Every time I head out wine touring in the Okanagan Valley it seems like there is a new winery I haven’t come across before. And it’s true; with nearly 300 wineries across the province now, there are numerous new openings every year. Some are laying brand new roots, with passionate folks (many from out of province), living out the dream of winemaking in paradise. Some new operations are from long-time growers who have been selling their grapes to other wineries in the past, and who are now ready to strike out with their own project. There are a few new “garagiste” vintners as well – winemakers who are leasing land and/or buying grapes to create a label and fulfill their vision virtually, often through borrowed or shared winemaking facilities. All have their own story, and all contribute to the healthy $3B wine industry annually in BC.
Here are a few of the newer BC wine stories you should keep an eye for.
The Hatch, West Kelowna
Though The Hatch has been open since spring 2015, it really leapt to the fore last summer, nearly as much for its quirky and amusing labels as for the interesting, detailed and fresh wines. Varying tiers hint at different aims (the Hobo Series, Clone Series and Black Swift Vineyard series are all different tiers within their portfolio, the latter being their most premium and expensive), while the names, like “Rhymes with Door Hinge” (a blend of Kerner, Schönburger, Chardonnay) keeps things as interesting as the wines.
Daydreamer Wines, Naramata Bench
One of Canada’s few Masters of Wine, Marcus Ansems is the founder of this tiny family project. An Aussie by birth, Ansems grew up in the industry, where his family were part owners of Shiraz producer Mount Langi Ghiran. The grape must be in his blood, as his small portfolio includes Shiraz, Syrah and a Sparkling Shiraz, amongst others. Worth seeking out.
Little Engine Wines, Naramata Bench
Steven and Nicole French decided to leave Alberta’s energy business behind to become winemakers. Their property is on the Naramata Bench, though they source grapes from other sites, including the Similkameen Valley, while their vineyards are coming into full production. Their two tiers of wines, Silver and Gold, are both premium and intense, with the focus on longevity. Keep an eye for their Sauvignon Blanc, a grape that can struggle in BC, but not in these hands.
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards, Peachland
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards might be a new label, but the family – and the site – have long been legendary for the Okanagan wine industry. The Fitzpatrick family founded CedarCreek Estate Winery, which they sold a couple of years back. They held onto their stunning 40-acre lakeside estate, located between Summerland and Peachland, and are focusing on an impressive traditional sparkling wine program, under the watchful eye of talented Kiwi winemaker Sarah Bain, previously of Burn Cottage and Quartz Reef.
Bordertown Vineyards, Osoyoos
The Gill family have been growing for other wineries for more than 20 years in Osoyoos, until they realized their dream to open their own winery in 2015. Nestled in the deserts of Osoyoos, these are sun-rich, full-bodied and premium estate wines across 14 different grapes. Watch for their Living Desert Red, a deep blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Treve Ring is a wine writer and editor for regional, national and international print and digital publications, as well as an in-demand wine judge and speaker.