The SOMM Journal

October / November 2015

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Page 126 of 132

126 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2015 { letter from london } designated viticultural areas (DVA): Okanagan Valley (84%), Siimilkameen Valley (6%), Vancouver Island (4%), Fraser Valley (2%) and Gulf Islands (1%) while the final 3% are classified as Emerging Regions. British Columbia's Vintner's Quality Alliance (B.C. VQA) was founded in 1990 with just 17 winery members and on their 25th anniversary this number had risen to 248. The main white grape varieties are Pinot Gris 22%, Chardonnay 20%, Gewürztraminer 15%, Riesling 10%, Sauvignon Blanc 8%, Pinot Blanc 5% and Viognier 4%. For reds Merlot leads with 30%, ahead of Pinot Noir 21%, Cabernet Sauvignon 14%, Cabernet Franc 10%, Syrah 10%, Gamay 3% and up and coming Malbec 1.9% and Petit Verdot 1.2%. Warmer and more arid than Napa Valley, the Okanagan Valley gets nearly two hours more sunlight per day than Napa during the peak of the July and August growing season—the vintage had already started in during my visit—with great temperature differences between day and night to retain freshness. For me, the overall style of B.C. wines is Old rather than New World. Straight off my mid-morning arrival at Vancouver Airport I was met by DJ Kearney and whisked away to meet Anthony von Mandl for the one hour flight to the Okanagan Valley. The dashingly elegant von Mandl is the owner of two landmark wineries—CedarCreek and Mission Hill—and the smaller Martin's Lane and Checkmate, which specialises in Chardonnay. He has been described as "the Mondavi of the Okanagan," but this is an understatement, for he has a formidable aesthetic vision as well as a vinous one. And while the Spanish Mission elements of Robert Mondavi's Napa Winery are present at the Mission Hill Family Estate's architecture designed by Seattle-based Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig, von Mandl has Six full days in British Columbia at the end of August saw me visiting dozens of vineyards, tasting hundreds of wines, all organised with enthusiastic preci- sion by Maggie Anderson, Marketing Director of the B.C. Wine Institute, and DJ Kearney, Vancouver's well- known wine writer and consultant and expert taster. While some European, even New World countries might well have a much longer history and grander wines, I have seldom encoun- tered such beautiful scenery, such pas- sionate viticulturalists and winemakers and tasted wines of such encouraging quality. For me, wine is the three Ps: the place, the people and the prod- uct. British Columbia ticks all three boxes with exuberance, elegance and conviction. To fully record my trip would take many more pages than I have here, so what follows is the best visits and the best wines over two days at the start, but first a few facts. A survey in August 2014 showed that there were 10,260 acres of wine grapes in B.C., 51% red, 49% white, 97% Vinifera, 3% hybrid. The region is divided into five The Best of British Columbia by Steven Spurrier The stunning Mission Hill Winery in the Okanagan Valley.

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