BC Wines, eh?

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  • By Vanessa Moore
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BC Wines, eh?

It wasn't until we returned from a whirlwind trip through Vancouver, that I realized our accomplishment. We dined at six independent restaurants, visited a specialty tea room, chocolate shop and mirobrewery, AND tasted 21 wines from British Columbia in less than 48 hours on the ground. Our friends dubbed the trip "Eat Fest 2014", and so it was.

It wasn't until we returned from a whirlwind trip through Vancouver, that I realized our accomplishment. We dined at six independent restaurants, visited a specialty tea room, chocolate shop and mirobrewery, AND tasted 21 wines from British Columbia in less than 48 hours on the ground. Our friends dubbed the trip "Eat Fest 2014", and so it was. 
 
One word that defines the whole experience: unexpected. 
Unexpected because I hadn't imagined the wines would be such a source of local pride, so available, so authentic and unique. Canada's westernmost province offers wine as varied and interesting as its breathtaking landscapes. From dense forest and lake views, to mountains, desert, coastal beaches and temperate rainforest, this vast region and its wines are worth exploring.
 
British Columbia's first commercial winery opened in 1931 in the Okanagan Valley, a growing region which shares terroir and a border with Washington State. While Okanagan is the largest, accounting for more than 3/4 of total BC wine production, there are four other officially recognized viticultural areas: Similkameen Valley, Vancover Island (sub-region Cowichan), Gulf Islands, and Fraser Valley. There are currently more than 250 wineries, cideries and meaderies in the province. BC's 95 million hectares of land and water equal a territory larger than Germany and France combined.
 
There's a certain energy associated with this type of discovery. Imagine owning a book for more than a decade. A book that you read and reference daily. Yet there's one chapter that you've skipped over time and again as if not an important part of the story. I like to imagine I left it untapped for just the right moment, and adventure. 
 
Below is the list of the wines we enjoyed. All solid, well-crafted selections, but some were more memorable than others. Overall, the whites outshined the reds:
(*our favorites)
 
Non Vintage, Blue Mountain Brut, Okanagan Valley
*2008 Venturi Schulze Schönburger, Vancouver Island
2010 Venturi Schulze Primavera, Vancouver Island
2008 Venturi Schulze Pinot Noir Reserve, Cowichan Valley
*2012 Jackson Triggs Riesling Reserve, Okanagan Valley
2012 Terravista Vineyards "Fandango" Albarino-Verdejo
2012 Hester Creek Merlot, Okanagan Valley
2013 Calliope Rosé of Syrah & Viognier, Okanagan Valley
2013 NK'MIP Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley
2013 Alderlea Bacchus, Vancover Island
*2013 Alderlea Pinot Gris, Vancouver Island
2010 Alderlea Clarinet (100% Marechal Foch), Vancouver Island
2013 See ya Later Ranch Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley
*2013 Joie Noble White Blend, Okanagan Valley
*2013 Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc, Okanagan
2012 Eau Vivre Riesling, Similkameen Valley
*2012 Orofino Gamay, Similkameen Valley
*2012 Inniskillin Pinot Noir Estate, Okanagan Valley
2010 Averill Creek Pinot Noir, Cowichan Valley
2012 Tinhorn Creek Kerner Icewine, Okanagan Valley
*2009 Venturi Schulze Brandenburg No. 3, Vancouver Island
 
Since our return, I've thought a lot about sharing these wines with our NOVA friends and clients. So I reached out to the one guy who best champions the untold successes of lesser known North American wineries - DC based sommelier, supplier, importer, consultant - Andrew Stover, owner of Vino 50 Selections. Vino 50 is a carefully curated portfolio he calls "the Grape American Road Trip". This week we exchanged enthusiastic emails about what's happening in BC, and the wines Andrew wants to source from our northwest neighbors. We chatted briefly about the difficulties in doing so-
 
Me:  What are the 2 biggest hurdles in importing Canadian wine?
 
AS: The 2 hurdles are that most American wine drinkers dont realize the climate associated with BC. They think Canada and think COLD...snow...ice wine.
So theres a market perception here in the USA. But we both know that the Okanogan is a desert, much like eastern Washington. Then there's the price. BC wines are small production and as youve seen most run $20+ and can fetch top dollar at their tasting rooms. Plus most BC wine gets consumed in the province.
 
Me: Why is it more challenging than importing European wines for example?
 
AS: There's not a lot to go around. I've heard stories from wineries that they don't even have enough to supply wines to Ontario much less worry about the USA.
This presents a few issues. Its hard enough to get consumers to spend $30 on a nice red from Washington State let alone upwards of $30 on a nice red from British Columbia. There's also a logistics issue. Getting into the Okanogan from the USA is not easy. There is no main freight route or interstate linking eastern Washington to the Okanogan. I drove it a few years ago. Its approx 4 hours to get from the Tri-Cities area in the Columbia Valley to the border in Osoyoos. That increases the freight price to get the wine here for distribution. Between higher prices for boutique wine, small production and geographic location, these combined factors make BC wines not as appealing to an importer/distributor. That's why we dont see many here in the States.
 
My recommendation: Book your plane ticket to YVR, and hit the ground running.

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