Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! How often do you visit the Canada VQA wine section? Some people will only drink Canadian wines while others may find better value in the USA, Chile, Argentina or Australia shelves. I must admit that I’ve judged Canadian wines at times for their prices and in the past, my perception was that to get big, full, fruity flavors, you needed to spend at least $40 to $60. Even though prices have continually climbed for wines of all types, I’ve invested more time and money in the VQA section, spending $20 to $40 on multiple occasions. My conclusion? I’ve taken this section for granted for way too long.

 As I mentioned last month, wineries in the Okanagan Valley had devastating weather in January and February this year which destroyed almost 100% of the grape harvest in the Central and Northern regions (with some exceptions). Most of the vines survived the below-freezing weather (which is not normal for that time of year) but unfortunately, the frost hit while bud break was occurring, resulting in the destruction of the delicate, young fruit. As the vines themselves are hardy enough to survive, they will likely still produce grapes in the years to come but for many producers, the 2024 grape harvest is a near-complete write-off.

I have heard rumors that as many as 50 to 60+ wineries are going up for sale, restructuring their operations or completely ripping up entire vineyards in order to survive the next couple of years. The challenges for these producers are enormous as the industries supporting BC wineries like tourism and wine sales will drop enormously. One positive to find here is that damage in the South was somewhat minimized due to the warmer climate of the region. The BC government has already announced many financial supports to help the industry continue but for many, the dream has been suddenly and certainly crushed.

I bring all this up because for a long time, I always assumed BC wines would be a part of the landscape on the shelves in SK liquor stores. There will still be plenty of choices for consumers as several vintages from 2018 to 2022 are regularly available for purchase but I can almost guarantee however, that there will be a rush for BC wines when the realization hits that many of the commonly-found wines won’t be returning to shelves for a while. 

This brings me back to my original statement on BC wines: to get those higher-quality flavors, I find the sweet spot is around $30 to $50. After that, it becomes more of a luxury (for myself at least) and the return on investment (value for price) seems to drop off. Don’t get me wrong, there are some killer, amazing wines at the higher price points but I don’t have the finances to drink them regularly.

If there is one category of BC wines that knock it out of the park, its white wines, especially in the $20 to $35 range. While some may view blends as less-superior than single-varietal wines, realistically, blended white wines are a thing of beauty. The blended (and single-varietal) white wines of BC emphasize balance with lovely fresh fruits, floral hints, mineral notes and spot-on levels of acidity. I’m extremely confident that when I reach for a bottle of Okanagan Valley white (sticking to that $20 to $35 range) I’m going to enjoy what I’m sipping on, whether its full of peaches and apples or bright lemon zest and mineral. Here are my Okanagan Valley wine picks of the week!

Road 13 Honest John’s Crisp White Wine 2022: (VQA Okanagan Valley, BC). Off-dry white, pale lemon/straw color. The nose is fresh and crisp with light and airy summer fruits (nectarines, peaches, pears), apple blossoms, sweet meadow flowers and wet river rocks. To the taste, this wine has the perfect balance between light, fruity flavors and enough acidity to give it some zip. Medium-minus body with medium-plus acidity, the wine reminds me of a walk through a garden on a warm summer day. Freshly-sliced apples, pears, peaches and a touch of honey fill the mid-palate but the lighter body never weighs the flavors down and instead, the wine finishes long with a tingling buzz of acidity, summer flowers, stone-fruits and a gentle hint of honey and spice. Wet rocks/riverbed add a palate-cleansing edge of mineral in the background. Interestingly enough, a touch of tannins can be felt on the edges of the tongue; perhaps some grape skin contact was briefly used in the maceration process? Either way, pair this delicious white with veggies and dip, salt & vinegar snacks, grilled chicken, or skewered zucchini/vegetables on the BBQ. Very good!  $32, 12.5% ABV

Dirty Laundry Dangerous Liaison 2020: (VQA Okanagan Valley, BC). Off-Dry red, medium ruby color. The bouquet is full of dark, ripe fruits like brambleberries, plums and cherries while fruity figs add some depth. There are some interesting animal scents in this BC red which remind me of buttery grilled cheese sandwiches and cracked pepper. On the palate, the wine is full of concentrated, intense dark fruits. Blackberries, dark cherries, bush berries and sweet vanilla soak into the tastebuds with a medium-weight body and medium-plus acidity. There is also a mineral twang which adds a savory character in the background; meanwhile, fuzzy, medium tannins stick to the teeth, adding some texture. Fruit-forward plums and cherries are the stars here, but the flavors are cleansed away quickly by the acidity and the flavors shift into dark cocoa (lending bitterness) mixed with toasty, savory earth and dark chocolate-covered raspberries. The finish is long and filled with dark fruit, woodsy berries and savory toast or biscuit notes. Interesting and complex, take some time with this wine and let it unfold. Pair with simple foods like grilled steak, shepherd’s pie, aged cheddars or poutine. Very good! $35, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!