British Columbia Wine, Wineries and Wine Country Page
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British Columbia Wineries,
 Wine Country
and Wines

    The dramatic beauty of the Pacific Northwest is legendary.  Leading roles in this natural drama are played by verdant coastal ranges and the rugged CascadeBlack Sage Bench - Okanagan Valley, British Columbia Mountains, projecting beauty and inspiration across its regional stage.

    Geologic histories assume equally major roles in regional weather systems -- roles that determine the varieties and success of  wine-grape growing throughout Pacific Northwest wine regions.  British Columbia Wine Country is no exception.

     Without prejudice of national or political boundaries, the spectacular Cascade Mountains rise to high elevations throughout Oregon, Washington and southern BC.  Elevations of more than 14,000 feet easily prevent westerly flows of cooler, wetter weather systems from moving east.  While wine-country travelers in southwestern BC find wineries and vineyards on both sides of the Cascades, many more are located to the east of the Cascades taking advantage of the "rain shadow" affect that creates substantially warmer and drier conditions for the Similkameen and the Okanagan wine regions.

      To the west of the mountain range, wineries are scattered within three "Designated Viticultural Areas" (DVAs) -- the Vancouver Island Region, the Gulf Islands and the Fraser Valley Region, where the weather is mild and relatively wet compared with the regions to the east.  

Vineyard in Summerland, British Columbia

      Heading east from Vancouver or the Fraser Valley, first on Hwy 1 then Hwy 3, you will travel through the northern reaches of the Cascade Mountains, more commonly known as the Canadian Cascades.  If you take Hwy 3 at its junction with Hwy 1, you will pass through the beautiful Similkameen Valley and transition from wetter to the drier side of the mountain barrier, as you head southeast to Osoyoos and the southern Okanagan Valley - the driest, largest and most popular DVA of British Columbia. 

       The Okanagan Valley DVA begins in Canada's only true desert environment and is adjacent to the U.S. border.  Crossing the border to the south one notices that the Valley continues, and although the terrain doesn't change, the spelling of it does.  In the states the Okanogan Valley is home to several additional wineries and vineyards.

       Within British Columbia, the Okanagan Valley DVA stretches 155 miles north through a variety of microclimates, ending in an area that favors cool-climate viticulture.  Mid valley is the location of the unofficial Naramata Bench wine region, which is entirely contained within the viticultural area of the Okanagan Valley.  Weather in the Similkameen, the Okanagan and the Naramata Bench regions is more extreme than that to the west of the Canadian Cascades.

Use our Winery & Merchant Finder to locate addresses and
telephone numbers of specific British Columbia wineries.

      Many different soil and weather variations in the Okanagan combine to create ideal growing conditions for a wide variety of wine grapes.  This diversity makes it conceivable to visit neighboring vineyards in the region that produce completely different wines.  Located in BC's south central interior, the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are the oldest and largest of this province's wine-producing areas -- both in size and in the number of active wineries and vineyards.

     Between BC's three wine regions in the west and its major Okanagan and Similkameen wine regions to the east, the traveler finds a wide selection of varietal wines, primarily produced from French and German vinifera grapes from big, ripe reds to fresh, cool whites, and rich, sweet Icewine made from grapes left to freeze naturally on the vine.  Approximately 25 years ago, government-sponsored, experimental vineyard plots helped winemakers discover which varietals ripened properly and survive in BC's consistently frosty winters.  Since then, vineyard managers and winemakers have made good use of the knowledge gained, and have worked together to refine the art of viticulture in British Columbia.  Many international and regional awards attest to their success. 
 

     Trademark wine products for the Province are crisp, fruity white wines and scrumptious dessert wines, including late harvest wines and Icewines (picked and crushed while frozen).  More and more red wine grapes are being grown in the southern Okanagan and the Similkameen Valleys, where the hot, desert climate and long, northern-latitude growing season create microclimates well suited for many red varietals.  Cool nights in these warmer areas prevent the breakdown of acids caused by constant heat.  Plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, among others, are now scattered throughout this southern area.  

     Pinot noir is also widely planted in British Columbia wine regions. In the southern Okanagan Valley, intense hot, dry summers, coupled with harsh, cold winters, produce quality fruit for a variety of distinctive wines.

 


Touring British Columbia
Wine Regions

     The overview map and links below allow you to explore the wineries operating in each of BC's Designated Viticultural Areas.  Watch for links to suggestions for nearby lodging, dining, special events and touring opportunities organized by region. Click on the region of your choice or the map below.

British Columbia Wine Country Map with links

yellowbox.gif (897 bytes)   Okanagan, Naramata and Similkameen Regions

orangebox.gif (898 bytes)   Fraser Valley Region

 

Coming Soon to Wines Northwest link
bluebox.gif (905 bytes)   Vancouver Island     

Gulf Islands

 


 

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Copyright ©  1999 - May, 2014
Susan R. O'Hara.  All rights reserved.
Last revised:  05/26/2014


British Columbia
Wine Facts
 
Number of
Grape-Wine Wineries

2014 - 273
2013 - 221
2012 - 206
2011 - 193
2008 - 148
2006 - 132
2005 - 120
2003 - 72
1999 - 63
1995 - 32
1990 - 17
1988 - 13

Vineyard Acreage

2014 - 9,867 acres
2010 - 9,500 acres
2008 - 7,500 acres
2006 - 5,462 acres
1999 - 4,200 acres
1994 - 2,149 acres

1989 - 1,000 acres

Number of Vineyards
(Independent growers & wineries)

2012 - 864 vineyards

Grapes Harvested
(approximate)

2013 - 31,500 tons
2012 - 30,100 tons

Major Varietals
 
TOP 10 WHITES
Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling,
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Ortega,
Ehrenfelser, Muscat
 
  • TOP 10 REDS
  • Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Gamay Noir, Maréchal Foch, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Zweigelt
    Additional Varieties
    Zinfandel, Pinotage, Tempranillo, Baco Noir, Pinot Meunier, Sangiovese, Leon Millot, Chancellor, Dunkelfelder, Agria, Castel, Carmenere, Grenache, Mourvedre, Bacchus,
    Semillon, Auxerrois, Siegerrebe, Vidal, Kerner, Schönburger, Chenin Blanc, Madeleine Angevine,  Müller Thurgau, Madeleine Sylvaner, Optima, Chasselas, Roussanne

    WINE STYLES
    Icewine, Late-Harvest,
    Sparkling, Still & Fortified

    Ratio of Red to White
    52.09% to 47.91%

    Wine Production
    (
    litres, est.)

    2012 - 17,717,200
    2011 - 14,769,300
    2010 - 11,555,700
    2009 - 12,921,350

    Wine Regions
    "Designated Viticultural Areas"


    Fraser Valley
    Okanagan Valley
    Similkameen Valley

    Vancouver Island
    Gulf Islands


    Emerging Regions:


    Thompson/Shuswap
    The Kootenay
    Lillooet

    Last Updated
    05/26/2014