BC Wine 101: Summer 2019 Edition

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

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

Pop your cork this summer with B.C. wine! This season, we’re all about rosé and chilled white easy-sippers. We’ve got great sommelier recommendations for all your red and white patio pairings, and a chat with Naramata Bench superstar winemaker Gavin Miller from Upper Bench. Plus, news on the hottest new opening in the Similkameen.

Cheers… and here’s what you should be drinking until summer’s end…


1. Devour the Similkameen at Row Fourteen

I was so excited when I heard about Row Fourteen opening in Cawston, a collaboration between Savio Volpe’s opening chef de cuisine, Derek Grey and long-time organic farmers Anna-Marie and Kevin Klippenstein (who’ve been supplying tasty produce to all your favourite Vancouver restaurants for years!), which soft opened last week. I’ve been in twice so far for lunch and dinner and have been raving ever since.

The heart of this gorgeous room on Klipper’s Organics farm is a roaring wood-burning stove, which is doing sterling service creating a drool-worthy char on everything from heirloom carrots to Two Rivers dry-aged steaks. On the wine list is a rotating menu of Similkameen wineries, plus ciders from the newly opened Untangled Craft Cider, based at the restaurant. The menu changes according to what’s fresh and tasty right now. Make a reservation for lunch or dinner, and welcome Row Fourteen to the ‘hood.


2. Sommelier recommendations: Island whites for the summer

JP Potters, executive general manager and wine director at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

“The wine scene on both Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands is currently on the rise and producing some really great wines. The maritime exposure, diverse soils that include marine sediment, volcanic, plus a variety of others, and a generally warmer climate combine to create an interesting place to grow grapes. In other parts of B.C., these grapes have generally been torn out and replaced with more commercially successful (but less interesting) grapes; however, this little corner of the province continues to see hybrid varieties develop.

  • 2018 Sea Star Ortega: Located on Pender Island, Sea Star Vineyards produces a fantastic Ortega. With its bright citrus and tropical notes and fresh acid, it is a favourite of ours at Boulevard. Always a sell-out, get it while you can and pair with seafood on the patio.
  • 2018 Blue Grouse Bacchus: A Cowichan Valley favourite, Blue Grouse Estate Winery produces some excellent wines from this warmer pocket of Vancouver Island. Bacchus is a late-ripening white grape that yields a richer profile with apple and pear. I like Bacchus with cheese—especially goat cheese.
  • 2017 Unsworth Pinot Gris: Some really excellent Pinot Gris is now emerging from Vancouver Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands. The 2017 Pinot from Unsworth offers up a combination of pear, apple and citrus with pretty floral highlights. Pinot Gris from this area maintains excellent minerality from the volcanic soils and is an excellent pair for heirloom tomatoes and new season peach salad.”


3. Seven rosés to crush right now

Keep that patio vibe going all summer long…

  1. Township 7 Rosé 2018, $21.97: Gorgeous Provence-style from a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cab-Sauvignon and Petit Verdot; pretty pale pink and oh, so savoury too! Dry but pleasingly fruity, this is great with goat cheese.
  2. Fitzpatrick Pink Mile rose 2018, $19.50: Grapefruit and lemon zest meet strawberries in this winner from Peachland. And, you know what? This is amazing with curried pickled cauliflower.

  3. Liber 100% Estate Merlot Rosé, $23: Certified organic, this complex and mouthwatering wine has a fragrant strawberry jam nose with a savoury and mineral-y finish. Loved this!

  4. Quails Gate Lucy’s Block, $24.99: Is it even summer rosé drinking if it’s not Lucy’s Block? Perfect with, well… absolutely everything. I absolutely freaking adore this elegant and dangerously sippable blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Trust me: go get some.

  5. Winemakers Cut Rosé 2018, ($22): I had a group over to taste wines for this column and there was almost an undignified scramble to try and bag the remains of this baby to take home. It’s the prettiest, palest pink with a wonderful l-o-n-g racy, zippy finish wrapped in savoury crushed tinned strawberries. Just ace.

  6. Indigenous World Wine La’p Cheet Sparkling rosé 2018, $24.99: Light, bright, bubbly, this Charmat method (think Prosecco-style, super fresh!) sparkler is made from a blend of Cab Sauvignon and Gamay and is beautifully crisp and dry. Cherries and strawberries meets red vines!

  7. Calliope Rosé, $25: Well, this is a bummer! This fabulous bright Cab Franc summer winner is all sold out. It’s beautifully balanced with nice high acidity and crushed strawberries on the finish, kinda savoury and lip-smackingly dry, so lesson learned? Get in early next year, ’cause this is ace. BUT you can still taste it at the excellent Burrowing Owl winery restaurant, the Sonora Room. Up in the Okanagan for a visit? Go there! Oh and it’s pronounced ka-lie-OH-pee!


4. Sommelier recommendations: Reds

Cody Dodds, wine director at The Mackenzie Room

“Growing up in B.C., summer was always synonymous with camping, hiking, swimming and a not-so-rainy August; all things to love, enjoy and hopefully share with friends. Being a grown-up in B.C., summer means sparkling wine, Pinot Gris, rosé and a not-so-rainy August, too! All things to love, enjoy and hopefully share with friends.

