The first grapes grown in BC were planted in the Okanagan Valley, and it remains the province's largest wine producer. The Okanagan Valley runs in a thin band for 100 miles; the vineyards are planted mainly on sun-soaking slopes along long, narrow lakes that help moderate temperatures and (this being the desert with fewer than 6 inches of annual rainfall) provide much needed irrigation.
The main grapes grown here are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Gris. These grapes thrive on poor soils that range from the chewed-up earth left behind during glacial retreats to limestone, clay and fine-grained sand. It's worth noting that wine vines want neither too much water nor soils that are too fertile. Their ascetic, self-sacrificing nature explains why grapes are so often grown on poor soils in places where growers can control the amount of water the vineyard receives through irrigation: a drip here, a drop there will suffice. This "stress" encourages the vines to dig deep for nutrients and encourages concentrated fruit flavors to develop in the grapes.
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