BC Wine 101: Summer 2021 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

Welcome to the first BC Wine 101 of 2021, my sincere apologies for missing out on the spring edition but a house fire, losing all my wine, and then brief dalliance with the plague somewhat delayed things… But! We’re back now, so let’s raise a glass to that!

We’ve got red and white summer sipper recommendations from top sommeliers, an interview with renowned B.C. winemaker, Shane Munn, and my usual seasonal picks, plus the latest on events (remember those?) in wine country, cheers!


1. Six whites you gotta try

Cedar Creek Haynes Creek Platinum Viognier 2020 ($34.99)
Beautiful peachy and apricot notes, this elegant wine screams summer.

Tantalus Bear Chardonnay 2020 ($20)
Super-fresh with plenty of mouth-watering acidity and crisp apples, zesty lime and white flowers. Gloriously crushable

Summerhill Muscat 2020 ($28)
Juicy bags of tangerine on the nose with ripe peaches and orange blossom. If you were looking for a breakfast or brunch wine, you just found it. Serve super cold. Absolutely gorgeous. Sold out at the vineyard, this estate grown, biodynamic wine is such a treat – hunt it down at a wine shop near you!

Stags Hollow Albariño 2020 ($24)
There are some wines you look forward to every year and this is one of ’em. White flowers, almonds, apricots… glorious racy acidity and such a soft beautiful mouth feel. Love this.

Hester Creek Old Vines Brut 2018.($34.99)
Ooh, what a treat! This is a first from Hester Creek, and I think I may have discovered a brand new-B.C. bubble to recommend to everyone. It’s made from 100% Pinot Blanc and bursts with crisp apples, butterscotch and lime.

Tiny Bubbles (Make me happy)
Finally! Wine in a tin that doesn’t taste like wine in a tin! I really love Joie’s Tiny Bubbles, a spritzy blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier that tastes like a tropical vacation with bags of pineapple and fresh lime. The perfect treat to share to make a beach BBQ or weekend at the cabin sparkle, order online in a flat of 24 X250ml cans. Of course, no judgement too if you bag em all for yourself…


2. Ask a Somm: Summer Reds

Jayton Paul, Sommelier & Manager Published on Main
In the midst of summer, many of us gravitate towards light white wines, beer and cider to stay cool and refreshed.  In B.C. we are privileged to have so many exceptional wines produced locally, so here are three red wines that will satisfy your mid-summer red wine cravings and still leave you calm, cool and collected.

2020 Bella, Keremeos Gamay Ancestrale Rosé ($39.90) 
This dry sparkling red/rosé is the perfect accompaniment to any summer picnic, or solo on a hot day.  Aromatic, herbaceous and fresh, this natural sparkling or “pet-nat” has delicate bubbles and great concentration of bramble berries and savoury herbs.  Masquerading as a Lambrusco-style sparkling wine, the Keremeos Gamay is a must try for anyone that wants a refreshing sparkling with lots of colour and brings the funk.

2019 Else Wines, ‘Jocko’ Cabernet Franc  ($26)
Made by Kelsey at Echo Bay Vineyards, ‘Else Wines’ is her experimental series of low-intervention wines made from “somewhere else”.  This Cab Franc sourced from Oliver, B.C. has spent a short time on its skins giving it a light, almost rosé concentration and elegant texture.  Served with a slight chill, this is the perfect accompaniment to lighter fare such as grilled salmon, plant-based dishes or a simple charcuterie & cheese board.

