We often talk about the lack of a true spring season in the Bow Valley, the Lake Louise to Canmore corridor. Sure we have some nice days but never for an extended period of time. Well we spent the past week in BC’s Okanagan valley and we had both spring and summer all in one. In fact we probably had it as warm and as sunny as we will see this summer in the peak of July and August in our valley.
Each year we try and make an annual pilgrimage to the Okanagan to see what new wineries have popped up, visit wineries we have showcased in the past and try some of the local bounty. This trip was no exception. We covered a ton of terroir, as the say in the wine world, from the Similkameen to Osoyoos, Oliver, Kaledan, Okanagan Falls and Naramata. There were private tastings, wine dinners, trips to the wine stores with the best selection of BC wines and some hiking mixed in to keep limber for the next wine tasting session. One of the missions of our trip was to find some stellar new wines and we were not disappointed. Wines from both new wineries and recent vintages of some of our favourite wineries were impressive. Although some years are better than others when it comes to weather, the talent of the vineyard managers and winemakers seem to be able to coax great wines out of almost every vintage in the Okanagan/Similkameen. Check out our wine picks from this recent trip below.
Amongst the Barrels
During our time in the Okanagan we planned two wine dinners with a group of friends; one was a private affair hosted by Kettle Valley Winery while the other was held at Road 13 , as part of their Summer dinner series. The food at both of these dinners was exceptional, catered by Joy Road Catering. Joy Road Catering is run by a talented husband and wife team; Cameron and Dana with help from a Caudra of talented folks who help cook and serve. A member of our group said “… it was probably one of THE best meals I have ever had”. That statement alone doesn’t say much however when I considered where he has dined in the past that really meant something. If ever in the Okanagan and you see an event catered by these talented people go, pay whatever and you will not be disappointed. They also sell fresh baked goods and jam at the Pentiction Farmers market each Saturday during the summer months.
Kettle Valley Winery
At the Lodge we have been enjoying wines from Kettle Valley Winery for a long time. Their vineyards in Naramata and in the Similkameen valley provide them with exceptional fruit which in turn allows them to produce great wines. Un-assuming and down to earth the proprietors Bob and Colleen Ferguson along with Tim Watts and his wife Janet are the consummate hosts; the ones you just want to share a glass of wine with on a sunny afternoon talking about wine, travels, crazy things kids are doing on mountain bikes or skis or just about anything. Their garage acted as their original winery and tasting room. Today that same garage acts as their office and tasting room. Eventually expansion forced them to build a new space on site for the wine making. We approached them this winter about hosting dinner in their wine making facility and they graciously took on the challenge. As the day of the dinner arrived and the beautiful weather lit up and warmed the surrounding hills there was talk of moving outdoors to enjoy the evening. My desire to be in amongst the Barrels and Vats took precedence. As with any group of people different wines stand out for different people. Highlights for us were the 2010 Semillon- Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Pinot Gris, 2010 Malbec and the 2012 Hayman Pinot Noir.
Road 13 Winery
Another winery which has been on our list at the Lodge for a number of years is Road 13. Originally called Golden Mile Cellars the new owners at the time changed the name, the logo and added a stunning new building on the site. The original castle like structure from the Golden Mile days still stands and is home to their tasting room. The property commands a stunning hillside perch overlooking the valley between Oliver and Osoyoos.
Once again we had a beautiful evening for the dinner with the sun drenched hills as the backdrop. The dinner was held in their new Winery building after enjoying a glass of wine on the patio of the castle. The previous nights dinner was a private affair with our small group and the owners. This night we joined in on Road 13’s regularly scheduled Summer Wine Dinner series. Again we had the pleasure of Cam of Joy Road Catering providing the food. The winery is owned by Pam and Mick Luckhurst with their son Joe taking on the role of general manager. All three were at the dinner, with Joe providing background on the wines while his Mom and Dad circulated telling stories.
The meal was accompanied by a fleet of their great wines, the highlights of which were the Sparkling Chenin Blanc, Jackpot VRM, and Jackpot Syrah. We finished the evening with a quick tour of the cellar where the current vintage of Sparkling wines sat in the riddling racks.
As with anything Friends make everything better and sharing our time in the Okanagan with a wonderful group of friends made our time sweeter, the wine better and the food outstanding.
Great food abounds in the Okanagan with many restaurants taking advantage of all the local produce and fresh ingredients on their doorstep. Here is a list of some of the other restaurants we visited and would highly recommend.
Convivia Bistro – Osoyoos
Liquidity Bistro – Okanagan Falls
Patio Restaurant at Nk’Mip Cellars – Osoyoos
Bad Tatto Brewing and Pizza – Penticton
Miradoro – Oliver
Wines of the Okanagan and Similkameen
I am often asked what is my favourite wine from BC. With over 290 wineries now established in British Columbia it is such a hard question to answer so I won’t try. A bit like asking who is your favourite child. Each has its strengths and weaknesses in different areas. Instead I offer a list of some of the stand outs that we were able to taste during our most recent foray.
Marichel Winery – Syrah
Young and Wyse – Amber
Roche – Rose, Chardonnay
Intersection Winery – Unfiltered Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc
Tightrope Winery– Pinot Noir
Kettle Valley Winery – Pinot Gris, Hayman Pinot Noir, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc
Culmina Family Estate Winery – Decora (Riesling), Hypothesis (Red Blend), Dilemma (Chardonnay)
Kraze Legz Winery– Pinot Blanc
Time Estate Winery – White Meritage
McWatters Collection – Chardonnay
Road 13 Vineyards – Jackpot VRM, Jackpot Syrah
La Frenz Winery– Semillon- Sauvignon Blanc
Meyer Family Vineyards– Chardonnay
Seven Stones -Chardonnay