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Swirl Around BC

When there is a floor full of wines to try, and you don’t know where to start, but you know you can’t try them all, so you focus on the flagship bottle from each table. And in doing so, felt like a kid in the candy store, picking wines to try based on their labels.

This is Swirl Around BC, a one day only event hosted by Wine Growers BC for the launch of their #FallForBCWines campaign. A campaign that is important given the “many impactful climate setbacks for the industry”, helping to “highlighting the ongoing resiliency of the wineries and winemakers in our province, and to once again encourage British Columbians to consider buying local this fall and upcoming holiday season.” (As taken from the press release).

Hosted at the Sutton Place Hotel, last Monday, where industry and trades personnel were invited for a 3 hour, self-guided tasting tour. Here, we sampled the latest fall releases from participating brands, and were able to interact with the producers who crafted them from grape to glass. There was the opportunity to ask probing questions and invite candid conversation on the diverse terroir of BC’s 21 Geographical Indications.

Walking in I did not know what to expect and found myself puttering in a circle, overwhelmed by the options and where to start. This is considering the entirety of Sutton Place’s 2nd floor conference and ball rooms were dedicated to Swirl Around BC.

I ended up starting at the end, visiting the smaller rooms with less traffic, before ending at the grand hall. The vendor tables were arranged by alphabetical order, each showcasing 4-5 bottles and ready to pour from them all.

I do not exercise the use of a spit cup often, but given the occasion and my desire to “try it all” I had to take one sip to taste and swallow, before discarding the rest.

I decided to travel the room asking each representative what would be the best one to try, as an introduction to their label? And what is their winery known for? The following is what I had, any tasting notes I gathered, plus fun tidbits of the vineyard or winery themselves.

I started the afternoon at the Wesbert Winery booth with their 2021 Sparking white. Located at Naramata Bench their sweet wine is a good indication of the heat their grapes get. A great one to offer as a welcome glass at any occasion.

Vasanti Wines is a newer property with plans to fully open their tasting room in Oliver, BC come April of 2024. But before this opening they have already released 5 bottles. The one to try is their 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon rosé. This was juicy and bright with the body and flavour of an aged red, but breathable as a rosé.

Vanessa Vineyards is located in the Simikameen Valley. The valley itself helps to shape their wine between the wind displacing any pests and the rocks holding heat to keep the vines warm at night. The glass to have is their 2017 Meritage, which is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot; in that order.

Valley Commons harvest their grapes from farms in both Oliver and the Fraser Valley, hence the name. Their principal wine marker was once the assistant wine maker from the highly acclaimed Liquidity Winery. Valley Commons is his first opportunity at being the main winemaker. The 2021 Cabernet, Franc was the one to try, and classified as a bottle from the upper portion of their portfolio. Described as having notes of dark cherry, cassis, German Black Forest, spices, prune and sage. This was heavier and velvety, standing on its own well.

At the Tinhorn Creek table the one to try was their 2021 Cabernet Franc, allowed to age in French, American, and Bulgarian oak; giving even more juicy tannis that drank like a lighter red.

At Unsworth I had the 2021 Pinot Noir, the bottle was described as being “Where all the love goes”. Their winery is in the Cowinchan Valley where once the cooler island temperatures only allowed for the growth of hybrid grapes. However, due to global warming, we are now seeing the appearance of original grapes on vine.

Apparently Tightrope winery use to be known for their whites, but it has since transitioned more to reds. Nonetheless I tried their 2022 Riesling which was tart, tangy, and crisp with Granny Smith apple.

Three Sisters wine is actually owned and operated by three sisters. They are located in Naramata, where it meets Penticton. Today I had their 2021 Cabernet Franc which is classified as an easy drinking, every day table wine.

Spearhead Winery is located in East Kelowna and has earned the title of #1 small winery in Canada at the 2022 national wine awards. The 2021 Pinot Noir Cuvée is barrel selection from their estate. I found it tangy to start in the cheeks, which eventually mellows out nice on the palate.