2019 Ursa Major, ‘Entropy is Comforting’ Syrah ($28)
Blended with 5% Cabernet Franc, wild fermented and sourced from the ‘Sage Brush Vineyard’, on the Black Sage Bench in the Okanagan Valley.  Brimming with fresh red and black fruit, subtle spice and dried herbs, this small production red wine is unfined/unfiltered, and a wonderful companion to roast poultry, game and summer bbq.  “Life is difficult and stressful enough – a bottle of wine shouldn’t be” – Rajen Toor, Ursa Major’s founder and winemaker


3. Buy a Ticket and Cross Everything!

Guys – you gotta support the on-its-knees events industry! The Okanagan Wine Festivals Society is hoping to get back to the business of bringing wine and people together in person again with a trio of events in the fall. “After a long 18 months of no in-person events, General Manager Elan Morris is thrilled to get back to the business of placing Okanagan Valley wineries and communities on the stages they deserve through events and wine award competitions. Says Morris, “In October, the Okanagan Valley is the place to be to enjoy the many fabulous wines that are inherent to BC!  As a not-for-profit, we are thankful to have made it through the pandemic, and we are happy to return to actioning the Society’s purpose of being the matchmaker between wine lovers and the people that craft it”. I’m so hopeful that their super-fun events including the Fall Valley First Wine Tastings and the Sensation Fall Finale go ahead! Mask up and get those shots, folkslet’s make this happen! 


4. Four Rosés and a Red You Just Gotta Try

Bartier Bros 2020 Rosé ($17.99)
Wait – what? A rosé is a red? Damn straight it is! Unless it’s this crazy lil’ beauty that’s made from Chardonnay, Gewurtzaminer, and a 6% splash of merlot. Gorgeous glowing pink colour and packed with savoury sage notes. I loved it!

Unsworth Sunnydale Vineyard Rosé 2020 ($27.30)
OK, back in a more classic rosé style, this 100% Pinot Noir comes from Saanich on Vancouver Island and oh my – can’t you just tell it’s so very different from Okanagan and Similikameen valley fruit. Super dry, steely minerality, with raspberries at the finish. Yum. Gorgeous bottle too.

Orofino Gamay Bubble 2020 ($20.25)
I think I’m correct in saying this is their first sparkling, but to make something this amazing straight out of the gate? WOW. Think fresh juicy strawberries and cream with a lovely lingering herbaceous sagebrush note. Absolutely perfect.

Stag’s Hollow Syrah Rosé 2020 ($24)
This smells like crushed canned strawberries and tastes like the very best Provençal-style ultra-savoury dry rosé. This is absolutely delicious. Bulk-buy it. You’ll want it with EVERYTHING.

Hester Creek, The Judge 2018 ($43.99)
I know that this wine comes with its own weighty reputation, but it’s been a few years since I tried it, so Judge, get ready to be judged! It comes in an insanely serious bottle. Heft. That’s what’s happening here. It’s a stoic bottle, straight faced, but what’s inside is smooth, silky and harmonious. Deep black and red currants. Supple tannins. If you’re looking to impress a guest or just want a guaranteed perfect evening: invite the Judge.


5. Ask a Somm: Summer whites

Frank Torng, Sommelier, Miantiao
“I personally like a good summer wine that creates a conversation: I like the peeling effect of layers in a glass and smelling the aromatics change. I also always drink out of a Burgundy glass…it just feels classier!”

Le Vieux Pin, Ava 2019 ($30.99)
Coming in at number one is my all-time favourite, local bad boy, Le Vieux Pin’s ‘Ava.’ This magical number is the PERFECT wine to sip solo or pair with almond-based dishes, or dishes that have stewed fruits and aromatic herbs like Thai basil or tarragon. I once had this wine with a simple baked loaf with almonds as a garnish and it was definitely a memorable moment…both the loaf and wine were consumed in one go! Floral, peachy yet slightly toasty, it’s just a beautiful wine you’re missing out on if you haven’t discovered this gem yet! 

Checkmate, Little Pawn, Chardonnay, 2017 ($110)
Checkmate consistently produces some of the best Chardonnay I’ve had the pleasure of tasting, year in and year out! It’s what California wishes they could produce and something I am personally proud to continue supporting. Bright acidity, refined, yet also dances on your palate, it has all the citrus and tropical fruit flavours you crave in Chardonnay with a very controlled usage of oak. This pairs well with subtle spices and flavours; think creamy, buttery flavours in food and soft textures, cheeses and lobster-based dishes. Splurge and treat yo self!

