This is the last edition of the Georgia Straight before Vancouver International Wine Festival week, culminating in the International Festival Tastings sessions at the Vancouver Convention Centre from next Thursday to Saturday (February 16 to 18).
To celebrate our country’s 150th birthday, the festival casts a spotlight on Canada as its theme region, with 76 wineries pouring their best and brightest. In the spirit of national revelry, here’s a small sampling of participating Canadian wineries you should make a point of visiting with glass in hand.
8th Generation Vineyard
Yup, the Schales family have been making wine for eight generations, beginning in Germany’s Rheinhessen region in 1783 and now perched on Lake Okanagan in Summerland. As one might expect, Rieslings are a specialty, but a couple of sparkling wines and a Pinot Meunier Rosé also count as personal favourites.
Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery
Creston’s Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery has been showing us that the Kootenay mountains offer plenty of potential. Winemaker Dan Barker does double duty, leading the charge at New Zealand’s Moana Park Winery during our winter (their summer) and working here while we’re in vintage. Their estate Pinot Noir is a wine I often use in seminars to illustrate how great this young region can be.
Culmina Family Estate Winery
After Don Triggs sold his legendary Jackson-Triggs wineries in both Ontario and British Columbia, he began work on Oliver’s Culmina Family Estate Winery, with a serious focus on terroir expression. With Bordeaux-based consultant Alain Sutre as part of his team, they plotted 43 microblocks on the site. The result is that each lot of Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and red Bordeaux varieties is perfectly suited to its respective slope, aspect, and soil.
Lake Breeze Vineyards
For more than 20 years now, Naramata’s Lake Breeze Vineyards and winery has been behind some of the freshest and liveliest wines in the Okanagan. Their Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay are perennial favourites, but those in the know have a particular affinity for winemaker Garron Elmes’s Pinotage.
Situated on the eastern slopes of Skaha Lake, Paul Gardner and Julie Rennie’s Pentâge Winery makes a wide assortment of whites and reds, but if you only have time for a couple, do try their Viognier Roussanne Marsanne blend and their baking-spice-laden Syrah.
Stag’s Hollow Winery
Winemaker Dwight Sick is like a kid in a candy store when the opportunity comes to play around with unique varieties. Fun stuff includes a Tempranillo, a Dolcetto, and a just-bottled, little-known northern Italian Syrah style variety called Teroldego. Get your geek on!
More than a few people have said that Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge may just be making the best sparkling wine in Canada these days, and I don’t know if I’d put much energy into any argument against. Jean-Benoit Deslauriers is a master at work with traditional-method bubble made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
Luckett Vineyards Many wines from Nova Scotia’s Luckett Vineyards are made from unique-to-the-region varieties like L’Acadie Blanc, Osceola Muscat, and Traminette. Step up to their table for a master class in these grapes, which, although perfectly suited to East Coast seafood, should also be darn delicious with our own.
Closson Chase Vineyards
Although Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula winegrowing region gets plenty of attention, it’s the wines coming out of Prince Edward County (or, colloquially, just “the County”) that have all the cool kids excited. With roots digging deep into the area’s limestone-rich soils, the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs of Closson Chase are a delight.
Winemaker Thomas Bachelder keeps very busy with his own eponymous brand of wines coming out of Ontario, Burgundy, and Oregon, so it’s a wonder he can squeeze in the Domaine Queylus project with such aplomb. Elegant Chardonnays, charming Pinot Noirs, and dapper Cabernet Francs are all crafted with precision and grace.
Having just returned from Australia, I’m going to add a couple top-of-mind, bonus recommendations to this list from Down Under. Splash into the sophisticated Grenache and Viogniers from the Barossa Valley’s Yalumba Family Vignerons, and then get into some mighty cracking Cabernet Sauvignons from Coonawarra’s Majella Wines, grown in the area’s ancient terra rossa soils.
More information and tickets are at the Vancouver International Wine Festival website; what a fun way to celebrate Canada’s 150th!