Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Under the Radar Wine Regions of British Columbia, Canada

It’s more than Ice wine. Canada is emerging as world-class wine region and British Columbia is leading the way.

The first thing that may come to mind when you think wine and Canada may be Ice Wine. But all types of wines are made in Canada, and British Columbia is emerging as one of the most dynamic regions in terms of its natural beauty and quality wine. Here are some tips for exploring a few of the best under the radar wine regions in British Columbia.

Okanagan Valley
Okanagan’s star is on the rise and it’s developing as a premier destination for wine lovers looking for something new and exceptional in a dynamic lake and mountain setting. Just a short flight from Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley is the largest growing region in British Columbia with more than 121 wineries in 11 sub-regions. The multiple micro-climates favor many grapes with Merlot, and Pinot Gris being the most widely planted. A host of outdoor activities including hiking, kayaking and biking around Lake Okanagan make the area a haven for the active oenophile.

Where to taste: 
Tinhorn Creek (Oliver) If you are a Cab Franc fanatic you’re in for a treat at Tinhorn Creek. Grab a glass and take in the valley views as you savor one of the many fine selections in the tasting room including the Oldfield Series Two Bench Red and Syrah.

Upper Bench (Naramata) From Merlot to Zweigelt, Upper Bench is creating wines with finesse that just happen to pair perfectly with cheeses from their on-site micro creamery.

Blue Mountain Winery (Okanagan Falls) Blue Mountain may have the distinction of being the most picturesque vineyard in the area, but the first rate Sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the main attractions.

Bottleneck Drive Wine Trail -- This trail showcases 13 wineries clustered on back roads above Lake Okanagan. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of both the lake and vineyards alike as you make your way from Greata Ranch Vineyards in Peachland down Okanagan Highway to Summerland, where you’ll find wineries such as Saxton Winery, Sonoran Estate Winery, Dirty Laundry Vineyards and Okanagan Crush Pad. All of the vineyards welcome visitors, though some have limited hours during the off-season.

Where to dine:
Vanilla Pod at Poplar Grove Winery—Located on a ridge above Penticton, Vanilla Pod has a changing menu that highlights the bounty from neighboring farms and ranches. Try the lamb chops with potato gnocchi, or when in season, the Sockeye Salmon with arancini, roasted beets, swiss chard, Okanagan berry & chili pepper coulis; along with a glass of Poplar Grove Pinot Gris.

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek (Oliver) Combine stellar panoramic views across the South Okanagan Valley with Mediterranean fare inspired by local ingredients and you have the secret to Miradoro’s success. Stop in for a casual lunch with a glass of wine and one of the Neapolitan style pizzas. Or indulge in a sumptuous dinner selections like the wild boar bacon carbonara with slow poached egg and parmesan, or choose from the chef’s grand tasting menu and selected wine pairings.

Similkameen Valley—
If it weren’t for the vineyards you might mistake Similkameen Valley for a National Park with the soaring Cathedral Mountains as a backdrop and lush valley dotted with farms and fruit orchards. The Similkameen, located a few hours drive from Vancouver, has an ideal climate for growing grape varieties such as Merlot, Gamay Noir and Chardonnay.

Where to taste:
Orofino (Cawston) Orofino specializes in single vineyard wines and their luscious Rieslings are worth the trip. The tasting room is solar powered and the only strawbale constructed winery in Canada.

Eau Vivre  (Cawston) Small lots that yield big flavor are the focus at Eau Vivre. Try the award winning Pinots and don’t miss the Cinq Blanc; a five grape blend of Gew├╝rztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Chardonnay, and Riesling available only at the tasting room.

Clos du Soliel (Kremeos) Featuring Bordeaux style wines, Clos du Soleil Winemaker's Reserve a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is a shining example of what the rocky soils, and long sunny days in the Similkameen Valley can yield.

Where to dine:
Rustic and down home dining options include local favorite Benja Thai (Keremeos), and
The Hitching Post Restaurant (Hedley) the original home of the Hedley Mining and Supply store dating back to 1905. Today the rugged exterior belies the comfortable interior where you can enjoy a bottle of Similkameen wine with simple but hearty fare of steaks, burgers, and salads.

Fraser Valley
The proximity of Fraser Valley to downtown Richmond and Vancouver allows for an easy urban wine escape. Many wineries in the area specialize in fruit wines and visitors will be impressed with the range of flavors and styles produced from locally grown fruit. Also of note here are the Germanic whites such as crisp Riesling’s and Gew├╝rztraminers.

Where to taste:
Lulu Island Winery (Richmond) --Lulu Island’s large tasting room offers wine lovers a chance to sample many traditional grape varietals including Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—but the real draw here are the award winning ice wines and line of fruit wines including Passion Fruit, Cranberry, and Blueberry.

Where to dine:
The Blue Canoe in Stevenson Village (Richmond) – Blue Canoe hits the mark with a great wine list and inventive dishes composed of fresh from the sea ingredients served up in a uber relaxed dockside setting. Order the Sablefish with ginger-orange-miso glaze or when available, the seasonal spot prawns with mixed melon slaw relish.


The story above first appeared here on Forbes Travel Guide 
Photos courtesy of BC Wine Institute

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