Icon: Flagship Wines from British Columbia’s Best Wineries (Video)

I consider our guest this evening the godfather of Canadian wine writing, such is both the quality and the quantity of his work. Beginning with regular wine columns in the Financial Post and the Vancouver Sun in 1974, he published his first book, The World of Canadian Wines, in 1984 and has since written fourteen books on Canada’s and British Columbia’s wines and wine culture.

And he joins me live now from Vancouver: Welcome to the Sunday Sipper Club John Schreiner!

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“Since all the wines noted in the book are cellar-worthy, I often asked winemakers how long they thought their wines would age. The iconic wine at Nk’Mip Cellars is Mer’r’iym, which means marriage. How long will it age, I asked winemaker Randy Picton. He said: “About as long as a marriage – seven years.”

“Another icon I was pleased to include was Hourglass, the Bordeaux blend at Black Widow. Dick Lancaster, the owner-winemaker, and I once belonged to the same home winemaking club. He got a lot better and I stopped making wine.”

“At Fairview Cellars, the icon is Iconoclast, which sells for $100. During the research for this book, I talked owner/winemaker Bill Eggert out of declassifying his 2010 vintage. The vintage was not as strong as 2008 and 2009 – but I reminded Bill that the big houses in Bordeaux do not declassify weaker vintages. Collectors understand vintage variations.”

Tell us about the first wine you remember tasting?

“A sauternes. I was hugely surprised to find it was sealed with a cork. I had no corkscrew but – on a Sunday afternoon in Regina, I managed to buy one. The design was so bad that I shoved the cork into the wine. Then my friend and I enjoyed it with spaghetti and meat sauce.”

Tell us about the exact moment when you realized that you wanted to write about wine? Where were you? What triggered the thought?

“I wanted to write as soon as I could read. I wrote about anything and everything, eventually getting a job with a daily newspaper in Regina. I became interested in wine after we moved to Toronto in 1961, when I joined Financial Post. There was a Brights wine store near our apartment and I took to visiting it and chatting with the staff. Even if the wines were not very good, the topic seized my interest. I eventually started writing regularly about wine about 1974, after we moved to Vancouver, starting with a wine column in Vancouver Magazine.”

Aside from better quality of wines and more wineries, what have been the biggest changes in the BC wine industry in the last five years?

“The biggest change has been the huge improvement in viticulture – trained vineyard managers, winemakers spending time in the field, fundamental research by the scientists at the Summerland Research Station.”

What was the most surprising insight you discovered while writing this book?

“I was surprised at how many world-class wines there are today in B.C.”

What’s the most interesting thing that someone has said about your book?

“A couple of wineries wondered why they were not in the book. I had to explain that, contrary to the sub-title the publisher gave the book, my focus was on wines to collect and cellar. One excellent winery was then making whites with a three-year life span. Had I anticipated the sub-title, I would have included that winery.”

What are your top three predictions for the BC wine industry in the next 5-10 years?

“Consolidation will continue (Peller bought three wineries and Arterra bought one in the past year).”

“Wineries will produce more and more pricey wines.”

“Pinot Noir will emerge as BC’s leading red, competing with Merlot and Syrah.”

What are the possible threats to the BC wine industry?

“Import wines inevitably will get access to grocery stores and could displace wines from small producers. Unless direct to consumer shipments are allowed, BC wineries will have a difficult time reaching consumers in Ontario and Quebec. When # 1 happens, BC needs better access to markets across Canada.”

What defines an icon wine?

“An icon wine is a highly collectible wine, because of its quality, perhaps its relative scarcity, and its cult following. Collectors build verticals of these wines and follow their evolution in the cellar.”

“I would not suggest every wine in the book has achieved iconic status. I also wanted to include wines with a significant following, like the Robin Ridge Gamay. Fans like the wine a lot but I doubt many go to the length of building verticals.”

W​hat advice would you give to your 30-year-old self?

