BC Wine 101: Winter 2020 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 winter in the Okanagan! Whisper it—this is one of the nicest times to come visit wine country. The tasting rooms are pretty much empty so you can really get to chat with winery staff and, if you book ahead, you can take a leisurely tour and maybe even try a few tank samples too. Add in a few days skiing or a spa trip and you’ve got yourself a truly blissful break.

In this edition, we’ll be delving deep into fireside reds and hot tub whites, learning WTF vegan wines are, and meeting the couple who make some of the best bubbles in the Okanagan. Enjoy!


1. News and events

Celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th with a special five-course collaborative fundraising dinner by The Paisley Notebook at Liquidity Wines in Okanagan Falls. All profits from the fourth-annual dinner will be donated to Foundry Penticton/KelownaSouth Okanagan Women in Need Society and Slow Food Canada. Now in its fourth year, the event has raised almost $30,000. This year’s celebration will bring together the culinary talents of Andrea Callan (Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery, West Kelowna), Aman Dosanj (The Paisley Notebook, Kelowna), Dana Ewart (Penticton), Christine Sandford (Biera, Edmonton) and Kelsey Johnson (Café Linnea, Edmonton) with wine pairings generously donated by top winemakers and winery owners from across the Valley—Alison Moyes (Liquidity Wines), Christy Bibby (Nighthawk Vineyards), Keira LeFranc (Stag’s Hollow Winery), Leslie D’Andrea (Noble Ridge) and Severine Pinte (La Stella Winery). Tickets available online

I love this new experience from Tinhorn Creek! You can enjoy their Crush Club Wine Lounge to taste through a guided flight of four wines in varietal specific glasses with time afterwards to relax and enjoy the space. It’s $20 per person or $15 for Crush Club members and you can upgrade with a Miradoro Charcuterie board if you order in advance. Tickets available online or call 250-498-3742

The Terminal Club in Vancouver will be playing host to the Okanagan Falls and Skaha Lake Winery Association on Wednesday, April 22nd as they debut their spring release wines. Some of my all-time favourites including Meyer, Pentage, Wild Goose and Noble Ridge will be pouring, and this is a great chance to do a little tasting recon before planning a trip later in the year! Tickets available online

Keep an eye out for news of Mt Boucherie’s new tasting room and their much-anticipated restaurant, The Modest Butcher which should be opening very soon!


2. Five wines I love right now

  • La Frenz Aster 2015, $32.95 Oh my gosh! If you’d have told me this was champagne, I would have absolutely believed you. This has a perfect rich brioche-y nose with a hint of marmalade. Take a sip and savour those fine bubbles fizzing on your tongue and taste honeyed poached pears, and something that I just couldn’t immediately identify… but it was so utterly wonderful I kept sipping and sipping and sipping and… and now I can’t remember what you wanted? Anyway. I had it with salt-and-pepper oven-baked chicken wings and it was absolutely awesome.
  • Volcanic Hills Magma Red 2017, $20.09 Oh, yes! This is a smooth, pretty, fruit-forward and super easy-drinking red blend at a great price!
  • Tightrope 2018 Chardonnay, $26 Treat yourself and take oh, so many, so very, very many deep sniffs of this heavenly Chard—soft honeysuckle and a spritz of lemon and then savour the deliciousness. So creamy! So layered with baking spices and a soft whisper of pears. So good!
  • Cedar Creek Platinum Reserve Block 3 Riesling, $29.99 I drank this on a snowy day and just loved the post-Christmas vibe of clementine and baked apples with this lush Reisling with a gloriously lemon-drop nose! Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but if you love your Riesling, you gotta try this.
  • Covert Farm Sauvignon Blanc Semillion, $23.80 I love this. Buttery, a little earthy and slips down so well!  Rich and sexy, this pairs perfectly with cheese, squash risotto and seafood. Also, it straight up loves salt and vinegar chips.


3. Sommelier recommendations: Reds

Maude Renaud-Brisson recently founded APÉROmode to share her passion and knowledge of wine through the popular Apéro events and private education. Follow her on Instagram @aperomode to find out more.

“Growing up in Quebec, winters are pretty much a state of mind. This cold spell in Canada can be pretty long, so why not make the most of it? With fewer temptations to go to the beach or go for long bike rides around the Seawall, it means more time to hibernate with friends and indulge in great food and wine. 

“Many of us turn to richer food to find comfort when it gets cold out. Boeuf Bourgignon, lamb shank served with rosemary roasted potatoes or a wild mushroom and lardon stew, these ultimate comfort foods scream for a bottle of B.C. Syrah. Syrah is perhaps my favourite grape varietal in the Okanagan; it can be powerful without being heavy and tastes like blackberries, Bing cherries, sage and cured meats. I often turn to Le Vieux Pin Cuvée Violette Syrah from Oliver or for a more perfumed expression, I reach for the Nichol Old Vines Syrah from cooler Naramata.

