Until recently, the wines from our neighbors just north of the border in British Columbia were extremely limited in the Pacific Northwest. In an exclusive relationship with Whole Foods Market, the Wines of British Columbia now offers a selection of eight handpicked red and white wines (see the list below) available in 15 of the Whole Foods Markets across Washington and Oregon.
Named “one of the world’s 5 best wine regions you’ve never heard of,” by enRoute Magazine, the area can boast of a number of prestigious international awards, winning more than 2,100 in 2013 alone. But what makes this relatively small region (about 9,800 acres) such a hot spot for wine? Most grape growing happens between 30 and 50 degrees latitude in both hemispheres. Many would think growing grapes north of the 49th parallel would be a fruitless endeavor, but something magical happens in the British Columbian valley. Unique environmental factors, such as various micro-climates and rain shadows, widespread differences in soil types, and an ideal topography make this area the perfect place to grow. The Okanagan Valley, for example, is warmer and more arid that Napa Valley, getting nearly two hours more sunlight per day than Napa during the peak growing season in July and August. The area also benefits from more intense light than other regions which is critical to their short growing season.
The most produced red wines are Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Gamay Noir. For white wines it’s Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Viognier.
We had the opportunity to try each of the 8 selected wines at a food and wine pairing dinner at Seattle’s Dahlia Lounge. Dahlia Lounge's Chef Brock Johnson teamed up with British Columbia's Chef Trevor Bird from
Tantalus Vineyards - 2013 Riesling
This is world class Riesling that lingers on the palate and is beautifully balanced. It’s excellent with seafood, soft cheeses, sausages, and turkey dinner, so try it for Thanksgiving! It was paired with a Bacon jam and apple on toast canapés prepared by Dahlia Lounge’s Chef Brock Johnson.
The next two wines were paired with a British lingcod fritter with a tarragon aioli, also prepared by Chef Johnson.
St. Hubertus Estate Winery - 2013 Pinot Blanc
This terrific Pinot Blanc has notes of honeyed citrus and is clean and focused. It’s that perfect cocktail wine for pairing with your favorite seafood.
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards - 2013 Pinot Gris
A full-bodied dry Pinot Gris that is a perfect appetizer wine, but is so good it shines with salmon, roast chicken, pork, and grilled veggies.
Quails’ Gate Estate Winery - 2012 Pinot Noir
This Pinot Noir is grown along the slopes of Lake Okanagan. Leather and spice highlight a core of red and black fruits. Perfect for salmon and roast turkey. Chef Bird paired this wine with a grilled fruit salad topped with smoked duck ham, housemaid ricotta cheese, pickled berries, radish, and drizzled with an end of season strawberry vinaigrette.
Meyer Family Vineyards - 2012 Chardonnay
This beautiful Burgundy-like Chardonnay was paired with Chef Bird’s confit Point Grey salmon with beet carpaccio, puffed wild rice, an herbed yogurt and pickled fennel and dill.
Chef Johnson paired the following two reds with wine braised beef heart, smoked wild mushrooms, and nutmeg-spiced parsnips.
Nk’Mip Cellars - 2012 Merlot
This full-bodied Merlot is from a aboriginal winery. With hints of smoky oak, baking spice and ripe red and black fruit it pairs wonderfully with firm cheeses, steaks and roasts.
Black Hills Estate Winery - 2012 Nota Bene
A rich and bold frame supports this Bordeaux-style red. Perfect with steak or roasts.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery - 2011 Cabernet Franc
An earthy essence balances ripe fruit in this full-bodied wine. It was paired with a British Columbia cheese plate with roasted figs and pecan flax toast.
To learn more, visit Wines of British Columbia.