I have put together my 2021 list of British Columbia wineries to watch for. Not all of these wines will be available at your local wine store; some are available in British Columbia wine stores, but most may be purchased online or directly from the winery.
My selections are based on my interpretation of recent trends, the wineries successes and the quality of their wine, their wine-making practices and what makes them stand out above their competitors at the present time. My list is presented in no particular order.
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, West Kelowna
Mission Hill uses sustainable organic farming practices with the use of modern technology. Their wines are carefully aged with new and Old World techniques. They employ the use of bees, falcons, and chickens in lieu of pesticides and insecticides. Cover crops, earthworms, and compost are used in place of chemical fertilizers.
Their winemakers’ practices are fundamentally rooted in Old World techniques that are supported with modern technology. Drones provide a high-level view of the vineyard’s health. Soil science pinpoints the areas where best to plant the vines.
The winemaking team strives to be continually innovative, combining fermentation and maturation vessel traditions with future trends. The equipment and processes are designed to best serve the wines.
Mission Hill has 3 collections of wines: the Reserve Collection, Terroir Collection and the Legacy Collection.
The Reserve Collection expresses hand-selected blocks of grapes, extreme viticulture management, longer barrel time, and increased lees stirring, which is a process to handle the yeast during the fermentation process.
Only the top 3% of all of the winery’s fruit is hand-selected for these wines and each individual lot is carefully tasted throughout the winemaking process to ensure its quality level before the final blend.
The grapes are hand-harvested and hand-sorted, consisting of the top 1% of the harvest from all of their vineyards. They benefit from extended barrel aging which is followed by a 24-month period in-bottle prior to release.
These wines are small lot and limited production collectibles. Cellar-worthy, they may be aged for decades. The collection includes Compendium, Quatrain, Prospectus, Perpetua and their flagship wine, Oculus.
Covert Farms Family Estate, Oliver
Covert Farms Family Estate practices organic farming with minimal intervention winemaking. Regenerative agriculture offers many benefits to the farming ecosystem such as increasing soil organic matter, greater water holding capacity, improved nutrient cycling, pest and disease suppression through enhanced soil biology, and ultimately higher nutrient density in the vines.
They hope to introduce Dry Farming to the vineyards within the next few years which would provide such benefits as enhanced resiliency to climate change and potential increase in wine quality attributes.
They practice regenerative farming, which is based on five principles that need to be implemented together: no-till or minimal tillage, keeping the ground covered, species diversity, keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible and integrating livestock.
Regenerative agriculture offers many benefits to the ecosystem such as increasing soil organic matter, carbon capture, greater water holding capacity, improved nutrient cycling, pest and disease control through enhanced soil biology, and ultimately higher nutrient density within their crops.
Minimizing tillage is challenging in organic agriculture as this is one of the only means to manage weeds. They have been adapting their systems and processes and have had good success in the vineyards. Interestingly, the longer the soil is undisturbed, the fewer weeds there are.
Tantalus Vineyards, Kelowna
Tantalus Vineyards put incredible care into everything they do, from farming to winemaking and including the winery being Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. It is also LIVE certified. LIVE has independently certified the sustainable practices of winegrowers in the Pacific Northwest, using the latest in university research and internationally accredited standards.
Riesling is the major focus at Tantalus; it is an Okanagan icon. However, their Pinot Noir is very good as well.
Obviously these are far more than just 3 good wineries in British Columbia. In fact I have purposely excluded some of my personal favourites from this list as they were not what I consider as the innovative leaders this year. Included in that list would be Osoyoos Larose, Quails Gate and Gray Monk.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will find many of the wines produced by these wineries outside of British Columbia. However, lucky for us many of the wineries offer online ordering.