My first real BC wine ever was a bottle of Sumac Ridge’s 199? Blanc de Noir sparkling wine. I bought it on my first ever trip to Vancouver where I spent New Year’s Eve 1999-2000. For anyone who is over 30 today, it was an extremely special New Year’s because, if we believed all the scare-hype about it, there was a good chance that planes were going to crash out of the sky and our debit cards might not work the next day because of the buzzword of the time – “Y2K”. So we all partied like it was 1999 and everyone remembers where they were (or at least where they ended up) on that most memorable of New Year’s Eves.
The bubbles from Sumac Ridge were purchased to celebrate Y2K with friends and it was a blast for a lot of reasons. I knew very little about BC (this being my first time in the province) and nothing about BC wine other than that I’d heard that there was wine produced here. One of the big memories I have of the evening though is that the other people at the party all knew about Sumac Ridge and recognized it as a special wine. I felt I’d done a good job shopping for wine (which I was very timid about doing at the time – wine was still very strange to me then) and the congratulatory praise for my purchase was the seed that has since grown into the petulantly stubborn but keenly guided focus that is only slightly tainted by pretentious elitism. In other words, I liked BC wine enough to buy more.
I’m kidding, of course. I’m not that keenly guided.
My point is that without the wine world of Vancouver really getting behind the home team of BC wine, there is little doubt that this industry would exist as it stands today. We don’t need to depend on an export market the way other regions have to (can you say “Australia”), depend on the market whims to keep them in business (will NZ Sauv Blanc always be popular?), or suffer through XXXX years as we await the ultimate doom of a wine that has not been widely consumed for nearly 3 full generations (Sherry). Currently, BC wine is both diversified (absurdly so, for better or worse) and resilient (what downturn?) because the “buy-local” mentality has permeated our daily habits. Events like Orofino’s “1.6 Mile Dinner”, the Similkameen BBQ King, or any of the locavore type events held in the Okanagan would have been nearly impossible to hold profitably a generation ago and would likely have been seen as just a hick country event that no one from the city would care about much less understand the need or appeal.
But somehow, folks from Vancouver and Victoria, and maybe Calgary too have started riding the “BC Wine” train more frequently. I meet people everyday from these places and they are all enjoying themselves as they explore the nearly limitless amount of experiences that they can have when touring through wine country. It’s exciting for me too because I get to share and have a small part in their enthusiams. Wine people love to share. That’s something I noticed when I first starting working in this industry.
But there’s also been a shift towards pride in local producers that extends beyond wine. I don’t know which one has influenced the other but I know that for myself, wine was the doorway to all kinds of other things that I never considered searching for locally – cheese, berries, meats, and vinegars. Take the changes that have happened coincidentally with a place like Krause Brothers Berry farm in Langley. I remembered going there to pick strawberries or raspberries one time in 2001 or something. It was a little building in a big field. It was a u-pick and I remember getting a good amount of something that we made into jams and jellies. I went back a couple years ago and the place was like Disneyland for berry lovers – it was insane! The building and the parking lot were tripled in size from my last visit and there were people everywhere. I was amazed and glad to see that they had become so successful.
Have other businesses like that grown up at the same rate because of the same zeitgeist that has supported the BC wine industry? Maybe. Is it beneficial? Sustainable? I think so. Will I support that in any way I can? I will do what I can. (Thanks for reading.) Was wine the genesis of this particular zeitgeist? Maybe. I’ve written about that before where wine starting with honey and then chocolates but it could easily be extrapolated out from anything grown or produced locally. Wine draws your attention into a particular place because the flavors of the wines are going to be different depending on the location where the grapes are grown. It doesn’t surprise me that people are starting to look around for other things once they get to that place. Have fun looking around.
Cheers from wine country.