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Fort McMurray Wine Snob

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Buy Local Wines... B.C. is local right?

In June 2012, something unusual happened - a law change to make online shopping easier. More specifically, wine shopping between provinces. Until now, buying online from wineries in other provinces or even bringing it back in your car was illegal (while rarely enforced). Suddenly, the small B.C. wineries that produce such small quantities of wine that we can never hope to buy in-town can be ours online.

While I am a proponent of buying in our local businesses, I view these like buying produce from a local farmer. You will still buy in town; this is a way to expand one’s horizons.


Lake Breeze is the proud home of the 2012 Canadian Wine of the Year, the 2008 Tempest. Located on the Naramata Bench in B.C. this is both a great winery to visit as well as to order online from.

Known for both their whites and reds, this is an all-around great winery. Ordering in early fall usually offers the greatest selection of both reds, sparkling, and whites.

Recommended: XV Pinot Noir at $49 a bottle, this is a premium B.C. Pinot. I must say that when I opened the case I was surprised to see a twist top. I have often stated that it doesn’t matter yet it was still a surprise. Then I drank it and it is textbook Pinot Noir. Poured it for company and everyone raved.


Burrowing Owl in Osoyoos has long been known as one of the great Canadian wineries.  Visiting this winery is truly an experience and I recommend visitors eat at the restaurant. At the restaurant try wines on the library list for cellar-aged Burrowing Owl wines. If you are ordering online, expect to have to check the site regularly and I recommend that you place your name on the email list. They sell out easily and in some varietals, within days. They have a policy of only selling small amounts online, reserving most of the wine for winery visitors.

Recommended: Cabernet Sauvignon at $39 compares to the best Napa Cabernets. The cautionary comment is that this is a wine that majorly improves with a few years of cellaring. The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon remains one of my favorite wines of all time. Sadly I drank all but one bottle way too young, only to learn the error of my ways after it was long since sold out.

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La Frenz requires that you walk through the vineyard to get to the tasting room, adding to the experience. The tasting room staff are both knowledgeable and apologetic. You see the wines sell out so fast that usually it is a choice of tasting only whites or reds. As a group, their whites are consistently great, safe bets for summer drinking, while reds in certain years are top Canadian award winners. 

Recommended: Buy what you can when you can. The Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier are my favorites for whites, while the 2010 Reserve Pinot was last year’s red wine homerun.


Laughing Stock is one of a number of wineries that have some great wine and smart marketing, asking drinkers “how liquid are your assets?” If it was simply a marketing scheme, I would not mention them, but they produce great wines.  Following multiple gold metals wins in 2012, they went with the motto to invest in gold.

Recommended: Blind Stock (a red blend) has long been a favorite of mine, but sadly sold out until June 2013 when they will release the 2011 vintage. The 2010 Syrah and 2010 Portfolio both won gold metals so I expect that as you read this, they too will have sold out until June. I wonder if it is corny to say “buy and hold” when you can?


Shipping from all of these wineries is available to Fort McMurray and varies from $25- $35 for the first case and usually less after that. Remember to not ship in the middle of the summer or winter, most will hold your order until it is climatically okay to ship.

WINE SNOB TIP: Osoyoos is the home of the best Canadian red vineyards while the whites favor closer to Naramata Bench & Kelowna. Do not assume that the wine you are buying is not grown in the best area simply by where the winery is located. Unless it states that it is an Estate wine, the grapes most often come from off-site vineyards.

WINE SNOB TIP: Awards are a good indication but remember what you like. An award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon is never going to be a favorite of a Pinot Noir drinker. Until you reach the point where you buy for the food pairing, buy some of what you know you will like as well as some slightly adventurous. Pinot Noir lover, try Merlot.

WINE SNOB TIP: Buy your children’s birth years in wines and put them away. If you want something that will be good in 20+ years then French Sauternes and Vintage Ports are always the safe bet under $100 a bottle. If you want to buy your own birth year for an important birthday (like 40th), buy it when you are 36-38 not 39 and hold for a year as they suddenly become impossible to find.

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