860 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2019
water availability, whether from rain, soil type or natural ground water. For
instance, on Vancouver Island or some Gulf Islands, irrigation is not necessary.
The amount and timing of rain, mixed with heavier soils, higher
humidity and lower temperatures (but often with extended warm
autumns), provide a climate more like that of more northerly European
growing areas. Many wineries have sprung up, including Beaufort Vineyard
and Estate Winery in Courtenay, owned by famed movie director James
Cameron, who, when he is there, likes to pour for visitors in the wine shop
(Cameron completed the province’s mandatory alcohol server education
program, known as “Serve It Right”).
Visiting Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery in Courtenay
The same is not true for the Okanagan, Similkameen or Thompson areas.
Climate plays out differently here. East of the moisture-stripping Cascade
and Coast Mountains, the land is naturally parched, being the farthest
northern reach of the Sonoran Desert, which extends all the way into Mexico.
Especially in the southern desert region of Oliver/Osoyoos, the soils
are primarily sand. As a result, dry-farming is not an option. The Oliver/
Osoyoos area averages approximately 300 mm of precipitation per year (250
mm of that being rain). Grapevines generally require at least 500 mm. To
put the South Okanagan in a global context, 300 mm of precipitation is less
than what Napa Valley, Walla Walla, Central Otago or the Douro Valley
receive, and much less than what most French wine areas receive. As
noted, even Alsace, the driest vine-growing area there, has just over 500
mm of rain annually. And to make things more challenging in the Okanagan,
the majority of precipitation falls in the winter and spring rather than