B.C. Wine Culture

The gold medal-winning Lulu Island Icewine. Eric Hanson photo

Last weekend, Lulu Island Winery, Richmond’s largest winery, celebrated winning a Gold Medal for their 2015 Riesling Chardonnay Icewine ($69). In May, the 2019 Los Angeles International Wine Competition awarded the local icewine 95 points and a Best of Class Award along with the gold medal.

For the past 80 years, the L.A. competition has set the gold standard for judging the quality of international wines. The competition received 2,350 wines from 800 wineries in 19 countries. Nearly 70 judges awarded155 Best of Class awards, 519 Gold Medal awards, 1,013 Silver Medal awards, and 535 Bronze Medal awards.

To celebrate the awards, Lulu Island invited the public to their Third Annual End of Summer Swirling. This open house included free tastings, tours, buffet lunch, wine prizes, musical entertainment, and fun activities for the kids.

Lulu Island Winery’s Icewine is a blend of Riesling and Chardonnay. Senior Sommelier Robert Pascal explained that to make icewine, the grapes are left on the vines until winter. At that stage they are very ripe with more intense luscious flavours and more sugars. Despite the sugars, the wine is well balanced because of the natural acidity.

When the vineyard temperature reaches -8 to -10 degrees Celsius for more than two weeks, the frozen grapes are picked at night and then crushed in a refrigerated room. Most of the water is now ice and it’s separated from the concentrated juice, which then ferments into icewine.

Robert Pascal leading a tour at Lulu Island Winery. Eric Hanson photo

Pascal described the Riesling Chardonnay Icewine as having, “the taste of green apple, pineapple, and lychee with a hint flavour of honey in the background.”

Pascal also explained why icewines are more expensive than regular table wine. “A regular wine takes 4 to 5 pounds of grapes to make one bottle of wine. To make one bottle of white icewine takes 30 to 40 pounds of grapes,” he said.

Pascal stated that icewines can age 20 to 25 years if stored under proper conditions: a quiet, cool dark room stored on their side so the cork stays moist and doesn’t dry out. Pascal also suggested that once opened, icewines can keep up to four to five weeks in the fridge and still remain fresh. The high sugar levels act as a preservative, like sugar in a jam.

To enjoy this luscious dessert wine, chill in the fridge for several hours. I find that it is challenging to match with a dessert. I enjoy icewine on its own because it is dessert. Lulu Island’s Pascal recommends, “it is nice served with kiwis, strawberries, or raspberries. Or serve with soft cheeses such as Camembert or Brie.”

A tasty white that I also enjoyed was the just-released Lulu Island 2017 Pinot Gris ($25.95). Pascal stated, “This is one of our most popular wines. Very fruit forward. You smell the fruit, you taste the fruit. In Vancouver this is called a patio wine. On a nice warm day, it’s nice when chilled, with fruit flavours, a little sugar to it, nice crisp finish. It’s a beautiful afternoon wine.” I couldn’t agree more.

All of Lulu Island wines are VQA, which means they are all grown in BC and meet industry regulations. All but the Orange Muscat grapes are grown on their 200 acres of Okanagan vineyards. The Muscat is grown at the Richmond winery and is blended with Chardonnay.

Lulu Island Wines are only available at the winery on Westminster Highway, which is open 365 days a year.

Eric Hanson is a life long Lulu Island resident.

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