A sip of crisp Chardonnay on a patio. A chilled rosé tippled at a picnic. A peppery Cabernet Franc ready to be poured at a backyard BBQ. As the weather warms, what better way to celebrate the season than with locally produced wine and victuals?
Sommelier Andrew Forsyth, named Wines of British Columbia Top Sommelier 2020 by Wine Growers BC (formerly the BC Wine Institute), says it’s an exciting time for the British Columbia wine industry.
“We are just beginning to see the potential of emerging regions like the Similkameen Valley, Vancouver Island and the Thompson Valley,” says Forsyth, who is the sommelier at L’Abattoir Restaurant in Vancouver. “[The industry] is cultivating some amazing homegrown talent and attracting wine professionals from around the world who are elevating the quality of our wines year after year.”
The art of matching wine with food is one that Forsyth is eager to share. “It’s fun when you serve combinations that guests haven’t thought of such as B.C. Pinot Noir with local sablefish. You can tell they are having that ‘a-ha’ moment.”
Want to discover your own B.C. wine moment? Here’s a sample of the almost 300 B.C. wineries that offer great outdoor B.C. wine and food experiences.
1. Nk’Mip Cellars – Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley
The first Indigenous-owned winery in North America expresses Osoyoos Indian Band culture in everything it does. “We are guardians of a proud legacy,” says Diane Butt, manager, food and wine, Nk’Mip Cellars.
Style of wine or grape best known for: Whites and reds. Dreamcatcher is a best seller, with aromas of lime citrus, pineapple and freshly cut grass.
Signature wine: Mer’r’iym Red Meritage. Mer’r’iym is the Osoyoos word for “marriage” and the inspiration for a wine that is a union of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.
What’s new: The Four Food Chiefs Experience where wines are paired with elements of Indigenous cuisine - bear, salmon, bitterroot and Saskatoon berry.
Winery personality: Memorable, pleasurable, from casual to elevated.
(250) 495-2985; nkmipcellars.com
2. Summerhill Pyramid Winery – Kelowna, Okanagan Valley
An organic, biodynamic farm that features minimal intervention. Additionally, a new garden kitchen offers a multisensory experience of wine, food and farming. “We will be serving rustic wine-paired dishes created from ingredients growing steps away,” says Jeremy Luypen, the winery’s culinary director.
Style of wine or grape: Riesling.
Signature wine? Cipes Brut Sparkling Wine, made in the traditional method from organic Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc grapes. The single most-awarded wine in Canada and one of B.C.’s first Sparkling houses.
What’s new: Sparkling High Tea, Friday and Saturday, with Singaporean tea and sweet and savory bites. Cheese Fondue, Thursday nights, made with Swiss and Quebec cheeses. Served with pretzels, dried bread, grilled pears, cauliflower and sausage.
Personality: Free-spirited, relaxed elegance.
(250) 764-8000; summerhill.bc.ca
3. Monte Creek Ranch Winery – Thompson Valley
The largest winery in the Thompson Valley produces wines that reflect the unique terroir. Outdoor dining is offered at Terrace restaurant, with a seasonal menu of B.C.-sourced ingredients. A family-friendly picnic area allows guests (and their pets) to enjoy a to-go meal.
Style of wine: Riesling and Pinot Noir.
Signature wine: Award-winning Monte Creek Ranch Pinot Noir
What’s new: Terrace patio is partnering with Uptown Chefs catering and presenting an updated menu in May. Also, a sustainably designed, ultra-efficient production facility is currently being built. “Much like the wine that is produced inside, the building harvests the natural inputs of the sun and the earth,” explains Erik Fisher, general manager.
Personality: Casual, yet sophisticated.
(855) 633-9463, (250) 573-5399; montecreekranch.com
4. Crowsnest Vineyards – Similkameen Valley
Brother and sister Sascha and Ann Heinecke bought the winery from their parents three years ago. One of the first wineries in the Similkameen Valley offers locally grown wines, a restaurant with patio, two wood-fired ovens, seven guestrooms, a sourdough bakery and a future distillery. “We make everything in-house, including mayonnaise, mustard, jams and ice cream,” notes Sascha.
Style of wine or grape: Unoaked Chardonnay, dry Rieslings, sparkling wines, Old World style red.
Signature wine: Unoaked Chardonnay, sparkling wine, Merlot family reserve from 30-year-old vines.
What’s new: All tastings are sit-down. Only organically grown fruit and vegetables from the valley is used in the restaurant, and when possible, protein is locally sourced as well.
Personality: Casual, family friendly, energetic, young.
