The Unique Wines of the Shuswap
Celista Estate Winery has won 20 medals — double gold, gold, silver and bronze — in four years of operation in national and international competition.
British Columbia’s wine industry is making big inroads into non-traditional growing
areas — among them: the Shuswap, Kamloops, Lillooet, Creston, the Kootenays, Grand Forks and Lytton.
Of course, we consider the Shuswap the most exciting of the areas. While some consider this a young growing region, it is in fact perhaps as old as the Okanagan. Grapes were planted
and growing in Salmon Arm in the early 1900’s, perhaps preceding plantings in the Okanagan. I am told by Hans Nevrkla, former owner of Larch Hills Winery, the grapes that were grown in and around Salmon Arm at least ninety to one hundred years ago were mostly used for juice. Salmon Arm was identified as a great fruit growing area and a fruit packing plant was once located at Canoe.
It wasn’t until some ninety or so years later that the first commercial winery was established. In fact, the first commercial winery in the Shuswap was developed by Hans and his wife Hazel, when they cleared land in the Larch Hills area, south of Salmon Arm in 1987. They opened their winery in 1997 to become the commercial winery pioneers of the Shuswap. Recline Ridge in Tappen soon followed in 1998 and in the following six years four more vineyards cum
wineries were established, including our own, Celista Estate Winery.
The varieties grown in the Shuswap certainly makes the area stand out. Grape varieties are chosen for their winter hardiness, able to withstand 20 plus below zero, such as the white varieties of Ortega, Madelaine Sylvaner, Siegerebbe and Gewürztraminer, and the red variety of Marechal Foch. These varieties are known as early to mid-season ripening. They bud out late in the Spring and ripen to perfection early in the fall. The grapes are highly aromatic with intense flavors. Many of the white varieties trace their roots to
Germany has a similar climate. Marechal Foch is a French variety producing a mid-bodied red wine with a deep inky colour.
All of the wineries of the Shuswap, since they were established, have produced award-winning wines in regional as well as national and international competitions, confirming the wines compete successfully with wines from throughout the country. The success of the vineyards and their resultant wines is a testament to the suitability of the area as a grape growing area, for as the saying goes, “the wine is made in the vineyard.”
The Shuswap encompases an area north of the 50th parallel, with geographic boundaries extending from the North Okanagan Valley in the south, to Shuswap Lake and its surrounding area in the north, and as far west as Chase.
The area has four distinct seasons, with a great deal of snowfall which helps insulate the plants from the below zero weather. Spring and Fall bring moderate temperatures and summer has hot days with cool evenings. Rainfall is generally higher in the Shuswap than in the Okanagan, meaning less reliance on irrigation.
The Shuswap has the distinction of being the most northern grape growing area in British Columbia. Hence, Celista Estate Winery, located on the North Shore of the lake at 50.57 degrees latitude, is the most northern winery in North America.
Opened on July 2, 2010, Celista Estate Winery is now entering its fifth year of business. The first acre of vines was planted in 2002 and another three acres were planted over the next several years. In 2011 another three acres were added for a total of seven acres. The vineyard is located on the south facing slope of the160-acre farm in Celista.
A testament to our success has been the winning of 20 medals in four years since we opened. The competitions were the All Canadian Wine Awards, The Northwest Summit, Finger Lakes New York International Competition and the All American Wine Competition. The medals include two gold in 2012 in addition to eight silver and ten bronze for the three vintages. Perseverance has helped us become more proficient at the agricultural end and we are enjoying our enterprise.
The Shuswap definitely offers the best of what cool climate wines can be, and the variety and scope of wineries can be an exciting experience. Come and explore our wineries.
Shuswap Wine Journal - A collection of published local and regional newspaper articles written by Jake Ootes in Fall 2014