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Wine: Maple Ridge Councillor Craig Speirs On Canada’s Best Wine Growing Region
By Craig Speirs: As summer draws to a close and the wine harvest begins lets take another look at Canada’s best wine growing region.The Okanagan really started to take off when the rules changed in the mid 70’s and wineries were encouraged to pull up the old bulk wine grape varieties and start planting better quality vines from Europe. The first winery to be licensed under the new rules has changed names a few times but is now aptly names First Estate Cellars. This small (7 hectare) vineyard in Peachland has now been joined by over 100 other wineries of various sizes with new ones being added every year. This phenomenal growth shows no sign of slowing and we can look forward to many, many more in the years to come. The future is bright for this industry and in time it will rival the other great wine growing areas throughout the world.
One of the first experiments with noble grapes grape varieties from other countries was called the Becker Project that started in 1977 and concluded in 1985. This project proved that Germanic varieties such as Auxerrois, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer could be grown with great success in BC. George and Trudy Heiss from Gray Monk Estate Winery backed the project from the beginning because they knew these Germanic varieties would prosper in the Okanagan’s soils and climate. They now make 70,000 cases of wine per year and have moved into the red wine market as well as white. The Pinot Gris is their namesake (the German name translates to Gray Monk) and always sells out early after release. Don’t hesitate when they hit the shelf.
Oliver is certainly the epicentre of BC wine industry with over 3,000 acres under the vine. The Okanagan now sports 6,000 acres with an additional 800 acres planted in 2006 and many since then. The most planted white variety is of course Chardonnay followed by Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. The reds are dominated by Merlot followed by the difficult to grow Pinot Noir and then Cabernet Sauvignon. Sales have grown from $6.8 mil in 1992 to over $112 mil in 2005 and show no sign of slowing down.
Much of the information contained in this article has been gleaned from John Schreiner’s OKANAGAN WINE TOUR GUIDE printed this year and if you are considering a tour this fall buy the book I found it invaluable. I got my copy at Black Bond books in the Haney Place mall.
Now go for a drive!
My name is Craig Speirs. I am on City Council in Maple Ridge. I have been an environmental and social activist for the better part of my life, I have been a resident of Maple Ridge since 1973 and I have been married for over 23 years to my lovely wife Diane. We have two children Adlayna and Rory. I am now retired after 34 years with the Liquor Distribution Branch.