“Tell me more about B.C wines”, a friend said recently. “Funny you should ask”, I say to myself as I put fingers to the keyboard to add a post about wines from the South Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
The tourist industry marketers call B.C.: “Super, Natural British Columbia.” The Okanagan Valley is such an area of natural beauty that this time I’ve decided it’s easier to let the scenery tell its own story and that of the wines. We have some particular wine favourites and I am going to mention these as well as mention some new wine acquaintances as we progress with a few photos.
In 2013, I had the opportunity to go to the Okanagan twice: once to the Wine Bloggers’ Conference held in Penticton on Lake Okanagan and again for our annual September visit to the South Okanagan around Oliver and Osoyoos. The South Okanagan is about a four to five hour drive eastwards towards the Rockies from Vancouver. Once we drive beyond Hope, literally the name of the last small town, where we have a coffee before starting the main part of the journey, it’s mountains, forests, grassland, and wild sage hillsides until we finally see the vast Okanagan Lake.
Many people don’t realize that the Okanagan is home to a desert. The Sonoran Desert extends from Mexico all the way into British Columbiia in the South Okanagan, continuing past Osoyoos Lake to Skaha Lake and west up the Similkameen Valley. This “Osoyoos Arid Biotic Zone” accounts for the semi arid climate and hot and dry summers where it can reach 104 degrees in Oliver and mild winters making Osoyoos Lake the warmest fresh water lake in Canada. The desert has plants and animals that are found nowhere else in Canada. The Okanagan Valley is home to the First Nations of the area and Osoyoos is an Aboriginal word meaning the narrowing of the Lake.
Grapes have been grown in the South Okanagan as far back as the late 1800s but it is only in the recent past that the 100 miles of the Okanagan Valley have gained international attention for the quality of the wines produced here. The arid climate with sunny days and cold nights is ideal for the wine industry. With typical Canadian low-key friendliness, the many wineries welcome visitors to their tasting rooms.
These photos tell the story of the geography and start with a map of the area.
The Okanagan is known not only for wines but also for the quality of restaurants and fresh produce; peaches, apricots, cherries, and many vegetables. We have several favourite restaurants in the area that are attached to wineries. At the Terrafina restaurant at Hester Creek we like their Merlot. At the Miradoro restaurant at Tinhorn Creek, the Oldfield Series 2 Bench Red, a Bordeaux style wine, is a new find adding to our good experience of Tinhorn Creek wines and is excellent paired with Miradoro’s flank steak. At the Sonora Restaurant at Burrowing Owl, we have discovered their Athene red – a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon – a delicious, rich wine. Burrowing Owl’s Pinot Gris has long been a favourite of ours.
Finally, a few more photos from wine tastings in the South Okanagan last year. A long time favourite is Osoyoos Larose, a classic Bordeaux blend made through a partnership between Groupe Taillan in Bordeaux and Constellation Brands in Canada. The “Le Grand Vin” is a bold red with hallmark Bordeaux structure and complexity. We only recently discovered See Ya Later Ranch in Okanagan Falls and their wines. I particularly enjoy their rosé which is a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir with lots of fruit aromas. Back on the bench lands, we visited Black Hills Winery. Noted for their Note Bene red, we also liked their very drinkable Alibi, a white wine blend of Sauvignon Bland and Semilllon with citrus and tropical fruit flavours. A new discovery last year has been Clos Du Soleil, a certified organic winery in the Similkameen Valley making a small quantity of high quality wines.
The South Okanagan continues to develop as a destination for its natural beauty and related outdoor activities and wine tourism. It is popular with both British Columbians and Albertans and visitors from across North America and increasingly from other parts of the world. Our verdict: an area we really enjoy that is definitely worth a visit.
References: See Ya Later Ranch www.sylranch.com
Burrowing Owl www.bovwine.ca Tinhorn Creek www.tinhorn.com
Hester Creek www.hestercreek.com
Osoyoos Larose www.osoyooslarose.com
BC Official Tourism and Travel website: http://www.hellobc.com Map of the Okanagan Corridor courtesy of the Tourism website.