Cheers! A toast to nine robust BC secrets
Photos and story by: Tourism BC
While British Columbia is fast becoming known for its emerging wine regions: the Okanagan Valley, Vancouver Island and Vancouver's Lower Mainland - only oenophile insiders know that many BC wineries have a secret weapon - they operate fabulous restaurants and bistros that highlight their wines, paired to perfection with regional foods.
1) Cherry Point Vineyards: Cowichan Valley. Classified wining and dining
While wine experts already seek out Vancouver Island’s second-largest vineyard for its prize 2005 Forté and 2006 Gewurztraminer, those truly in the know reserve a place at the vineyard’s exclusive Winemaker’s Dinners. Sit down to a four-hour gourmet extravaganza to sample Cherry Point’s newest releases and renowned library wines alongside exquisite regional fare. Summer dinner dates: July 28 or August 25.
2) Merridale Estate Cidery: Cobble Hill. Cider confidential
Cider devotees have long coveted Merridale’s eight unique varieties of handcrafted, unpasteurized ciders. And true disciples journey to the estate to sample these ciders at la Pommeraie, Merridale’s onsite bistro where these elixirs are paired with the fresh, seasonal, outstanding cuisine, such as smoked Salt Spring Island tuna, Fairburn Farms water buffalo mozzarella, homemade breads, local smoked salmon and more.
3) Godfrey-Brownell Vineyards: Duncan. Hush-hush blackberry salute
The secret is out: just an hour north of Victoria is an ode to pure, sparkling joy─ wild blackberry champagne. The next release of this well-aged, bottle-fermented sparkling wine is Fall 2007, so time your visit accordingly to this 28 acre vineyard. Be sure to take a tour before toasting this divine bubbly.
4) Artisan Sake Maker Studio: Granville Island, Vancouver. Asian mystique
Vancouver’s Asian cuisine has few North American rivals, so it’s no surprise that the city is home to Canada’s first sake winery. This unique brew is fermented from top-of-the-line Japanese sakamai (rice), then hand-pressed and hand-bottled. The result─liquid gold. Disciples prefer Junmai Nama Nigori─its rustic, cloudy characteristics make it the ideal complement to spicy Asian dishes.
5) The Fort Wine Company: Fort Langley. Berry passion
This winery has been showered with accolades at major wine competitions for the superb quality and innovative flavours of its pure fruit wines. Berry elixir aficionados know to choose the Raspberry Portage fortified wine, which won a Gold Medal and was Best Fortified Wine in Show at the 2003 Northwest Wine Summit.
6) Araxi Restaurant: Whistler. Secret bar talk
It’s no secret that Araxi was voted number one for Whistler dining by Vancouver magazine for an unprecedented eight consecutive years and currently holds Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence. But regulars are often hush-hush about the coveted bar, which offers a full menu and wine list─now over 11,000 bottles and widely regarded as one of the best in the province. The wine list is updated daily and many wines are offered by the glass.
7) Black Sage Road: between Oliver and Osoyoos. Sample cycling
Most wine lovers have heard of the Okanagan Valley─aka Napa of the North. But what they may not know is that an ideal way to tour the valley’s southern wineries is by bicycle. Black Sage Road provides access to 14 wineries within a 20 km (12-mi) radius and offers spectacular views across the valley. Cyclists can also bike along the 18.4-km (11.4-mi) International Bicycling and Hiking Trail, which meanders from McAlpine Bridge (a 30-minute drive south of Penticton) to Osoyoos Lake, hugging the winding—and charming—Okanagan River all the way.
8) Okanagan Spirits: Vernon. Spirited surprise
Think Okanagan Valley, think wine. The secret here is spirits, and it’s a heady one: 24 varieties of fruit brandy, grappa and specialty spirits. Initiates know how potent they are: the distillery brought home nine medals from the World-Spirits Award & Festival 2007, including gold for the 2005 Grappa Pinot Noir. Other classified standouts: the soon-to-be-released ‘Taboo’ Absinthe and ‘Old Italian Prune’ Eaux de Vie.
9) Rollingdale Winery: Kelowna: Icy discoveries
It’s true that this small winery crafts superb wines from almost entirely certified organic grapes. But those in the know focus on the ice wines, which are legendary. Of particular note is the Rollingdale Sweet Tooth Series 2004 Pinot Blanc Icewine, which boasts heady pear, apricot, apple and marzipan aromas—it’s rich, sweet and intense all at once.
To discover more robust insider secrets about wine in BC, visit our Wineries and Vineyards and Wine Touring pages at Tourism British Columbia
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