Okanagan Favourites Varietals Information

Cabernet Franc (Cab-air-nay FrahN):

Originally from the Bordeaux region in France, this is a medium-bodied red wine. The flavour of Cabernet Franc is often considered herbaceous, peppery, stalky, and earthy with an aroma of spice, tobacco or even green pepper. This wine pairs well with gamey meats such as roasted pork, lamb or rabbit. It is a popular blending grape in the world-renowned Bordeaux blend.

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Harper's Trail (Cabernet Franc 2013)

Finalists: Inniskillin Okanagan (Dark horse Vineyard Cabernet Franc), Tinhorn Creek Vineyards (Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc), Poplar Grove winery (Cabernet Franc)


Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab-air-nay So-veen-yawN):

A widely popular dry red wine, because it is easy to grow, Cabernet Sauvignon originated from the Bordeaux region in 17th century France and is used in the famous Bordeaux blend. It is one of the newer grape varieties resulting from an accidental cross-breeding between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. The wine boasts a dark colour, bold tannins, and high alcohol content of roughly 13%. Black cherry, intense black currant, green peppers, and a touch of vanilla are commonly found in Cabernet Sauvignon. 

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Cassini Cellars (Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve 2011)

Finalists: Desert Hills Estate Winery (Cabernet Sauvignon 2011) and Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery (Cabernet Sauvignon 2010)


Chardonnay (Shar-doe-NAY):

A popular but controversial dry white wine, many wine fans consider themselves ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). Originating in Burgundy France, the easy to grow vine can adapt to many climates, which lead to widespread success. It embodies Terroir, meaning it easily takes on the taste of a region, causing it to have extremely versatile flavours. It warmer climates it is often citrus and tropical while in colder climates it exhibits apple and the smell of fallen leaves. It responds well to being aged with oak, which gives a vanilla flavour. Unfortunately, Californian winemakers in the '80s/'90s went overboard with the oak and created "butter bombs" where Chardonnay tasted strongly of butter. This practice has mostly stopped except for in lower quality wines.

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Inniskillen Okanagan Estate Series (Chardonnay 2013) 

Finalists: 50th Parallel Estate (Chardonnay 2013), Intrigue Wines (Chardonnay 2014), Monster Vineyards (Skinny Dip Chardonnay 2014), Deep Roots Winery (Chardonnay 2014), Cassini Cellars (Chardonnay Reserve 2012), Poplar Grove Winery (Chardonnay 2014)


Gewürztraminer (ga-VERTZ-trah-mee-ner):

In the aromatic, sugary white wine, Gewürztraminer, you may notice spritz (bubbles) as well as scents of passion fruit, lychee, roses, and floral notes. This pink grape started in Germany though the Alsace region of France has produced the wine for hundreds of years. The semi-dry wine pairs well with spicy Asian food or roasted vegetables with natural sweetness.

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Wild Goose Vineyards (Mystic River Gewürztraminer 2014)

Finalists: Desert Hills Estate Winery (Gewürztraminer 2014), JoieFarm Winery (En Famille Gewürztraminer 2012), Arrowleaf Cellars (Gewürztraminer 2014), Ruby Blues Winery (Commune Gewürztraminer 2014)


Merlot (Mer-low):

Though it is a strong, medium bodied red that is high in alcohol, Merlot is an approachable wine to drink. The wine has a variety of tastes depending on the climate it is grown in; these include: berry, black cherry, plum and chocolate with a soft finish. The dark blue grape derives its name from the French word meaning young or little blackbird. It is another grape originally from the Bordeaux region and is a main component of the world famous Bordeaux blend. The low tannins in the wine mean it pairs well with most foods, especially light meats such as chicken.

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Sandhill Wines (Merlot Vanessa Vineyards 2012)

Finalists: Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate (Grand Reserve Merlot 2011), Kraze Legz Vineyard & Winery (Skaha Vineyard Merlot 2012), Sumac Ridge Estate Winery (Black Sage Vineyard Merlot 2012), Red Rooster Winery (Reserve Merlot 2012), Monster Vineyards (Merlot 2013)


Pinot Grigio/ Pinot Gris (PEE-no-GREE-jo):

This zesty white wine is the most popular type in the Okangan and widely popular worldwide. The greyish blue grape makes up roughly 11% of all grapes planted in BC. It originated in France but became popular in Italy. It is rumoured to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. Lemons, limes, white floral notes, and apples are frequently tasted in this wine with an edge of wet stones. Dry and refreshing, Pinot Gris is a summer favourite.

