WINE WISE: British Columbia’s wines have never been finer…

New B.C. wineries are opening up in the Okanagan Valley and the Similkameen Valley, as well as the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island

New B.C. wineries are opening up in the Okanagan Valley and the Similkameen Valley, as well as the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

New wine grapes that ripen early are being pioneered by creative grape growers and being fashioned into unique wines by inspired winemakers.

Originally a grape growing partnership between the Osoyoos Indian Band and Bright’s Wines, Nk’Mip Cellars Winery grew out of Jackson-Triggs through Vincor International by way of Constellation Brands. As well as a state of the art winery, today’s monumental operation includes a desert resort and holiday timeshare. Visitors can follow trails that wander the sage desert habitat to a forest grove where a traditional tule mat teepee, an underground pit house and a sweat lodge have been recreated.

Dreamcatcher (6125732) $14.79 is one of Nk’Mip’s newest creations – an entirely untraditional white blend of 73.3 per cent Riesling and 26.7 per cent Chenin Blanc that is as vibrant as any tart French ‘Touraine Sauvignon’ Gros Manseng. Up front it is all gooseberry fruit, with lemon rind and fresh cut peaches sliding into honeydew melon.

Not yet quite as global as Constellation Brands, Artisan Wines is a loose conglomerate of creative wine labels that together form the public face of Anthony von Mandl’s Mark Anthony Group, the organization often confused with Mission Hill Wines. Mac and Fitz is a recent addition to the line up.

A dusky blend of 54 per cent, Merlot, 13 per cent Cabernet Franc, 12 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 per cent Malbec and 10 per cent Pinot Noir Mac & Fitz Shifts End Red (858258) $14.99. A twist of liquorice and a dusting of sagebrush underlie the rich plum and dark blackcurrant aromas and flavours of this easy-drinking red wine.

More than most wines, Rosés tend towards being blends. Some are blends of finished white wines and red wines, ‘assembled’ after fermentation is complete.

The current 2014 vintage of Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Rosé (6901161) $14.99 is a tasty blend of 85 per cent Merlot, 10 per cent Pinot Noir and five per cent Syrah. Father Pandosy – who arrived in the Okanagan with a group of missionaries in 1859 and may have planted the first wine grapes on Mission Hill – would be astonished by the richness and elegance of this wine.  Dried cherry and peppery cranberry flavours are there from the first sip, then strawberries, sage and finally light, creamy lemon meringue.

Quite a different take on Rosé in style and substance Perseus Pinot Noir Rosé (840751) $20 could be mistaken for a white wine, tasted blindfolded and overly chilled. Sipped at room temperature, however, this 100 per cent Old Vine Pinot Noir shows all of the gorgeous cherry, strawberry and cranberry aromas and flavours that make good Rosés great!

Okanagan Crush Pad is a growing winemaking venture in Summerland owned by Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie, located in the 10-acre Switchback Vineyard overlooking Lake Okanagan. As well as making a variety of wines for various grape growers and consulting with other boutique winemakers, Okanagan Crush Pad makes its own Haywire wines.

Made from Pinot Gris grown at Switchback Vineyard in Summerland with the addition of more Pinot Gris from the Wise brothers Secrest Vineyard outside of Oliver. Haywire Pinot Gris (665034) $17.39 is 100 per cent stainless steel fermented to maintain the brightness of the citric fruit flavours in a clean, crisp and very classy ‘dry’ white that is somehow more ‘Old World’ than ‘New World.’

On land first cultivated in the 1920s – when B.C.’s then-premier Honest John Oliver turned the area into rich farmland by constructing an irrigation canal from Okanagan Falls – Road 13 was the new name given to Golden Mile Cellars when Pam and Mick Luckhurst purchased it from the Serwo family in 2003.

Primarily Merlot Road 13’s Honest John’s Red (290684) $19.99 complicates things completely by adding Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc Pinot Noir, Grenache and even a splash of Viognier into the mix.  Lots of damson plum and cherry/berry fruit flavours, here, in an easy to like medium full bodied style.

From an upstart little winery in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley Unsworth Vineyards’ Charme De L’Île  (671289) $21 is a remarkably well-balanced and tasty Prosecco-styled sparkling wine. Only 120 cases of this beautiful bubbly were produced from a blend of 50 per cent Pinot Noir, 30 per cent Pinot Gris and 20 per cent of the innovative hybrid Sauvignette. Bright green apple, fresh pear and honeyed peach flavours predominate.


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