BC Wine 101: Summer 2018 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

Summer in wine regions around the province is a joyful time to watch vines burst into life, feel the warm sun beat down, and visit all those tasting rooms to try—and buy!—delicious B.C. wine. With the help of expert sommeliers and winemakers I’ve gathered together some of the province’s best summer wines to enjoy this season. Eat farm-fresh produce on a sun-drenched patio overlooking the vineyards running down towards the lake or take a chilled bottle of something yummy down to the shore for a beach picnic, but most of all… dive in and enjoy!

1. Check out all the cool events

On August 10th, it’s the tenth anniversary of the legendary global good time, Feast of Fields, a “three-hour wandering gourmet harvest festival that highlights the connections between farmers and chefs, field and table, and between farm folks and city folks.” Grab a wine glass and get ready to have an amazingly delicious time listening to live music and tasting gourmet creations from the province’s top chefs, farmers, fishers, ranchers, food artisans, vintners, brewers, distillers and other beverage producers. There are some excellent B.C. wineries at this event including the ever-awesome Culmina Family Estate and Wild Goose. Bag a ticket here.

Buy a ticket now for the ultra cool Garagiste North Wine Festival on August 19th, which showcases the work of small producers of artisan wines (made from 100 percent Canadian grapes with under 2,000 cases total annual production). You’ll find excellent wineries here such as Carson and Black Cloud (who both make cracking Pinot Noir), and I’m excited to discover my new favourite wine crush.

It always sells out and it’s known as one of the best parties in the Valley… where you get to drink some of the best wines in the Valley. Yup, it’s the Naramata Bench Tailgate Party. On September 8th, celebrate the forthcoming harvest with wine from the Naramata Bench, live music and tasty bites from local chefs.

Oh, boy, Meatstock is back at Wild Goose Winery‘s Smoke and Oak Bistro on September 28th, a night of meat feasting, great sides and award-winning wines.

There’s still a chance to see Liquidity Wines‘s incredible National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition which is on until September 3rd. Head to Okanagan Falls to visit Liquidity’s tasting room to see 50 inspirational photographs from Joel Sartore, National Geographic photographer and founder of the Photo Ark. The exhibition is both inside and outside, overlooking the vines and a billion dollar view, and “aims to document every species in the world’s zoos and other wildlife sanctuaries… before it is too late.” Inspiring and beautiful.

One of my favourite wineries, TH Wines, is hosting a trio of special events over the next few months: there’s a vertical vintage tasting on August 17th, a food pairing seminar on September 2nd and an exciting chance to taste samples waiting to be picked, wines in transition and finished wines which are aging in the cellar on October 2nd. Tickets available here.

2. Pop! My five new favourite B.C. bubbles

1. Indigenous World Winery La’p Cheet 2016 ($24.99)
This 100 percent Pinot Noir charmat method (similar to Prosecco) rosé is made with fruit from Keremeos and is just the most delicious strawberry-bright bubble around. Great long finish, with a refreshing note of grapefruit pith.

2. Fitzpatrick Rosé 2014 ($42.50)
I’m such a sucker for pink bubbles, and this delicate ballet slipper pink traditional method sparkler is terrific. Made with 100 percent estate grown Pinot Noir, this has a whisper of strawberry and plenty of white grapefruit and a mouth-watering acidity. It’s great with food. Pair with prosciutto and it comes alive!

3. Kismet Estate Winery Sparkling Orange Muscat, 2016 ($24.99)
This gorgeous bright citrus-y grapefruit burst of bubble is just the thing for brunch or patio good times.

4. Haywire Vintage Bub, 2013 ($34.90)
It could have been a wildly unfair comparison, but I sampled this after a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and yet… big name Champagne is made to be the same each and every single year, while this blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Secrest Mountain Vineyard in Oliver gave a wonderful snapshot of beautiful B.C. terroir at its best. This is absolutely excellent, brilliant acidity, beautiful bright red apples and, as my drinking companion noted: “A whole lot of everything wonderful.” Cheaper than Veuve and, honestly, just so much cooler.

5. Steller’s Jay Rosé 2017 ($26.99)
Another traditional method pink, but this time it’s 100 percent Gamay with bags of strawberries and grapefruit on the palate, and a yummy, creamy mouth feel. Winery only (or online), but–damnit!–here’s that excuse you needed for the road trip, right?

