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BC’s best red wines?

It’s still not quite universally acceptable to get excited about our own home-grown British Columbia red wines… But when they are winning medals in international competition, it’s long past time to appreciate their excellence here at home.

Allan Jackson and Don Triggs founded Mississauga-based company Vincor Canada in 1993. In 2006 Jackson-Triggs won the Gold Medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) for best Shiraz/Syrah; the first Canadian red wine to be recognized by the IWSC. In 2010, they won their seventh "Canadian Wine Producer of the Year" trophy at the IWSC.

Merlot is the most widely planted red wine grape in the Okanagan Valley.  Much of it goes into red blends but there are still wines that are bottles and sold as Merlot. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the color of the grape.

Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Valley Merlot (543876) $13.99 features jammy strawberry, ripe black plum and rich mocha notes and smoky toast on the nose. The flavours mirror the aromas perfectly and slides into a smooth and medium-bodied finish.

Once known chiefly as a component of classic Bordeaux blends, Cabernet Franc has begun to be appreciated on its own here in British Columbia. The single varietal wines can show deep expressive flavours of tobacco, dark spice, herbaceous green pepper, and a subtle hint of mint.

At Bordertown Vineyards and Estate Winery, Mohan Gill and consulting winemaker Daniel Bontorin have coaxed a medley of aromas and flavours out of this rising wine grape star in Bordertown Vineyards Cabernet Franc (22257) $22.49. Spicy black raspberry notes lead the pack in this distinctly dry red.

Named after the railway that first tied Naramata to the outside world, Kettle Valley Winery received the third license granted on the Naramata Bench and the twenty-third in the entire province. Great Northern Vineyards are located on the bench above the Similkameen River in Cawston, in the Similkameen Valley.

In 1999, the French grape Syrah was found to be the offspring of two obscure grapes from southeastern France, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Syrah should not be confused with Petite Sirah, a cross of Syrah with Peloursin dating from 1880.

A blend of 95 per cent Syrah and 5 per cent Viognier, Kettle Valley Great Northern Vineyards Syrah (391201) $22.49 exhibits aromas of 

smoky spiced plum with black cherry, subtle mint. Luscious black cherry, plum and sage flavours slide smoothly into a lingering finish.

Owned by the Stewarts – a third generation, Okanagan wine family – Quails’Gate Estate Winery is one of the few Okanagan producers who decided to maintain their Maréchel Foch plantings. In 1988, the Canada – U.S. Free Trade Agreement (in conjunction with a GATT ruling against protective barriers that favoured domestic wineries) provoked the federal, Ontario and British Columbia governments into funding a massive "pullout" of

labrusca vines, giving wineries funding to replace them with vinifera ones.  Growers received $8100 an acre to pull out the vines.

In 1989, the Stewart family switched planted their orchards to vineyards, relaunching the business as Quails’ Gate Estate Winery. Quails’ Gate Old Vine Foch (639625) $26.79 comes from 37-year old vines planted in their southern most vineyard located in Osoyoos. Expect aromas and flavours of dark plum, cherry, cranberry, smoked meat, mocha and coffee notes. Very tasty!

Established in 1995, Stag’s Hollow is a family-owned winery in Okanagan Falls in the foothills of the South Okanagan, Stag’s Hollow includes two vineyards - the Estate Vineyard and Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard - within 2 kms of each other.

Stag’s Hollow 2015 Pinot Noir Shuttleworth Creek (540740) $30.99 has an herbaceous backbone with blackcurrant and black cherry fruit notes and a classic cool-climate supple, smoky, peppery finish.

Planted high above the Okanagan Valley floor as a pre-retirement

project by the same Don Triggs who was so instrumental in developing Jackson-Triggs and Vincor International, Culmina Family Estate Winery’s vineyards are dedicated to producing world class wines.

A classic expression of the world’s favourite red wine grape Culmina Family Estate Golden Mile Bench Cabernet Sauvignon (249607) $45.99 overflows with aromas of ripe blackberry, fresh sage, and cloves. Intense aromas of ripe blackberry and dried cherries are complemented by nutmeg and Bourbon vanilla bean rising from complex flavours of cassis, fresh tobacco leaf, and dark fruitcake.

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com