B.C. Beers, Fruit Wines, & Spirits

Artisan Sake Maker Junmai Nama Genshu
$21.90  |  general listimg
Not content with opening the first artisan sake-making operation in Canada, former B.C. bureaucrat Masa Shiroki is growing his own sake rice in the southern Interior, intent on making a completely Canadian sake. Look for small batches of his “B.C. cuvée” in late 2010. In the meantime, pick up a bottle of the black label Osake Junmai Nama Genshu on Granville Island (don’t even think of heating it), then head over to Oyama Sausage for the duck pâté and strong cheese.  

Averill Creek Vineyard Cowichan Black 2008
$18 / half bottle  |  private wine stores
Amid the many blackberry offerings, this one from the best of the Island wineries scores because its intense flavour carries none of the bitterness that sometimes afflicts this fruit. It’s naturally fermented port-style to 16 percent and balances sugar, acid, and alcohol to deliver great stability. Serve it after dinner, of course, but it’s also great mixed with sparkling wine for a Kir Royale. Island folks love it with Victoria Gin to make blackberry martinis or drizzled over a ripe peach with Cowichan Bay’s Udder Guys Vanilla Bean ice cream.

Chambar Belgian Ale

$6.95 / 650 ml  |  private wine stores
Belgian ale became a big deal in Vancouver over the last year. There are half a dozen on tap at Stella’s Bierstro on Cambie as well as the entire Unibroue Belgian-style range from Quebec. Now Chambar’s gone a step further and crafted an ale to go with its own take on Belgian food. While it doesn’t shout Belgian, it’s a very drinkable amber ale, sweetly malted but balanced by some hops, and goes prefectly with Chambar’s moules frites (especially the Congolaise, with coconut milk, smoky chilies, and cilantro).

Elephant Island Orchard Wines Pear Wine 2009

$16  |  private wine stores
Naramata’s Elephant Island makes the most convincing case that fruit wine is more than a souvenir for tourists. This is thanks to the hard work of Miranda and Del Halladay who carefully research what fruit to grow and follow strict winemaking standards for both “dinner” and dessert wines. Their 2009 pear wine, served with a crisp juicy Okanagan pear, Tiger Blue cheese from nearby Poplar Grove, and a bit of peppery watercress, will astound you.

Merridale Estate Cidery Traditional Cider
$9 / half-litre  |  private wine stores or direct
Merridale pioneered our renewed renewal in cider more than 20 years ago and since then it’s prospered and expanded in its peaceful corner of the Cowichan Valley to include a bistro, a wood-burning outdoor oven, and a still for apple and blackberry eaux-de-vie. The Traditional, using a mix of the gorgeously named Tremlett’s Bitter, Chisel Jersey, Yarlington Mill, and a host of other traditional English and French cider apples, is very appley, distinctly dry, not too fizzy. Braise some chicken or pork in it and drink the rest.
Pemberton Distillery Schramm Vodka
$49.99  |  specialty listing
What better place to set up a vodka distillery using organic potatoes than Pemberton, aka Spud Valley, the potato capital of B.C.? The Schramm brothers—one a potato farmer, the other the master distiller—had the idea almost a decade ago but only succeeded in bringing it into being in 2009. Small batches naturally fermented and slowly distilled in a copper pot still give a quality that’s way beyond the European premium competition Earthy as new-dug potatoes, sweet, rich, and full of flavour.

Stanley Park Belgian Style 1897 Amber Ale

$11.99  |  specialty listing
Mission Hill’s Anthony von Mandl doesn’t do things on the cheap, so when he started a brewery only the best would do. The purpose-built brew house on Annacis Island, complete with wind turbine, claims to be Canada’s first sustainable brewery (a distinction that more properly belongs to the tiny Crannóg Ales in Sorrento). His first beer pays tribute to the original Lost Lagoon brewery started in 1897 it’s a decent enough beer—clear amber, plenty of toasty malt sweetness, and mild hops—cleverly marketed.

Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery Vintage Sac Sweet Mead 2007
$26.95 / 375 ml  |  private wine stores
Bob Liptrot’s been keeping bees and making honey for more than 40 years and experimenting with mead, the honey wine of the ancients, for almost as long. The Vintage Sac from his Sooke farm is his first fortified mead and it’s a very good winter dessert wine with a flowery, honeyed flavour that goes well with apple-cranberry tart, a marmalade soufflé or some blue cheese or just for sipping by the fire.

Victoria Spirits Victoria Gin
$49.99  |  specialty listing
B.C.’s first small-batch, artisanal gin can hold its own against any of the big premium brands. Built on the essential juniper berries plus coriander, angelica, orris root, lemon peel, orange peel, cinnamon bark, star anise, and rose petals along with a mystery ingredient, Vic Gin’s floral, heady aroma—all those rose petals—makes you swoon before you’ve even tasted it. A martini maybe, but best just neat with a few drops of Victoria Spirit’s fabulous new Twisted and Bitter orange bitters from Liberty Wine Merchants.

Vista D’oro Farms and Winery D’oro Walnut Wine 2007

$50 / 500 ml  |  private wine stores
Vista D’oro takes Fraser Valley walnuts still in their green shrouds and macerates them in Okanagan brandy before blending them with Okanagan red wine and aging in American and French oak to craft this unique creation. It’s hard to find in stores, so try it at Au Petit Chavignol (843 E. Hastings St.) with some Stilton and a handful of toasted nuts.