Our Neighbor to the North Offers Much More Than Icewine

Our Neighbor to the North Offers Much More Than Icewine 1280 853 Marion Bernstein

British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley


In the wake of election results, the reality is, due to visa regulations many Americans will not be able to physically move to Canada—but—that doesn’t mean you can’t seek asylum in a glass.

Offering diverse climates and varied landscapes, Canada produces an incredible array of wines that compete globally. And we’re not just talking icewine. We’re talking spectacular Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay, and Cab Franc from Ontario’s Niagara peninsula—a fertile microclimate just north of Buffalo best known for producing well-balanced cool-climate wines. Grapes grown in these cooler regions have a longer ripening time and accumulate flavor slowly, resulting in higher levels of acidity and minerality which makes for more food-friendly vino.



Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in the Okanagan Valley


Further west in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, you’ll find big, bold Bordeaux blends alongside robust Syrah, Viognier, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. Just 100 miles north of the Washington state border, this sun-drenched region is home to some of the oldest vines in Canada. Distinct soil and climate conditions throughout the 155-mile valley house 174 unique licensed wineries of stature both big and small.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Wow. I had no idea Canada produced so many different varietals…” which inevitably begs the question: With so many high-quality wines produced just 100 miles north of the U.S. border, why are Canadian wines so hard to find on U.S. shelves and menus?


Sommelier and general manager of Montreal’s Maison Publique (currently ranked number 11 in Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants) Felix Léonard-Gagné weighs in, saying, “In the U.S., there’s high demand for American, Italian, Spanish, and French wines. Canadian wines are still considered ‘niche’ products, so they’re much less common, but they can be found in specialty stores throughout larger cities like New York and Chicago.”

When asked for his personal favorite Canadian wines, Felix was quick to provide us three from Ontario: Norman Hardie Chardonnay, Tawse Cabernet Franc, Flat Rock Pinot Noir; and three from British Columbia: Laughing Stock “Portfolio,” Sperling Pinot Gris, TH Wine Viognier—many of which are available in the U.S. via wine-searcher.com.


So although that Canadian work visa may not pan out, that doesn’t mean you can’t pay a visit to a province or two. For those looking for a wine-centric vacation, check out CNDWINE. Founded by Felix in 2016, CNDWINE is a Canada-based experiential wine company that connects consumers with winemakers and sommeliers through wine paired dinners, guided tasting seminars, and winery events. Felix says, “With this movement, I want to create routes to discover Canadian winemakers and artisans. I want to bring people into Canadian wine country so they can experience firsthand what we’re doing.”

CNDWINE is still in its infancy stage, but we anticipate several event announcements by early February 2017. We encourage Canadian wine enthusiasts to follow @cndwine on Instagram for announcements, updates and recommended Canadian wine nods worth checking out.


Marion Bernstein is a lifestyle writer for Bustle, InsideHook, and Time Out. Her work has also been featured in Brooklyn Magazine, Huffington Post, and Foodbeast.

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