Skip to content
BC's finest wines - Food Gypsy

BC Wines – A Little Taste of Home

Six bottles of BC wine made it’s way east this week to be tasted and Tweeted by eastern wine hounds (of which I am one).  Another of our ongoing Canadian wine discussions, lead by Canada’s Natalie MacLean.  Nothing like a little taste of home…

Catch the conversation, Thursday, January 24 at 8 p.m.,  under the hashtag of #ONtastesBC.

It seems odd to refer to myself as an ‘easterner’ when the west still feels like home.  Born in Vancouver, I spent my teens and early twenties in the Okanagan, where skipping school meant a day at the beach, and eating local was a stop at the fruit stand.  I left BC for Calgary (which was still close enough to enjoy weekends at the lake) where I stayed for many years before shifting to the eastern shores of Nova Scotia, then on to Ontario, and now Aylmer, Quebec, just across the river from Ottawa.  (I’ve earned that Gypsy title.)

You can take the girl out of BC, but you can’t take the BC out of the girl

I make it west whenever I can.  My dad still lives in the small community of Falkland, BC (north of Vernon) where I spent my teens, five miles up a dirt road, twelve miles from town. (“Rural” is putting it lightly.)  There is no place on earth quite like BC’s interior with it’s mountains and  rivers it’s clean air and cold lakes.  Lately I’ve been threatening to take the French chef in my life (Chef B), who’s never been west of Toronto, to taste the sweet nectar of Canada’s west.  Because I already know what this week he found out: BC wine makers are knocking it out of the park.

While he grew up among the old world vines of Burgundy, I cut my teeth on the new world grapes of the Okanagan, long before they were great.  I watched the culture of wine evolve as vines were planted, cellars were built, and old folks sat on their porch watching landscapes change shaking their heads. “Those crazy young folks are growing wine Harold!”  So Harold, who’s crazy now?

Ontario Tastes BC

All the wines you see listed here are available at LCBO locations in Ontario, but many east of Alberta might wonder why they don’t see more BC wines on the shelves?  First we have to consider that BC produces less wine than Ontario.  In 2011 Ontario produced 20.6 million litres verses the 14.8 million litres produced in B.C. in the same year.

(Source: Wine Council of Ontario & the British Columbia Wine Institute)

Numbers aside, the real reason you don’t see more Okanagan wines shipping east is because most of BC’s wines never make it past the border.  British Columbians know what terrific wines they have at their doorstep, those wines are the cornerstone of every restaurant wine list, swanky dinner party and casual barbecue.

Most of the wines on this week’s list came from familiar names, I grew up on Mission Hill and Quail’s Gate.  Eau Vivre, at the southern end of the valley, near Keremeos, was a fresh face in the crowd.  The Similkameen Valley, from Oliver south, is producing some truly excellent wines from vines that struggle in the arid climate.  Grapes, much like people, are at their best when they’re forced outside their comfort zone.

Behold the beauty of the uncomfortable grape.

BC whites - Food Gypsy
The BC whites, from left to right – Grey Monk, Quail’s Gate & Mission Hill.

Gray Monk Gewürztraminer 2011, V.Q.A., Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

A light, sweet aroma tainted with rose, with a full, ripe pear taste and hints of almond.  This was a wine that was too young for me, with an unwelcome effervescence.  Wait and drink it in two years, then I believe you will see it bursting with taste, instead of bubbles.  ($19.95)  Gypsy Score Card: 83/100

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2011, V.Q.A., Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

A chardonnay in the California style, light and airy with big fruity flavours of peach and apple.  For me, this chardonnay was missing a layer of acidity that has marked the Quail’s Gate chard I know and love.  That in mind, still a ripe opener on a hot day.  ($20.95)  Gypsy Score Card: 89/100

Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2010, V.Q.A., Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

This speaks of Okanagan sun, the air  full of of peach and pear and a hint of toasty almonds from somewhere further south.  While it is big on the nose, it’s easy in the mouth, creamy, soothing and light.  ($19.95)  Gypsy Score Card: 90/100

BC reds - Food Gypsy
The BC reds, left to right – Eau Vivre, Osoyoos Larose, Mission Hill.