“Take a wine course and accelerate my knowledge. Not sure if there even were wine courses available to consumers when I was 30, but it would have helped.”

What’s the best piece of wine advice you’ve ever received?

“Wine is meant to be enjoyed, not worshipped.”

What is the worst advice people get about wine, other than the usual, such as needing to be an expert to appreciate wine or, there’s a perfect pairing for every wine and dish?

“So many consumers are unable to recognize wines that are corked. Sometimes true even of servers and owners.”

What’s the most useful wine gadget you’ve come across? How did you discover it?

“A decanter. I have had decanters most of my tasting life. I was even given one with my name engraved on it. I can’t recall what that award was.”

If you could share a bottle of wine with any person anywhere in the world, living or dead, who would that be? What would you ask them? (Let’s exclude relatives from this please so that viewers can identify the person you pick.)

“I would like to share Champagne with Winston Churchill. I have long been interested in his career, warts and all, and I have always been astonished at his capacity. I doubt I could keep up.”

Please give our viewers one wine tip that they can try this week to increase their wine savvy. This can be something simple, such as order two wines by the glass in a restaurant at the same time and try them side by side. Any little ninja trick to help them improve their wine knowledge or tasting/pairing skills.

“Do not serve red wines at ambient room temperature unless you like lukewarm soup. Wines tasted fresher after 20 minutes in the fridge.”

Where can people buy your book?

It is available at major Okanagan wineries (Poplar Grove, Quails’ Gate, Mission Hill, Burrowing Owl and others) and can be ordered on line from Indigo.




Winner of a Gourmand World Cookbook Award for best New World Wine book in English Canada. Finalist for the best New World Wine Book in the world.

“BC wine fans love John Schreiner. He’s always been there for us. With the explosive growth of BC wines, he has paved the way for our all-important next step: how to choose and cellar the best of those wines, the icons.” ―Terry David Mulligan, host of the “Tasting Room Radio” program on Roundhouse Radio

A gorgeous gift-worthy collection of tasting notes and collector’s information on British Columbia’s highest-calibre wines, written by Canada’s most authoritative and prolific wine writer.

British Columbia now has such an array of high-calibre winemakers that John Schreiner has compiled a book showcasing the icon wines from BC’s best wineries. An icon wine is the very best wine that a producer can make, and the prestige of an icon wine cascades across a winery’s entire portfolio.

For each wine profiled, readers will learn the behind-the-scenes story of the winery and winemaker, as well as the history, provenance, and inspiration behind each wine. The most recent vintage is listed, along with detailed tasting notes for as many vintages as are available, information on number of cases produced, percentages of varietals in the case of blends, and even the clone number of particular varietals.

The essential guide for any collector of BC wine, this book is also the culmination of research that illuminates John Schreiner’s passion and unique contribution to BC’s wine region.


Colleen Kilty17:40 I joined the Okanagan Wine Club a while ago and have been getting some wonderful wines from small producers.

John Osler11:40 Hello from Nova Scotia, love BC wines and just brought a few back in my luggage last week – sssh our little secret


Jenn Havers1:03:53 Enjoyed hearing from John! Definitely need a follow up – thanks for bringing him on Natalie!


Tim Belch1:03:46 I definitely didn’t realize that over 100 grape varieties in the okanoggan


Natalie MacLean58:06 A bottle of Champagne with Churchill – that would be an interesting chat over a glass of wine!


Tim Belch58:41 Definitely have to invite him back! Great stories!


Andrea Shapiro25:01 Exciting to know about so many grape varieties featured in BC., over 100 – great information!

Natalie MacLean11:57 Over 100 and many of them that can be cellared!!


Stephen Andrews24:26 Did not know B C wines were so diverse

Al Hudec14:00 In general, are the wines from the Semillkameen distinctly different (from the Okanagan)?




Natalie MacLean27:46 It sounds like they are making some really good quality wines in Semilkmeen and the air movement and differences in temperature are a big factor.