At the Stag’s Hallow table I sipped on their 2021 Heritage Block. This is their flagship blend of Bordeaux and Merlot, described as the one that brings people to their winery. It had cherry pie on the nose with a balanced smooth finish.

Terravista is located at Naramata bench. They are a boutique winery that specializes in Spanish wines, producing about 1500 cases a year. They are one of only two wineries that offer Albariño wine, so I had to try their 2022 Albariño. It is dry fermented in stainless steel until bone dry, an aromatic wine that pairs well with food.

Oak Bay and St Hubertus are two labels produced at the same winery, both of which are certified organic with some of the oldest vines in BC. Said vines have originated from the late 70’s to 1978. St Hubertus is their wine that has not been aged in oak, whereas Oak Bay has. I would try the 2015 Oak Bay Riesling. It had an interesting chemical, Vaseline-like fragrance on the nose, which flows to the tongue, but does finish sweeter.

Stone Boat is located in Oliver. They are the first winery in BC to offer this style of Brut, made with tanks they imported from France. With it their Piano Brut has naturally captured bubbles, that stay fizzy in the glass. Thos has the taste of apple, stone fruit, and crisp dry pear.

Chronos is a winery I have actually visited in the Okanagan. Their non-vintage Brut recently won best sparkling wine in Canada.

Tantalus is from West Kelowna. They are known for their 2021 Riesling, that does fluctuate vintage to vintage. This was fresh and bright with baked apple notes that waters down to a warm pear.

The 2022 Lunessence sparkling Riesling Brut is from their estate collection. Made from 100% Summerland estate fruit, and is certified organic. Their sparkling is produced in the Charmat Method, whole cluster pressed and aged on lees. From it you get floral notes and the familiar acidity, typical of Riesling.

The Black Market label caught my eye with its “eye”. They are a smaller production with only 3000 cases a year. The name comes from their origins in Alberta, and not being able to freely move product province to province. They are now relocated to south of Penticton and have no issues. I would try there yet to be released MMXX (2022) Merlot. This is cited to come out later in the market, and what they were sampling today was just bottled. This was a full bodied, yet young wine.

Thank your for the festive lights

Another brand I am of familiar with is Joie. For those unfamiliar with their work, their 2022 A Noble Blend is the one to try as an introduction. It had notes of lemon, lime, and stone fruits; with just enough sweetness to it. This is a wine that is great with food.

Gold Hill is a family owned and operated winery that have been farming for 40 years with acres from Osoyoos to Kelowna. They released their very first wine in 2009. I would try their 2018 Cabernet Franc, this like all of their red wines, are aged for a minimum of 5 years. This one was herbaceous on the nose with peppery after notes, making it an ideal pairing with heavier meats.

Nostalgia Winery is another vineyard I am familiar with. I had their 2018 Meritage, which had more Cabernet Sauvignon that its predecessor, (the vintage I’ve tried before). The outcome was a wine with floral violet notes, softening the bouquet.

One Faith winery has been operating out of Oliver for over 10 years. They are present at the District Wine Village and famous for their reds. I sampled their 2021 Certitude, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This was a smokey year and it came through in the wine.

Moon Curser Vineyard is in Osoyoos. Their Syrah constitutes for half of their production, so I had to try their 2021 vintage available today. It was a very heavy red, juicy and velvety on the tongue with plum and cherry.

The 8th Generation Vineyard name speaks to the family behind its legacy. Originally from Germany they moved to Canada in 2003, and started 8th generation in 2007, specializing in sparkling wine. And today their 2022 Blanc de Noir was the one to try. This is a red wine variety made in a white wine style: free run juices with no skin contact and no color. You get the pepperiness you would expect from a red, but it is dry like a white.

Sadly, my Swirl Around BC wine journey ended here, but there were still so many tables left to taste from. In closing this was a great event, and fantastic way to discover more about local BC wines, right from the mouths of their producers themselves.

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