British Columbia is Canada's westernmost province, bounded by the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Much like its wine-growing neighbours to the south, Washington State and Oregon, BC's climate is heavily influenced by coastal and inland mountain ranges that run north-south. Moist, moderate conditions prevail near the coast, while the interior has an arid, continental climate with hot summers and cold winters.
One of these interior regions, the Okanagan Valley, gave grape growing its start in the late 19th century and continues to be the main focus of BC's wine industry. Father Pandosy, a missionary who settled by Okanagan Lake in the 1860s near what is now Kelowna, planted grapes there for eating and to make sacramental wine. This early effort would be the only grape growing of note for quite a long time, however. Not until 1926 was the first commercial vineyard established by J. W. Hughes, also near Kelowna. After that, grape acreage grew slowly until a serious interest in quality wine-grapes appeared around 1970.
The establishment in 1978 of BC's first "estate winery" (a winery growing its own grapes), helped trigger an industry-wide effort to plant high quality grape varieties (Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, among others) and to bring the region's winemaking up to international standards. German grape growing expert Helmut Becker also had a large influence on this phase of the industry's development.
Since then, a number of milestones have passed including the establishment of the BC Wine Institute in 1990 and the adoption of the Vintner's Quality Alliance (VQA) set of rules governing designated viticultural areas and wine production and labelling standards shortly thereafter. The number of wineries has ballooned from a dozen in 1983 to over 50 in 1999. Most importantly, the quality of the wines has reached a level where BC's best offerings have been winning top international acclaim for a number of years.
The strength of the BC wine portfolio has so far been in its whites. Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon and less well known German varietals like Ehrenfelser and Kerner are among them. Recently, though, releases of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc from the Okanagan Valley have proven that BC is capable of producing high quality reds as well.
The most well known of British Columbia's dessert wines is probably the Icewine (made from grapes that are frozen when picked). Walter Hainle made British Columbia's (and Canada's) first Icewine in 1978, but it was not until the early 1990s that a number of other producers jumped into the game and made it a main feature of this wine industry. Other dessert wines include Late Harvests and Select Late Harvests.
Champagne style sparkling wines are also important to this region. As a cool climate grape growing area, BC is ideally suited to producing the fresh, crisp white wines that are the starting point for high quality bottle fermented sparkling wine.
Not surprisingly, the most loyal following for British Columbia vintages has been at home. The wine industry is very much smaller than areas like California, Australia or even Ontario and not much product can be found outside of western Canada. Nevertheless, export markets have developed, most notably in the UK and in the Far East.
British Columbia grape acreage is expanding, consumer acceptance and demand are climbing and the level of quality is keeping pace. Wineries are struggling to keep up with the demands of the global marketplace. Agri-tourism is playing an ever increasing role as travel to BC Wine Country becomes more popular. The number of small wineries is likely to keep growing rapidly over the next few years and so will competition in the quality wine sector.
created 1999-11-16, last modified 2003-02-26
Comox Valley grape winery that produces Vancouver Island wines and offers tours, hosts picnics, weddings and live music events, and has a gift shop and tasting room onsite.
Directory to the wineries of British Columbia including virtual tours, maps and photos.
Young operation near Oliver producing a Bordeaux-style blend and a dessert wine. Product and order information.
Okanagan Falls winery, named after a local historic church that was dynamited, provides product, vineyard and purchasing information.
A family-run winery located in the southern Okanagan Valley, producing estate-grown Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and sparkling wines, among others. Notes on geography and location.
Southern Okanagan Valley producer offers photos and information about vineyard and wines, including tasting notes, ordering information, and restaurant info.
Located in Kelowna. Detailed information on this large producer's premium table wines and dessert wines. Includes photo gallery, history, and awards won.
Located just south of Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. Offers tour and product information, a picture gallery and a wine club.
Located in the Fraser Valley community of Langley, close to Vancouver, BC. Making wine from local and other BC grapes. Gift shop and bistro information, and virtual tour.
Located in Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island. Pictures, tasting, tour and event information, and bed and breakfast accommodation.
Located close to downtown Victoria on Vancouver Island, producing red, white, and sparkling wines. Contains product descriptions and online ordering.
The first commercial winery in the Kootenay region, producing red, white, and blush wines. Includes product information, a photo gallery, and a company overview.