3. Sommelier-recommended reds

Emily Walker Group Sommelier for Tap & Barrel and Independent Wine Consultant

Ever heard the term “refreshing” used to describe red wine? Thankfully, the Gamay grape is here to prove that it’s not a word reserved exclusively for white and rosé wines. Gamay originates from France’s Beaujolais region and both the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are turning out delicious examples of this fruity yet savoury—and undeniably refreshing—red wine. Look for Rust Wine Co. Gamay 2017. It does a stunning job of showcasing the unique mineral character that’s becoming synonymous with the Similkameen. Orofino‘s Gamay is another gorgeous example… if you can catch it before it sells out! Give the bottle a slight chill in the fridge before drinking, and serve with a charcuterie board, grilled pork sausages or mushroom pizza.

As far as light reds are concerned, Pinot Noir is the bench mark, the grape’s high acidity, low alcohol and low tannin make it incredibly food friendly pairing with everything from Asian cuisine to BBQ salmon to a classic grilled steak. The Okanagan Valley is establishing a solid track record for producing world class Pinot Noir and here’s one relatively new winery to put on your radar: Roche Wines on the Naramata Bench has released their Texture series Pinot Noir 2016, which presents a great opportunity to get in on what this grape is all about without breaking the bank. The wine shows lovely aromatics with tart cranberry and cherry fruit, vibrant acidity and a background of dried herbs. Another top producer of Pinot Noir is Meyer Family Vineyards, located in Okanagan Falls. Invest in a bottle of their McLean Creek Pinot Noir. This single vineyard Pinot shows pretty floral aromas mingled with fig, fleshy red plum and wild mushroom notes.

I love Zweigelt, but this quirky grape has an immediate obstacle to overcome before it even gets in your glass. I mean, who is really going to take a chance on a wine whose name most won’t even attempt to pronounce? Okay, let’s say it together TSVYE-gelt. Good! We really need to get past the name because this light-bodied and highly-flavoured red could be the key to fulfilling your summertime red wine desires. Zweigelt is the most planted red grape variety in Austria and. here in B.C., Arrowleaf Winery is one producer who does a consistently great job of this off-beat variety. Expect loads of fresh berries, black cherry and spice notes in a light-medium bodied wine that will delight and refresh your palate this summer. Enjoy with any kind of game bird, grilled root vegetables and hard cheeses.

4. 8 whites to drink right now

1. Checkmate Artisanal Winery Bear’s Move Chardonnay 2017 ($60)
Over in Oliver, winemaker Phil McGahan is quietly making some of the best premium Chardonnay in Canada. Sure, at $60, this is definitely “mad splurge” territory, but, man, so worth it! Using the same fruit as the Queen’s Taken chard, this is made with a wild ferment and no added sulphur. Swirl and swoon to its funky-almond nose and then crisp terrific minerality with stone fruit and lime on the palate.

2. Winemakers Cut Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($25)
I pretty much loved absolutely everything I tried at Lunessence in Summerland, so no surprise that I loved their winemaker, Michal Mosny’s, super small Winemaker’s Cut label. The Sauv Blanc is delicate and fresh with a pineapple nose and creamy mouthfeel. Don’t serve this too cold; it becomes wonderfully silky when it’s a little less chilled.

3. Seven Stones Chardonnay 2012 ($21.66)
A terrific price for this gorgeous example of Similkameen chard that’s buttery with a mouthwatering acidity and a beautiful finish of mineral-y wet stone. Just brilliant!

4. Tantalus Chardonnay Juvenile 2017
Winner, winner, BBQ chicken dinner-lover! Cutting effortlessly through the chicken skin grease, this fruit-forward citrus-bright beauty is a food-pairing dream.

5. Stoneboat Verglas Icewine 2016 ($36.90)
I only knew the Stoneboat crew for their wonderful ‘Piano’ bubble (my go-to sipper whenever I’m at Forage, who do it very reasonably by the glass), but this 2016 Verglas is the stuff that dreams are made on. Honeyed apricots with just a little acidity. Oh, man, this is amazing! Buy some now and break it out over cheese at Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s really special.

6. Quails Gate Orchard Block Gewürztraminer 2017 ($20.99)
Don’t like Gewürztraminer? Give this stunner a spin: light, bright, incredibly aromatic. I loved this; it’s silky and positively peachy.

7. Mission Hill Bluebird Passage Viognier 2017 ($30)
More evidence to back up my claim that Viognier in B.C. is a thing of beauty. This shines with lovely apricots and honeysuckle on the nose and then gives way to a zippy bright palate. Tastes of ripe sunshine. Let it warm up a little—pour yourself a glass and then give it 20 minutes —and it becomes pure peachy happiness with the smallest hint of ginger!

