour which goes into the juice (because the pulp is white) and so depending on how much skin contact you have you get more or less colour. From there, it’s the same kind of process to make white wine. Rosé is just about having something fun in the glass for the summer that’s pleasant to drink, not too complicated with lots of aromas.

Do you ever blend red and white grapes?
While there are no rules as such in North America, mixing red and white grapes is forbidden in France. There used to be something called ‘blush’ in North America which was a mix of red and white grapes plus sugar—not good! It’s why people have a bad image of rosé!

What grapes work well for rosé in B.C.?
I would say Pinot Noir rosés are very elegant, more delicate and feminine. As you go south in the valley, you’ll have Merlot and they tend to be more heavy, with more strawberry-jammy notes. Cabernet Franc makes a very delicate rosé too, look for blends of Cab Franc and Merlot too which can be quite balanced.

Try Severine’s Le Vieux Pin Vaïla Rosé, a mouth-watering fruity pale pink Pinot Noir that pairs perfectly with a just-ripe brie, sunshine and good company, or her LaStellina Rosato a juicy blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese that swirls cherries and summer berries.


2. Hot events

Tinhorn Creek is throwing its annual outdoor Starlit Supper as the moon rises over the mountains on July 27. Dine under the stars while enjoying a gourmet multi-course dinner by Miradoro Restaurant paired with Tinhorn Creek wines and served in the amphitheatre. Royal Astronomical Society telescopes are available for stargazing on the night. Book now, as this sounds dreamy beyond words.

Cedar Creek is hosting regular Tuesday sunset yoga sessions at the winery until August 29 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Book at bberry@cedarcreek.bc.ca for an outdoor class with a post-savasana session in the wine garden sipping a glass of their Platinum Block 1 Pinot Noir Rosé, paired with local treats.

Black Hills Estate Winery is throwing a hella chill Miami-inspired pool party with synchronized swimmers, a DJ, a swim fashion show and BBQ on August 12. Get tickets here (includes a shuttle from Osoyoos or Penticton).

The View Winery is having a fun and educational Ladies’ Night on August 4 with a Bollywood dance class, Indian-inspired appies and wine tasting. Make a reservation to take part.


3. Sommelier Picks: What whites to drink this season

Jason Yamasaki, Group Sommelier, Joey Restaurants

“Have you tasted our Rieslings lately? It’s never been a more exciting time to discover how sensational this grape is in B.C. Seek out Orofino’s ‘Hendsbee Vineyard’ for your bone-dry, neon limeade. Or their rocky ‘Scout Vineyard’ to ring a juicier, more tropical tone. Also, Synchromesh’s lineup has left me speechless (probably from all the salivating). Their Bob Hancock, Four Shadows, and Stormhaven are three of the best that I’ve ever tried from B.C.

“If you’re like me, you crave a sense simplicity and refreshment in white wine. ‘Delightfully quenching and fits like a crisp white shirt.’ You know what I mean? That’s B.C. Pinot Blanc to me. Generally lighter and drier than their ever-popular sibling Pinot Gris, Blanc’s honest refreshment is my standard for everyday, pop-n-pour sipping. The top picks for your B.C. crack-n-crush Pinot Blanc should be from Lake Breeze, Skaha Vineyard and Blue Mountain.

Finally, here are a few off-the-radar blends that should absolutely be loaded into your cooler this summer. Le Vieux Pin’s ‘Petit Blanc’ is a baffling blend of Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner and Marsanne. Try it out! You’ll be rewarded with mouth-shivering quench and layers of finely sliced orchard fruit with sheared herbs, Finally, I almost don’t want to suggest this last one. I’m fearful that I may never find it again lest it become too popular. That’s Terravista’s ‘Fandango,’ a Spanish-inspired blend of Albariño and Verdejo. No notejust find it. Now. Trust me. Olé.”