The Heinecke family runs this winery near Cawston in the Similkameen valley. With pictures, a brief history and a product list.
Located on Black Sage Road in Oliver. Offers tour information, wine list, news and events.
Produces vegan red, white, and sparkling wines, as well as icewine, in Armstrong. Includes product descriptions.
All-fruit winery located in Naramata. Product list and brief description.
Produces a range of reds and whites in Tappen. Includes online ordering and a profile of the property.
Located in a vineyard setting north of Kelowna; one of the oldest estate wineries in BC. Events calendar, awards list, and ordering information.
Produces red, white, and dessert wines, including icewine. Offers tasting notes and ordering, along with information about organic grape growing and winemaking. Located in Peachland in the Okanagan Valley.
Small Similkameen Valley winery offers newsletter archives, photos, wine descriptions, and information about the area.
Winery news as well as detailed product and order information. Located near Oliver in the southern Okanagan Valley.
Located in Penticton, BC. Product and event information, and photo gallery.
Located in Penticton, on the Naramata Bench. Offers information on the winemaker, awards, reviews, events, and ordering options.
A farm winery located at the northern end of the Okanagan growing region. News and event information, as well as an order form.
A farm winery located on Kelowna's Westside. Includes a product list, ordering information, and company history.
Located in the beautiful Shuswap Valley near Salmon Arm, BC. Wine list includes entwined (white blend), gewurtzraminer, reisling, rose, pulcinella (zwiegelt), merlot and pinot noir.
Large producer of a wide range of wines in Westbank, near Kelowna. Offers a virtual tour of the new visitor facility overlooking Okanagan Lake. Also winery history, product list, and news.
Produces a range of reds and whites, as well as icewine in Kelowna. Featuring winery profile, pictures, product list, and online ordering.
Small winery in Naramata. Wines list, order form and wine locator, photo album and recipes.
Small winery in the Okanagan Falls area presents a newsletter, its product portfolio, and online ordering.
Located near Naramata in the Okanagan Valley, this large vineyard produces only icewines. Product facts and tasting hints, and order information.
Small operation making estate-grown Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Gris, in Penticton.
Winery run by the Stewart family, south of Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. Wine list, bistro lunch menu, and visitor information.
Located in Tappen, near Salmon Arm. Photo gallery and wineshop information.
A small family-run winery in Naramata, near Penticton, presents table, sparkling and dessert wines, order information and the story about the namesake rooster.
Oliver winery offers vineyard description, owner information, details on where to buy, image gallery.
Single vineyard and small lot wines from the south Okanagan, part of Calona Vineyards. Information on grape varieties and winemaking techniques, as well as online ordering.
A new winery on one of the Gulf Islands, near Victoria. Also features a restaurant and lodging facilities as well as information about the vineyard site.
Situated west of Okanagan Falls. Site offers photo album, winery history, winemaking information and wine list.
Family-run winery south of Kelowna on Okanagan Lake offers product information, newsletter, and an events calendar.
Family-operated estate winery in Oliver, producing red, white, rosé, and dessert wines. Includes information about the products, vineyards, and company.
One of the oldest estate wineries in BC, located in Summerland. Food and wine matching, virtual tour and awards list.
Kelowna winery overlooking Okanagan Lake. Specializing in pyramid-aged sparkling, table and dessert wines. Photo gallery, bistro menu and tour information.
Okanagan Valley producer of Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Icewine in Kelowna. Includes product descriptions, online ordering, and information about the company.
Presenting a virtual tour of the vineyard, wineshop and winery in Summerland, as well as current release information.
Near Oliver in the southern Okanagan Valley. Winery tour, current product list, background information and events listings.
Product offerings, reviews and newsletter from this small operation in Langley, close to Vancouver.
Wine information including tasting advice and stories. Also has resources to help other wine clubs find success.
Vancouver Island producers of limited release wines, as well as balsamic vinegar. News and events, recipes and product information available. Located in Cobble Hill.
Family-run farm winery in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. Winery restaurant menu, special event and product listings.
Turn-of-the-century heritage farm in Delta offers fruit wines. News and event information, wine descriptions and ordering.
Okanagan Falls winery presents its history, awards, vineyard and tasting room information.
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