This fall sees numerous events to mark the 20th anniversary of Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA)—BC’s AOC-styled origin system. Along with the 1988 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement, it was, arguably, the turning point for an industry far too long dependent on bulk wine imports and labeling mis-truths—even if those not so little annoyances still persist in the form of Cellared in Canada wines…but we digress.
Not to be overlooked, however, is that the program’s introduction also just happened to coincide with the first vintage released by Blue Mountain Vineyards, whose founder Ian Mavety was (and we can assume still is) a passionate critic of most things VQA. Not the least of which is that it allows wineries to use the term ‘estate’ on their label for wines that don’t contain any estate grown fruit.
In case you haven’t guessed, Blue Mountain produces only estate grown wines from their meticulously maintained and family controlled vineyard, near the town of Okanagan Falls. In a valley not short of spectacular vistas, it’s become the most widely used picture-postcard view, bar none, often used for the promotion of the Okanagan Valley at large.
When wrapping up his UBC Agriculture degree, in 1971 Ian Mavety acquired the acreage overlooking Vaseaux Lake that would later become Blue Mountain Vineyards—very early days for the then (rightly) much maligned BC wine industry.
The Mavety family was growing grapes for others for a full 16 years before releasing their own wines and building the winery. But they were among the first very few to recognise the potential for vinifera—and its importance if BC was to be taken in any way seriously—as opposed to hybrids then commonly grown.
Blue Mountain was also the first in BC to truly embrace the notion of being a ‘specialised’ estate winery, electing very early to focus its efforts on Pinot Noir. The risk the Mavetys took at the time was considerable. However, not only were their wines well made but they also proved that, given the right terroir and proper viticulture, good reds could indeed come out of the Okanagan, firmly establishing Blue Mountain as BC’s first ‘cachet’ winery.
Even the naysayers and Old World elitists who delighted in trashing BC wines well into the new millennium had to admit that Blue Mountain Pinot Noir was deserving of all the attention.
Ian Mavety, along with son Matt Mavety (now the winemaker) and wine guru Sid Cross presented an excellent Vancouver tasting, which offered a fascinating look back at the last 20 years—a rare opportunity to taste wines from the same terroir, spanning vintages over two decades.
Perhaps luckily, we didn’t hear the letters ‘VQA’ mentioned once, although there was a discussion that bordered on lively concerning the use of the term ‘Reserve’ …
Post tasting, all of the current Blue Mountain releases were on offer with some inventive pairings by Metropolitan Hotel executive chef Quang Dang.
The good news? These days Blue Mountain wines (including the Reserve ‘Stripe Label’) are all a whole lot more easy to find than they used to be. And, given the value they represent—and the fact that they’re all bona fide ‘estate’ wines, worth tracking down.