This month, I had the pleasure of visiting some of the best wineries in BC and got the chance to taste a selection of their amazing wines. With over 350 wineries in BC and more than 100 located in the Okanagan, there’s no shortage of astounding vineyards to visit! I’ve picked 3 of my favourite wineries to share with you, diving into what makes them unique and special to me plus revealing a few of my top recommendations from each.
One of my favourite little gems on the Naramata Bench, in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley. Daydreamer is family-run and was started by Rachel and Marcus Ansems. Marcus is a Master of Wine and is one of only 426 on the planet (Our very own Geoffrey Moss MW is another member of this uber elite club).
With only around 2000 cases of production, there aren’t a lot of their wines to go around, which is a real shame, because they are truly terrific. Luckily, we were able to get our hands on one of their hard-to-find wines! Daydreamer follows a wine-growing program that exists without fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides, with small-batch processing, the team prefers a noninterventionist approach.
Aside from the Ansems Family, there are some extra residents who live on the property. 3 happy goats roam around helping with fertilization. Having goats does present challenges, and last year the goats ate 40% of the Chardonnay grapes! Apparently, the only reason they didn’t chomp through the Pinot Noir grapes was that they were too full…lucky for us. The main grapes grown and used in their winemaking are Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Viognier.
Daydreamer Jasper 2019 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc/Cab Sauvignon): Made in a traditional Bordelaise style this red blend has notes of black currant, chocolate, sage, and espresso. It is full-bodied and would age well.
Daydreamer Amelia 2020 (Syrah/Viognier): A mix of Syrah and Viognier, this wine has aromas of violets, peppercorns, prosciutto, and blackberries. After 11 months of maturing in French barriques, spicy and savoury notes present themselves. Try this wine in our Adventurer all white and mixed packs.
Marcus Ansems Rachel’s Cuvee (Chardonnay/Pinot Noir/Pinot Gris): With a long fermentation in old barriques, this wine has great complexity, with notes of toasted hazelnut and crisp lemon fruit from the Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir gives red apple and red fruits taste.
Allen Ingram at Checkmate Winery
If you want to try some of the very best Chardonnays and Merlots in B.C., you must visit Checkmate, in Oliver. The vineyards are separated into five different locations, each a distinct expression of soil type and mesoclimate. Everything is tended to by hand, including canopy management, leaf pulling and cluster thinning. Winemaker Phil McGahan (an export from Australia) grew up driving past Hunter Valley vines and swore one day he’d love to work at a winery. After many years in Sonoma at Williams Selyum, he took his chance to be head winemaker at Checkmate. At an early tasting of the first releases of wines, Anthony Gismondi once declared that he felt the wines were neither New World, nor Old World, but instead, were what he described as Next World. Never being one to shy away from hyperbole, Gismondi felt strongly enough about the wine program to give an entirely new category to Sommeliers around the world to work with!
Checkmate Endgame 2014 (Merlot): A complex nose has aromas of sassafras, licorice, spices, and black cherry. The palate is rich, with savoury notes, weight, firm tannins, and great length.
Checkmate Capture 2018 (Chardonnay): The natural ferment gives this Chardonnay an aromatic and complex nose. This wine starts with notes of apple blossom, mandarin, honeycomb, spice, and creamy stone fruits. It has a long finish on the palate with sea salt and graphite.
Checkmate Queen Taken 2018 (Chardonnay): This wine has notes of citrus peel, white peach, pear, and wet stone, with hints of floral. The palate has lovely fruit flavours of peach, nectarine, and apricot. With a mid-palate richness and acidity, it has a long, textured, mineral finish.
I have had the pleasure of visiting this amazing property on a handful of occasions and had some tours around the entire facility, including all the food staging areas that are set up for hosting events throughout the winery. In fact, Phantom Creek has obtained permits to drink wine just about anywhere on the property. Mark Beringer, great-great-great-grandson of Beringer Vineyards Founding brother Jacob Beringer, has made the transition from Napa to the Okanagan and brings an enormous amount of experience to head up the winemaking team. Phantom Creek has some of the most impressive equipment and setup on the planet, and I challenge anyone to find a private dining room that is more intimate and well-designed than the 6-seater room hidden downstairs among the barrels.
Kobau Vineyard 2018 (Cabernet Franc): Aromas of dark fruit such as plum and black currant followed by notes of cassis and sagebrush make this a great fruit-forward wine. The palate is savoury with mocha and baking spices mixed. It has bright acidity, smooth tannins, and a long finish.
Viognier 2018: This Viognier is elegant, and fresh because of the vineyard’s cool afternoons and is mineral-driven from the gravelly soils. It has aromas of honeysuckle and lilac followed by flavours of orange on the palate with a subtle texture to finish.
Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuvee 2018: Creamy aromas of unsweetened chocolate, blackberries, and cassis are present in this wine. It has notes of dark fruits such as blackberries, plums, hints of sage, and toasty oak notes. The palate is rich with firm tannins and great structure, and a lingering finish.
Allen Ingram is the founder of myWinegenie Applications Ltd. and pairedclub.com and is a professional chef, as well as a Sommelier. His passion for the world’s best wine and food pairings has taken him all over the world for business and pleasure.