New wine region near Kamloops has room for growth
The Vancouver Sun - Bruce Constantineu
The Kamloops Wine Trail won’t make oenophiles forget about Napa Valley or even the Okanagan Valley.
The newly branded 60-km route that meanders along the North and South Thompson Rivers connects just four wineries but thanks to global warming, proponents expect the fledgling wine region to attract many more vineyards in the near future.
“These pioneer wineries have proven we can grow quality grapes here and there’s lots of good land available for sale and expansion,” said Kamloops Wineries Association executive director Trish Morelli. “We’re four wineries now but hope to double that in the next handful of years.”
The provincial government recently erected highway signs directing visitors to the area’s four wineries: Monte Creek Ranch, Harper’s Trail, Privato Vineyard & Winery and Sagewood Winery.
Harper’s Trail was Kamloops’ first winery, opening in 2012 in a region that was considered too cold to support any kind of lasting grape-growing industry.
Marquis Wine Cellars owner John Clerides, who has occasionally sold Harper’s Trail wines in his Vancouver wine shop, said the novelty of a Kamloops-area wine made them popular with customers and they usually sold out quickly.
He agrees global warming has made Kamloops a viable alternative to the more traditional wine-growing regions in B.C.
“When I first got into the business, it was all winter-hardy hybrid grapes in the Okanagan but that has all changed because it’s warmer now,” Clerides said, noting B.C. could benefit if popular U.S. wine districts become too hot for certain grapes.
One study has estimated Napa Valley could lose up to two-thirds of its annual grape harvest by 2050 if current warming trends continue.
Morelli said Kamloops winters aren’t as harsh as they used to be and the development of hardier early-ripening grapes has allowed higher-latitude locations to support new wineries.
She noted Kamloops boasts more than 2,000 hours of sunshine a year and the area’s heat accumulation — known as growing degree days — is comparable to the Burgundy region of France.
“It still can be a gamble and a risk, just like it is in the Okanagan,” Morelli said. “We do have those early frosts that can cause you to lose grapes and we don’t have the big lake they have in the Okanagan to help moderate winter temperatures.”
Privato Vineyard & Winery co-proprietor Debbie Woodward said it can be a challenge to grow grapes on their two-hectare property because of a relatively short growing season.
“That’s why we chose Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (grapes) because we certainly can’t do some of the Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots that other regions do,” she said.
Privato, which has won awards for Pinot Noir made from Okanagan grapes, harvested its first crop of Kamloops grapes last year and will release its first wines from those grapes this summer.
Privato has a tasting room, a wine garden and a patio area where people can picnic and Woodward said the number of visitors this year has probably tripled over what it was at this time last year and expects the new highway signs will draw even more traffic.
The four wineries operate six vineyards with a total of 32 hectares under vine, with the top grapes including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.