I took advantage of the best weather of the year last Sunday — combined with the fact my wife and daughter were away
— to go check out what’s new with our Fraser Valley wineries. And boy, was I pleasantly surprised!
Specific winery/wine reviews will follow in the weeks to come, to give appropriate space and credit to both. But for now, here are some high level observations and conclusions.
1. Changing of the Guard
The first and most striking conclusion is that the ‘winery pecking order’ has changed almost completely (at least for my style of wines). Whereas before it was “Township 7 and everybody else”, there are now three wineries making better fruit-driven wines than T7 — Blackwood Lane, Mt Lehman and Vista d’Oro. And to be honest, it wasn’t even close. These three are head and shoulders above both T7 and everyone else.
2. A Great Range of Prices
Another thing that amazed me was the great prices on some of the wines. The vast propertion of the really good wines was around $25, with Mt Lehman, in particular, having some amazing wines for < $20! That bodes well for wine in BC, as the prices have only been going up in a lot of places, with the quality and value not necessarily following suit.
3. A New High End Wine Leader
Readers will be familiar with my rants about BC wines over $40. But Carlos Lee at Blackwood Lane has really got something going at his high end winery, even with a number of wines over that level (and a couple even more expensive than that). He is benchmarking himself against a whole different competition — first and second growth Bordeaux, California "cult" wines — and, at least in my tasting, he has a solid argument that his wines offer way better value!
4. Great Wines Made From Fraser Valley Grapes?
Finally, I need to do a bit more research to confirm it, but Mt Lehman in Abbotsford may be showing it is possible to grow and ripen grapes in the Fraser Valley that make great wines! To date, most of the wineries have gotten their fruit from the Okanagan, with the exception of some whites and sparkling wines. But Vern Siemens at Mt Lehman apparently even makes some of his reds from his own vines. If that is the case, it could change winemaking in the Valley (and in BC)!
In conclusion, then, it was a very enjoyable — and impressive — day of tasting. And it was exciting! To find this new level of quality was amazing, especially since it was so close to home. While the number of wineries is still small compared to the Okanagan or een Vancouver Island, the quality of some of them is right up there with the best. In fact, i know it was only one tasting, but the three new "stars" — Blackwood Lane, Mt. Lehman and Vista d'Oro — were second only to some of the big guns in Naramata (and ahead of most on the Island and many in Osoyoos and Oliver).
Stay tuned for some of the winery/wine reviews in the weeks to come.