Andrea Shapiro7:25 Oh no! Putting the cork into the Sauternes wine- at least you were able to get to the wine even though unconventionally. Great story


Deborah Podurgiel24:44 I’m seeing some nice Cab Francs and Viogniers coming out of BC now. I think it’s great that we have such a varied terroiir that we can produce such different wines. Are there any varietals that you think will excel in the next coming years?

Sam Hauck57:23 John needs to come back soon.

Charlotte Cadieux33:00 I do that too… snif



Natalie MacLean32:25 Good advice from John to sniff the cork!


Beverly Asleson59:57 Beautiful book

Jenn Havers23:03 The variety you can find in BC wines is truly amazing! it’s one of the things I was very surprised to learn. I think it will be great for tourism and the industry in general.

Deborah Podurgiel11:44 Hi John, Nats, Wines have certainly come a long way in 10 years in BC. John, what do you think will be the next up and coming winegrowing area?

Kevin Webster54:49 How about Serendipty Winery in the Naramata Bench. Judy’s Reserve Merlot is stellar!



Wineries and Icon Wines

Arrowleaf Cellars • Solstice Reserve
Averill Creek Vineyard • Pinot Noir
Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery • Pinot Noir
Bartier Bros. • The Goal
Black Hills Estate Winery • Nota Bene
Black Sage Vineyard • Cabernet Sauvignon
Black Widow Winery • Hourglass
Blasted Church Vineyards • Nothing Sacred
Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars • The Reserves
Bonamici Cellars • Belviaggio
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery • Meritage
Cassini Cellars • The Godfather
C.C. Jentsch Cellars • The Chase, Syrah
CedarCreek Estate Winery • Platinum Block 2 Pinot Noir, Platinum Block 4 Pinot Noir
CheckMate Artisanal Winery • Chardonnays and Merlots
Church & State Wines • Quintessential
Clos du Soleil Winery • Signature
Coolshanagh Vineyard • Chardonnay
Corcelettes Estate Winery • Menhir
Covert Farms Family Estate • Amicitia Red
Culmina Family Estate Winery • Hypothesis
Daydreamer Wines • Marcus Ansems Shiraz
Deep Roots Winery • Syrah
Desert Hills Estate Winery • Mirage
Dirty Laundry Vineyard • Bordello
Eau Vivre Winery • Pinot Noir
8th Generation Vineyard • Riesling Selection
Elephant Island Orchard Wines • Naysayer
Ex Nihilo Vineyards • Pinot Noir
Fairview Cellars • Iconoclast
50th Parallel Estate • Pinot Noirs
Fort Berens Estate Winery • Meritage
Foxtrot Vineyards • Pinot Noir
Garry Oaks Winery • Pinot Noir
Gold Hill Winery • Meritage Family Reserve
Gray Monk Estate Winery • Odyssey Meritage
Hester Creek Estate Winery • The Judge
Hillside Winery • Mosaic
Howling Bluff Estate Winery • Summa Quies Pinot Noir
Inniskillin Okanagan • Dark Horse Vineyard Meritage
Intersection Winery • Alluvia
Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winery • SunRock Red Meritage
JoieFarm • En Famille Reserve Pinot Noir
Kanazawa Wines • Ronin
Kettle Valley Winery • Old Main Red
Krāzē Legz Vineyard and Winery • Skaha Vineyard Reserve Impulsion
La Frenz Winery • Grand Total Reserve
Lake Breeze Vineyards • Tempest
Lariana Cellars • Numbered series
LaStella • Fortissimo
Laughing Stock Vineyards • Portfolio
Le Vieux Pin • Équinoxe Syrah
Liquidity Wines • Pinot Noir
Little Engine Wines • Gold Chardonnay, Gold Pinot Noir
Marichel Vineyard • Estate Syrah
Maverick Estate Winery • Rubeus
Meyer Family Vineyards • Micro Cuvée Pinot Noir, Micro Cuvée Chardonnay
Mission Hill Family Estate • Oculus
Moon Curser Vineyards • Dead of Night
Nagging Doubt Winery • The Pull
Nichol Vineyard • Syrah
Nk’Mip Cellars • Mer’r’iym
Noble Ridge Vineyards • King’s Ransom
Okanagan Crush Pad Winery • Haywire Pinot Noir
Orofino Winery • Beleza
Osoyoos Larose Winery • Le Grand Vin
Painted Rock Estate Winery • Red Icon
Pentâge Winery • Pentâge Blend
Perseus Winery • Invictus
Poplar Grove Winery • The Legacy
Privato Vineyard and Winery • Pinot Noir
Quails’ Gate Winery • Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir
Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery • Obra-Prima
Red Rooster Winery • Golden Egg
River Stone Estate Winery • Corner Stone
Road 13 Vineyards • 5th Element
Robin Ridge Winery • Gamay
Sage Hills Vineyard • Pinot Noir
Sandhill Wines • Sandhill Small Lots One
Seven Stones Winery • The Legend
Silkscarf Winery • Ensemble
Sperling Vineyards • Old Vines Riesling
SpierHead Winery • Pinot Noir Cuvée
Stag’s Hollow Winery • Renaissance Merlot
Steller’s Jay • Steller’s Jay Brut
Stoneboat Vineyards • Rock Opera Pinotage Reserve, Solo Pinotage Reserve, Pinotage
Summerhill Pyramid Winery • Cipes sparkling wines
Synchromesh Wines • Storm Haven Vineyard Riesling
Tantalus Vineyards • Old Vines Riesling
Tightrope Winery • Pinot Noir
Time Estate Winery • McWatters Collection Meritage
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards • Oldfield Series 2Bench Red
Township 7 Vineyards • Reserve 7
Unsworth Vineyards • Symphony
Upper Bench Winery & Creamery • Estate Merlot
Vanessa Vineyard • Meritage
Van Westen Vineyards • V, Voluptuous
Venturi-Schulze Vineyards • Pinot Noir
Wild Goose Vineyards • Stoney Slope Riesling
Young & Wyse Collection • Black Sheep

