In recent years, the Thompson Valley has emerged as one of
British Columbia’s newest and most promising wine regions.
What makes this region of the province unique for winemaking is the South Thompson Valley’s semi-arid climate, with hot, dry days and cool nights—it makes for the perfect conditions for both grapes and weary travellers looking to enjoy a summer afternoon. Fluctuations in the diurnal temperature make for richly distinct wines that are renowned for their intense flavour concentrations and balanced acidity. Located in this new frontier in winemaking is Monte Creek Ranch Winery, where the silty soil lying beneath the winery’s vineyards that distinguishes their wines is the enduring legacy of the last ice age.
These conditions go back eons to when a glacier slowly crept down the valley and blocked the South Thompson River, creating a huge glacial lake in the South Thompson Valley. As the glacier eroded the rock beneath it, glacial silt was gradually deposited in the lakebed. Eventually, the glacial ice dam burst, draining the lake. The result is the deep, silty soil found in the vineyards of Monte Creek. The tops of the cliffs that are still visible on both sides of the valley were once the floor of this ancient lake, and while the river has since carved through the silt it left behind the valley’s iconic hoodoos.
With 65 acres of vines Monte Creek exemplifies this new viticultural frontier. Embracing the classics such as Chardonnay and Riesling along with more unique varietals such as their renowned Frontenac Gris, a rare but hardy species of grape well suited to the pioneer life. This modern riverside winery doubles as a working farm and is home to grass-fed Black Angus cattle, a bee colony, and the exotic Haskap berry – an oblong, blueberry like fruit with mysterious roots in the Siberian tundra.
A quick stop off Highway 1, only 10-minutes outside of the Kamloops city limits, Monte Creek Ranch Winery aims to follow in the footsteps of the area’s early explorers. Monte Creek has always been a small community, but the area achieved fame in 1906 as the site of the last train robbery by the notorious “Gentleman Bandit” Bill Miner. The winery embraces this story, recanting it in their tasting room and on the labels of their bottles.
The team at Monte Creek Ranch Winery welcomes wine lovers and farm fresh food fans to stop by and experience the beauty and bounty that first brought these pioneers west. Taste the wine, enjoy a guided walking vineyard tour, indulge in a locally inspired alfresco artisan menu on the Terrace restaurant or relax amongst the local wildlife. Witness for yourself the lure of this new frontier.
~ Blake Allen