British Columbia: My Vancouver Experience

Hello Friends,

For the last week I have been in Vancouver visiting family members as well as meeting up with other family members who traveled up from the East coast like me. Hey, we had to beat the heat – the humidity has been brutal, right? Vancouver certainly had a lot to offer during my visit - sunny & cool days, despite two days of showers, adventures and attractions, and some unforgettable dining experiences. Last, but not least, Vancouver offered a chance to explore British Columbia wines, which, outside of the sought after Canadian ice wines, I never see any other styles of BC wines on the store shelves. But let me be honest- I rarely seek out BC wines. However, since I was visiting Vancouver, I was going to drink local. And, that I did.

Let the BC Flights Begin!

My plan for everyone to sample the local offerings was almost derailed, however, by none other than my mother. I have mentioned in previous blog entries that mother and her hubby are devout Yellow Tail drinkers, and it was not until we visited the first wine shop and she extended her arm out to reach for the magnum sized Yellow Tail Shiraz bottle that her thoughts changed. Unbeknown to me at the time were British Columbia’s ultra high wine taxes. Imported beers, wines, and spirits cost nearly 90% more than what you would pay for it here in the states. Yikes! Therefore, the Yellow Tail magnum that they usually can find on sale for $10.99 was priced at $35.10 – so you can only imagine what some of your favorite wines would cost, right? Needless to say, this made it a little easier to convince everyone to say hello to BC wines. Indirectly, this brutal tax on imports seems beneficial to the local producers, in my opinion. Thus if you are shopping according to pocket preference, rather than palate, the competition wines already have a disadvantage (price).

Yellow Tail - A Whopping $35... Yikes!

I was already familiar with some of the producers on the east end of Canada in Ontario, but did not know much about the other important wine-producing region on the west end, British Columbia. British Columbia sort of parallels Virginia in respect to having a rich wine history dating back three centuries, then a long, very long pause, followed by a surge of new and enthused winemakers and growers (between 1980-1990), as well as less hybrid and native plantings and more European vinifera varieties. In addition, both areas see a steady flow of tourists, thus most wine sales take place right out of the tasting rooms and are rarely exported out of the state. The exception here is that Canada has found its niche in the competitive global wine market with both East and West (Northern areas) coast producers being blessed by consistent cold weather where some of the world’s best and sought after true ice wines are being made today.

Seven Days of Great Food & Wine (on a diet now!)

While you may look at Canada as the ice wine epicenter of the wine producing world (along with Germany), the Okanagan Valley, where 90% of the wines I tasted were produced, sits about 200 miles east of Vancouver and sees consistent dry and warm weather with an extended growing season, perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Gamay, etc., and in areas a bit cooler, even Pinot Noir. In addition, many white varieties are also grown including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, etc., and in the cooler areas, Riesling. The Okanagan Valley is one of four viticultural areas in British Columbia and is the largest (roughly 4,200 acres of vine plantings) and most important, producing well over 90% of the area’s wines. The locals seem to take great pride in the local juice, and much of what is produced in BC stays in BC. I was told that over 85% of the BC wines are consumed by the locals, which just may hint at why BC wines, with the exception of ice wines, are not well-known and hard to get hold of in the States.

The Whistler Mountaineer Train - Spectacular Views!!!

The seven days I spent in Vancouver was more to visit with family and friends and to celebrate my mother’s 15th year wedding anniversary. Sight-seeing, adventures and attractions were the top of the agenda, but wine sure did work its way into our daily activities. And why not, right? Wine is a social lubricant, the perfect accompaniment to meals, and the inspiration providing mirth and laughter – sometimes uncontrollable, so watch yourself, friends.

Happy Sipping, Friends - from the Grouse Mountain Gondola Ride

In closing, if you have a chance to visit or would like more information on BC wines, pay attention to Mission Hills, Jackson-Triggs (Okanagan), Fairview, Quails Gate, Summerhill, and Inniskillin (Okanagan) – just some of the producers I found to be consistent and good during my visit. I found Vancouver to be a beautiful destination, full of mountains, lakes, fine dining options, a number of wine bars, and nearby wineries. Good family / friends, Good food, Good wine – a recipe that never quits!

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