“Or perhaps a Cabernet Franc? Less heavy but with a similar flavour profile than the more well-known Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is extremely refreshing and is super versatile with food, especially tomato-based dishes like veggie lasagna. Because of its aromatic profile, it can also stand up to those exotic flavours from a Moroccan stew or Vietnamese pork vermicelli bowl on more adventurous nights. Try an example from Little Farm in the Similkameen or TH Wines, who sources his from Oliver.

“Winter just isn’t the same without a cabin weekend getaway in good company, and maybe some skiing… or just the après-ski for some of us! Warming up over a tasty meat fondue or a raclette dinner is the perfect way to spend quality time with family and friends. For those long dinners, I like to keep my glass filled with something refreshing—pass me the Pinot Noir! I would put a slight chill on a bottle of the Kutatás from Vancouver Island or or Lighting Rock Elysia Vineyard Pinot Noir from Summerland and likely finish the bottle in the hot tub!”


4. WTF are vegan wines

So… what’s with some wine labels stating that the wine within is vegan? Surely all wine is vegan, no? Not always, says Okanagan College instructor, Mireille Sauvé.

The first thing to understand is that most wines are ‘fined’ (clarified) during the winemaking process. What this means is that winemakers will add something to the wine while it’s still in the tank or barrel to ‘clean’ up the wine. This might be to get rid of any cloudiness from unstable proteins or perhaps to smooth out a wine by removing some of its tannins. When you add a fining agent, the unwanted molecules attach themselves to it and then sink to the bottom of the tank or barrel. The ‘clean’ wine is then transferred (or ‘racked; in wine jargon) to a clean vessel.

So far, so good, but let’s take a look at the various substances that are sometimes used to fine wine: Isinglass (fish bladders), gelatin, casein, ox blood and egg whites are sometimes used, and all contain animal products; however, there are plenty of vegan options which are most widely used instead, such as carbon and bentonite clay.

Don’t panic if your favourite wine doesn’t say “vegan” on the label; after all, the process of fining is to remove clean wine from the fining agents and whatever particles are bound to them. Wine that makes it into the bottle shouldn’t have any of the fining agent in it at all. Also, not all wines are fined! If it’s important to you to know, just check with the winery and they’ll be able to tell you if the wine in your glass is strictly vegan or not.

Want to delve in deeper? Join Mireille as she instructs wine courses and workshops at Okanagan College. Book online 


5. Hot tub whites and fireside reds

One of the most wonderful things about winter is tiptoeing out into the frozen night through the snow, wriggling out of your clothes and sliding into a hot tub with a glass of wine perfectly paired for this dreamy winter activity. Of course, after the tub, what’s better than lazing in front of a fire, slowly enjoying a glass (or two, or three) of something wonderful. These fireside reds are all worth slowly savouring, enjoying the changes in the wine as they open up and become even more fantastic.

  • Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2018, $16.99 Damn, this is great! Can I say buttered lightly toasted pineapple (is that a thing?) on the nose, with a side of crisp pear? So much sexy plush fruit. Yum. And the most beautiful toasted colour.
  • Black Market Secret society 2018, $22 Such a pretty nose with the most delicate roses-and lemons aroma, then wow! So bright and crisp, just like enjoying the most perfect juicy green apple.
  • Black Window Oasis 2018, $23 So soft and pretty on the nose. I loved this aromatic blend. Mandarins. Lemon-peel finish. I never want to stop drinking this in my tub!
  • Four Shadows Riesling 2018, $23 Standing out from the crowd in a blue bottle, this could be the perfect post-piste hot tub wine. It’s sweet with a gentle floral nose with orange blossom and bright apricots on the palate.
  • Quails Gate Gewürtzraminer, $17.99 Yum! Grapefruit pith! Lychees! And the most delicious savoury whisper of ginger on the finish. File under dangerously drinkable.

Fireside reds:

  • The Wine Umbrella 70/40 2018, $25 Bury your nose deep in this to enjoy the wonderful scent of fresh-cut toast with a dash of horse leather. Bursting with bright cherries and soft sage notes. Rich and warm. Track this beauty down in private liquor stores and restaurants in B.C.
  • Hester Creek Reserve Cabernet Franc 2017, $25.99 There’s just a touch of oak on this superb crowd-pleasing red with gentle floral violet notes.
  • Rust Okanagan Valley 2017 Syrah, $37 This one is a little bit green, so give it some time to breathe. Once it opens up, it’s a beautiful, light and mouth-wateringly juicy red. Super silky and built to enjoy around the fireside.
  • Poplar Grove CSM 2016, $30 Delicious! This is such an elegant, delicious wine. It’s big and rich with an intoxicating aroma of dried fruits. Gently oaked, this is perfectly blended. Absolutely my new favourite.
  • Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, $29.97 Lovely dried-fruit nose and then deliciously silky chocolate cherries with a hint of oak.


