I’ve been tasting through hundreds of wines for the last few months to select my top 25 wines from British Columbia. This isn’t based solely on numbers, but rather on a broader view of a range of styles and grapes. In fact, wine scores taken out of context are meaningless.
I hope that this list will provoke debate, even controversy, as that’s what we need to kick-start a national conversation about the great wines that we produce in this country. What’s easy is sniping from the shadows; what’s hard is taking a stand in the public spotlight for your convictions. For those who disagree, I say: bring it!
This is a list that will be updated regularly, so I encourage wineries and wine agents to get in touch with me to have their wine considered for evaluation if I have not yet tasted it, including more recent vintages (firstname.lastname@example.org). I did consider BC’s other regions aside from the Okanagan Valley.
Next week, I’ll publish a list of my top 25 BC value wines, those bottles that tend to be more modestly priced but over-deliver on value and taste. You can also find video interviews with John Skinner of Painted Rock Winery, Ann Sperling of Sperling Vineyards and a complete directory of BC wineries with pictures, wines produced, history and hours.
The only thing that influences my reviews is the image of you, my fellow wine lover, taking that first sip of wine I’ve recommended and then your expression. This list is for you.
1. Painted Rock Estate Winery Ltd. Red Icon 2009, V.Q.A., Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
This is a spectacular blend of Bordeaux grapes: 30% merlot, 29% cabernet franc, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 15% petit sirah, 1% syrah. A heavy-hitter that gets more refined every year. This vintage has the caged power of a tiger stalking back and forth behind bars… decant it and you’ll taste that gorgeously savage energy and concentration. Loaded with dark fruit and toasty oak. This wine spent 18 months in 95% new French oak. Unleash your inner tiger and slake more than your thirst with this wine. Pair with: premium cut of steak, wild mushrooms and a rich demi-glace. Drink: 2012-2019. 512657 14.30% D 750 mL $55.00 Score: 97/100.
2. Mission Hill Family Estate Oculus 2009, V.Q.A, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Spectacular! One of the best vintages of this flagship wine I’ve tasted. Mastery in both the vineyard and winery shows here with rich and complex layers of dark fruit, dried herbs and cigar box. This is a cellar keeper … if you can resist opening it. Drink: 2012-2022. 776545981332 14% D 750 mL $80.00 Score: 96/100.
3. Black Hills Estate Winery Nota Bene 2010, VQA, Okanagan Valley, BC
Spectacular! Full-bodied, rich, deep and delicious with layers of black fruit desire. Smooth texture unfolds to a long finish. This will do well in the cellar, but why wait? Drink: 2012-2020. 0708073 14% D 750 mL $60.00 Score: 96/100.
4. Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2007, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Year after year, this winery delivers: what we are talking about is differences in excellence. The signature notes of tasty mocha, dark plums and berries. Give it time: don’t rob the cradle. You’ll be thankful. A magnificent wine. Decant 1-2 hours. Full-bodied, beautifully concentrated and superbly rendered. A blend of merlot, malbec, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc. What an amazing wine! Drink: 2014-2022. 626325 13.80% XD 750 mL $40.00 Score: 95/100.
5. Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Athene 2009, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Spectacular in every way! Juicy, savoury black fruit depths. Complexity without the need for understanding why your senses are dancing. Full-bodied, smooth and transporting. Pair with: pepper-crusted rib-eye steak, seasonal game meats. Drink: 2015-2020. 148486 14.90% XD 750 mL $35.00 Score: 93/100.
6. Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Reserve Stripe Label Pinot Noir 2008, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Surely this is one of Canada’s best Pinot Noir producers: year after year they create magnificent liquid satin sprinkled with violets and rose petals. Lovely ripe cherry aromas here and some dark spice on the finish. I’m absolutely carried away with the texture of this wine. The grapes are 100% estate grown at Blue Mountain winery. Pair with: roast chicken or turkey. Drink: 2011-2016. 714881 D 750 mL $35.90 Score: 93/100
7. Blind Trust Red Laughing Stock 2008, V.Q.A., Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
A spectacular blend of Bordeaux grapes. (You can find out which grapes and the proportion when you remove the capsule… No peaking in the store!) Gorgeously ripe aromas of blackberries and cassis wrapped in a luxuriously long smoky blanket. One for the cellar. Drink: 2012-2016. 230110 13% XD 750 mL $40.00 Score: 93/100.
8. CedarCreek Estate Winery Platinum Pinot Noir 2008, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Spectacularly concentrated yet elegant pinot with black cherry and spice aromas. Complex, rich, deep and smooth. A wine made for hedonists. Pair with: sockeye salmon, seared tuna. Drink: 2011-2014. 585711 13.90% 750 mL $39.90 Score: 92/100
9. Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Shiraz 2006, V.Q.A., Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Spectacular! One of Canada’s benchmark wines. A deep core of hedonistic pleasure from the concentrated black plums and blackberries. It’s wrapped in smoke, meaty notes, dark spices and intrigue. The finish says: more please … now! Drink it on your first date, your 50th anniversary and other nights in between. Drink: 2011-2017. 33241 14.30% XD 750 mL $24.95 Score: 93/100.
10. Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Merlot 2010, VQA, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Savoury and mouth-watering with gorgeous fleshy dark fruit. Could use some cellar time to bring out its finer nuances that will emerge with time. Classic. Pair with: Angus beef tenderloin with Lyonnaise potato, field beans and mushroom sauté. Drink: 2017-2020. 639633 14.50% XD 750 mL $24.99 Score: 91/100.
11. Painted Rock Estate Winery Ltd. Syrah 2009, $40.00 Score: 95/100.
12. Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2011, $32.00 Score: 93/100.
13. Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Riesling Icewine 2010, $59.99 Score: 94/100.
14. Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Chardonnay 2010, $25.00 Score: 93/100
15. Sandhill Small Lots One Phantom Creek Vineyard 2008, $36.95 Score: 92/100.
16. Tantalus Vineyards Single Vineyard Riesling 2010, $22.90 Score: 92/100.
17. Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Pinot Noir 2010, $24.99 Score: 92/100.
18. Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Oldfield Series Merlot 2008, $27.99 Score: 91/100.
19. Sumac Ridge Estate Winery Tribute Chardonnay, $30.00 Score: 91/100.
20. Summerhill Pyramid Winery Riesling 2010, $19.95 Score: 90/100.
21. Meyer Family Vineyards Mclean Creek Road Chardonnay 2009, $45.00 Score: 91/100.
22. Haywire Winery Secrest Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, $27.00 Score: 91/100.
23. Sperling Vineyards Sparkling Brut 2008, $39.95 Score: 92/100
24. Road 13 Vineyards Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2011, $24.00 Score: 90/100.
25. Poplar Grove Winery The Legacy 2007, $49.90 Score: 90/100.
I’d like to hear from you … which wines are missing from this list? Are there bottles here that you think should have a different ranking?