Anthony Gismondi: Urban wineries have a storied past, and a bright future

Both Church and State and Township 7 have wisely decided to refocus their city operations to complement their Okanagan-based wineries

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Today we look at two urban wineries that share similarities from the past, and both seem to be in lockstep moving forward about their futures.


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Township 7, founded in south Langley’s Campbell Valley in 2000, sits on the eastern side of the Lower Mainland about as close to B.C.’s major population centre as it gets. Since it opened two decades ago, the Lower Mainland’s population of 2.8 million has surrounded the winery giving it an endless market to work with, all within a maximum 45-minute drive of the winery.

Vancouver Island’s largest winery, Church & State Wines, is located in Brentwood Bay, some 35 minutes from downtown Victoria, in close proximity to a greater Victoria population of nearly 370,000 people. The property was originally established in 2002 as Victoria Estate and in 2004 was bought and renamed Church and State.

Both entities operate highly successful wineries in the Okanagan Valley, Township at the entrance to the Naramata Bench just north of Penticton, and Church & State along the Black Sage Bench just south of Oliver. However, as much as the data would suggest that urban wineries with a huge population base surrounding them would succeed, most have struggled in the shadow of their and often better-known “wine country” competitors.


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It would appear better days are ahead for both Church and State and Township 7. Each has wisely decided to refocus their city operations to complement their Okanagan-based wineries, and the new focus at both wineries is traditional method sparkling wine programs. Honestly, you couldn’t have a better production process to entertain and educate guests than sparkling wine, especially in the city.

In Victoria, Church and State is led by winemaker Arnaud Thierry who joined the team in late 2017. Thierry was all but born into winemaking, having spent much of his youth amid the vines of Bordeaux. His interests in biology, biochemistry and a desire to understand the art of viticulture led him to study oenology in the famed region of Champagne.


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At Township 7, winemaker Mary McDermott heads up a sparkling wine program that began in 1999 but became supercharged in 2014 when McDermott pronounced the Langley fruit was far better suited to sparkling wine than still wines. By 2015 she had laid down Seven Stars Sirius, and serious it is, with 60 months of aging on its lees. It was recently disgorged and bottled and will be released this summer. It is stunning.

Today, Township 7 makes five sparkling wines: Seven Stars Equinox, a sparkling Pinot Noir rosé, two Chardonnay-based sparkers, Seven Stars Polaris and Seven Stars Eclipse. Seven Stars Vega is made with Viognier, and Seven Stars Rigel is Riesling-based. It’s a terrific start.

At Church and State, Arnaud Thierry has two Vancouver Island sparklers available to buy at the winery: Sparkling Pinot Gris 2018 and a 2017 Muscat Frizzante. In addition, more traditional method sparklers are in the works, both rosé and white, that should be in the market this fall. In the meantime, there are plans to shift away from a large wedding venue to a more intimate sparkling wine facility where locals can picnic and eventually attend live outdoor events in a future amphitheatre setting.


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The good news is all the wines, still or sparkling, can be purchased at any location, giving the wineries and consumers the best of both worlds.

Weekend wine picks

Township 7 Polaris Seven Stars 2017, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$35.97 I 90/100

UPC: 626990024613

Township 7’s sparkling program is shining under winemaker Mary McDermott, who now releases three traditional method cuvées: Polaris, Equinox, and Eclipse. Polaris is a blanc de blancs of Chardonnay from the estate vineyard on Naramata Bench and Oliver’s Hidden Bench Vineyard. It spends 18 months on lees and is dosed with 9.2 g/L and presents with white florals, lemon pith, wet chalk, and biscuits.

Church & State Sparkling Pinot Gris 2018, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada


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$25.29 I 89/100

UPC: 626990363200

The Brentwood Bay facility is getting serious about sparkling wine, leaving the still wine production to the Okanagan Valley. Look for a pale yellow colour flecked with green, and refined, tiny bubbles throughout the mousse. The attack is soft with light floral and pear, apple, grapefruit drizzled with citrus in the finish. The style is elegant, reflecting the origins of winemaker Arnaud Thierry who joined the team in late 2017. Thiery was born in the Champagne region of France and grew up among the vines of Bordeaux. Things are changing in a big way at Church and State. Good value.

