Offering the largest selection of B.C. wines on Vancouver Island
In recent years, the scenic valleys of lower British Columbia have come to host numerous world-class vineyards and winemakers. In particular, we have chosen to focus on both the Okanagan Valley and Similkameen Valley, as well as the burgeoning growing region just up the road from our Resort in the Cowichan Valley.
White Wine Varietals of B.C.
Pinot Gris – 1,132 acres planted (458 hectares)
The number one white grape variety in terms of acreage in B.C. The style of Pinot Gris in B.C. has been, and in many cases still is, quite varied. It ranges from the crisper, lighter, fresher style of Pinot Grigio in northern Italy to the richer, honeyed, off-dry and more tropical style of Alsace. The majority of B.C. Pinot Gris though could best be described as something fruitier and fuller bodied than the Pinot Grigio of Italy, yet lighter and fresher than the wines of Alsace. Both the French and Italian names are used, often depending on the style. They are typically dry or off-dry with a medium body and flavours and aromas of pear, honeydew or cantaloupe melon, lemon, and sometimes a little honey, minerality and baking spice.
Chardonnay – 1,020 acres planted (413 hectares)
The style of Chardonnay produced in B.C. varies from unoaked versions with crisp acidity and often crisp apple flavours to world-class barrel fermented wines with complex lees, oak and fruit flavours. The naturally high acidity achieved in B.C. and the peach, lemon and nectarine flavours when combined with quality oak barrel fermentation and ageing on lees can make for very highly regarded wines. Many of B.C.’s most internationally awarded wines have been Chardonnay.
Gewürztraminer – 743 acres planted (301 hectares)
Gewürztraminer is another Alsatian variety that grows well in B.C. The variety has been planted in the province for many years and continues to slowly gain popularity. Known for generating wines with intense aromatics and fruitiness, B.C. with its unique climate, is an ideal location for producing such a pronounced floral variety. Ripening to high alcohol levels, often around 14%, the variety can lose acidity quickly and become a touch flabby. However, this is rarely an issue due to the natural high acidity that remains from the cool nights in B.C. The wines typically show aromas of lychee, rose petal and ripe stone fruit, often with a touch of sweetness.
Riesling – 562 acres planted (227 hectares)
Riesling was one of the first Vitis vinifera varietals planted in B.C., but it took a while for it to be taken seriously. B.C. Riesling is increasingly building a top-quality reputation. B.C. Riesling can be both the soft, fruity, off-dry style or, more often, a dry, high acid, intense apple, lime and mineral flavoured style that has received international attention. A few producers are also making sweeter, low-alcohol German Kabinett-style wines. Many of the Riesling wines have a great ability to age and some have been cellared for more than a decade.
Sauvignon Blanc – 399 acres planted (161 hectares)
The B.C. style benefits from the natural high acidity and fruit ripeness. Both the crisp, zingy, green bean, grass and asparagus style, as well as a riper, tropical fruit, richer version can be found. Some of the most successful wines are oak fermented and blended with Semillon to make wines in a white Bordeaux style.
Pinot Blanc – 267 acres planted (108 hectares)
Once one of the most planted white grapes in B.C., Pinot Blanc has failed to find widespread popularity and acreage has decline. B.C. Pinot Blanc generally has fresh acid, a medium body and characteristic apple peel flavours, and can make for some great value, characterful wines.
Viognier – 223 acres planted (90 hectares)
Viognier has become very fashionable. It is late ripening and can be a struggle in B.C. unless yields are kept low. B.C. Viognier from low yields will often be very aromatic with peach, apricot and jasmine aromas and flavours, and medium to full-bodied while retaining fresh acidity.
Red Wine Varietals of B.C.
Merlot – 1,585 acres planted (641 hectares)
Merlot is B.C.’s most planted grape. In most parts of the world, Merlot is renowned as having soft tannins and a lush, rich texture. In B.C., for reasons linked to the unique climate, the structure of Merlot is completely different. It naturally produces more structured, higher tannin wines than in most parts of the world. B.C. Merlot will typically have a medium to full body, medium to high tannins and flavours that include black cherry, black plum, chocolate and floral violet notes. As in many parts of the world it is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Pinot Noir – 1,070 acres planted (433 hectares)
Pinot Noir has grown more rapidly in terms of acreage than any other widely planted red grape. Growers find it well suited to the terroir in the central to north part of the Okanagan Valley, where it is not too hot for this early-ripening variety. Style wise, B.C. Pinot Noir tends to have both bright intense cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruit flavour as well as complex spice notes, along with medium tannins and high levels of acidity for structure. As a result, good quality B.C. Pinot Noir tends to age very well.
Cabernet Sauvignon – 767 acres planted (310 hectares)
Cabernet Sauvignon in B.C. is best suited to the warmest sites, typically on the eastern side of the Okanagan Valley near Osoyoos or on the south-facing benches of Cawston in the Similkameen Valley. Typical Cabernet Sauvignon in B.C. has intense cassis and blackberry fruit, structured tannins and high acidity, with a notable dried sage or tobacco note. The wines from ripe vintages can age very well, often drinking well for more than a decade.
Cabernet Franc – 569 acres planted (230 hectares)
Cabernet Franc is increasingly making expressive, quality varietal wines, rather than in its usual role in most of the world as a blending grape. It seems to have a particular affinity with the climate of the south Okanagan Valley and the Similkameen Valley. Wines have bright red fruit, ripe tannins, intense perfume and just a pretty hint of the herbaceous/tobacco character that can be overpowering in overly cool climates. In warm years it produces rich, structured wines yet in cool years it does not overly suffer from greenness, making it well suited to the B.C. climate.
Syrah – 530 acres planted (214 hectares)
B.C. has proven it is well suited to making intensely flavoured, cool climate Syrah. As a result, B.C. Syrah is consistently named the top red wine in Canada in wine competitions. B.C. Syrah falls somewhere between the rich, riper style of warmer climate Australian wines and the medium-bodied, fresher, peppery wines of the northern Rhône Valley in France. B.C. Syrah is intense in fruit, gamey, floral and retains lots of black pepper notes.
Gamay Noir – 178 acres planted (72 hectares)
Gamay plantings are small in B.C., but this varietal is gaining in popularity as it consistently produces high quality wines. The momentum towards lighter, juicier red wines among a growing number of consumers is also helping Gamay’s popularity. A typical B.C. Gamay will be light in body and tannin with fresh juicy acidity, a silky texture and flavours of red berry fruit, cinnamon and minerality.