Eau Vivre Pinot Noir 2008, BC VQA, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia

This pinot noir, from a tiny, little known vineyard quite simply floored me.  Smooth, even and respectful of tradition.  The colour is perfect, the clarity is outstanding, coupled with that unmistakable barnyard essence that makes a solid pinot in the Burgundy style.  This is a wine I could drink all night long, it’s layers of flavour include sour cherry, and a hint of tobacco.  Already four years old, I’m tempted to cellar a case for three to five years, because structure like this ages so well.  One of the big hits of the night for me.  (A tremendous value at  $24.95)  Gypsy Score Card: 93/100

Our Chef B, Burgundy Boy, to whom pinot noir is mother’s milk  had nothing but praise for Eau Vivre “wow, I could be in Burgundy right now!”  Trust me when I say his praise is not easily won.

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2008, V.Q.A., Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Among my favorite BC blends in the Bordeaux style: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and malbec, this is a wine with tremendous structure and lineage.  A ripe dark fruit nose, rich, full-bodied taste and a long, deep finish; it’s also a wine that will last and last.  If you can stand not to suck the bottle dry the moment it comes through the door, sit on it until 2020… then call me.   ($45.95)  Gypsy Score Card: 91/100.

Mission Hill Quatrain 2009, V.Q.A., Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

A heavy bottle and stunningly simple label, pays homage to the truly great wine it embraces.  Adjectives such as “spectacular” spring to mind, if Mission Hill is not entering this wine in open competitions,  it should.  The combination of 35% merlot, 30% syrah, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc is simply outstanding.

The Quatrain could pass for a Chilean wine, with it’s robust tannins and multi-layered complexity.  It starts with red fruits, but as it warms it becomes completely something else, I could barley get my nose out of it.  Herbaceous and earthy with undertones of butterscotch and a hell of a kick at 14%. (Cannot believe this bottle goes for $44.95 – this is as good as French wines three times the price.)   Gypsy Score Card: 96/100

And how did our resident Frenchman and self-professed wine snob do with Mission Hill’s Quatrain?  His exact words (between sipping, slurping and sniffing):  “Fuck Bordeaux.  This is – by far – the best Canadian wine I’ve ever had.  Structure and complexity… JESUS…  France could learn a thing or two from this wine.”  I should have thought his lingering, lip smacking consumption (expletives aside), was endorsement enough.

Thank you to my Ottawa partner in Tweet Tasting,  who hosted on a cold January eve, Courtney Flood.  You can read her thoughts, same wines, perhaps punctuated with less gushing and pining for lakefront laziness, on her blog, Wine & Food for Everyday.   And of course, when in doubt about any wine on your list, head straight to Natalie MacLean, where you’ll find literally thousands of wines to choose from.

Come to think of it, I really should keep my options to myself.  Now you’ll just rush out and buy yourself a case of BC wine (I’ll take one of the Pinot and one of the Quatriane, please), or be forced (like I am) to head west for a cellar tour with a new convert.  

There’s no taste like home.

Ontario tastes BC - Food Gypsy

Cori Horton

Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Well done Food Gypsy! Glad you helped convert another believer. Yes, you’ll have to come out again – and if you haven’t been to the Okanagan in a while, you’ll be floored by the developments in the wine industry. Although Kelowna is known, of course, as the birthplace of the BC wine industry with the valley’s oldest commercial winery, vineyards, and such, it also has its fair share of new boutique wineries that will come as wonderful palate surprises to you! There are 5 wine trails now in Kelowna, so check out to explore them all. Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate are both on the Westside Wine Trail, whereas Gray Monk is on the Lake Country’s Scenic Sip wine trail. The other wineries you enjoyed that night are from points south of Kelowna, but still just within a short drive of less than 90 minutes or so. Thanks for the round-up!

    1. Thank you Catherine!
      Always happy to promote BC tourism and drag along another convert. I see a little working vacation in our future, we shall turn Chef B loose on the golf course whilst I laze in the sun, and then we have wine and food touring to do! (we shall be sure to drop you a line before we set out)

      My last trip was in 2010, before my stint at Le Cordon Bleu as I was launching Food Gypsy. I was still finding my writing legs, and making peace with the past so I could embrace a bright future. Link: I did a bit of the Winetrail, but (sadly) had to depart too soon to make my deadline for admission.

      Sure Dad would be tickeled pink to see us.
      ~ Gypsy

  2. Hi again Gypsy! Thought you might be interested in this Okanagan Food & Wine Writers Workshop this spring to give your working vacation some structure! It’s always a really interesting and stimulating workshop with lots of professional development and great foodie experiences in Kelowna: Check it out!

    1. Thank you Catherine, you make me blush. Your MP, Dan Albas, tweeted out the info to me last night. What a nice birthday party that would be! Perhaps our Ms. MacLean should be a speaker? (just to add to the party atmosphere…)

      Unfortunately, I would miss the Falkland Stampede, Dad may never forgive me. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top