B.C. wine is booming: New wineries keep sprouting up, like mushrooms after rain. And like mushrooms, they can spring up in seemingly unlikely places, which only increases the joy of discovering them.
Here are a few exciting new(ish) comers to keep your eyes peeled for on store shelves, or when planning your next wine-tasting trip.
Morning Bay on idyllic North Pender Island is the home of Sea Star, a seaside vineyard specializing in crisp, fragrant whites that really do seem to be uniquely blessed with the salty tang of the Salish Sea. Pender Island is a magical place to visit (with or without a bicycle!), and the winery is spectacular, but if you can’t get away, look for the gorgeous star fish labels in top restaurants around town. Top picks include peachy/savoury Ortega and green apple-y Siegerrebe; also the bracing Blanc de Noir rosé, made from Pinot Noir from Clam Bay vineyard.
On a far bigger island is Emandare, not far from Duncan in the Cowichan Valley. It’s a labour of love for Mike and Robin Nierychlo (the name is the pronunciation of their initials, M and R) who bought a mature but neglected vineyard a few years ago, and now make arresting wines from those non-irrigated, organically farmed vines, using old oak puncheons, wild yeast and the bare minimum sulphur.
Together they have proven that you can own a winery and vineyard with little cash as long as you have day jobs, boundless energy, a legion of friends pitching in for beer pay, and you buy everything second-hand. Plus, of course, limitless passion. Do not miss their confidently dry Siegerrebe-Gewurztraminer blend, saucy Rosé and an almost-released fragrant-gutsy-gamey Pinot Noir.
Singletree is a small new winery in Mount Lehman in the Fraser Valley, not far from historic Fort Langley, with majestic views of the Fraser River and Mount Baker. Although it’s just an hour from Vancouver, the unspoiled countryside seems worlds away. The wines are charmingly light and juicy, beautifully evoking the fresh berries the Fraser Valley has been famous for since pioneer days. Try the Siegerrebe, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc.
In wine place matters a great deal, but people do too. Daydreamer on the Naramata Bench is the home of Marcus Ansems, Canada’s newest Master of Wine (there are only 338 in the world, with just 5 in Canada). Marcus was born in Australia, where his family were part owners of legendary Shiraz producer Mount Langi Ghiran. Daydreamer’s production is tiny and the wines sell briskly, but they are well-worth tracking down. Topnotch across the range (Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Merlot), but the standouts are unquestionably the peppery, plummy, smoky Amelia Syrah, a game-changer for B.C., and the Signature range Marcus Ansems Shiraz.
Coolshanagh is another exciting new Naramata vineyard. Located at the blissfully quiet northern end of North Naramata Road, it is a stunningly beautiful property high above the lake, surrounded by magnificent Ponderosa pines. World-renowned Chilean ‘terroir-hunter’ Dr. Pedro Parra places the limestone-rich vineyard in the top 15% of the world’s vineyards for pinot noir and chardonnay. Currently Coolshanagh produces only one wine, a luscious, lemony, and minerally Chardonnay, made by star winemaker Matt Dumayne at state-of-the-art Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland.