My husband and I recently had the pleasure of wine tasting on Vancouver Island. I'm a born and raised Californian, but it was refreshing to visit our Canadian neighbors up north and see the Autumn glory.
The leaves were burgundy, cherry, rust red, and golden, lemon yellow. The snow caped mountains, lakes, and bays were soothing after the difficulty of the Californian fires. In the middle of all the beauty are vineyards and wineries tucked in the greater Victoria area.
Here, at home in California, our temperate weather offers a longer growing season, and grapes may have more hang time on the vine before being picked. But in British Columbia, though the weather may be similar to pockets of California, they have a shorter growing season, and many wineries had finished their harvests. Most tasting rooms are open seasonally, during late Spring and Summer, but we found a couple still open to try.
Church & State Wines grow Pinot Gris on site, and sources grapes from their 150 acres in the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan is in central British Columbia, north of Washington, and just a bit east of Vancouver.
We had a leisurely chat with the staff and found out that in Canada, Ice Wine (wine made from harvested frozen grapes) is regulated by the government. A winery needs to call a regulator and announce their proposed harvest date. They call again the night of the harvest. A government staff then comes to the vineyard the night of the harvest to check the quality, control, and temperature of the grapes as well as the weather for the finish wine to truly be called an Ice Wine.
The Okanagan Valley weather and soil makes it the 'Napa/Sonoma Valley' of Canada. The valley is long and narrow with a variety of micro climates. This allows different varieties of grapes to grow, ie. Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay, and even Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you end up at Church & State, try the 2016 Lost Inhibitions and the 2013 Quintessential Meritage blend side by side. Both contains the same grape varietals, but one is a casual wine, the other is their premium wine.
Their 2014 Syrah is classic blackberry and pepper on the palate, and twice won best red in Canada.
I was surprised by how many varietals of wine Canada can grow and produce similar to California. Since their climate leans towards the cooler side, overall the wines we tasted were dryer and more fruit forward with herb, and spice.
Wine tasting away from home offers me a chance to chat with the locals of that region and hear more of the story behind their craft.
Best to you on your Canadian wine jaunt!
Join me at California Wine