As many people know Lake O’Hara Lodge has featured a 100% BC wine list since 1995. If you are familiar with the History of the Canadian Wine Industry the implementation of a Canadian Wine List at that time was both a bold and ambitious undertaking. There were only a handful of wineries producing palatable wines and many people had prejudices, well deserved, from previous encounters with Canadian wine. Change was starting to take place in the early 90’s and folks at Blue Mountain, Nichol Vineyards and Kettle Valley were at the fore front of the movement; small independent producers focused on good quality estate made wines. Fast forward to today and there are over 300 wineries in BC and many more Vineyards growing fruit for numerous wineries.
The Okanagan wine industry has matured over the years and has found its legs, so to speak, and has focused on the varietals that work well in this climate rather than just trying everything. The most planted grape varietals are Merlot and Pinot Gris. The personalities that have helped shape the industry and those who are continuing to do so today are the real essence of the place and that is what our goal is each visit to discover the story and the personality behind the wines we sell at the lodge. So join us at the heart of Yoho National Park and discover the wines of the Okanagan and the personalities who shape them.
Springtime in the Okanagan
The Okanagan in April is usually a burst of real warm weather, vines in blossom and a welcome to summer. Not so this year! After a water logged drive from the Bow Valley we arrived in the Okanagan to more rain and cold weather for our annual wine trip. This trip is work however, I also know that no person will be giving me any sympathy for this arduous task. The annual excursion is a chance to see what has been happening in the wine world since our last visit, discover that new gem and meet up with past aquantiences and of course drink wine. All of which we accomplished in spades on this trip. We met some wonderful people, shared lots of wine and got a look into what is happening in the Valley.
After many years of travelling to the Okanagan we have gotten much smarter in our wine discovery. Packing in full days of numerous wineries doesn’t work. I arrange meetings with wine makers and owners and limit it to two or three visits per day. I might add in a trip to the Wine Info Centre in Penticton where I can see some of the hundreds of wines all in one spot and maybe purchase a few bottles to try back at the lodge. At the end of the day we seek out a great place to have dinner and enjoy a glass of wine. Once in a while it is also good to just go have a beer and some Pizza to take a break from wine.
Restaurants in the Okanagan worth visiting:
Vanilla Pod – Penticton at Poplar Grove Winery
Play Bistro – Penticton at Play Winery Skaha Hills
Liquidity Bistro – Okanagan Falls at Liquidity Winery
Bad Tatoo Brewing– Penticton
So which Wineries did we spend time at this year!
Kelowna is home to Tantalus where the focus is on Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. All the wines are made with grapes from their home vineyards, which overlook Okanagan lake. We will be serving the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Marcus Ansems, a transplanted Aussie, has been crafting wines under his own label for a few years. He has two lines of Wine; his Day Dreamer and his signature Marcus Ansem. The signature wines are the Reserve series. Both lines have their stand outs and we will be serving the Day Dreamer Pinot Gris and the Marcus Ansmes Chardonnay this year
Another relatively new comer on the Naramata bench scene. They have some wonderful wines and haven taken a three tiered approach with a Silver, Gold and Platinum series of wines. The wines are priced accordingly. Some might say a bold approach in your second vintage to offer wines in the $30- to $70 range. They don’t disappoint though with a Chardonnay that is subtle with nuances of oak but not over powering. A real treat. If you ask we can probably find a bottle for you.
Having been a prominent player on the Naramata bench for over twenty years Lake Breeze continues to be guided by their original South African Winemaker. A signature wine of theirs, the Pinot Blanc, will grace our wine list this year
What do I say about Roche? I think the team at Roche and their wines are amazing. Led by Dylan and Penelope Roche this place has the wine making chops. Penelopes family have been vintners in France for generations while Dylan transplanted himself to France to learn the ropes and it has rubbed off. Initially a virtual winery working out of other spaces their own winery is taking shape on the Upper Bench Road just outside Penticton. We are waiting for the next vintage of theirs however we still have some of their delicious Pinot Gris to offer you.
Another new comer in the Okanagan wine patch. The winery sits on the Southwest side of Penticton with a commanding view down the Valley over Skaha lake. Its new, fresh and will eventually produce about 10,000 cases of wine per year. In the meantime Mohamed, the vibrant passionate winemaker and partner in the operation, has established his 6 signature wines. These are well crafted representations of their varietal characteristics. They represent great value and I would encourage everyone to give them a try. Also Play has an onsite Bistro which produces wonderful food. On a dreary April evening there was a steady stream of visitors to the place all leaving with big smiles on their faces. Worth dropping in for lunch or Dinner when you re in the area. Come summer a seat on the deck will be the most desirable patio in the valley.
We will be serving their Syrah, Sauvignon/Semillion Blend and a Moscato; a light easy drinking white wine.
Tucked away in a side valley east of Okanagan Falls Meyer vineyards is a standout. Their focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir shines through in the glass. With a number of single vineyard designated wines in addition to their lower tiered vineyard blends it is hard to not like their wines.
We will be sharing some of their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at the lodge this summer.
Sleepy little Ok Falls has a stellar line up of wineries in this compact area of the central Okanagan and Liquidity is one of those. I personally find their white wines to showcase their talents the best so we will have some of their Chardonnay on the list.
There are many more wineries and Bistros to discover in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. The best time to go is in May when the crowds and traffic have yet to arrive and the weather is summer like, at least for many of us who live in other locales. The staff in the wine tasting rooms are fresh and excited to start the season and most wineries should still have wine in the shop. Plan a trip or sample your way through the Okanagan while staying at Lake O’Hara Lodge!