BC Wine Country

Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

<span class="caps">BC</span> Wine Country

One of the most important elements of creating great wine is where the grapes come from. Factors that influence where the grapes come from include climate, soil, location, irrigation, and age of the vine. The wine industry calls this element that comes out in the flavor, the wine Terroir. The French definition of Terroir is: “a group of vineyards or vines from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine.”


Below I will discuss BC’s five producing wine regions to find out what makes them unique. The five regions are: Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands.

Okanagan Valley

The Okanagan valley is located between the Coastal Mountain range in the west and the Monashee Mountain range in the east. The valley runs from North to South along the 49th parallel and is part of Sonora Desert, which begins in Mexico and runs right up through Washington into Oliver, BC. The Okanagan Valley has five sub-regions: Kelowna, Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Golden Mile, and Black Sage/Osoyoos.

Kelowna is located at the most Northerly point of the wine region and is known for producing cooler climate grapes like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Gamy, and many more. The soils in the Kelowna area are typically heavier, sandier, and clay like. Many wineries located in Kelowna also have vineyards throughout the Okanagan valley.

Naramata is located south of Kelowna just outside of Penticton. Moving away from Kelowna, the temperature becomes warmer, meaning a riper grape. However, this is not always true because temperatures and climates can fluctuate year to year.

Like Kelowna, a lot of the grapes that are grown in this region are cooler climate grapes such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and many more. However, there are many superior wineries in this region that make some amazing Bordeaux blends that would rival against some of the world’s best.

One unique fact about Naramata is that it has over 100 years of history in growing fruits because of the region’s sloping hills. Majority of this sub-region is now devoted to grape growing, but you can still taste the great flavours of fruit that used to grow here.

Okanagan Falls
Moving south from Penticton, towards the US border, and at the end of Skaha Lake, is where the Okanagan Falls sub-region is located. Okanagan Falls is home to one of the most famous BC wineries, Blue Mountain.

The common styles of grapes grown in this region are Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer. Wineries in the Okanagan Falls are able to grow most types of grapes but also source grapes from other BC growing regions to create some amazing wines. The wineries in this area are sometimes considered to be cult status of wine in BC.

Golden Mile
The Golden Mile sub-region is located between Oliver and Osoyoos. The name Golden Mile was given to the area because of Gold and Silver mines. Some claim that the wines from this region are golden, and that it is due the warm climate from being high in the valley and because of the unique combination of gravel and soil that allows for good drainage.

The most common grapes grown in this region are Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and many more varietals.

Black Sage/Osoyoos
Black Sage/Osoyoos are located at the south end of the Okanagan along the US border. This region is a part of the Sonora Dessert. Many of BC’s full bodied wines will source their fruit from this region.

This sub-region is best known for Bordeaux style grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec), Syrah, and Chardonnay.

Similkameen Valley

The Similkameen Valley wineries are located about twenty minutes outside of Osoyoos along Highway 3 heading west towards Vancouver. The growing region runs for approximately 100 plus kilometers from Osoyoos to the town of Princeton. The region is still quite young for producing grapes for wine, but has been producing fruit for many years.

The Similkameen Valley has two distinct benefits that helps produce great wine: the climate and the soil. The climate in the Similkameen can be a lot hotter in the summer and colder in the winter compared to the Okanagan Valley. This adds a different more complex flavour to their wines, more acidity, and tannin for better food matching. The soil is also unique to this region because it is soil that comes from retreating glacier rock.

The most common grapes found growing in this region are Merlot, Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.

Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley wineries are located throughout the Lower mainland and are anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour from Vancouver. The Fraser Valley produces traditional grapes and also has a wonderful collection of fruit wines.

Wineries in this region source their grapes locally but some also have grapes coming from other areas of BC including the Okanagan and Similkameen Valley.

The most common grapes grown in the Fraser Valley are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and a variety of German white varietals.

Vancouver Island

Wines have been produced on Vancouver Island since 1920, with the first modern commercial winery opening in 1970. Majority of the wineries on Vancouver Island are located in the Cowichan Valley or Saanich Peninsula. Cowichan Valley is located just outside the town of Duncan, approximately one hour from Victoria. The Saanich Peninsula is located north of Victoria and is just minutes from the city. Saanich has a reputation as a viticulture hot spot and is also recognized as the only certified organic vineyard on the Island.

Many wineries on the Island source some grapes from the Okanagan Valley. However, there are some grape types that are planted on the Island: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gamay Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and other German style varietals.

Gulf Islands

The Gulf Island sub-regions consist of Salt Spring, Pender, Saturna, Quadra and Bowen Island.

The most common grape varietals grown in this region are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Chardonnay.

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

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