4. Focus on Vancouver Island

With less heat than the Okanagan, you’ll find aromatic cool climate wines—and plenty of German hybrid varieties—having their moment in the sun on Vancouver Island. Most of the wineries are clustered around the southern half of the Island with some great wine touring in the Cowichan Valley. Sparkling fans should check out different wineries’ takes on ‘Charme De L’Ile,’ a wine that can only be made from Vancouver Island grapes by using the Charmat—or tank— method— just the same as Italian Prosecco. Vancouver Island wines tend to work best with foods, so make a meal of it and don’t miss out on these wineries…


Worth visiting to coo over the adorable chickens in the vineyard alone, out in Mill Bay, Unsworth is growing some interesting varietals including Petit Milo and Sauvignette; try the Allegro which blends the two for a light, bright white with notes of baked apple and a silky smooth finish. The Pinot Noir rosé is Provençal-style, all pretty pale pink, and tasting of strawberries. Try to bag a bottle of their brand new Cuvée de L’Ile 2014, which is made traditional-style in the bottle with a fine bubble and toasty brioche notes just perfect for a special occasion, like the next long weekend.

Blue Grouse

Boasting a terrific modern tasting room overlooking a sunny slope in Duncan, Blue Grouse focus on mainly German varietals such as Bacchus, Ortega and Siegerrebe, along with Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Don’t miss: the Siegerrebe, just gorgeously floral with a whoosh of fruit salad and nicely acidic at the end. The Pinot Gris is peachy with a subtle elderflower honey note and bright fresh finish. Look out for their traditional method sparkling blend Paula Brut which should be out at the end of August, which is a blend of Pinot Gris, Ortega, Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Blanc.

Averill Creek

I assumed I’d gone in the wrong direction, but no, to get to Averill Creek you do have to travel up a stony path, get past an electronic fence (just tap in the door code) and then… at the top of the hill, there you areso worth it! They grow nine varieties here, with a cracking Charme De L’Ile that’s all fresh green apples and at just $18, perfect for any-day celebrations. Check out their wildly Canadian Foch Eh made with Marechal Foch grapes. This is wonderful served chilled (yes, chilled red, do it!). It tastes of bright blackberries and it’s what I’m drinking on Canada Day this year. Their Gewürztraminer is juicy and beautifully balanced with lots of pineapple notes, and you definitely need to track down a bottle of their Cowichan Black made with local berries and make an Island Kir Royal with it for a superb summer sparkling cocktail.

40 Knots

Up in the Comox Valley, newcomers 40 Knots are just on their third vintage and knocking it out of the park when it comes to beautifully balanced ethically made wines. Michael Bartier of Bartier Bros is their winemaker and his policy of letting the grapes do the talking is serving them well. The White Seas blend of all their white grapesPinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Auxerrois and Schonbergeris a pretty and perfumed blend with whooshes of jasmine and a zingy finish. Just wonderful! Their Gamay Noir is the most beautiful jewel colour; it’s finished in oak for a a few months to soften those tannins and is a mouthwatering and juicy wine with lashings of bright raspberries and cranberries.


5. Hot Winery News

Joie Farm Winery has a gorgeous all-new tasting room, complete with a beautiful licensed picnic garden with lime-coloured Adirondack chairs to curl up on under the cherry and plum trees and look out at that stunning lake view over the Naramata bench. There’s a great wood-fired pizza place, Picnique, on site and their Margherita pairs wonderfully with Joie’s Plein de Vie bubble, a chardonnay and Pinot Meunier blend sparkling with cherries and raspberries that’s brand new to the Vancouver market.

All change at Mission Hill as they welcome ‘Pegger Brad Froehlich as the winery’s new executive chef. Brad will be working alongside local farmers and organic suppliers to whip up farm-fresh, seasonal cuisine.

Opening very soon… The Chase Wines, the first of two wineries from the O’Rouke family (who’ll be opening a second exclusive winery with an appointment-only tasting room probably in 2020). Growing aromatic whites and Pinot Noir, winemaker Adrian Baker (ex-50th Parallel Estate Winery) told me: “It’s an exciting project and very well-backed. Lake Country is just ramping up and the quality is just getting better.”

