The Similkameen Valley: The Future of BC Wine?
With just about 700 acres under vine, the Similkameen Valley is its own wine region and has about fifteen wineries. Coupled with a growing foodie scene (Klippers and Row 14 anyone?!), this area is fast becoming a wine traveller destination in its own right (and distinct from neighbouring Okanagan Valley). In fact, for years now Okanagan winemakers have been sourcing Similkameen grapes to include in parts of their portfolio. They were on to something early. There’s some great juice going on here.
Why? This place has a perfect mix of being located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, is blessed with well-draining rocky soils comprised of sand, gravel and mineral deposits (notably calcium carbonate) remnant from glacial and fluvial activity, has a growing season which at its peak has two hours of sun per day more than Napa Valley and large diurnal swings (from high daytime temperatures to cold overnight ones). Vines have to work hard here. They produce quality ripe fruit which retains that BC hallmark fresh acidity. Minerality in texture and tone comes through.
The Similkameen Valley is also the organic capital of British Columbia. If you’ve stopped at any of the scores of fruit and veg stands in Keremeos or Cawston near Clos du Soleil you know what I’m talking about. Strong afternoon winds (like the Rhône’s Mistral) blow through the Valley cooling things down and keeping pests and mildew at bay. This supports the organic and sustainable farming practices which many local vintners like Clos du Soleil have adopted.
No matter how many times I drive up and down Highway 3 between Princeton and Osoyoos, I never tire of taking in the sweeping vistas of where the mountains meet the vines. It’s truly awesome.
There’s so much cool wine stuff happening here. And while it’s been going on for a while, in some ways it feels like it’s really just kicking off in a big way. This is a place to watch. Look out Washington State!