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: 50th Parallel Estate (Pinot Gris 2014)

Finalists: Gray Monk Estate Winery (Pinot Gris 2014), Hillside Winery (Unbaked Pinot Gris 2014),  Ruby Blues Winery (Commune Pinot Gris 2014), Ruby Blues Winery (Commune Pinot Gris 2014), Red Rooster Winery (Pinot Gris 2014), Wild Goose Vineyards (Pinot Gris 2014)


Pinot Noir (pee no nwahr):

Considered a 'safe' dry red wine to serve, Pinot Noir goes well with all food. The name derives from the French words 'pine' and 'black' because the grape grows in pine-cone shaped bunches. Frequently found flavours in pinot noir are rhubarb, red fruit, and forest floor (the smell of freshly fallen damp leaves). Because it is a difficult grape to grow, it is known as the "heartbreak grape" since winemakers may spend a lot of time growing Pinot Noir with no successful results. Some say it is rare to find good bottle. Sometimes fans are considered snobs, as shown in the movie Sideways with its focus on pinot love.

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Moraine Estate Winery (Pinot Noir 2012),

Finalists: Volcanic Hills Winery (Pinot Noir 2012), St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery (Oak Bay Vineyard Gebert Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2012), Lake Breeze Vineyards (Pinot Noir 2012), Arrowleaf Cellars (Solstice Pinot Noir 2012), Fort Berens Estate Winery (Pinot Noir 2012), Eau Vivre Winery & Vineyards (Pinot Noir 2013)


Riesling (REES-ling): 

Riesling is a sweet, dry white wine with strong floral aromas and the taste of apples, peaches and pears. Originally from the Rhine region in Germany, it was a favourite of German nobility who took it with them while travelling Europe for conquests and business. First mention of Riesling was made in 1435 in noble Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen's storage. The highly acidic wine ages well and can be kept for more than a century. A sign of a high-quality aged Riesling is a distinct petrol smell. Interestingly, it pairs exceptionally well with spicy food as the sweetness of the Riesling complements the spice.

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Wild Goose Vineyards (Stoney Slope Riesling 2013)

Finalists: Arrowleaf Cellars (Riesling 2014), Monster Vineyards (Riesling 2014), Red Rooster Winery (Riesling 2013), Harper's Trail (Silver Mane Black Riesling 2013), Monte Creek Ranch Winery (Ranch Riesling 2014)


Rosé (Ro-zay): 

The distinct pink or rose colour is created through a process known as maceration. Wine receives its colour from the amount of contact the skin of the grape has with the juice. Since the skin of the grapes for a rosé have only a few hours or days of contact with the juice of the grape it results in a lighter colour. The pink colour can also be acquired by blending red and white whine though this is frowned upon and even illegal in France, except the Champagne region. The taste ranges from dry to sweet with primary flavours of strawberry, citrus, honeydew or cherry which is lovely for summer. It goes nicely with light salads, pasta, and seafood. 

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery (Blanc De Noirs Rosé 2014)

Finalists: Celista Estate Winery (Marg's Rosé 2014), Silkscarf Winery (Saignée 2014), St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery (Rosé 2014), Therapy Vineyards (Pink Freud 2014), Joie Farm Winery (Rosé 2014)


Sauvignon Blanc (SO-vin-yon Blank):

An aggressively citrus white wine with a grassy  flavour, high acidity and low sugar; it is originally from the Bourdeaux region in France. Sauvignon Blankets it's name from the French word sauvage, meaning wild, because it grew wildly in the region. It became popular in New Zealand but was known before as Sancerre, a favoured wine in Paris. It is a wine that is rarely aged in oak leaving it refreshing, crisp, dry and bright.  

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: Clos Du Soleil Winery (Fumé Blanc 2014)

Finalist: Kismet Estate Winery (Sauvignon Blanc 2013)


Syrah/ Shiraz (Sih-RAHa):

This dark, powerful, full bodied red wine has two rumoured origin stories. Some say a roman emperor in 280 AD transported the grape to Rhone Valley France while other believe it was an Iranian winemaker in 600 BC who planted it there.  Regardless, Syrah became famous in Rhone Valley France during the 1700s and later found a following in Australia. It became one of Australia's most popular red wines, which due to their accent, was called Shiraz. The wine pairs well with meats and has a smoked meat flavour of it's own along with plum, tobacco, berries, and pepper. It is high in tannins which means it is full of healthy antioxidants. Drink up!

2015 Okanagan Wine festival winner: TIME Estate Winery (Syrah 2012)

Finalists- Daydreamer Wines (Marcus ANsems Shiraz 2013), Kismet Estate Winery (Syrah 2013), Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate (reserve Shiraz 2012), Moon Curser Vineyards (Syrah 2012), Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate (Sunrock Shiraz 2011), Moon Curser Vineyards (Contraband Syrah 2012)