British Columbia Wines

Earlier this summer I visited British Columbia. What an incredible city Vancouver is! The food, the urban design, the water...just a fascinating place. Given its proximity to the Okanagan Valley, BC's flagship wine growing region, I made it a point to drink "local." 

"Local" is in quotes because the Okanagan is nearly 400km from downtown Vancouver. The scale of this part of the world is larger than what we're accustomed to in the lower 48. For example, a couple of people have asked if I managed to pop over to Banff while there, which is actually a 10 hour drive each way.

I wasn't sure how difficult it would be to only drink local wines, but any doubts evaporated the moment I walked into Liberty Wine Merchants on Granville Island. The selection of BC wines was extensive, covering many varieties and price points. Here I learned how common organic and biodynamic farming is in the Okanagan, not to mention the fearlessness with which winemakers bottle oddball blends and unusual grapes. Picking up an organic gamay/pinot noir was the perfect introduction to the wines of the area, but an exploration of a region confined to precious examples would be hopelessly incomplete, so I made it a point to make sure all future purchases played the field, so to speak.

Thanks to an extended stay with most meals at our AirBnB's and a nightly excursion for a preprandial glass, we were able to enjoy a huge diversity of wines: cabernet franc, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, cab-shiraz blends, and so on. But the variety of wines also extended to the size of producers, where we samples from boutique, mass-market, and everything in between. Some of these are in photos below. 

I'd make specific recommendations if there was any hope of finding them in the US, but my research has turned up precious little, and outreach to all of the winegrowing/winemaking associations in British Columbia have either gone unanswered or halfheartedly responded to. In fairness, they probably have had their hands full with wild fires that hit the area after our visit.

Regardless, the headline here is that the wines are better than average across the board and, importantly, fairly priced. We drank wines ranging from USD$12-30, and there was only one stinker in the whole bunch. Most were interesting, competently made, and tasty. Others were very memorable, downright brilliant wines. If only we could put our hands on them here in the US... To make matters even more frustrating, Canadian provinces all handle wine differently and, unsurprisingly, favor local production. Most wine sales in Quebec are at state-owned retail shops, where BC wines are in short supply. And I don't think I saw a single wine from Ontario or Quebec while in Vancouver.

So, what's the takeaway for US consumers here? Drink local whenever practical - you never know what you'll find.