In recognition of Canada Day, it’s time to consider Canadian wines that are out of the mainstream of most people’s choices. Unfortunately, there are very few wines from other wine-producing provinces like Ontario, Nova Scotia, or Quebec. Fortunately, we have an overabundance of delicious B.C. wines in our own backyard.
So if you’re tired of “the same old” and are willing to begin a voyage of discovery, consider the following choices:
Ehrenfelser Here is a real summer wine that tastes like Okanagan peaches and apricots and is meant for sipping under a patio umbrella as you seek shelter from the heat dome. It’s a cross of Riesling and Sylvaner first produced at the Geisenheim Institute in Germany in 1929.
Outside of its homeland, Ehrenfelser has had the most success in the Okanagan Valley. It is not as acidic as Riesling and is usually semi-dry with a hint of sweetness in the mouth. Some Ehrenfelsers can be sweeter such as late harvests or icewines.
Gehringer Brother’s 2019 Ehrenfelser ($14.99); “A” rating) has a summertime aroma of citrus and stone fruit. There are mouthwatering flavours of grapefruit and ripe apricot and peach plus zippy acidity with a kiss of honey and a lingering citrusy off-dry finish. Enjoy on its own or with sushi, pho, ceviche, or barbecued chicken.
Gehringer’s 2019 Ehrenfelser won Platinum at the 2020 Wine Press Northwest Awards, Double Gold at the Cascadia Wine Competition, and Silver at the All Canadian Wine Championships. There’s a good chance you might like this sleeper of a grape. Available at BC Liquor Stores and VQA outlets.
Sovereign Opal: Our next wine, Sandhill 2019 Sovereign Opal ($16.99; “B”+ rating) is also a hybrid grape that was produced locally at the Agriculture Canada's Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland.
“A totally unique wine” is how Stephen Schiedel, LDBS Category Manager for Canadian Wines describes Sovereign Opal. It’s the only BC hybrid grown for commercial production. Furthermore, only one grower in the world grows it, the Casorso family vineyard in Kelowna, And Sandhill is the only winery producing it.
Sovereign Opal a very pale white wine with a light body. It displays a mellow tree fruit aroma. On the palate, there are crisp ripe apple flavours, along with white currants and a juicy off-dry lemon and lime zest finish.
Enjoy as a sipper this summer; it has only 11.5% alcohol so it’s a good choice as a thirst quencher, with a water chaser. And it’s made for grilled pork with fruit chutney, samosas, sushi, and dim sum. Yum!
Marechal Foch: And finally a red French hybrid that the French created and named after one of their famous World War One Heros, Marshall Foch. French hybrids were bred for locations that had severe weather. Canadian grape growers and winemakers were encouraged to plant Marechal Foch because it could withstand our cold winters, unlike the better wine-making Vinifera grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The downside was that Marechal Foch didn’t often make the same quality of wine that Viniferas did.
In the 1990’s the BC wine industry was encouraged to rip out all the hybrids and plant the higher quality Viniferas instead. Quail’s Gate is one of a handful of BC wineries that still plants Marechal Foch. By getting maximum extraction from the grapes and using older vines, the popularity of their Marechal Foch reached a cult status.
I was quite impressed with the Quail’s Gate 2019 Marechal Foch ($26.99; “A” rating) having not tasted it for years. It displays a dark purple red colour and has a complex bouquet of black cherry and plum as well as black pepper, leather, and tobacco.
The Foch has a medium body with very smooth tannins. There’s a high level of acidity that keeps the rich red and black fruit in balance. It’s definitely worth trying if you’ve never tasted this BC special before. I certainly will try it again soon! Available at VQA stores and other private outlets.
Consider serving the Foch with tacos (skirt steak, prawn, and pork with pineapple) as I ordered from Little Mexican Cantina last weekend. Or as the salmon season approaches, pair this red with grilled sockeye over hot coals with alder chips.