A good thing go­ing on the west coast

Pa­cific North­west worth pay­ing at­ten­tion to


It is ex­cit­ing for a wine lover when an emerg­ing re­gion starts to come into its own. There’s a newish sec­tion in the LCBO these days called “Pa­cific North­west,” and while the three ar­eas rep­re­sented – Bri­tish Columbia and the states of Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon – might not seem “new or emerg­ing,” they seem to have bet­ter luck when lumped to­gether.

A lot of peo­ple are talk­ing about this re­gion and we should be pay­ing at­ten­tion.


Sit­u­ated be­tween Cal­i­for­nia and Wash­ing­ton State, Ore­gon is known mainly for Pinot Noir, but seems to have found a happy medium com­bin­ing the fruit for­ward­ness of Cal­i­for­nia with the Bur­gun­dian bal­ance of acid­ity and earth­i­ness.

The first plant­ing of these grapes was in the late 1960s, and since then Ore­gon has ex­ploded with win­ery growth: from a mere five in 1970 to more than 600 today.

The key va­ri­eties are Pinot Noir and, in a sur­pris­ing twist, Pinot Gris. This is, in fact, the only re­gion in the world where Pinot Gris is the sec­ond-most planted.

While you’ll also find Ries­ling and Gewurz­traminer be­ing made, many feel Chardon­nay is the real up-and-comer for the years ahead. What makes Ore­gon such a great place for grapes is its pre­cip­i­ta­tion falls mainly dur­ing the win­ter, leav­ing the grow­ing sea­son fairly dry.

Key re­gions to know: Wil­lamette Val­ley (home to more than 400 winer­ies), Dundee Hills (with its unique red vol­canic soil) and Rogue Val­ley (the most southerly re­gion grow­ing more than 40 va­ri­eties).

“Ore­gon is a rel­a­tively new wine-pro­duc­ing re­gion that doesn’t have cen­turies of deep-rooted tra­di­tion and rules,” says Bryan Lang of Hazelfern Cel­lars. “As a wine­maker, this al­lows me the flex­i­bil­ity to be in­no­va­tive and think out­side the box when craft­ing our wines.”

Wash­ing­ton State

This state’s wine­mak­ing his­tory dates back a lit­tle fur­ther than Ore­gon – to the 1860s. How­ever, the industry didn’t fully get off the ground un­til the 1970s. This is due not only to a lack of suf­fi­cient wa­ter and ir­ri­ga­tion tech­niques in this semi-arid part of the United States, but also to Pro­hi­bi­tion’s nega­tive im­pact on wine pro­duc­ing in the

coun­try as a whole.

Today, it is the sec­ond-largest pro­ducer of qual­ity wines in the U.S., next to Cal­i­for­nia. The keys to Wash­ing­ton’s suc­cess have been Ries­ling, Chardon­nay, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Mer­lot. How­ever, these days it’s Syrah that is mak­ing the big­gest im­pact as the wine world rec­og­nizes the beauty and el­e­gance of cool-cli­mate ver­sions of the grape.

What makes Wash­ing­ton so spe­cial are the Olympic and Cas­cade moun­tain ranges, which act as a bar­rier to rain and winds com­ing off the Pa­cific. Also, while most of the world has to deal with the vinedam­ag­ing louse phyl­lox­era, Wash­ing­ton has been left mostly un­scathed by the pest.

Key re­gions to know: the Columbia Val­ley (the largest re­gion in the state, con­tain­ing 13 sub-ap­pel­la­tions within its bound­aries), Walla Walla Val­ley (home to some of the old­est winer­ies), Yakima Val­ley (largest of the Columbia Val­ley sub-apps, con­tain­ing three of its own), and Horse Heaven Hills (warm­est sub-app with el­e­va­tions from 90 to 550 me­tres).

“We’re cur­rently ap­proach­ing 1,000 winer­ies with more than 55,000 acres of vine­yard,” says Steve Warner, pres­i­dent of Wash­ing­ton State Wine. “Sales of Wash­ing­ton State wine have nearly dou­bled from $1.07 bil­lion in 2009 to more than $2 bil­lion in 2017. In fact, Wash­ing­ton State wine is poised to pass Wash­ing­ton State ap­ples in the next few years to be­come the No. 1 agri­cul­tural prod­uct in the state.”

Bri­tish Columbia

B.C.’s Okana­gan Val­ley has been known to Cana­di­ans wine lovers for decades, but now the rest of the world is slowly tak­ing no­tice of the out­stand­ing qual­ity that can be found in one of the world’s most northerly wine­mak­ing re­gions. New re­gions around the province are also be­ing dis­cov­ered and planted.

The Okana­gan Val­ley is home to more than 60 grape va­ri­eties and all seem to flour­ish there. The big three Bordeaux va­ri­etals are king in this “hot” desert-like clime, es­pe­cially in the south­ern desert. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Ries­ling and Chardon­nay also add to B.C.’s suc­cess.

Key re­gions to know: Okana­gan Val­ley (160 kilo­me­tres in length, first planted in 1859), the Golden Mile Bench (the first Okana­gan sub-app, given that dis­tinc­tion in 2014) and the Sim­ilka­meen Val­ley (a grow­ing ap­pel­la­tions home to about 15 winer­ies to date).

“We have a very short, hot grow­ing sea­son that is unique to B.C.,” says Miles Pro­dan, pres­i­dent of the B.C. Wine In­sti­tute.

“There isn’t any­thing else like it in the world.”

I’m sure each re­gion would say the same thing – and af­ter try­ing the wines from each place they might all be right.


Osoy­oos Larose 2014 Le Grand Vin (Bri­tish Columbia), $47.95 (#626325)

A Mer­lot-dom­i­nant blend, 68 per cent, with Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Caber­net Franc and Petit Ver­dot mak­ing up the re­main­der. Nice bal­ance of fruit to sec­ondary flavours such as mocha, cas­sis, black­berry, vanilla and grippy tan­nins that will help age the wine grace­fully for the next 10-plus years. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2016 Chardon­nay (Wash­ing­ton), $21.95 (#232439) Not the ballsy, over-oaked ver­sions you find fur­ther down the coast in Cal­i­for­nia, here there’s a mel­lon-ap­ple note with lemon on the fin­ish that helps to keep the fresh­ness fac­tor in­tact. Kings Ridge 2015 Pinot Noir (Ore­gon), $27.95 (#237776)

Ore­gon is pri­mar­ily known for Pinot Noir. Wine­mak­ers seem to have bridged the gap be­tween the earth­i­ness of Bur­gundy and the over-the-top fruiti­ness of Cal­i­for­nia, cre­at­ing a style all their own: here anise and smoke blend with black cherry lead­ing to a sat­is­fy­ing fin­ish.

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