Top Wine Picks! Looking Beyond The Okanagan Valley

Yesterday was a big day for 11 BC wineries — the Golden Mile Bench was officially announced as an approved sub-geographical indicator for the area of the Okanagan Valley in which they are located.

This means that instead of simply saying their wines are from the Okanagan Valley, wines that contain 95 per cent grapes grown on the bench (an eastward-facing ridge located southwest of Oliver) can designate them as being from the Golden Mile Bench. (They can also still make wine with the more general Okanagan Valley designation if they please.)

Congrats to My Wine Canada partner winery Road 13, one of the 11 wineries located on the Golden Mile Bench. I guess it really is all about the dirt.

In what can only be described as a slightly tangentially related note, here are three distinct wines from BC regions outside of the Okanagan Valley entirely. Hey, I wanted to get a Golden Mile mention in there… mission accomplished.

1) Fort Berens 2012 Cabernet Franc (Lillooet) 

Located along the Fraser River, Fort Berens Estate Winery is making great strides in reflecting quality and place of origin — in fact, they recently announced their entire spring 2015 release of wines will be made entirely from estate-grown Lillooet fruit for the first time. The 2012 Cabernet Franc melds 70 per cent estate fruit with 30 per cent grapes from the Black Sage Bench. There’s plenty of deep black fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant and plum) to this Cabernet Franc, as well as secondary herbal notes that reflect the heart and soul of the grape.

2) Eau Vivre 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Similkameen Valley)

Eau Vivre is located in Cawston in the Similkameen Valley, a burgeoning wine-producing region located about 45 minutes southwest of Penticton. The debut vintage of Sauvignon Blanc brings bright crunchy apple notes as well as balanced citrus and mineral components. There’s unending freshness to this thanks to eschewing aging in oak barrels. As the mercury rises you’ll want something fresh like this wine around.

3) Unsworth Vineyards 2013 Pinot Gris (Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island)

Made from 100 per cent island-grown grapes, this Vancouver Island white offers some attractive tropical notes on the nose, as well as crisp peach and juicy citrus. It’s dry, but manages to balance ripe fruit, chalky mineral notes and a thread of lively acidity from beginning to end.


Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.

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