Wines of British Columbia recently showcased the fall releases of more than 350 B.C. wines, poured by 90 wineries at the Vancouver Convention Center at an event called “Colour.” Only VQA wines were sampled — the Vintners Quality Alliance standard was created in 1990 to guarantee consumers they were drinking wine made from 100% B.C.-grown grapes. In 1990, B.C. was home to 17 wineries; today there are 275.
Soon after VQA came into play, Margot, who was born and raised in Vancouver, moved to the United States. So this B.C. Colour tasting was particularly meaningful and eye-opening. We discovered some delightful new finds, which we intend to purchase in the future. We enjoyed some palate-pleasing Cabernet Franc, red blends and Pinot Noir, in addition to crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé and Pinot Grigio.
Of the wines we tasted at Colour, here are our top 15 wineries (in alphabetical order).
1st Row Estate Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc
A true-to-character fine Cab Franc from the Okanagan Valley, this was one of the first wines we tasted and loved immediately. 1st Row has a tasting room in Surrey that is currently closed for renovations. Once it opens again, we plan to visit, since we live about 20 minutes away, just a few miles south of the border.
Backyard Vineyards 2015 Nosey Neighbour Red
What a fun name, label and approachable wine! This is a lovely blend of Merlot (39%), Cabernet Franc (33%), and Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (14% each). Bring out the juicy burgers to pair with this bright, rich wine. We were pleased to discover that Backyard Vineyards’ tasting room is in Langley, so we hope to stop by there as well.
Black Sage Vineyard 2015 Cabernet Franc
Based in Summerland, Black Sage is known for its robust reds. This is 96% Cab Franc topped off with 4% Merlot — you’ll find aromas and flavors of cherries, strawberries, earth, tea leaves, vanilla and red fruits. This is a medium-bodied red, which will pair well with roasted or grilled meats, pork, ribs or tomato-based pasta dishes.
CedarCreek Estate 2014 Platinum Desert Ridge Merlot
Located 20 minutes from downtown Kelowna, CedarCreek sources its red grapes from their estate vineyards in Osoyoos. This is 100% Merlot, brimming with notes of blackberries and violets, with some minerality. We were not surprised to hear that this Merlot won a Gold Medal at the 2017 B.C. Wine Awards.
Culmina Family Estate Winery 2013 Hypothesis
This is a very popular wine in Canada, generating accolades from critics and the media. This new vintage — a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc — won praise for its elegance, refinement, power and sophistication. We loved it too. Culmina’s tasting room is located south of Oliver.
Dirty Laundry Vineyard 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
This is our idea of a perfect Sauvignon Blanc — crisp and refreshing, with aromas and flavors of grapefruit and other citrus, white peach and lemongrass. We will definitely buy some to sip on our lakeside deck next summer but until then, it will pair well with salmon, scallops and other seafood dishes. Dirty Laundry’s tasting room is in Summerland.
Giant Head Estate Winery 2015 Pinot Noir & 2016 Rosé
Also located in Summerland, Giant Head makes one of the best Pinot Noirs we’ve tasted. The 100% estate-grown Pinot Noir displays classic flavors typical of the variety. I wish we had this beauty to pair with turkey when we celebrated Canada’s Thanksgiving, but luckily the U.S. Thanksgiving offers another opportunity. We also enjoyed this winery’s Merlot rosé. It makes a perfect summer sipper, but will also pair well with spicy foods anytime.
Gold Hill Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc
Next time you drive along the Golden Mile fruit belt between Osoyoos and Oliver, check out Gold Hill Winery. They offer many award-winning wines, and we particularly appreciated their beautiful Cabernet Franc. It features a medley of aromatics and flavors such as cocoa, spices, licorice, herbs and some minerality.
Hester Creek 2013 Block 3 Reserve Cabernet Franc and 2014 Limited Edition The Judge
Two captivating reds from well-known Hester Creek in Oliver captured our attention at Colour. The Judge blends Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, while the Cab Franc is sourced from Block 3, some of the oldest vines on the estate. Both wines are full, rich and intense – we loved them.
Laughing Stock Vineyards 2015 Blind Trust Red
This big and bold Bordeaux-style blend is definitely not a laughing matter. We love the Penticton winery’s description of it: “A blind trust is a financial trust in which the executors have full discretion over the assets, and the trust beneficiaries have no knowledge of the holdings of the trust. In this case, our Blind Trust is a wine in which the winemaker has full discretion over the blend, so you’ll just have to trust us.”
Noble Ridge 2015 Meritage Reserve & 2015 Pinot Grigio
This robust, beautiful Meritage was one of our favorite wines at the Color tasting. The big red wine blends Merlot (81%) with Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and 2% each of Malbec and Cab Franc. The Pinot Grigio is a pretty white wine with flavors of orange blossom, pears and honeysuckle. Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery is in the Okanagan Valley at the northern- most tip of the only desert in Canada.
Painted Rock Estate Winery 2015 Red Icon
Overlooking Skaha Lake in the Okanagan Valley, Painted Rock poured several good wines at Colour, but our favorite was Red Icon — a blend of Merlot (45%), Cabernet Franc (24%), Malbec (11%), Petit Verdot (11%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (9%). Not surprisingly the result is bold and juicy, bursting with flavors of dark fruit, pepper, spices, vanilla and chocolate.
Quails’ Gate 2015 Old Vines Foch
Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch was the first B.C. wine that Margot introduced to Dave 20 years ago, so it has a special place in our hearts. We love this wine; this vintage is luscious and lovely, with notes of dark fruit, cranberry, smoked meat, spice and coffee. We can’t wait to try 2015 Old Vines Foch Reserve. Located in Kelowna, Quails’ Gate is one of Canada’s foremost family-owned estate wineries.
Therapy Vineyards 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
Don’t let the lighthearted designs and labels on Therapy’s bottles distract you from some seriously good wine. The Sauvingon Blanc is crisp and refreshing, based on the New Zealand style of the variety. Green, grassy notes highlighted with citrus aromas and flavors, this wine will be perfect therapy as a summer sipper, or during dark winter days when you are looking forward to next spring. You’ll find Therapy overlooking Okanagan Lake. Double entendre intended.
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2014 The Creek
Last but definitely not least, our old friend, Tinhorn Creek recently released a new flagship wine that we were delighted to taste at Colour. The Creek blends Cabernet Sauvignon (53%) with Merlot (19%), Cab Franc (17%), Malbec (9%) and Petit Verdot (2%). This is an elegant, luxe wine, which Tinhorn Creek describes as a toast to 23 years of experience in farming and winemaking on the southern Okanagan Valley.
We’d also like to give a shoutout to Daniel Le Chocolat Belge for beyond-delicious chocolate to sweeten the Colour event. Wow, these were scrumptious!
We plan to continue our B.C. wine experience in the weeks and months ahead.
Margot and Dave