The Fitzpatrick Family Vineyard is up and running at Greata Ranch in Peachland. The new project from the Fitpatricks after selling CedarCreek Estate Winery to von Mandl Family Estates, this is a gorgeous modern facility with a bistro, ravishing lake views and some very cool educational elements to its tasting room. I met their president, Gordon Fitzpatrick, who told me: “We want to create world-class traditional sparkling wines with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier; the grapes get excellent natural acidity here from the shadows of the mountain.” Take the very reasonably priced $30 signature 60-minute tour which takes in the crush deck, cellar, wine caves, riddling and disgorging rooms and end with a tasting.


6. Sommelier Picks: What reds to drink this season

Samantha Rahn, Restaurant Manager and Wine Director, Araxi and 2013 Sommelier of the Year, Vancouver International Wine Festival

“Cabernet Franc is one the great red grapes for our B.C. climate, and there are different styles being made through our regions to suit our local fare, from steaks and mountains of veggies off the grill, to savoury pork and poultry dishes with plenty of fresh garden herbs. We love Cab Franc at home up in Pemberton, and pair lighter meats and veg dishes with the juicy, cooler climate, medium-bodied Franc from Harper’s Trail in Kamloops ($26). A little closer to home, but blended with some fruit from the South Okanagan is Fort Berens ($25), blending those Okanagan grapes with the majority coming from the banks of the Fraser in Lillooet. My classic, long-time favourite that we also collect for aging in our home cellar is Tinhorn Creek’s varietal series Cab Franc ($22). It’s full enough but edging towards medium, goes with virtually everything, and a real bargain for cellaring or drinking every week.

“Pinot Noir is a great seasonal sip as the bounty comes in from the land and sea.  It’s notorious for being difficult to produce, from start to finish, but a handful of wineries around B.C. have managed to produce some stunning examples at everyday prices, a rare occurrence with Pinot and something to celebrate and get drinking! First off from Okanagan Crush Pad, their Haywire (white label) Pinot Noir from the Secrest Mountain Vineyard has tons of character, bright, complex, infinitely drinkable with fresh salmon, summer salads, or on its own for $24. Another ridiculous value, vintage after vintage is Arrowleaf from up in Lake Country. It’s under $20 so worth buying by the case for all your Pinot cravings. Off the beaten track but worth seeking out is Baillie Grohman’s Estate Pinot from Creston. Enticing aromatics of ripe fruit and spice lead the charge for $27 at the winery.

“If you’re BBQing anything at all this summer, you need B.C. Syrah in your glass. CC Jentsch ($32) is consistently one of the best, award-winning, meaty and spicy, with plenty of dark fruit-kissed oak. From the oldest Syrah in B.C. comes the medium-bodied, cool-climate style of Nichol Vineyard ‘Old Vines’ Syrah ($40). It’s distinctly perfumed and worth decanting or cellaring for many years to let the funk develop. If you’re throwing smoky ribs or peppered rib eye on the grill, grab some Syrah from Laughing Stock ($36).  It’s co-fermented with some Viognier to lift the aromas and draw out flavour and tannin, so it begs for some tasty meat.”


7. Seven Wines to Drink Right Now

TH Wines Viognier 2015

Oh dang, not a Viognier lover? Maybe this Viognier could be the one to change your mind. Jammed with apricots, perfumed pear notes and silkier than a very silky thing indeed, another glass? Please. Make that another bottle.

Indigenous World Winery 2016 Gewürztraminer

Aboriginal-owned and -operated out on West Kelowna before the bridge, IWW are just getting into their stride after opening in 2015. This Gewürtz is the perfect early afternoon sipper with bold pineapple and green notes which soften and open up into something dangerously drinkable and authentically delicious.

