What's in the bottle?

You may be hearing the term “sub gi (gee eye, not guy or gee)” more often in the B.C. wine world.

But what is it, and what does it mean for the general wine drinker?

If you’re familiar with the term appellation, or sub-appellation, which is used south of the border, a sub gi will make sense to you; it’s as sub-geographical indicator.

As of this week, there are four in the province, as wineries on the Naramata Bench and Skaha Bench join Okanagan Falls and Golden Mile Bench in Oliver as sub gis.

To use these terms on a wine label, wineries must:

  • meet the requirements of the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation (VQA) program
  • at least 95% of the grapes in the bottle must come from the specific area indicated on the label

If a wine label says Golden Mile, the grapes had to have come from that area.

Note though, that geographical indicators on wine labels indicate the area where the grapes were sourced, and not the physical location of the winery.

For example, a winery in the Fraser Valley may have Okanagan Valley on a label if the grapes came from an Okanagan Valley vineyard.

There are nine geographical indicators in the province:

  • Fraser Valley
  • Gulf Islands
  • Kootenays
  • Lillooet,
  • Shuswap
  • Similkameen
  • Thompson
  • Vancouver Island,
  • Okanagan Valley

And with four sub gis in the Okanagan, the specific terroir-driven characteristics will become more familiar.

Prefer a pinot from the Naramata Bench over one from the Skaha Bench?

You’ll be able to make a more informed, or perhaps faster, choice at your local VQA proprietor. And perhaps you’ll soon be able to distinguish a chardonnay from Okanagan Falls versus one from the Golden Mile.

Ultimately, having these indicators is about a few different things.

First, the evolution and maturation of the wine industry, recognizing that our province doesn’t merely have one sense of place when it comes to wine, but distinguishable and unique regions.

Second, that there is a need for regulations and quality assurance to protect the developing brand of B.C. wine. Your neighbour can’t grow some grapes, make a home brew, and call it something it’s not.

And finally, reassurance to the wine consumer that what you’re buying is, in fact, what’s in the bottle, and you can confidently share a glass and brag about how fantastic our wine is, and why.


Through May, Okanagan Falls: Visit Liquidity Winery and Bistro to see the work of artist Tim Okamura.

May 18-19, Okanagan Falls: Enjoy an Albarino Comparison Tasting at Stag’s Hollow. Call 250-497-6162 to reserve your spot now.

May 19, West Kelowna: Mission Hill presents its Spring Farm-to-Table Market and Lunch; an al fresco lunch combined with an outdoor market with Unearthed Farms. 

May 24-26, Oliver-Osoyoos: While race registration is closed, the Half-Corked Marathon has several events and it’s fun to watch.

June 1, Oliver: Tinhorn Creek hosts its 25th Anniversary celebration with a five-course dinner.


Wine gift ideas for mom

Mother’s Day is this weekend, and there are many brunches to choose from to treat the mom (step-mom, aunt, adopted mom, grand mom, or maybe even your dad) in your life.

And, of course, there is the option of taking mom on a wine or brewery tour, or booking a VIP treatment with a tour company.

If you’ve not yet made plans, or perhaps you can’t be present (pun intended) in person to celebrate, here are a few ideas. And don’t forget to pick up a card.

A case of rosé:

It’s the season of rosé releases, and your local wine shop can help put together a selection of a few different bottles to make up a collection. Aim for different grapes, different regions, and maybe included a sparkling option. Mom will be set up for patio season.

Join a club:

Most wine clubs offer gift options, and if mom has a favourite winery, sign her up for her first shipments. Or, if mom prefers beer, check out the growler options at her favourite craft brewery.

Gin is in:

Many distilleries across the province have created spectacular gins, racking up awards worldwide. Pair one or two with a selection of local tonics for a unique gift basket for gin and tonic season.

Meal kits:

Very trendy, and a bit of payback for all of the cooking your parents have done for you? Find a local meal or fresh produce delivery service and cover the cost of the first few meals. That’s assuming this would be better than a gift certificate or a night out at mom’s favourite restaurant.

Make a donation:

Give a gift to charity in mom’s name, maybe a local food bank or a scholarship fund for culinary students, or buy a pair of tickets to a foodie event that supports a cause she’s fond of.


If the phrase “I would like to go to that” is heard frequently, but for some reason Ma and (maybe) Pa haven’t made it to a signature Okanagan event, make this the year you get tickets before a desired event sells out.


May 1-2: Multiple events across the valley for the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival.

May 10, Okanagan Falls: Liquidity Bistro hosts Spring Social, taste your way through wines from the OK Falls region.

May 11, Okanagan Falls: Noble Ridge hosts its first Bubbles and BBQ event, with live music, and featuring “The One” sparkling wine.

May 11, Kelowna: The Better Earth Garden Centre, along with Mamas for Mamas, hosts the BC Wine Cider & Spirits Festival. 

