Raise a glass to Kamloops’ unique wine region, the Thompson Valley Wine Region, where you’ll find fresh, crisp whites and fruit-forward reds ready for drinking.
Local wine that wins national awards and is a perfect summer sipper? We’ll say cheers to that!
Even if you’re new to the world of wine, if you drop ‘terroir’ into conversation you can sound like an instant sommelier (wine expert). This fancy sounding French term means earth/land and is used in winemaking to describe an area’s unique environment (from the soil and topography of the land to its climate).
What makes Kamloops’ wine so unique?
We’re not the only ones who think that Kamloops’ wines are special. In 2018, the Thompson Valley Wine Region was named as one of BC’s newest geographic indications (appellations), which means that the wines are distinctive enough to be officially recognized as coming from here. Known for whites such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Frontenac Blanc, Le Crescent and reds like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Marechal Foch, Marquette, and Gamay Noir, the region produces a combination of classic grape varieties and new blends.
Where is the wine region? It’s no coincidence that it stretches along the area of the Thompson Basin, covering 130km east to west between Chase and Cache Creek and into the north arm of the North Thompson River Valley. Luckily for us, the four wineries can be found in and around Kamloops, so are easy to visit from the city.
Location, location, location
Remember the terroir we talked about? The reason for the wine region stretching along the river basin is that finding the right soil is an essential part of the winemaking process. Here’s where we have a little history and geography lesson, so get ready to learn! The Thompson Valley was carved out by a glacier over millennia and the silt from this left clay and sandy loam soils known as ‘glaciolacustrine’ (glacial lake soil) that gives local wine its crisp, mineral taste. Most of the soil is composed of mineral particles and limestone deposits sitting on top of deep volcanic rock, which gives good drainage and helps produce excellent wines.
It’s not just real estate that’s about location, location, location. Situated at 50.6 degrees north, the semi-arid Thompson Valley Wine Region is one of the northernmost wine regions, with a short growing season and cold winters that are likely to become warmer winters as average temperatures continue to increase. Extreme temperature shifts between day and night (aka a diurnal temperature shift) also have an effect on the wine – helping to give local tipples their signature bright natural acidity.
Currently, the area gets 2,013 hours of annual sunshine (not to brag but that’s more than Napa, California’s famous wine region!) and during the (shorter) growing season, the area gets an average of 14.75 sunshine per day. Low levels of rainfall and active airflow help regulate temperatures and humidity in the vineyards too - meaning it’s a pleasant place for hiking and exploring, and for growing great grapes too. Win-win.
From grape to glass
‘Wine is made in the vineyard’ is a popular saying amongst winemakers, meaning that the way grapes are grown has a huge influence on the final product. Wineries in Kamloops use sustainable methods that help make the wine taste so uniquely bright and fresh, yet complex, such as Harper's Trail Estate Winery’s organic biodynamic methods like growing indigenous cover crops in the mid-rows to encourage diverse insects and animals that help naturally protect the vines. Each vineyard and winery has its own unique approach to winemaking; you can visit all four or let someone else do the driving and take a guided tour.
As vines take a long time to establish themselves, some of our pioneering winemakers set up in Kamloops before they had sufficient grape supply to make a full vintage. While some sold their initial crops to established wineries, others purchased grapes from established vineyards to augment supply. That being said, Harper’s Trail has focused on an estate wine philosophy since day one and launched its first vintage in 2011 with 100% Thompson Valley grapes from their own vineyard. This, by the way, was years before the Thompson Valley became an official geographic indication/wine region. The first commercial vineyards were planted back in 2005 by the team at Sagewood and between 2012-2015 four wineries opened: Sagewood Winery, Harper’s Trail Estate Winery, Privato Vineyard & Winery, and Monte Creek Winery. Visit our wineries page to discover more about them, or come and see them for yourselves and get a taste of what makes Kamloops’ wine so special!