OKANAGAN WINERIES PACK A PUNCH

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Time. Much like wine, it is something I can’t seem to get enough of. And something I run out of. Hence the absence of my blog for the last few months. Any extra time I had, I spent drinking wine, not writing about it.

So to kick myself into high gear, I took a couple of days off  from my new job and headed to BC wine country for some inspiration.

I picked a few places I had never been to before. Places with great stories. And great stories in the Okanagan are not hard to find. There are new wineries popping up here all the time.

There are anywhere from 120 – 250 wineries here depending who you ask, and whether they’ve been drinking.  And they are making some spectacular wines that we never see on the other side of the country.

I picked by grape. I know I love big reds, so I headed south to Oliver and  Osoyoos – home of some wondrous Bordeaux blends.  I also learned that if you mention you’re going to the Okanagan,  inevitably someone  sighs like they are remembering a visit to paradise and shows you a picture of that little winery that turned into a big experience.

Three days,  seven wineries and here are  a few highlights.

  1. Invictus by Perseus
    Invictus by Perseus

    Perseus – I sampled a bottle of Perseus wine a year ago and I have been dreaming about it ever since.  The winery opened in 2011 in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.  It has already picked up a number of awards for Invictus, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The winery is named after the constellation  which hangs above the Okanagan during harvest time. Had to take one home.IMG_1683

  2. Poplar GroveI visited this place  for the wine and the company.   Cindy, Cathy,
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    Poplar Grove Winery

    Wendy and Sue have been friends since high school. Today they invited us join them  to  sample the best this stunning winery had to offer. One more for the suitcase. Imagine waking up to this treasure every morning?

 

Culmina Winery
Culmina Winery

3. Culmina Winery – This was one of the reasons I came back to  the Okanagan, Rumour had it the wine was among the best in the Valley – and it did not disappoint. Don Triggs (of Jackson-Triggs fame) and his daughter Sara have blended old-fashioned knowledge with high tech tools to create wines to remember, including wines that shouldn’t really be growing in that climate. The approach is inspirational and will be the subject of a separate story in its own. Stay tuned.  OK… we bought a case.

 

4.  Moon Curser This winery has a one-of-a-kind distinction for me. I actually had to risk arrest and  break-in to get a taste. My friend Lisa and I were staying in Osoyoos and decided to clock our 10,000 steps by walking to the winery (how cool is that)?

Let nothing stand between Me and My Wine
Let nothing stand between Me and My Wine

Google Maps directed us to a walking path along the cherry trees and vines. However, about 100 metres from our destination we were met by a locked gate, not that that was going to stop us. We got down on all fours and slipped under the fence. It was definitely worth the effort. Moon Curser – formerly Twisted Tree – is named after the smugglers who used to work in “them thar hills with veins of gold.” They cursed the light of the moon when trying to sneak across the border.

Moon Curser features  some old and new world varietals that are attracting attention. Owner and winemaker Chris Tolley, a former Montrealer, and his wife Beata, honed their craft in New Zealand. Their Tannant , Malbec, Sangiovese, Syrah,

Moon Curser Winery
Moon Curser Winery

Carmenere,  along with the Afraid of the Dark white and red blends, are all  worth a taste.  Yup, Moon Curser got the last spot in my suitcase.

Big Sky over the Okanagan Valley
Big Sky over the Okanagan Valley

Go to the Okanagan!  Demand more BC wines in your local wine store!  These are national treasures that stand up to Old World excellence. Thanks for the inspiration!

Cheers!

 

 

Best Of The Bin

unnamedOk, so before you say anything this isn’t my weekly blue box collection…I’m saving these until I have enough to warrant a trip to the dreaded beer store where you have to return them. But being a lover of red I was sort of surprised at how many white wine empties were in there.  I’m guessing this has a lot to do with the summer season because nothing goes down quite like a chilled glass of white when it’s hot outside.