Sperling Pinot Noir 2015

Let this Pinot Noir sit out for a while. Go nuts, decant itor at very least pour, swirl it and then then go watch an episode of 30 Rock. You’re back? OK! How much do you miss Liz Lemon, huh? But look, now this baby is good to go. Superb with goat’s cheese, this breathes bright, fresh cherries, subtle strawberries, and a smidgen of pepperiness. 

Kitsch Riesling 2016

With his first vintage, Grant Biggs is becoming quite literally the pin-up boy (seriously, look at his Instagram @barrellist) for young Canadian winemakers after scoring best Riesling at the 2017 British Columbia Best of Varietal Wine, and a coveted place on the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wines this year. I tasted Grant’s wine with him in April and love this big juicy Riesling with a long acidic finish. Grant worked with one of my favourite winemakers, David Paterson from Tantalus who makes some of the best Riesling in the Valley and it’s not hard to see the lineage here.

The Hatch Muscat 2016

Part of The Hatch’s ‘Hobo’ series and pretty hard to track down apart from at the winery, this is a heavenly aromatic lemony delight of a summer treat—and if you’ve never tasted Muscat imagine a lighter fluffier Gewürztraminer— in short: say hello to your new best friend.

La Frenz Chardonnay 2016

I’m becoming a raving fan of B.C. Chardonnay because of terrific wines like this one; aged 18 months in the barrel, this is a rich, creamy, mouthwatering and fabulously fruity wine.

Misconduct Wine Fumé Blanc 2014

This elegant 100% Sauvignon Blanc is pure soft sipping delight. Aged in American Oak for a month which lends a subtle note of spice and smoke to its bright crisp, lemony-ness—is that a word? It should be— And you should bag a bottle of this and introduce it to some seafood for a damn good time.


8. Meet the Makers

Mireille Sauvé, Winemaker, Les Dames Wines

What’s your go-to patio wine?
Well, the Dames rosé right now! It’s just released and drinking so nicely! Plus, I made it in the exact style that I like rosé to be: dry and pale pink with refreshingly tart rhubarb and strawberry flavours. It’s a perfect patio pairing. Of course, bubbles are pretty great on the patio too, and I really like the ones from Lake Breeze, Kanazawa and Meyer Family Vineyards for these very types of occasions.

What food and wine myth would you like to dispel?
I’d say pretty much all food and wine myths should be debunked, because people should really be having fun with their food and wine pairings instead of following a bunch of obnoxious rules. For example, wine with salad: white, right? Wrong. Pour yourself a big glass of B.C. Merlot with your next garlicky Caesar and you’ll be glad that you did. Recently I stumbled upon a decadent chocolate en route to my Dames Red (a Merlot/Syrah blend) and they were divine together. Chardonnay with steak? Why not? Especially if it’s surf-and-turf… have fun with it!

What should we drink in summer 2017?
We should all be looking for lower-alcohol wines from B.C. as they represent balance, complexity and finesse. I’m not talking ‘wine-lite’ or anything like that, just steer clear of the 14.5%+ wines and seek beautiful, terroir-driven wines from all over this diverse province of ours. Especially dry, aromatic whites and Pinot Noirsthose who are doing them well are doing them really, really well. Sea Star and Roche is doing some great things with aromatic whites while Carson Pinot Noir is the very epitome of balanced red that we are capable of making here in B.C.

Tell me about Les Dames wines and why we should be drinking them.
There are three Dames Wines on the market (red, white and rosé), all of which donate 100 per cent of their profits to women’s educations in B.C. in the form of scholarships in the food and beverage field. The wines are made by women, in support of women and I had the pleasure of working with some of B.C.’s most talented females at all levels of bringing these wines from concept to fruition. A dry aromatic white, a rich robust red and a crisp dry rosé all belong in your glasses at various times because they are each delicious, all for different reasons. #drinkforacause #girlpower #DamesWine

Dames Wine can be ordered online or through select restaurants and private retailers.