Taste of the ‘OK’ – British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley Wines
For a region considered a relative newbie in the international wine scene, the Okanagan Valley’s time has come after thousands of years in the making. Many a millennia ago, glaciers moved South through the Valley, leaving behind rivers, lakes and mineral-rich soils to marinate into what would be an auspicious blend with the climate. The resulting yield? Wines with complexities and fragrant notes so divine – the vineyards here are now known as the premier wine-producers of BC and are sweeping awards on a global scale.
This is original wine country. Since the first winery, Calona Vineyards, came on to the scene in 1931 – The Okanagan Valley is now home to 172 licensed wineries in a region that stretches over 150 kilometres long. Almost 3,500 hectares of vines produce the Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other shining varieties – and this poses a problem. Not many have the luxury of time to completely cover this region; but the good news is not many complain after giving it their best shot. Both luxury and simplicity, traditional and unique discoveries await in the Valley blessed with its multitude of micro-climates that produce such stellar variety. Just a few sip-tastic suggestions for a taste of the Okanagan Valley:
Elephant Island Orchard Wines
People are buzzing about Naramata, and for good reason. This grape-growing neighbourhood includes the likes of a family that once considered their property a white elephant, hence the namesake. And if you’ve been in the habit of turning up your nose at fruit wines, there’s a good chance you’ll emerge from the tasting barn with a new-found respect. Apricots and cherries, oh my.
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
Family-owned and just south of Oliver in the famed Golden Mile Bench wine-growing district. Visitors can saddle up to the tasting bar or private tasting room – or take in the panoramic views in a more leisurely way; you can take a yoga class in the vineyard, hike the Golden Mile Bench Trail, take in a guest chef event or dance your wine-drinking bootie off at a concert at their outdoor amphitheater. Or, pair an Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2012 with a grilled grass fed steak with black garlic jus at their award-winning Miradoro restaurant. Don’t expect snake on the menu – Tinhorn is dedicated to preserving local ecosystems and wildlife habitats; ask about their unique rattlesnake relocation program.
Speaking of sustainability, Tantalus in Kelowna has the distinction of being British Columbia’s first LEED-certified winery. Premium, single vineyard wines can be experienced in a gallery-style tasting room surrounded by works of art from some of Canada’s most highly-acclaimed artists. It’s hard to articulate what’s more stunning – the wine, the art, or the jaw-dropping view of Okanagan Lake.
Okanagan Crush Pad Winery
Sommeliers rave over what this Summerland winery calls a taste of “pure Okanagan”. Natural wines are innovatively crafted using organically farmed grapes in state-of-the-art concrete tanks, native yeast and minimal additives. Check out the addition of their wine-based spirits – and inspired live music events.