by Lauren Mote
British Columbia boasts its beautiful scenic walks, hikes, drives, food and a popular concentration on fresh, affordable produce, but the best kept secret, especially amongst people around the world that are unable to grab a bottle, is the booming BC wine industry.
Between the 229 grape growers, 88 wineries, a dozen fruit cideries and over 6000 acres of vineyard land, I get thirsty… how about you?
On Location: Okanagan Valley As I was searching for more information to share with everyone about the history of the Okanagan, I located some interesting snip-its. In order to showcase a brief journey of the Okanagan Valley, from a 30 page book introduced by the Okanagan Historical Society in 1925, to its 250 page book no more then 82 years later, I thought I would only illustrate the really “cool” facts.
The Okanagan is easily British Columbia’s oldest wine-producing area, as well as the only existing Canadian desert. Extremely cool. I am referencing the brochure I snatched from the BC Liquor Store entitled “Wine Regions of British Columbia” when I recite the following: “BC’s largest and oldest wine-growing region. The weather is hot and dry with low humidity and little rainfall. Its regions are diverse – in addition to snow-capped mountains, sandy beaches and mountain-fed lakes…”
Thankfully, the Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia tells me that this region has been producing wine since the 1860’s, but it has always been small until recently. It is referenced that the BC wine-producing regions today look similar to the Niagara, Ontario region in the mid 1980’s.
The climate in the Okanagan is perfect for growing classic red Bordeaux grape varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. In terms of white varietals, Sotheby’s states that BC Chardonnay is almost comparable to its Ontario rival, and the white grape varietials: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Auzerrois and Pinot Blanc belong to British Columbia as each one is done so well! 2003 was deemed BC’s best vintage ever for red and white wines. example: Le Vieux Pin, Oliver, BC
The Fraser Valley – The Urban Vineyard Somehow, habitants of British Columbia are blessed with wineries just around the corner. The Fraser Valley covers an area of Port Moody, Langley and Richmond, as well as the most southern tip of Vancouver Island, just north of Victoria. This region is composed of 6 small wine-producing houses, of the VQA designation. example: Domaine Chaberton, Langley, BC
Similkameen Valley – The Runner-up Behind the Okanagan Valley, the Similkameen Valley is the second largest VQA appellation in British Columbia, but only makes up a mere 2% of BC vineyards!! It is the desert county! example: Seven Stones, Similkameen Valley, BC
Vancouver Island – Wet and Wild Although the island has tremendously unpredictable weather – wet and windy at most times – it will soon be stepping over the Similkameen Valley as the second largest VQA appellation in British Columbia. example: Cherry Point Vineyards, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC
VQA – WHAT’S THE DEAL ANYWAY? VQA – Vintners Quality Alliance – is a designation of Canadian Appellation, as well as containing 100% Canadian grown grapes, with 85% of the grapes grown within a particular vineyard as labelled on the bottle itself. This is true of any Canadian bottle, from British Columbia, to Ontario to Nova Scotia and Quebec.