If you are looking for a real wine adventure, this is it. Visiting a wine region that currently only has one winery means that it is adventure you’ll be seeking and not a full day of wine touring. Nakusp, BC is located near the mid-point of the Upper Arrow Lakes and just like the Okanagan, nobody passes through this area on the way to somewhere else. People who go there want to go there. Since we are being advised to travel within our own province this summer, I suggest that this region is great for exploring. Valley of the Springs is also a winery that you really should not miss.
I visited them last summer and camped nearby at MacDonald Creek Provincial Park with my kids, unaware of how difficult it is normally to get a camping spot at this popular park. We traveled to the visit the winery, which had not yet been completed, and met owners Jody and Brenda Scott outside. They were in the final phase of renovating the building where their wine shop and winey were going to be located. The weather was perfect for an outdoor tasting and they had set up a beautiful table for the occasion.
I have tasted a lot of wines from the very first vintages of new wineries and I’ve found that wines from new wineries can lack character, especially if they are made in brand new buildings. Perhaps these new wineries decided to play it safe with their grape growing or winemaking decisions to minimize risk in some way. Whatever their decisions, a lot of new wineries fail to impress with wines from their first vintages for whatever reasons. The good wineries will learn from it and subsequent vintages will get more interesting and their reputation will be built on those wines instead.
It was clear to me early on that this is not the case with Valley of the Springs. All of their wines had character immediately and were ready to take on the palates of B.C. wine lovers. The stand out for me was Vista, a wine based on Siegerrebe that was the only wine in the portfolio at the time that used fruit grown only in the Arrow Lakes region. The other wines had fruit from the Okanagan, mostly in the north. This has since changed with the current vintages offered on their website. Jody’s goal is to eventually use only fruit grown locally.
The other stand out was the Marechal Foch. I should start by saying that I have never had an aversion this grape variety that other people have. The Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch was a beautiful wine to me when I was learning about B.C. wine so I’ve never understood people’s retiscence to accept Foch as a legitimate wine. I’ve never felt that Foch was a grape that was “deported from France” the way one winery owner once described it to me.
Suffice it to say that this might be a Foch that even the Foch-denyers might even be able to enjoy. The aromas were bright and fruity, bursting with red cherry and plums. The palate was equally enthusiastic and plesantly fruity. I purchased this wine again later and its complexity only increased since my first tasting.
My top picks for Valley of the Springs are:
- Vista – The complexity on this is what sends it to the top for me. It’s got pears, white peaches, flowers, and a unique herbal edge that I can only attribute to being from the Arrow Lakes.
- Marichal Foch – See above.
- Bacchus – This one showed more jumpy white grape fruity character at the first tasting in 2019 but has calmed down since then. Wonderful flavours overall and big enough to handle fuller flavours like Mongolian beef.
Note – This winery’s portfolio is loaded with aromatic white wines and only one medium red. If that is a style that you do not enjoy, this might not be the winery for you. If you do enjoy exploring different wines and have enjoyed wine touring in the Shuswap or Vancouver Island, this is a winery that you should not miss.
Their wine shop’s grand opening was held this past weekend and their guest suite will be available mid-August.
Excerpt from the recently published Okanagan Wine Tour Guide (published by Touchwood Editions):
Breaking new ground on a wine region is always risky, but from the perspective of owner Jody Scott, the risks are minimal compared to his notoriously dangerous former career as a tree faller. Born in Saskatchewan, Jody came to British Columbia as a six-year-old when his parents moved to a fruit-producing area near Nakusp. The construction of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam at Castlegar forced the family to relocate to higher ground as the water level of the Arrow Lakes rose 12 metres above its natural level, submerging arable land. The region ceased to be a significant fruit-producing valley.
Jody’s father made wine from local fruit, and Jody also became a home winemaker, initially with wine kits. When Jody and his wife, Brenda, a fourth-generation resident of Nakusp and a Red Seal chef, built their dream house overlooking the Kuskanax River, they operated Sunset Ridge Bed and Breakfast.
While touring Salmon Arm wineries in the early 2000s, Jody discovered Siegerrebe, subsequently his favourite white variety. He cleared land to plant his vineyard with cuttings obtained from a winery in the Shuswap. While researching what to plant, Jody found like-minded people also interested in becoming grape growers. A group started the Arrow Lakes Grape Growers Society, which is completing a massive 10-year study of the grape varieties suited to the region’s climate. With help from Salt Spring Island viticulturist Paul Troop and former provincial grape specialist John Vielvoye, the association is ascertaining the potential of the Arrow Lakes as a wine-growing region.
Jody began planting his vineyard in 2007 with many different grape varieties to see what would work, including Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Auxerrois, Zweigelt, Ortega, Pinot Noir, Maréchal Foch, and of course Siegerrebe. The rocky soil made planting particularly difficult. “It’s just boulders and gravel,” explains Jody. “Straight glacial till.” In the summer, the temperature can reach 35°C (95°F). Vineyards must be irrigated since water drains quickly through the vineyard’s rocky subsoil. At 520 metres in elevation, the vineyard gets significant snowfall to protect the vines in the winter. The short growing season requires early-ripening grape varieties.
The first vintages from Valley of the Springs, a name that evokes the region’s natural hot springs, was released in the spring of 2019. The initial production was only about 260 cases of wine: 130 cases of Bacchus, 40 cases of a white aromatic blend consisting of Siegerrebe, Ortega, and Madeleine Angevine, 40 cases Gewürztraminer, and 40 cases Maréchal Foch. The production was supplemented with fruit purchased from the Okanagan, although the winery intends to use only fruit from the Arrow Lakes region in future vintages. Jody has more land to plant and will be purchasing from other growers in the valley as they establish their vineyards.