0011452I know a lot of people go right to the Pinot Grigio when it comes to a light white summer wine but for me I just find it doesn’t have much taste.  I much prefer a nice dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc and one I always have in the house is the WillM Reserve Riesling from Alsace.  It’s dry, has intense citrus flavours and is a perfect match for seafood, poultry or just straight up on its own and for $14.95 you really can’t go wrong.

unnamed-1One I just tried this week and went back to get four more bottles is the Cave Spring 2012 Dry Riesling from the Niagara Peninsula.  I got the first bottle as a gift from a lovely couple I met not long ago and after tasting it knew I’d be enjoying more this summer.  It was a perfect match for the cheese fondue we had on the patio by the fire on Saturday night. Also just $14.95 this VQA product is definitely worth a try.

unnamed-2Even though I said I wasn’t much of a Pinot Grigio fan I did try a bottle I quite liked.  Another gift, so who am I to turn up my nose at free wine and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised by the taste.  Sadly this will only be available to our readers in BC as it comes from La Stella Vineyard in the south Okanagan Valley. At $25 I do find it a bit pricey but it’s a sustainable vineyard where all the fruit is hand harvested, double-sorted, and fermented in small batches.  Also I loved the quote on the back of the bottle – “If music is the food of love; wine is the drink”.

unnamedLast but not least there’s always a good supply of Prosecco in the cellar because a bit of bubbly on a sunny day just makes you smile.  My go to standards are the Bottega at $13.95 and the Il Prosecco at $13.80 and believe me you can’t go wrong with either of them.  Both are a product of Italy and have a gentle-bubbly character so raise a glass of Vino Frizzante and enjoy something crisp and refreshing this summer.

Don’t forget to tell us what’s in your glass and if you’ve made a new discovery you want us to share with our readers.

Happy Trails

Mission Hill Winery

Besides wine, travel is our other great passion and our bucket list of places to visit is long.  But sometimes work and the fact the bills need to be paid keeps our adventures closer to home.  Because of this we often live vicariously through our friends who are off roaming the world on their own wine/travel journeys.  Funnily enough most of our friends share our passion so we’ve invited them to send us their stories of wine adventures so we could share them with you.

Recently Dagmar went west to visit family but also hit the wine trails of the Okanagan Valley and here’s what she had to say:

“I recently visited the Okanagan Valley in B.C and some of the spectacular wineries which are bountiful in the region. One of my favourites is Mission Hill Family Estate Winery.  Because I have the benefit of having family in the region I make it a point to visit this winery every time I’m out here.  Mission Hill is nestled between the Coastal Mountains to the west and the Monashee Mountains to the east.  The estate overlooks Lake Okanagan and the lush vineyards and orchards below.

This stunning location is a magnet to food and wine lovers, newlyweds and is a photographers paradise.  The owners are passionate about wine and food, so if you’re interested in enjoying lunch or dinner the stunning dinning terrace overlooking the vineyard offers amazing seasonal fare. In fact the restaurant has been chosen as one of the top five winery restaurants globally by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

After enjoying the scenic gardens and stunning views I ventured inside for some wine tasting. After all isn’t that what it`s all about .

Mission Hill Winery Cellar
They offer daily tours and tastings in elegant salons adorned with chandeliers and vibrant paintings depicting the local art of winemaking. There are underground barrel cellars which also provide stunning backdrops to help educate the not so educated wine drinkers like myself.
And as a side note, the wine shop adjacent to the tasting rooms is spectacular.
If you know nothing about wines you can still lose yourself shopping for anything VINO to fill your home and at least make it look like you know a thing or two about wine.
I finally cozied up to the tasting bar to get down to business and given several options from the five vineyards which produce their vintages. Here were my favourites.
2009 Pinot Blanc.  A dry white wine with a crisp and refreshing ruby grapefruit and pineapple flavour that combine for a fresh clean finish.
2008 Pinot Gris     A drier tasting white wine also with a crisp fruity flavour but without the sweetness.
I walked out with two bottles of each, enough to get me by until at least Thanksgiving.”
Cheers,  Dagmar Ballard, (wine taster adventurer in the making)
We’re so glad Dagmar had a such an amazing wine adventure and we’re hoping to get out to BC ourselves next year. Can’t wait to check out all the new and existing wineries and culinary delights and if you’re considering a trip to BC, Tourism BC is a great resource.  No matter what city or region you’re looking to visit they’ve got information about what to see and do, accommodation and transportation some special offers and discounts that will help make your BC holiday even more special.