Top Wine Picks! Non-Mainstream West Coast Wonders

We do things a little differently here on the West Coast. I mean, really, we’re talking the home of Nardwuar The Human Serviette, a place with a No Pants SkyTrain Ride Day and just last week we had a former stuntman city councillor fulfill a campaign promise by setting himself on fire. Yep, we’re not afraid to shake things up a little here, or go against the grain. In that spirit, my top wine picks today are three British Columbian wines that step away from the status quo.

  1. Summerhill 2013 Ehrenfelser – Okanagan Valley, $19.95

The Ehrenfelser grape is a genetic cross between Riesling and Silvaner, developed in Germany to thrive in cool growing conditions. Outside of Germany we’re its biggest producer, but that’s only if you consider 80 acres and 0.77% of total vines planted ‘big.’ I love that we’re holding on to this heritage variety, it certainly works well with a lot of the Asian-influenced cuisine we tuck into here. Expect white flowers, lemon spritz, lavender, and other floral notes on the nose, leading to nougat, clover honey, and dried apricot on the palate. A hint off-dry to handle dishes with heat, but the acidity’s well-balanced, making it not the least bit cloying.

  1. Haywire 2013 Lunar New Year White – Okanagan Valley, $19.90

This limited release from Haywire (see my recent profile of them here) proudly presents itself as a perfect pairing for many Asian dishes, while the label and branding celebrates the welcoming of the Year of the Sheep. It’s not often you see western wines so clearly gearing themselves towards the local Chinese market, yet it’s a no-brainer when you think that a) those of Asian heritage comprise much of our population and b) this wine would totally kick ass with so many Asian dishes. A blend of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Viognier, there’s some aromatic musk and lychee notes on the nose, and then a wave of Asian pear, apple, roasted fennel, and Mandarin orange on the palate. It has a tingle of pink peppercorn right on the finish.

  1. Fort Berens 2013 Chardonnay – Lillooet, $20

What’s so off-the-beaten-path about a Chardonnay? Well, this fresh and cheery outing from Fort Berens isn’t from any of British Columbia’s designated viticultural areas – you won’t see the words ‘Okanagan’ or ‘Similkameen’ anywhere on its label. Nope, these grapes were grown in Lillooet, it is a town and stunning valley you’ll find yourself in if you drive from Vancouver to Whistler, and then keep going. While they’re the only winery in Lillooet at the moment, their similar climate to Oliver and mineral-rich soils tell us that Fort Berens just may be onto something special. This lively Chardonnay boasts tropical fruit, Granny Smith apple, and a clean, flinty minerality that keeps things crisp.


Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.

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