Clos du Soleil, Capella, 2019 ($26.90)
I have a big soft spot in my heart for Clos du Soleil after having the pleasure of tasting narrated flights with their winemaker Michael Clark. Influenced very strongly by French wine and classic French varietals, their ‘Capella’ is ahhh-mazing! I definitely stocked up heavily on this white wine as it is the perfect go-to when having friends over or bringing to a small soirée. It’s an elegant, yet restrained, expression of Sauvignon Blanc and it is absolutely drop-dead-drool-worthy! Zesty and citrus-forward, yet grassy and not overwhelming like our friends in New Zealand, it’s a great summer sipper and a wonderful pairing partner with herb-driven sauces, light meats (poultry, cured meats) and Asian foods! If you’re into fish, try it with sablefish or halibut as well.


6. Meet the Maker

One of Canadaif not the world’smost stunning wineries, visiting Martin’s Lane Winery in East Kelowna is a truly jaw-clanging experience and a beautiful showcase of what can happen if the right people come togetherwith the right amount of money—and a laser-sharp attention to the tiniest details, to create the perfect conditions to make spectacular terroir-focussed Pinot Noir and Riesling. A gravity-fed winery set across six separate levels, everything about Martin’s Lane amazes from the Douglas Coupland sculpture of Van Gogh’s head outside, to the joyful architectural celebration of form and function thanks to celebrated Seattle architect Tom Kundig, and, then, of course, you have the wines. High end as hell and bloody delicious, so meet their maker, Shane Munn.

What’s your go-to patio wine?
Cedar Creek’s Simes Pinot Gris; it’s dry and crisp, refreshing and thought provoking, but kinda funky; I like it! It comes from a vineyard that I also work, my Pinot Noir grows either side of the Pint Gris.  I had Orofino’s Chardonnay recently, I like the deft use of oak; it’s lean and crisp and not too fat, very drinkable! That’s what you want in a patio wine, drinkability, not something to ponder.

What food and wine myth would you like to dispel?
That golden rule that you never have red wine with fish? I embrace that and have a LOT of red and fish. Especially Pinot Noir, but at this time of the year, it’s gotta be chilled.

What should we be drinking this summer?
Daydreamer’s Riesling is super cool, if I can’t pick a German wine for this column, then I want this! It’s super aromatic and has perfect balance like any good Riesling should have.

I really dug Synchromesh’s 2019 Storm Haven Vineyard ‘Blue Label’ Riesling. I did a swap with their winemaker, Alan, and it was a super wine. Lovely perfume, touch of grip, deliciously drinkable. Quite perfect balance!

I was recently on a trip to Vancouver Island and tried Averill Creek’s Joue Rosé, it was a deep red, almost like a red wine but it was juicy and quite delicious. I always like Blue Mountain’s bubbles, I especially like their Blanc de Blanc, that’s a classic but with a new world intensity, it’s always very well made with Champagne-like qualities. I like that they don’t rush it into the bottle.

What should we be drinking from Martin’s Lane this summer?
2017 Fritzi’s Vineyard Riesling it’s got perfect balance, enough acidity and sweetness to give it succulence and it’s really drinkable! But it’s complex enough to handle any summery food from grilled fish to salads.



7. Live art at the Okanagan Crush Pad

Plan to head to Summerland to visit the Okanagan Crush Pad from August 24th – 29th, to see artist Scott Sueme in action creating stunning visual art on the winery’s south facing exterior wall. Part of the original team of graffiti artists who created a mural when the winery was under construction in 2011, Scott will return to refresh the original piece and create a new work. Make a booking to visit and reserve a table on the patio and you can enjoy a flight of wine or try a boozy freezie (non-alcoholic versions also available).