At first blush, Canada, with it colder climate zones, would not appear to be a likely candidate as a wine growing region. Certainly this is true of most of Canada but when it comes to British Columbia, the reverse is actually true. BC produces some great wines in a number of its micro-climates.
Four wine growing regions in British Columbia have been approved as Geographical Indications. This means that they can have confirmation on their labels that grapes were grown in one of these specific regions. These include Thompson Valley, Shuswap, Lillooet and lastly the Kootenays. Of the grouping, the Kootenays have been the most recent region to actually begin a wine industry, but they are catching up fast.
Currently their are six separate wineries in the area. Most of them are found near BC’s southern border with the US but one winery, Valley of the Springs, is located just 30 minutes from the New Denver Lodge on a ridge overlooking Arrow Lakes and Nakusp in an area that is also renown for its hot springs. You can stop in for vineyard tours, wine tastings or to browse their retail store. They also host the occasional small scale festival or musical event. The long summer days and cool nights produce a ‘cool climate’ grape that is aromatic and crisp.
As it turns out, this is the basic recipe that makes Kootenay wines, and BC wines in general, stand out from the pack. A short yet intense growing season created by the high latitude of Kootenay followed by rapid cooling at the beginning of October allows for the grapes to hang on the vine longer before the harvest date. In certain respects, and for certain types of wines, this actually provides an advantage over wines produced in California, Oregon and Washington.
The fact is that the Kootenays have long been revered for their ground crops and orchards but it has only been since 1995 that vineyards have been planted on the fertile valley floors of Kootenay’s special micro-climates. Although certain vineyards in the region produce excellent white wines the predominant variety is the fragrant and hearty Pinot Noir.