May 11, Penticton: Township 7 brings out its Merlot for a five-year vertical tasting.

Until May 12, Penticton: Book yourself a tasting of the Best Paella in the Okanagan at the Kitchen at Da Silva Winery.

May 19, West Kelowna: Mission Hill presents its Spring Farm-to-Table Market and Lunch, an al fresco lunch combined with an outdoor market with Unearthed Farms. 

You can be the perfect guest

If the weather ever turns into a proper spring, many of us will be out at events, big and small, any day now, from grand tastings to intimate dinners.

So, it is time for my annual review of how to handle yourself, your guests, and your intake of libations so everyone, including the staff and servers behind the table or putting dishes in front of you, has a pleasant experience.

First, get to know your event:

  • Will snacks be available, is there an option to buy a light meal, or both? Try not to go on a completely empty stomach when alcohol is involved.
  • Is there a shuttle you can pre-book, or do you have a parking (and designated driver) plan? Better yet, how about an accommodation package?
  • Are there seminars you can attend, and do you need to book them in advance? Are they hands on so you can jump up and participate, or more classroom-style?
  • With multiple wineries, breweries, cideries, distilleries at a large, festival-style event, have you noted which ones you must try? Note – pick up a guide or event map if available on the way in.
  • Finally, indoors or outdoors? Layers for weather if needed, and think about comfy shoes, especially if you’re going to be on your feet wandering from station to station.

Your fellow guests may be attending simply to have a good time and enjoy discovering something new. Some may be there to learn and ask questions.

At a winemaker’s dinner, for example, be courteous when the host winemaker or chef is describing what’s in your glass or on you plate. No one likes to be shushed.

If you’re at a crowded event or a tasting room is unexpectedly busy, be patient. Step up to get your sample, ask a question or two, then step back or to the side so others can do the same.

You may not notice the tasters behind you who are trying to get through the crowd, but they will start pushing their glass through a sea of arms. Then bumps and spills can happen.

In this digital age, see if there’s an app that can help you navigate a tour or festival, perhaps even take notes about what you enjoyed and want to purchase.

Onsite liquor shops can be a great source of further info, plus the gratification of buying so you don’t have to hunt for a bottle or brew that may be hard to find.

Have fun out there this season.


May 1-12: Multiple events across the valley for the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival.

May 3, Penticton: Explore the Magic of Meritage with Harry McWatters at Time Winery.

May 4, Penticton: Winemakers’ Dinner at Bogner’s, a five-course fundraising dinner in support of Tour d’Epicure.

May 4, Kelowna: The wineries along the Lakeshore Wine Route host Unleashed! In support of the SPCA.

May 10, Okanagan Falls: Liquidity Bistro hosts Spring Social, taste your way through wines from the OK Falls region.

Until May 12, Penticton: Book yourself a tasting of the Best Paella in the Okanagan at the Kitchen at Da Silva Winery.

Until May 11, West Kelowna: Enjoy High Tea at the Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate. 


Smell the difference in wine

If you’ve been thinking about taking a class or two in wine, this weekend’s Sensory Symposium at the Penticton campus of Okanagan College may be a good place to start.

This day-long event may be less intimidating than the thought of weeks of classes (and exams or certifications), with a series of seminars covering a range of topics:

  • Women in wine
  • Natural wine (currently very buzz worthy in the wine world)
  • Sustainability and sensory diversity in B.C.

Not only will attendees get to hear from a range of speakers during each session, including winemakers from around the province, they will also enjoy the challenge of blind tastings at each one.

With wine, you engage just about every sense:

  • Sight: is that white wine the colour of straw, that red ruby or inky purple?
  • Smell: tropical fruits, citrus, leather, pepper; can you sniff the difference?
  • Taste: this one is obvious, but other than it “tastes like wine”, what other notes are you experiencing?
  • Touch: not as obvious, but your tongue and taste buds determine the “mouthfeel.”
  • Hearing: no, you don’t listen to a glass of wine, but you do talk about what’s in your glass, right?

Spending a Sunday learning about wine is not bad way to wrap up a weekend.

The Sensory Symposium runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 28, and includes refreshments and lunch. More info and tickets are available at: https://www.silkandcoupe.com/


April 25, Penticton: JAK’s Beer, Wine and Spirits explores the Evolution of BC Bubbles with Summerhill Pyramid Winery. 

April 26, Osoyoos: The Journey of the Four Food Chiefs takes place at Spirit Ridge, a multi-course experience. 

April 27, Penticton: Bogner’s Bishop’s Whiskey Dinner, presented by JCI Penticton as a fundraiser, features select whiskeys and five courses. 

April 24-28, Osoyoos: The Osoyoos Oyster Festival returns with multiple events. 

Until May 11, West Kelowna: Enjoy High Tea at the Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate. 

More Okanagan Taste articles

About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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