The wines of British Columbia continue to delight and surprise those who have the pleasure of tasting them. I fondly remember the day I tasted my first BC Merlot. Before that fateful day, I was a scotch and vodka gal and my only experience with wines was the inexpensive sweet ones that resulted in youthful hangovers. Every now and then, usually during the winter holidays, a well-meaning dinner guest would bring a bottle of their favourite “inexpensive” wine for dinner. Needless to say, with those types of early wine experiences, I was not a wine drinker.

It was the fall of 1995 when I tasted my very first Okanagan Merlot. It was love at first swirl, sniff and sip. I watched other people around me, then swirled the deep red liquid and watched as the legs clung to the sides and slowly made their way down the glass. I can still recall the delicious aromas of fresh tobacco, black pepper and dark cherry that wafted up and made me feel a little light-headed. Then I tasted it.

I turned to my sister and said, “Why has no one ever told me about this before!”

From that day on, I was hooked on BC wine. I wanted to try everything — red, rosé, white, sparkling, port, sherry, dessert. I wanted to experience them all. Every time I discovered a new favourite, I would champion it to everyone I met.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of tasting wines from the Okanagan, Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. I recently tasted three wines from the Lower North Thompson, and I’m looking forward to my visit this summer to the Shuswap and Kootenays to taste their wines. I love how each area of BC has its own flavour profile and how each winery makes the absolute best of what it has.

Whenever I have friends over, I love to pour them a glass of my latest find and watch their reaction. The next time you bring home a few (dozen) bottles of your new favourite BC wines don’t show your guests the label. It’s always fun to see how close they get to guessing where the grapes were grown, and which winery the wine is from. I’ve done it with some fellow BC wine lovers and was quite surprised how close we could get!

I continue to joyfully find new wines that I love, and explore wineries throughout the province. My list has grown from a top 10 to a top 40 and it grows longer every year. However, no matter how many new favourites I find, I will never forget my first.