“We often forget the day we spent at the Aquarium avoiding the rain, much like we forget Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot—all things we love and enjoy, but something we can do on a cold rainy day. That isn’t the case anymore, red wine should no longer be overlooked between June and September! B.C. winemakers are producing some world-class red wines that are as perfect for summer as camping, hiking, swimming… and a not-so-rainy August.

  1. Synchromesh Cabernet Franc: New World meets Old World with this medium-bodied, unfiltered gem from OK Falls. Winemaker Alan Dickson creates a rustic wine showing notes of tomato and dried basil, which is a perfect pairing with pizza while you pretend you are on vacation in Italy.
  2. Marcus Ansems Sparkling Shiraz: The master sommelier, winemaker and owner of Daydreamer Wines, Marcus Anselm, has spent his entire life around Shiraz (or Syrah as we know it in B.C.).  He makes his Sparkling Shiraz only in the best of years, as an homage to his winemaking roots. For anyone looking for a robust dry red with fruit and tannin for days, this is the wine for you. The bubbles add a refreshing complexity and allow you to drink it with anything from fleshy fish to ribeye steak.
  3. Lock & Worth Merlot: Even if The Mackenzie Room didn’t run an all-B.C. wine list, this wine would still be on our list. When this Merlot is slightly chilled, it is the perfect summer wine. The plum and spice on the palate make it great on its own, but it can also be enjoyed with cheese and charcuterie too.”


5. Ten whites to rock your world

  1. Cedar Creek 2017 Platinum Block 5 Chardonnay, $34.99: This is my dream Chard, round and soft with a terrific mouthwatering finish. It tastes like gently buttered pineapple and ‘Please can I have another glass?’
  2. Time 2018 Brut, $34.99: I was so very happy to be at the launch for this beautiful fresh bright bubble—the first from Time winery—and be able to raise a glass with the legendary Harry McWatters, known as the grandfather of the B.C. wine industry, who died recently. This was already on my list to include for this column, but now more than ever, it’s a tribute wine to buy and enjoy. I was surprised it’s a Charmat method; there’s a gorgeous toasty note here, which suggested a more traditional style. Delicious. Thank you, Harry.
  3. Sperling Organic Sper…itz 2018, $22: I remember that I wasn’t a fan of this wine last year, but I adore this vintage; it’s a super-bright, floral and pretty with a light effervescence and papaya and pink grapefruit notes. Just 7.9% alcohol, say hi to guilt-free lunch wine!
  4. Fitzpatrick 2018 Unwind Ehrenfelser, $19.50: Oh, yum… bright and peachy, all soft edges and a delectable nose. This smells of summer in all the right ways—exactly what I want to drink on a beach picnic!
  5. Quails Gate 2018 Chasselas, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, $17.99: I loved this last year and this year is a winner too; I don’t think anyone else is doing this refreshing white blend in B.C. so it’s a fun one to bring to parties and picnic. Think white flowers and hard green crisp apples! Super dry and juicy.
  6. Nk’ Mip Dreamcatcher, $17.99: Bright and aromatic, this blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Ehrenfelser and Pinot Blanc is such a Goldilocks wine; not too sweet, not too dry, not too much acidity—just right!
  7. Hester Creek 2018 Trebbiano, $20.99: If I could have included four Hester Creek releases here, I would have. Honestly, just a great selection of beautifully balanced whites from them this year, you won’t go wrong with any of them. But… I guess if I had to pick just one (and I do!) then it’s the Trebbiano which tastes like sunshine and happiness in a glass with a heavenly pink grapefruit finish.
  8. Road 13 2017 VRM, $25.49: Peaches and apricots play with aromatic almonds and crisp apples, all held together with a nice steely mineral backbone. Like Rhône blends? This tasty B.C. white is a winner.
  9. Meyer 2017 Tribute series Chardonnay, $30.52: My notes for this simply say: ‘Gosh. This is f***in’ wonderful’ and really, can anything be more of an inducement to go buy a bottle than that?
  10. Burrowing Owl 2017 ViognierI am having such a Viognier moment right now. There’s something about these silky wines, all beeswax and honeysuckle, that make me swoon. This has a terrific kicky aromatic peppery note on the finish too. Infuriatingly this is only available at Burrowing Owl’s wine shop and in their restaurant. Worth the trip to Oliver? Imma say yes.


6. Meet the maker, Gavin Miller, Upper Bench Winery

Gavin Miller of Upper Bench Winery & Creamery in Naramata has a multi award-winning partnership with his wife, Upper Bench’s cheesemaker Shana Cole Miller.  

What’s your go-to patio wine?
Pinot Blanc! I love Pinot Blanc from Lake Breeze, Clos du Soleil and Hester Creek. They’re lovely simple wines, but refreshing and perfect for the patio.

What food and wine myth would you like to dispel?
That you shouldn’t chill red wine because Pinot Noir, Zweigelt or Gamay is really nice lightly chilled, especially in the summer. I love Roche’s Pinot Noir or Deep Roots’ Gamay chilled with salmon. 

What should we be drinking in summer 2019 from B.C?
Everything ’cause it’s fantastic! But in summer it’s all about bubbles and some of my faves are Blue Mountain, Bella Wines Blanc de Blanc and Fitzpatrick’s.

What should we be drinking from Upper Bench, and why?
Always my Merlot and Bordeaux blends; they are my passion, and you can’t go wrong with our Reisling. It’s quite refreshing and off-dry, and along with our Chardonnay and Merlot just won best of varietal in the Alberta Beverage Awards!