While the effects of climate change appear to be wreaking havoc on traditional wine-producing regions around the world, they might actually be improving conditions for grape growing in one particular corner of North America: western Canada’s Okanagan Valley.
In a CNBC op-ed, Australian-born winemaker Philip Mcgahan writes that “climate change has increased the region’s suitability to grow and ripen fruit, including grapes for wine production.” And that’s why Mcgahan says he’s planted his flag in this part of British Columbia, just north of the U.S. border, for his new project, Checkmate Artisanal Winery, which unveiled its first Chardonnays at an event in New York City this past November: “The Okanagan’s latitude and length of day, and short, dry summer, with cool spring and autumn, make it ideal for cool climate varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. One of the great things up here is that in summer we get 18 hours of sunlight per day, which is actually three hours more than Napa. This results in more subtle flavors in our wines as the season is less protracted.”
Regardless of whether his climate-related comments ring true, Mcgahan is not alone in betting big on British Columbia. According to the Calgary Sun, the region’s wine industry has grown from just 17 wineries in 1990 to more than 248 in 2015, including several with some interesting names, like Blasted Church, Kraze Legz and See Ya Later Ranch.
Even if western Canada represents the future of winemaking in North America, as Mcgahan suggests, that doesn’t mean that popular grape-growing regions south of the border should be considered obsolete. Just ask the Stewart family, the third-generation winemaking clan behind the Okanagan Valley’s Quails’ Gate winery, which earlier this week purchased California’s Envolve Winery, a property made pseudo-famous by co-owner Ben Flajnik’s appearance on the popular TV series The Bachelor.