The prosperous wine industry in Canada concentrates on four provinces where, according to the OIV, more than 12,000 hectares of vineyards are cultivated. The provinces are British Columbia, Ontario and to a lesser extent, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
About 400Km away from Vancouver, the beautiful valley of Okanagan opens. There, a glass of a stunning Sparkling Wine, Pinnacle of Sumac Ridge, dazzled me from the first sip, on the night of my arrival.
In Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, one of the most Nordic wine regions in the world, located 400km from the west coast, European varieties are grown.
In the past, this geographical area was believed to have a very cold climate to grow V. Vinifera.
The growers located the vineyards mostly around large lakes that moderated the harsh effects of winter, the frosts of spring and helped to temper the hot summers.
The growing season here is short, warm and arid, making the input of irrigation systems essential. This is even more important because of low rainfall, and since normally the region only receives 10 to 12 inches of rain per year and that combined with the rapid urban growth of the area, creates a lot of competition for the availability of water.
Given these climatic demands, the grapes are cultivated near large masses of water that temperate the severe effects of winter and reduce the risk of damage in the vineyards by frost.
The first vines planted in the valley were V. Labrusca.
In the decade of the 60s, new growers cultivated American and French hybrids, which are more resistant to hard winters, because the locals were against growing V. Vinifera due to the low temperatures during the Canadian Winter.
The search to make better wines, led wineries to start trials with V. Vinifera. Nowadays around 60 varieties are grown in the area.
Touring the Valley
The wineries and cities of Okanagan are divided into a series of groups throughout the valley. Osoyoos, which is near the US border has one of the hottest climates and is home to several wineries.
The area is characterized by a small desert of 100 hectares, where the temperatures, during the summer are 30°C but they can reach up to 40°C.
The landscape is very arid, however, changes start where the desert becomes a lake. And it is on this small green bench where the wine growers cultivate their grapes between the desert and the lake, to give rise to some of the best red wines of the country.
North of Osoyoos, crossing through the village of Oliver and then Penticton village, another attractive destination surprises wine lovers, the Naramata region with beautiful views of Okanagan Lake. With a notoriously cooler climate, viticulturists and winemakers in the area have worked hard over the years to overcome the challenges of winter.
Other wine areas are located around the lake to the north. Crossing into the city of Kelowna, capital of the region, the route takes us towards the southeast, where you can see the vineyards on the sloping hillsides next to the water.
With the quality and reputation of the wines of the region on the rise, tourism has also expanded in this area, which can be seen notoriously through the wide range of menus focused on wine, offered by hotels and restaurants.
The best time to visit the valley is from spring to mid-autumn when most of the wineries and tours are open.
My favorites from Okanagan Valley:
- Sumac Ridge, Pinnacle Sparkling Rosé
- CedarCreek, Platinum Merlot 2014
- Quails´Gate, Clone 828 Pinot Noir 2014
- Poplar Grove, CSM 2013
- Lake Breeze, Pinot Blanc 2016
- RedRooster, Riesling 2016