We're lucky to have an assortment of varieties which excel in British Columbia; most often those in the know will point you towards Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. This isn't to say a case can't be made for Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, or hell - even Zweigelt for that matter, but that quartet are most often the most critically-acclaimed.
Many local wineries have their varietal or stylistic specialties, which is a good thing. It wasn't too long ago that way too many B.C. producers were trying to be all things to all people, individually running the scales from Auxerrois to Zinfandel.
As quality across the region has increased, focus has tightened, particularly on what does well where, and winemakers keeping their energy within their wheelhouse of expertise.
Case in point: Chris Carson, the viticulturalist and winemaker at Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls, owned by JAK & Janice Meyer. The house specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and Carson is well-versed in the varieties, having worked extensively with them from New Zealand to Burgundy.
Dude can harness terroir like nobody's business.
The sun is shining more and more these days, and while some can enjoy balcony or backyard time, authorities have been turning a blind eye to civilized quaffing in public parks and beaches. So wherever we're cracking it, let's bust out some Chardonnays by one of B.C.'s best producers.
Meyer Family Vineyards 2017 McLean Creek Road Chardonnay comes from the winery's home vineyard in the Sub-G.I. of Okanagan Falls, a place ideally suited for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the region's G.D.D. numbers are very similar to those of Burgundy). Grown in gravel and sandy loam, a soft press and fermentation in stainless steel of the grapes were followed by a transfer to (18% new) French oak, then 11 months were spent on the lees, then bottled, unfined and unfiltred. A fairly lush style, it's quite creamy with elements of grilled limes and pineapple core, cradled by toasty gingerbread and a crack of clove.
Meyer Family Vineyards 2018 Stevens Block Chardonnay ($24.45) hails from the family's estate vineyard on the Naramata Bench Sub-G.I., north of Okanagan Falls on the east side of Okanagan Lake. A mix of silt and clay, the vineyard has a slight northerly aspect, allowing for a gentle, steady ripening and good acid preservation. The wine was whole-cluster soft-pressed, wild-fermented a couple months in stainless steel, then aged on lees six months in old French oak. The palate's awash with Gala, Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples, citrusy acidity, a dusting of nutmeg and a dollop of meringue. Elegant and woven well. I had to double-check the price. It drinks like something in the $40 range. Get. It.
Meyer Family Vineyards 2018 Tribute Series Gordon A. Smith Chardonnay ($30.54) also comes from that Naramata vineyard and was soft-pressed, fermented in tank, then finished on the lees in (22% new) French oak for 11 months. Unfined, unfiltred. Some lovely, intoxicating aromatics here - salty sea air, lemon blossom and lemon zest lead to a decidedly tropical palate with guava, papaya, and then some lengthy green Anjou rounding things out. Further swirls and sips bring blood orange, Meyer lemon and fresh ginger. Layers upon layers upon layers. So pretty.
I've had these Chardonnays top of mind while perusing various food sites and blogs. Props need to go to my friend Jasmine who helms the @BlackFoodBloggers Instagram account, which introduced me to Toronto-based blogger Taneisha Morris. Both her Insta account (@TheSeasoned.Skillet) and website (SeasonedSkilletBlog.com) are loaded with "yummy, quick, comfort food that’s easy to repeat."
When thinking Chardonnay-friendly dishes, she had me at Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken:
"It is an extremely warm and comforting Caribbean Stew, where the chicken has been marinated in aromatic spices, braised down, an complimented with a delicious savoury gravy. The major key, and ingredient in this dish is the Browning. It is a natural food colouring sourced from a blend of caramel, vegetable concentrates and seasonings, commonly used in Caribbean households."
Any or all of these Chardonnays would hit this dish well, and it'd be portable enough for picnics! The recipe's here.
The wines can be ordered winery-direct, or can also be found at private stores around town for a few bucks more. Contact the winery to inquire about availability near you.