6. Get a case of Pet Matt

All too often wine is seen as some lofty, mystical nectar of the gods, complete with impenetrable jargon and a side of snobbiness. Which is why I got so excited when I saw the label from this year’s Okanagan Crush Pad’s Wine Campus winner, Matthew Landry and his ‘Pet Matt Landrusco.’ The front label is a truly awe-inspiring pencil-drawn retro shot of Matt in full ‘fro glory and the back is a pure slice of unpretentious heaven. I quote:

“I’m not going to give you those cheesy tasting notes you find on the back of bottles, and I’m not going to use the word “harmonious.” I’ll just say—this is simple and fun and please have it with other simple and fun things like pizza or young love.”

Genius. As well as making me cackle with glee, this sparkling Ancestrale method wine made from 100 percent Touriga Nacional will be doing plenty of good things in the community, as sales from the Wine Campus program go to charity. This year, the Dr Peter AIDS foundation will receive a $5000 donation. There are only 1000 bottles of Pet Matt for sale, it’s $39.90 plus taxes and comes in six bottle cases.  To order call Okanagan Crush Pad at 250-494-4445 ext. 4.


7. Sommelier recommendations: Whites

This year’s winner of BC Sommelier of the Year, Peter Van de Reep is also the wine director and bar manager of Upstairs at Campagnolo. Want to drink the right whites this winter? Take note…

“Riesling is always called for, regardless of the weather. There are a number of styles that Riesling can be made in, from bone-dry to super-sweet. For a crisp and dry version, I look to Orofino in the Similkameen Valley for their 2017 Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling. It is full of lime zest and wet-rock minerality and is perfect as an aperitif. Tantalus makes another favourite; their 2018 Riesling has a bit more intensity to stand up to a winter-y curry. If you can find any, Synchromesh is a Riesling specialist but the wines sell out quicker every year. The balance of acidity and sweetness in their Storm Haven Riesling is a thing of beauty. 

“I love pairing winter-y stews and soups with a wine that contrasts with the dish. A terrific grape for this is Gewürztraminer, a powerful aromatic variety that really shines in the Okanagan. My favourite is the 2018 Wild Goose Mystic River Vineyard. It has all the classic lychee and rosé character of good Gewürztraminer, but also has a beautiful balanced acidity that allows this wine to be even better as a foil for those rich winter dishes.

“Pinot Blanc is a little more off the beaten path, but B.C. makes particularly good examples. For a classic take, the 2018 Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc is always superb. Crisp, clean, and with the variety’s hallmark stone-fruit and white-flower aromas, it is full-bodied enough to pair with a gratin or mac and cheese. Rigour and Whimsy is a newcomer to the Okanagan, but their spin on Pinot Blanc involves skin contact, giving the wine a deeper amber colour and more texture. Their 2018 Flux Capacitor has a few other grapes blended in, but I cannot think of a better B.C. white for sitting by the fireplace and digging into a luxurious cheese plate.”


8. Meet the makers

Partners in life and winemaking, Jordan Kubek and Tyler Knight are making some of the Valley’s most delicious wines in Summerland at Lightning Rock.

What’s your go-to fireside wine?
Bubbles! I can always drink bubbles. I really like Bella, Blue Mountain, Haywire and Tantalus for traditional methods.

Jordan: Also bubbles. Ha! I have been drinking some fun little batches of pet-nats/ancestral methods from Else Wines, Rigour and Whimsy, Bella and Synchromesh. All are using different varieties in different colours and sweetness levels. I love the freedom and joyfulness that goes into these wines. They are so much fun to explore.

What food and wine myth would you like to dispel?
Bubbles are only good with seafood. Bubbles are actually perfectly paired with junk food. Chips, pizza, fries—the greasier, the better!

Jordan: Yes! This, and also that bubbles should be saved for a special occasion. I think bubbles should be enjoyed as much as possible, responsibly, of course.

What should we be drinking in winter 2020?
Any wines made by Tyler Harlton at TH Wines because, after this year, you won’t be able to get them anymore.

Jordan: I am drinking more wines from small crafty producers like Ursa Major, Rathjen Cellars, Lock and Worth, Daydreamer, Plot Wines and more, so let’s all do that!

What should we be drinking from Lightning Rock, and why?
We have some interesting bubbles you should be drinking. Mostly made from Pinot Noir, we do traditional method Blanc de Noirs. Three wines from three different vineyards in Summerland. They are Brut Nature, so no dosage, meaning they are bone-dry. The differences between these three vineyards, which are so close to each other, are fascinating. Summerland was a huge volcano that was run over by a glacier, so there are many unique vineyard sites here.

Tyler: Our 2017 Elysia Vineyard Pinot Noir is perfect for everyone who wants a warm hug from a red wine this winter instead of all the bubbles we have been suggesting. We strive to make low-alcohol, fresh and juicy wines. This Pinot Noir is an example of what the Okanagan can do when our cool climate is embraced and celebrated with earlier picks and less oak influence.

Join Lightning Rock’s wine club sign up for their limited edition spring bubbles closes April 8th