(250) 499-512; crowsnestvineyards.com
5. Black Hills Estate Winery – Black Sage Bench (Oliver), Okanagan Valley
Known as an exceptional blending house, the winery’s fruit is tended by hand, from pruning to picking. “Vintage 2019 Nota Bene, alongside 2020 whites and rosé are the first full vintages from bud burst to bottle tended to by winemaker Ross Wise,” says Morna Cassidy, the winery’s national brand manager.
Style of wine or grape: Quality blends.
Signature wine: Nota Bene, 2018 is the only wine in the Okanagan to have been made the same way, from the same vineyard block and vines for 20 years.
What’s new: Outdoor-seated tasting in the terraced Wine Education Centre. Wine Club members have exclusive access to cabanas. Snacks and appetizers available. Call ahead or reserve in advance.
Personality: Airy, modern, sophisticated.
(250) 498-0666; blackhillswinery.com
6. D’Angelo Estate Winery & Guest House – Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
Salvatore D’Angelo, son Chris and daughter Stephanie, are hands on in daily operations at this family-owned winery. Sal’s brother Danny operates Danelo’s, the on-site food truck known for its authentic Italian sandwiches. “Visiting our winery means meeting our family,” says Stephanie, the winery’s operations manager.
Style of wine or grape: Reds. One of the few producers of Tempranillo in the Okanagan Valley.
Signature wine: Sette Coppa, Bordeaux blend. All five Bordeaux varieties are grown at the winery: Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
What’s new: The picnic area allows guests to purchase and open a bottle of wine after tastings.
Personality Casual, family friendly.
(250) 493-1364; dangelowinery.com
7. TIME Winery & Kitchen – Penticton, Okanagan Valley
Located at a historic movie theatre in downtown Penticton, the wine company is owned by Ron and Shelley Mayert. It is home to the TIME Winery, Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection brands. “Lynzee Schatz, our winemaker, crafts the portfolio of the different labels by sourcing top-quality fruit from Okanagan Valley grape growers,” says Christa-Lee McWatters, the winery’s general manager.
Style of wine or grape: Reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines. Late founder Harry McWatters created more than 50 vintages.
Signature wine: McWatters Meritage.
What’s new: A revamped menu focuses on fresh ingredients and local farmers. Two new meeting spaces will be launching food-and-wine-pairing seminars once regulations allow. Dining service is available on heated outdoor patio. Reservations required.
Personality: Relaxed urban.
(236) 422-2556; timewinery.com
8. Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and Miradoro Restaurant – Golden Mile Bench (Oliver), Okanagan Valley
Perched on the Golden Mile, the winery offers expansive patio views overlooking the valley and Black Sage Bench. Miradoro Restaurant is a main attraction for visitors to the winery. “We offer refined Italian cuisine sourced from local farmers,” notes restaurateur Manny Ferreira.
Style of wine or grape: Easy sipping whites and well-structured reds.
Signature wine: Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc.
What’s new: Guided wine and food pairings. Outdoor dining and take-out are now available.
Personality: Classy, comfortable.
(250) 498-3742; tinhorn.com
9. Unsworth Vineyards – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island
The largest winery on Vancouver Island was started by the Tim Turyk and family as a retirement project. Last summer it was sold to Barbara Banke and her daughter Julia Jackson of Jackson Family Wines, the ninth largest wine producer in the United States. A 100-year-old farmhouse houses the restaurant. “We also feature a Forno Bravo pizza oven which is most popular,” notes Chris Turyk, the company’s marketing director.
Style of wine or grape: Sparkling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir.
Signature wine: Charme de l’île (a Charmat method sparkling wine), Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
What’s new: The outdoor tasting room has been expanded, along with their outdoor dining option, so guests can have a safe experience.
Personality: Casual elegant.
(250) 929-2292; unsworthvineyards.com
10. JoieFarm Winery – Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
The winery has been creating award-winning wines in the Naramata Bench since 2004. Tastings must be booked ahead of time and although the restaurant is closed, guests can pre-order ToGo charcuterie boxes when booking a tasting.
Style of wine or grape: Whites, rosé, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Signature wine: A Noble Blend, in an Alsatian style. “This wine was created out of respect for Old World traditions while learning how to make wine in our relatively young, new-world winemaking region,” explains Rachelle Goudreau, the winery’s direct-to-consumer sales manager.
What’s new: Four wines now come in 250 mL cans, including A Noble Blend, a rosé and Tiny Bubbles, a sparkling viognier/sauvignon blanc blend.
Personality: Farmhouse chic. Warm, welcoming, comfortable, classy and sophisticated.
(250) 496-0093; joiefarm.com
Openings, wine-tastings and dining accommodations for all wineries are in adherence to current pandemic restrictions. Call or email ahead to check. For more information on Wines of British Columbia, visit WineBC.com.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Wine Growers British Columbia. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.