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Clos du Soleil is a small artisan winery and estate vineyard on the Upper Bench of the South Similkameen Valley, in British Columbia.Handout

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Although 2021 is ending much like last year did, with travel advisories and gathering restrictions because of the continuing pandemic, I’m certain the opportunity to travel will return and wine country will beckon. These three spots rank highest on the list that I’m excited to explore in 2022.

Jordan, Ont.

Jordan Village continues to be a lure for visitors to Niagara, with its assortment of boutiques, artisan shops and food and wine vendors, including Cave Spring Winery, which grows its grapes in estate vineyards owned nearby in Beamsville. One of the original producers to make a name for wines made from noble vinifera grapes, such as chardonnay, riesling and cabernet franc, Cave Spring has been joined by a roster of quality-minded estates, including Creekside, Flat Rock Cellars, Honsberger, Pearl Morissette and Westcott that call Jordan home. Within a short drive, visitors can experience wineries with different personalities and price points, from tasting in the kitchen of winemaker Sue-Ann Staff’s home on a property that’s been in her family for 200 years to the refined dining experience on offer at the Restaurant Pearl Morissette. Some of the country’s finest wines are grown here, ranging from crisp traditional method sparkling wines to savoury and stylish cabernet francs.

Similkameen Valley, B.C.

Talk about wines from British Columbia will always center on the Okanagan Valley, which is home to the largest number of vineyards and wineries, but the exciting evolution of the Similkameen Valley is attracting attention. Already home to largest plantings of organic fruits and vegetables in the county, this narrow corridor has blossomed into a small but serious wine region that ranks as the province’s second-largest producer. There are 15 wineries and 45 vineyards spread across 633 acres, which represents roughly 6 per cent of British Columbia’s vineyards. The scenic rolling countryside is populated with small farms, orchards and artisan studios that offer a more down to earth vibe than the Okanagan. Parallels could be drawn to the casual charm of Sonoma versus the affluence of Napa. Clos du Soleil, Corcelettes, Orofino, Seven Stones and Vanessa Vineyard are leading producers to reserve appointments with.

Saint-Émilion, France

One of the largest wine producing regions in Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion offers the best wine country experience in southwestern France. The picturesque town was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO with charming if treacherous narrow, cobblestone streets that connect its upper and lower parts. Beyond the Monolithic Cathedral, cafés and shops, the drawing card is the region’s fragrant and age-worthy red wines produced by more than 800 different estates. (Any dry white wine produced here can only be labelled as Bordeaux Blanc.) Just outside of the old town on the main road to Libourne, winemaker Jean-Philippe Janoueix established Château La Confession in 2001, which has a Canadian connection through part-owner John Howard, who owns Megalomaniac in Vineland. Many of the region’s most illustrious properties are only open to trade professionals, but there’s been a growing move to welcome visitors. Château Coutet, Château Soutard and Château Villemaurine are among the estates that offer organized tours daily.

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