Of Great Import: The best wines from British Columbia

Of Great Import: The best wines from British Columbia

Finally, more of British Columbia’s premium bottles are available in Ontario. Here, the best of the west

(Image: Jack Dylan)

It’s boom time in B.C. There are now nearly 200 wineries, and the quality just keeps getting better. In fact, with the recent influx of showcase wineries and new restaurants, the Okanagan Valley is being called Napa North. Winemakers have perfected techniques to harness the arid valley’s impossibly short but scorching growing season. The sheer diversity of wine is stunning: floral aromatic rieslings and gewürztraminers from cooler sites north of Kelowna; sophisticated pinot gris, chardonnays and pinot noirs from the Naramata Bench; and powerful cabernets and syrahs from the hot south near Oliver and Osoyoos. Until recently, however, it’s been hard to taste the western renaissance in Ontario. Supply is limited (B.C.’s output is two-thirds of Ontario’s), and the wine is still treated as an import here due to archaic interprovincial alcohol regulations. (For starters, it’s illegal for wineries to take orders from Ontario and ship directly to their customers.) Thankfully, more good B.C. wine is now trickling into Vintages stores and wine agencies. The selection below includes some of the best cutting-edge wines now available.

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut
$34.95 | Okanagan Valley | 89 points
Blue Mountain is a pioneering, premium estate that specializes in mineral-driven chardonnay, pinot noir and bubbly from its impeccable bench vineyard. Its brut is light to medium bodied, crisp and juicy, with a hint of shortbread sweetness on the finish. Excellent length.

CedarCreek 2007
Cabernet Merlot $23.95 | Okanagan Valley | 90 points
CedarCreek remains one of B.C.’s pre-eminent producers, capturing
a stylish and supple poise that few others achieve. This exudes ripened blackberry nicely framed by mocha and subtle tobacco. It’s showing some tannin, so it needs a few years to mellow. Excellent length. Vintages. LCBO 175604

Gray Monk 2008 Gewurz­traminer
$18.95 | Okanagan Valley | 90 points
Gray Monk’s forte is crafting aromatic whites from its steep lakeshore vineyards on the 50th degree of latitude—the northern limit for the vinifera species. This off-dry gewürz has classic notes of lychee and orange with hints of ginger. Very good acid-sugar yin-yang. Vintages. LCBO 321588

JoieFarm 2009 Riesling
$31.95 | Okanagan Valley | 90 points
Founded in the bucolic Naramata Bench sub-region by sommeliers Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble, JoieFarm focuses on varieties from Alsace, Burgundy and Champagne. This dry riesling blooms with green melon, petrol, floral and spicy flavours set in a fresh style. Very juicy, with orange-grapefruit acidity on the finish. liffordwine.com

Laughing Stock 2007 Portfolio
$54.95 | Okanagan Valley | 92 points
Vancouver investment consultants David and Cynthia Enns call their winery a “vow of poverty.” Portfolio, a top-barrel Bordeaux-style cab-merlot blend, has a complex nose of cedar, dried herbs and wood­smoke. It’s rich and spicy, with firm tannin. Best 2012 to 2017, approach­able now. Vintages, Dec. 11. LCBO 71464

Le Vieux Pin 2006 Epoque Merlot
$37.95 | Okanagan Valley | 90 points
Le Vieux Pin is a no-expense-spared newcomer to the area. Its maturing merlot—the most widely planted grape in the Okanagan—features classic notes of raspberry jam, fig, herbs and tea, accented by oak. It’s sturdy, bordering on sweet and hot, but it never tips the balance. Vintages, Nov. 27. LCBO 206318

Mission Hill Family Estate 2007 Quatrain
$45 | Okanagan Valley | 93 points
This 2010 Canadian Wine Awards gold medallist is a gorgeous blend of merlot, syrah, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. It’s streamlined with beautifully etched blackberry, licorice, pepper, cedar, chocolate and sage flavours that fill the palate yet avoid excess heat. Best 2012 to 2017. missionhillontario.com

Quails’ Gate 2008 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay
$30 | Okanagan Valley | 91 points
Ben and Tony Stewart’s innovative northern Okanagan winery is reaping the benefit of its 45-year-old vines. The chardonnay is perfectly poised, with aromas of necta­rine, chive, toast and smoke. It’s smooth and suave yet built on stony acidity. hobbswines.com

Sperling 2008 Old Vines Riesling
$35 | Okanagan Valley | 89 points
Okanagan-raised Ann Sperling makes wine at Southbrook in Niagara, and now at her family’s vineyard southwest of Kelowna. Her first vintage of riesling is a gentle, almost delicate (12.5 per cent alcohol), barely off-dry edition with pure peachy fruit, silky texture and a firm, crisp finish. trialto.com