8. Clos du Soleil Pinot Blanc 2017 ($20)
Another juicy, mouthwatering white from the Similkameen, with dashes of lime blossom, chalk, honeysuckle and vanilla… and that wonderful wet stone finish.

5. Hot trend: chilled reds

David Stansfield, Sommelier for Earls Kitchen + Bar

The hottest trend to keep cool this summer? Forget frosé. It’s all about chilled reds. David Stansfield, Sommelier for Earls Kitchen + Bar, tells you why…

“I’m all about chilled red wine this summer. It’s getting me through the heatwave… and dinner. Chilling certain reds makes them way more crushable, which after all is a wine’s first, last, and most important job.”

“The best reds for chilling are light and juicy, with a good amount of acidity. The French call them ‘glou-glou’ wines. Think ‘glug-glug’ or ‘gulp-gulp’ and you should get the idea. Wines for drinking, not dissecting.”

“B.C. naturally makes great reds for chilling. Our cooler climate excels at reds with light bodies, bright acidity and tons of fruit. I’ve got a few in my fridge right now: Haywire Gamay, TH Cabernet Franc and Le Vieux Pin Cuvée Violette Syrah.”

6. 8 crushable rosés for patio time

1. Bartier Bros. Rosé 2017 ($17.99)
Well, hello! This is both delicious and a great price; I love how aromatic this pretty pink sipper is, thanks to a tasty blend of Cab Franc, Muscat Ottonel, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay grapes. This is definitely a unique BC rosé with a lovely nose of tea and Turkish delight. Divine.

2. Rust Rosé 2017 ($22)
New sister winery to the ever-excellent Mount Boucherie, this rosé busts with a huge rush of strawberries on the nose and a little vanilla, but… it’s wonderfully savoury. Perfect supper rosé.

3. Nk’Mip Rosé 2017
This blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot gives a bright raspberry and cherry nose and a juicy high acid finish. A great match with cheese and charcuterie and will even stand up to burgers fresh off the grill.

4. Summerhill Alive Rosé 2017
Mouthwatering strawberries, frozen raspberries and bracingly dry; this made very best friends with salmon straight off the grill. This Syrah-Malbec blend has a kind of fabulous Jolly-Rancher-watermelon-but-in-a-good-way vibe and is a vibrant ruby red. More, please!

5. Le Vieux Pin Vaïla Rosé 2017 ($23.99)
This 100 percent Pinot Noir rosé from vineyards in Naramata, Oliver and OK Falls is bone dry with a beautifully delicate strawberry nose, and zippy and mouthwatering at the end. A gorgeous example of savoury rosé.

6. Mission Hill Brigadier’s Bluff Rosé 2017 ($30)
I fell head over heels with this summer stunner from MH’s ‘Terroir’ collection thanks to its delish rich mouthfeel and strawberry pie notes with a pitch-perfect perfect acidity. Yum!

7. Play Rosé 2017 ($19)
Prefer a sweeter style of rosé? This Merlot-zweigelt blend could be just the thing. Big and juicy with a hit of strawberry juice, I can see this going down far too well on a sunny day.

8. Orofino Pozza Cabernet Franc Rosé ($40 for 1.5L)
Consider this a PSA, because alas, this wonder of a wine is all sold out. So, put a reminder in your phone for next year to bag a magnum or two of this strawberry-bright, grown up, sexy, super-crushable rosé, in anticipation of whipping one out on the first sunny day and being remembered all year long as a goddamn boss.

7. Sommelier-recommended whites

Andrea Vecovi, Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio’s General Manager and Wine Director

As temperature soar, Riesling is the perfect varietal to cool down with. Ann Sperling of Sperling Vineyards consistently imprints quality in all her wines, with vines rooted from 1978, the Sperling Old Vines Riesling 2014 shows bright citrus with notes of slate and apricot. It’s perfect with ceviche and oysters.

Moving on to Naramata… with one of the vanguards of the Valley, look to La Frenz Winery. They consistently make one of the top Sauvignon Blancs. A staple for this winery, the Rattlesnake Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017 can easily be polished off in no time. It’s a crisp wine, showing aromas of grapefruit and cardamom, with lingering orange peel.

Staying in Naramata—I’ve been a fan of these guys forever— Paul Gardner and Julie Rennie of Pentage have seen most everything since opening in 1996… true trailblazers of the area. Their third vintage of this Rhone blend, Roussanne/Viognier/Marsanne Dirty Dozen Vineyard 2012, has lively aromas of peach, anise and honey. Great with charcuterie or cheese or even on its own.