Kevin Webster53:49 You’re going through many of my favourite wineries!

Shannon Lancaster54:20 The hourglass on the belly of the black Widow!


Elias Phiniotis51:27 Hi John, What would we do without you ?

Tim Belch34:24 Always sniff to see if I get certain flavours on the nose!


Lori Sweet48:34 Really enjoy hearing about the history.



Stephen Andrews1:01:46 Really enjoying this John is a great historian.

Kevin Webster53:26 The Judge is fantastic!


Deborah Podurgiel25:20 Love Vanessa Wines, they are unique!


Natalie MacLean31:31 Yes – interesting – named after one of the wineries daughters!

Charlotte Cadieux1:03:50 this was great



Tim Belch16:57 Unfortunately, trade barriers within Canada prevent us in Ontario from allowing us to partake in the full selection of B.C. Wines. I love reds any particular recommendations?

Paul E Hollander28:23 Unfortunately, in the lower 48, all we see in our area of Canadian wines are ice wines.

Frances Furmankiewicz34:24 John, what’s in the works for your next book?
Al Hudec44:05John – Do you have another book in the works?
Allison Fader0:00 Even though I live in the Okanagan Valley, and have been a contributing writer to BC wine Trails magazine, I was still surprised at the number of varieties we produce in this Valley. Nk’Mip has long been one of my favorite wineries…excellent portfolio!




John Schreiner is a prolific and seasoned wine writer. Beginning with regular wine columns in the Financial Post and the Vancouver Sun in 1974, he published his first book, The World of Canadian Wines, in 1984 and has since written fourteen books on Canada’s and British Columbia’s wines and wine culture. He is a celebrated member of both national and regional wine communities across Canada, and has judged in wine competitions in North America and abroad. He lives in Vancouver, where he maintains his own expansive wine collection.



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