50th PARALLEL ESTATE WINERY: GEOLOGICAL GEM OF LAKE COUNTRY
By Roslyne Buchanan.
Sparkling from its bench above the southeast section of Okanagan Lake, 50th Parallel Estate Winery is truly a gem of Lake Country.
It’s not only the world-class winery that shines. Rather it’s the genius that recognized the site’s potential and polished it to its most precious facets. That instinct resided in founders Sheri-Lee Turner-Krouzel and husband Curtis Krouzel, self-proclaimed ‘Glamour Farmers’.
First glance, Curtis rocks a striking similarity to Howard Stern in height and mannerisms; Sheri-Lee a petit super model. Dig deeper, you’ll see they’re role models for what uncompromising work ethic can reap.
She achieved a Bachelor of Commerce with a marketing major. As a hardworking entrepreneur, she built successful businesses in media, marketing and fitness. Raised in Edmonton, he is a NAIT graduate in Engineering Design and Drafting Technology. He moved to Calgary in 1997 where he launched an oil and gas design engineering company.
Curtis grew up with wine and dreamed of someday creating a winery in the Okanagan. The story goes when he met Sheri-Lee in 2000 on a houseboating trip, he told her of his vision. Later from their Fintry revenue property enjoying time together on their deck in 2004, Curtis sighted the property across the lake.
He states: “I could not believe what I was looking at, it seemed too good to be true especially after so many years of exploring the Okanagan.”
Thus, the process of polishing the raw potential began in stages with an emphasis on Pinot Noir. Together in 2009, they hand-planted the first 10 acres of vines. Thank goodness they enjoy being together and share a mischievous sense of humour! Experiencing that backbreaking, hand numbing work firsthand and as per that adage “necessity is the mother of invention”, Curtis engineered a “planting machine tuned to the needs of the steep rocky property.” Now there’s at least 50 acres under vine and 50th Parallel is sourcing additional properties to expand vineyards.
First wines were released in 2011 – some 700 cases. The main winery building purpose built for gravity fed production opened in 2014. By 2016, close to 14,000 cases of wine were crafted.
Given the sensibilities of Curtis and Sheri-Lee, the winery is a model of form and function. It’s boldly modern while softened with natural hues including warm wood tones and huge windows making a theatre of those luscious vineyards. Today, complementing that architectural showpiece is a restaurant/special events venue and tasting centre. Exquisite fine details spill over into restrooms with glamourous lighting. A comfortable settee tucked into a corner offers a meditative moment.
Dream Team – Winemaker
Of course, a dream team was recruited. While it’s hard to know where to start with these talented folks, foremost it is a winery so let’s start with talented Winemaker Matthew Fortuna. With 50th Parallel since 2013, Matt’s passion for Pinot Noir is a perfect match and the accolades being amassed for the Pinot and other varietals is testament. Recently at the Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards at the Okanagan Wine Festivals, medals included: Gold, 50th Parallel 2016 Unparalleled Pinot Noir; Silver, 50th Parallel 2018 Riesling; and Bronze, 50th Parallel 2018 Pinot Noir Rosé.
Just this past weekend 50th Parallel put another pearl in the trophy case. Judges for the inaugural and well-received Kelowna Seafood Celebration Oyster Wine Competition awarded the Gold Oyster Shell Medal to 50th Parallel 2018 Riesling. Besides bragging rights, the grand prize includes a complimentary visit to 50th Parallel from Codfather’s Seafood Market to shuck 10 dozen oysters, a prize value of $500. I hope there’s Riesling left for the team to enjoy with the oysters!
BLOCK ONE restaurant – Executive Chef
Recently, the Okanagan Chefs Association (OCA) had an encore visit to BLOCK ONE Restaurant for its monthly meeting because you can always count on Executive Chef Kai Koroll and his culinary team to deliver. Near and dear to Sheri-Lee and Curtis, the name BLOCK ONE is a nod to the first vineyard planted in 2009 where they transitioned to farmers.
Chef Kai is a natural fit with his gift in pairing the wines with local ingredients, often sourced from 50th Parallel’s one-acre culinary garden. A wood fired Forno stage framed by a black granite and knotty alder barnboard bar is centerpiece to the restaurant, visually and deliciously. Add to that the view of Okanagan Lake through the vineyard, it’s little wonder that reservations are recommended to ensure a table. Be sure, too, to check ahead for hours as the sun sets on peak season for Okanagan wineries. Hours open are reduced and the setting less al fresco.
Canada’s Great Kitchen Party Kelowna
Watch Chef Kai compete November 15 at Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort in Canada’s Great Kitchen Party Kelowna. It’ll showcase some of the region’s finest talents with Chef Kai Koroll, BLOCK ONE Restaurant at 50th Parallel Estate, plus: Brock Bowes, CrAsian Food Concepts; Chris Braun, RauDZ Regional Table; Andrea Callan, Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery; James Holmes, Salt & Brick; Jeff Van Geest, Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek; and Rob Walker, Big White Ski Resort.
50th Parallel Tasting Room
The evening of our 2019 October OCA meeting, we were invited into the architectural jewel that is the modern Tasting Room. Here, Travis Montgomery held court managing a number of overlapping tastings adeptly. What a delight to sample the elegant expressions available. I may have returned home with at least one of them!
From the Tasting Room we moved into the Event Hall where Hospitality Manager James Addington ensured a warm welcome. 50th Parallel is an outstanding host for special events whether “a small intimate dinner, a stand-up canapé and wine reception, a fully catered sit-down dinner, or a family-style harvest dinner look no further.”
Additionally, unique staging locations for special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, staff parties, music concerts and other festivities include the vineyard Infinity Event Pad, Crush Pad, Winery Tank Hall.
The Unparalled Club
Once you’ve experienced 50th Parallel, an attractive option is to join The Unparalleled Club. To learn about membership’s benefits and more details about the winery’s treasures, see www.50thparallel.com
Featured photo: Grapes. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.