If you like a historical presence, look no further than Mission Hill. They have always been leaders in the pursuit of excellence, tirelessly looking to better each one of their wines. Chardonnay is the king of whites (sorry Riesling lovers, but when Chardonnay is done right, no white is better!) Perpetua means long-lasting and continuous, and the 2016 Perpetua Chardonnay is brighter in style from vintages past, with an encompassing mouthfeel and just the right amount of oak, with bouquets of nectarines, pear and almond. This will sell fast so do not hesitate on a purchase. It’s ideal while watching a sunset and trying our lobster risotto to truly showcase this premium wine.

8. 6 summer reds to rock your world

1. Rust Golden Mile Zinfandel 2014 ($40)
I loved this! 15 months in mostly American oak leaves this wine with a satiny mouth feel and delivers a great peppery finish but still pleasingly fresh and fruit-forward.

2. Red Rooster Syrah 2015 ($35)
Could this be the perfect wine to pair with chocolate? I think so. With a floral note, thanks to a dash of Viognier, this wonderfully velvety blend of blackberries with a hit of white pepper at the finish totally rocks.

3. Vanessa Syrah 2014
Violets and a gorgeous burst of dark berries and a peppery long finish. Bright and pretty, with beautifully smooth tannins.

4. Road 13 GSM 2016 ($36.52)
Oh, my goodness, what heaven! Juicy black cherries and something a little floral on the nose, and then just the silkiest mouthful with a little white pepper and vanilla on the end. So fresh and juicy. I popped it in the fridge for 20 minutes on a hot day and loved it.

5. Howling Bluff Three Mile Creek Pinot Noir 2015 ($35)
Soft with a savoury whisper of something herbaceous, this cherry-bright spicy sipper from the Naramata Bench slipped down far too easily with salmon, asparagus and bi-coloured corn.

6. Bench 1775 Malbec Nouveau 2017 ($22)
What began as a project for a harvest intern has turned into one of my favourite reds in the Valley this year. Behold, the Naramata take on Beaujolais Nouveau, a beautiful bright, fresh, fruity red that’s designed to be chilled and drunk when it’s young. I adore this and massively recommend it with burgers or steak. Just awesome.

9. Meet the maker

Penelope Roche, Proprietor/Winemaker, Roche Wines

Born in Bordeaux surrounded by vines and wine, Penelope Roche joined her father in 2005 to become the sixth generation winemaker, after travelling around the world making wine. Now in the Okanagan on the Naramata Bench, she’s the co-creator of Roche Wines with her husband, Dylan.

What’s your go-to patio wine?
Fandango 2017 from Terravista Vineyards. I’m a big fan of their wines and I love Albarino and Verdejo. It reminds me of my love of Spain where I made wine in 2014 and where I spent a lot of my time. Like a good French citizen, I will not hesitate to open any dry rosé anytime! We are used to drinking rosé all day but also all year. A glass of rosé in winter is like a nice warm ray of sunshine on your back.

What food and wine myth would you like to dispel?
Red wine and fish. Cooking is my second passion after making wine and I’m doing a lot of it. After playing with food for a long time, I discovered Sockeye salmon with Pinot Noir and halibut with Gamay. We cooked Sockeye marinated with ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil on the BBQ. It was delish with 8th Generation Pinot Noir. For the halibut, we also cooked it on the BBQ, but served it just with a sauce au beurre and we paired it with the very good Pentage Gamay 2015.

What should we be drinking in Summer 2018?
I’m so proud to be part of this dynamic, pretty new and super exciting industry which is the B.C. wine world! I really think, since we moved to the valley seven years ago, the quality is constantly improving, as well as the competition, which is key to maintaining the success of the industry. There is a lot to choose from but some of my favorites are the Liquidity Rosé 2017 which is fresh, crisp and very aromatic. I also really like the Sauvignon Blanc from Blue Mountain and the Sakura rosé from Kanazawa.

What should we be drinking from Roche, and why?
We make our wines in the French tradition but with grapes that grow here. The result is interesting! We do a unique Pinot Gris that is fermented and aged for 12 months in neutral barrels. The wine shows ginger, pear and vanilla aromas. It can handle some difficult food pairings, like asparagus, goat cheese and spices. Our Arome is made with 100 percent Schonberger, which is the result of a cross-pollenation between Pinot Noir, Muscat and Chasselas. It gives an extremely aromatic wine, with exotic perfumes like passion fruit. We also do two Pinot Noirs in contrasting styles: our Tradition Pinot is rich and dense, aged in French oak for 14 months, while our Texture Pinot is a lighter expression of the grape that’s more about fruit and spicy notes.