Centennial BC Coat of Arms at Government House

The elaborately carved coat of arms details the history of European settlement and early industries—grape growing not among them...

This elaborately carved coat of arms from 1958 details the history of European settlement and early industries—grape growing not among them.  (More below …)

There’s no time like the B.C. Day long weekend to celebrate the diversity of B.C. wines, no matter where in the province your holiday takes you.

Back when the pre-NAFTA group of pioneers amounted to barely a dozen or so believers, a few figured the Okanagan might one day be home to, say, two or three dozen wineries. But even the most optimistic (such as Time Estate’s Harry McWatters) admit that at the time they never dreamed we’d be at around 230 and counting, and pushing the growing boundaries as we are.

Here’s a clutch of wide ranging B.C. drops from across the province to help toast the weekend:

Beaufort Estate Ortega 2012.  This Courtenay winery is a Vancouver Island leader. And they make excellent Ortega, the island’s mainstay white: dry style, aromatic with stonefruit notes and good acidity.  A finalist in this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Awards. (winery, $18/90 points).

Salt Spring Karma. This vibrant méthode traditionelle sparkler, made on the Gulf islands, sports a yeasty-toasty top with crisp acidity and a burst of citrus before a clean finish. Also an LG Awards finalist.   (Winery, private stores, $34.90, 89 points).

Backyard Vineyards Blanc de Noir Brut.  The winery’s mainstay bubble, made from 100 per cent Pinot Noir (estate grown just 45 minutes east of Vancouver), yields a creamy mousse followed by bursts of bright citrus and stone fruit on a well-balanced palate ($22.90, 89 points).

Fort Berens 23 Camels White 2012.  Groundbreakers in Lillooet, Fort Berens, makes this easy-sipping, foodfriendly blend from Pinot Gris (60 per cent), Chardonnay (20 per cent) and Riesling (20 per cent). Zesty grapefruit notes with a juicy, appletoned and citrus palate. The name is a charming salute to the ill-fated experiment that brought dromedaries to the Cariboo during the 19thcentury gold rush (winery, private stores, $17-$19, 89 points).

Harper’s Trail Field Blend 2012.  “Field blend” means just that, whatever’s planted in the field winds up in the bottle, although I’m pretty sure in this case the Kamloops winery‘s approach (with the help of Okanagan Crush Pad) is a little more considered. Riesling and Chardonnay come together for an appealing, crisp and juicy sipper of apple, pear and a touch of mineral, with an appealingly low alcohol of 10.4 per cent. If you’re heading that way, the winery just opened its tasting room on the banks of the Thompson River ($17.90/89 points).

Clos de Soleil Rosé 2012. Another finalist in this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Awards, this 100-per-cent Cabernet Sauvignon sports strawberry and earthy notes on top, followed by cranberry and raspberry wrapped in juicy acidity, intensely fruity with a long close ($18.90, 91 points). This Similkameen winery also produces some of the best Pinot Blanc in B.C., winning Best of Varietal in this year’s peer-judged Okanagan Spring Wine Festival.

Calona Vineyards Artists Series Sovereign Opal 2012/Pinot Noir 2011.  I was torn, but Calona gets two nods because it’s the province’s longest-running winery, having been founded in 1932 as a sparkling apple winery. The Sovereign Opal remains the province’s most unique white, being the only planting of its kind anywhere. Try this aromatic, off-dry, pear-and-orange-blossom toned juicy sipper with a spicy Asian salad ($12.99/89 points). The Pinot gets in not only for its 2012 LG’s Award but because there’s still plenty available. Chill down a bottle for half an hour or so and pair it with some barbecued wild salmon, LTO (Limited Time Offer), $13.99 BCLS, 90 points.

Baillie Grohmann Gewurztraminer 2012.  From Creston comes this rose-petal toned Gewurz with spicy ginger and lychee hints before a lengthy close (private stores $20-$22, 88 points).


This material appears in today’s North Shore News


About the image. I shot this along with some more detailed panels a couple of years ago, while judging the Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards, which are held at Government House, in the Maclure room, where the carving is above the fireplace.

The ornate work by Charles R. Seyfort was completed in 1958 (for the centennial of the province’s founding) and reflects very much the colonial attitudes of the time. Depictions of the six panels range from Captain Vancouver’s arrival in Nootka Sound to gold panning, farming, logging, mining and fishing, while hydro dams and power stations rate top billing, around the coat of arms.

 I sense that its presence is downplayed these days, as it makes no reference whatsoever to First Nations peoples and customs (or even their very existence). But it does remain a tour de force that showcases the carver’s skill—and serves as an important reminder of how far we’ve come.

The elaborately carved coat of arms details the history of European settlement and early industries—grape growing not among them...

The elaborately carved coat of arms details the history of European settlement and early industries—grape growing not among them…

I looked for more details online about the artist but found little. However, here’s a work attributed to one Rudi Seyfort (scroll down) that looks remarkably similar in style.