Many people in western Canada have known for a long time how good the wines being produced in the Okanagan Valley are. They have their favourites.
But visitors from farther afield may be surprised to discover the high quality and variety of Canadian wines. Tristan MacLaggan, head of food and beverage at Banff Gondola's Sky Bistro, is a sommelier who oversees the wine list at the bistro atop Sulphur Mountain. It's an epic setting, and the wine list needs to match the jaw-dropping views. The Fall/Winter 2019 Wine List focuses on "the very best of what Canada can do, the best wine being made here now."
Photo: Summerhill Pyramid Winery in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley
He says Canadian wines consistently show well in blind tastings around the world. "The Canadian wine industry is young, fun, flexible and people are open to trying new things," he says. "We are underrated."
Here, Tristan offers a few tips to help you pick the right Canadian wine.
- Ask for help. At Sky Bistro, the team has gone through extensive and rigorous training, lead by MacLaggan, on all the wines on the list. "Every staff member has tasted every wine," he says. "That translates to the guest." They know the stories behind the labels, and are eager to share.
- Be open minded. Trust your servers to steer you in a perhaps unexpected direction, the list includes a white wine from Nova Scotia and a handful of superb Syrah from BC's Naramata Bench. Their deep knowledge can offer up rewarding surprises and suggestions. And, at Sky Bistro, trust that this particular wine list has been thoroughly researched and thought-through. Tristan MacLaggan says he personally is "continuously tasting wine" and meeting three to four winemakers every week—he's on it!
- Don't be shy. At Sky Bistro, you always have an option to sample a wine before you select it. If you aren't happy with your choice, don't be afraid to send it back.
- Think about the story. In wine circles today, consumers and producers talk frequently about the story behind the label. Wine, at the crossroads between farming and creativity, is so much more than a drink, after all. Each bottle represents the characters who made it, their passions, the growing conditions the year of harvest, and an elaborate journey from vine to bottle. When it gets personal, it gets better, Tristan says.
Explore Canadian wine at our Winemakers' Dinner Series, this November and December at Sky Bistro.