Red Rooster Reserve Rosé 2020, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$19 I 88/100

UPC: 058976502752


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Red Rooster has been retooling its wines under winemaker Eliane Vickers for the last year or so, and the latest results are looking highly promising. The former Blasted Church winemaker has been working with Ross Wise, chief winemaker at Black Hills and area lead for the Peller group of wineries in B.C. The nose of this pale pink, Provence-like rosé is very appealing, with subtle strawberry/watermelon aromas that spill across the palate notes throughout. It is 100 per cent Malbec from Osoyoos that is foot stomped and lightly pressed, and at 1.7 grams of sugar, you should consider it dry. Well done, and a great new start at Red Rooster — fine value here.

Free Form Riesling 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada


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$34.90 I 91/100

UPC: 626990357124

Love this certified organic Riesling from the spectacular Garnet Valley Ranch, a 300+hectare, high-altitude property planned and executed by owners Chris Coletta and Steve Lornie, visionary David Scholefield with superstar consultants Chilean Pedro Parra and Italian Alberto Antonini. The property is currently under the care of viticulturist Duncan Billing, and it is thriving. Their 2019 is screamingly good. It’s packed full of minerals, Okanagan desert scrub and mouth-watering flavours. Lemons, green apples, and wet stones are all here in a tight, fresh, balanced, bone-dry package. Kudos to winemaker Matt Dumayne. Wow.

Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir Leyda Estate, Valle de Leyda, Valle de San Antonio, Chile


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$13.99 I 88/100

UPC: 7804350599626

We love this way-too-affordable Pinot Noir (clones 777 and 667) made with fruit that comes off the cool hillsides of Chile’s coastal mountain range. The site is mostly isolated from any warm inland air, making the growing season long and slow, and you can taste it in the juicy and succulent fruit packed with raspberries, cherries, cedar, and pepper that keeps on coming. So fresh, mouth-filling, affordable, and well, what are you waiting for, back up the truck.

Oh Sweet Day! Espresso cheesecake with chocolate ganache.
Oh Sweet Day! Espresso cheesecake with chocolate ganache. Oh Sweet Day!

Recipe match: Espresso cheesecake with chocolate ganache

This sweet recipe, created by Fanny Lam of OhSweetDay! Bake Shop, is for a decadent treat that simply can’t be beat. The cake sees espresso cheesecake balanced on an Oreo cookie crust. Then, things get extra delicious when an ultra-decadent chocolate ganache gets added to the mix.


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Espresso cheesecake with chocolate ganache


2 1/2 cups (375 mL) Oreo cookie crumb

1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, melted


2 tbsp (30 mL) heavy cream

1 tbsp (15 mL) espresso powder

2 packs 8-ounce cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream, room temperature

1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

Chocolate ganache

3.5 oz (100 g) dark chocolate, cut into small chunks

1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream

Preheat oven at 350F. Grease an 8-inch spring form pan. Make the crust by mixing all the crust ingredients together in a food processor or with a fork.

Press the mixture onto the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake crust for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Turn down oven temperature to 300F.

To prepare filling, warm heavy cream in microwave. Add espresso powder and stir to dissolve completely. Let cool to room temperature.


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Beat cream cheese, sour cream and sugar on medium speed until smooth in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Then add eggs, one at a time, and mix until well blended. Mix in the espresso mixture.

Pour the filling over the cooled crust. Tap the pan on counter a few times to release all the air in the batter. Bake for an hour, or until the edge of the cheesecake is puffed but the centre is still wobbly and wet looking.

Turn off the oven with the door slightly opened, let the cheesecake sit in the oven to cool completely, at least an hour.

Chill for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

To prepare ganache, place the chocolate and heavy cream in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Stir the mixture using a wooden spoon until melted and smooth. Let cool slightly.


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Pour ganache over the top of the cake. Use an offset spatula to gently push the ganache to the sides to create an even layer.

Chill in refrigerator. Leave it in room temperature for 15 minutes to soften the ganache before serving.

Makes one 8-inch cake.

Recipe match

Espresso cheesecake with chocolate ganache has us thinking ice or Madeira; both sweet wines designed to take on chocolate and more sugar.

Blandy’s Madeira Duke of Clarence Rich N/V, Madeira, Portugal $28.99

A deliciously creamy and spicy chocolate vanilla, raisin flavoured wine with fine underlying acidity makes this a perfect match with chocolate cheesecake.

Mission Hill Reserve Vidal Ice Wine 2016, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia $46.99 (375ml)

Lime, orange peel, nectarine, dried apricot, Granny Smith, butter flavours with intensity and balance sure to take on the cheesecake.



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