BC Wines: Top 25 List from the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

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 ([email protected]). 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?




16 thoughts on “BC Wines: Top 25 List from the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

  1. The list looks fair, although I might add another Cedar Creek within the top 25 – perhaps their ’09 Malbec.

    By the way the Painted Rock icon has 15% petit verdot as opposed to petit sirah. Either way it’s a big percentage and results in a beautiful wine. I have tasted one and cellared another!

  2. okay…my thoughts, Generation 8, I adore this vineyard. Charming wine hostes and sometimes the winemakers are serving too… I’m in love with their Frizzante style wines. Beautiful white Integrity and the rose Frizzanate Confidence are a taste of heaven.Not only are they a lovely summer wine, I enjoy them year round.

  3. Hi Nat, great review ! Just to let you know ;
    Painted Rock wines will be available for the first time in Quebec on October 20th 2012 !

    It will be found in exclusivity at Seb l’Artisan culinaire restaurant in Mont-Tremblant !

    Cheers, Guy

  4. Hi Natalie – I agree with lots of your selections, but I think there are some important omissions:
    Deep Creek Estates (Hainle Vinyards) in Peachland – the 2007 Pinot Noir is AMAZING and would definitely be my #1. My #2 would be from Oliver – Le Vieux Pin 2009 Syrah. And a close third in the list of the best BC wines would be La Stella Vinyards in Osoyoos with their 2008 Fortissimo (Tuscan blend).

  5. Definitely the biggest names in the valley here, but I think ’08 Maestoso from LaStella needs mention. Single vineyard, whole berry fermented Merlot on Osoyoos lake cropped at 1 ton/acre. It’s opulent, big time merlot that can challenge the best examples from Bolgheri or St Emilion & Pomerol.
    Same can be said for their sister winery’s Merlot and Syrah at LE Vieux Pin in Oliver.

    I was also blown away by the expressive ’10 Suma Quies Quies Pinot Noir from Howling Bluff in Naramata. Great minerality and elegance.

  6. Great list Natalie, thank you. Do try to taste some La Vieux Pin, and anything from La Frenz but especially the Viognier and the Ports. From the Similkameen Valley, Herder vinyards Josephine (I have at least one of every year in my cellar).

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