Beguiling Delights at Northern Lights Estate Winery

On a trip to Prince Gorge, BC, top of the list for food lovers is a trip to Northern Lights Estate Winery. The newly constructed tasting room with lofted ceilings and wrap around windows, features an orchard and and an idyllic spot along the Nechako River. 

Wine tasting on beautiful grounds? I'm in! 

But there's a twist.

At this high latitude, grapes do not thrive. The focus at Northern Lights Estate is on fruit-based wines. In other words, anything but grapes. Blending fruits such as blueberry, strawberry, haksup, gooseberry, apple, cherry, raspberry, black currant, and raspberry, they achieve wines that are reminiscent of familiar favorites, like Gewurtztraminer. 

Take the adjectives that we normally use to describe wines, and put them in the bottle. Genius, no? 

I met up with Northern Lights partner, Doug Bell, for a deep dive into their process. 

The first thing you notice is that the fermentation tanks are much smaller than a typical grape winery. Why? Grape wines can be held up to a year. With fruit-based wines, the fermentation is a short 3-4 weeks. Then they pull out the fruit and press it. The advantage is that with fruit-based wines, they can produce three cycles a year. While the yield is small, this enables them to make wine year-round. 

But wait. Everything that goes into a bottle isn't in season at the same time. You guessed it. While they use fresh fruit whenever possible, key ingredients like rhubarb have a short season, so they rely on a cache of frozen fruit. 

 Cross the busy Prince George Pulpmill Road, and you'll find a lush garden showcasing the fruits featured in Northern Lights Wine. The first thing Doug will tell you, is that they are proud of their growing practices. "We feed the soil, not the plant." And from this vantage point, you can see they are situated in a valley, which gives them a competitive advantage. The breeze blows off mold, frost pockets, mildew, and pests. 

Here, you trade romantic rows of grape vines for rhubarb plots and berry bushes.

Just beyond the garden, in the summer, event spaces feature outdoor concerts, movie nights, and in the future, they hope to offer morning yoga classes. 

 Name that fruit.

Have you ever heard of a haskap? As Doug explained it, the elongated haskap berry it has a high level of tannin and the complex flavor is both tart and sweet. It's essential to their production, they've locked down the entire local inventory. 

 Back at the tasting room, we finally got a chance to taste their wines. While I expected a fruit-based wine to be sweet, the first whites we tried were quite dry. Moving into the 'reds' you find the expected attributes of cassis and cherry.

My favorite was a limited release called the Seduction. It may have had something to do with a sunny day, sipping wine on the patio....along the bank of a lazy river, but that's exactly what it was meant for. Well chilled, this blush wine made with rhubarb and strawberry was tart, with a hint of sweetness on the finish. Seduction? Perfectly named.


Though Northern Lights is a young winery, they're on to something special. Expansion projects are already under way and it will be exciting to see where they land in the years ahead. I suspect they will be a significant player shaping this emerging industry.