DAY TWO: LAST LAPS OF WINE TOURING THE OKANAGAN IN PEAK SEASON
By Roslyne Buchanan.
Plenty of adventures await for BC wine touring as noted in Day One. Yet, as autumn’s golden tones appear and harvest commences in earnest, fewer wineries are open. Tasting new releases becomes more event-centric and less through dropping into wineries.
Accordingly, I was happy to join my Opimian Wine Club of Canada friend Lorna Wallace and her two Alberta buddies, Jennifer and Ellen, on a second day of wine touring.
First I introduced the “Superstore of BC VQA wine” – the Penticton Wine Information Centre. Located on Highway 97 beside the Cascades Casino, it goes well beyond selling wine to a mecca for knowledge about British Columbia wines. At last count over 900 wines from more than 150 different wineries were available to purchase. The staff truly know the industry and offer individualized guidance.
It includes chilled white, rosé, and sparkling wines in large coolers plus wine accessories, gourmet food items, books about food and wine, gift baskets, and wine shipping services. Wine tasting seminars and events are offered and guest wineries hosted for complimentary tastings. Don’t miss this resource.
Sporting my designated driver strategy of “see, sniff, swirl and spit” limited samples, we drove south to Okanagan Falls. The first stop was deep into the vines at Meyer Family Vineyards. This year marked the 10th Anniversary and true to form, festivities were highlighted by prestigious accolades. Once again MFV was in the Top Ten Small Wineries in Canada and the 2017 Tribute Series Chardonnay achieved Platinum in the 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards. Ange Grant led a special tasting and as we left, the ladies met Proprietor JAK Meyer working outside.
At Stag’s Hollow Winery and Vineyard our timing was perfect to catch Sales & Marketing Manager Erin Korpisto to show the skills of Winemaker Keira LeFranc. The wine shop offers the stunning backdrop of vineyards and rocky hills and the outside patios invite you to tarry awhile.
It was also delightful to find Liquidity Wines Ltd. () Founder Ian MacDonald behind the tasting bar. Later we discovered President Ruth Hanbury and Winemaker Alison Moyes deep into a business meeting the Liquidity Bistro patio. While we had other plans for lunch, I emphasized to our visitors the cuisine of Chef Matt Martin and his team is exquisite. The highly experienced Restaurant Manager Lucia Martin is his mother and ensures front-of-the-house service is second to none.
What I truly loved sharing about Liquidity besides its delightful wines and cuisine is its whole approach to creating a multi-faceted journey of the senses. You’ll find a rotating gallery of eclectic artwork, world class exhibits, educational presentations and musical events by prominent artists.
The iconic Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars beckoned from just up the road. We could not resist the call of the Mavety family’s life work since 1971. Using exclusively estate-grown grapes from its South Okanagan vineyard, Blue Mountain has a philosophy “focus on the potential of each variety, continually improving its range across Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, and Traditionnelle Methode sparkling wine.” In its vineyard perch with eye-popping vistas such as McIntyre Bluff, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the fruits of the family’s labour.
Keeping within this region of panoramic views immersed within the vineyards, we set course for Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery. Noble Ridge also made the Top Ten Small Wineries list by the WineAlign 2019 Nationals. The drop-dead gorgeous picnic area and informative (and delicious) wine tasting had the ladies planning their next visit before they completed their purchases.
We were hungry so lucky for us, VinAmité Cellars was next. Founded by Ray and Wendy Coulombe in 2013 and owned with daughters Catherine (Winemaker and Manager) and Nathalie (Artist), VinAmité sold its grapes to other well-known wineries throughout the Okanagan for nearly two decades prior to creating its own boutique wines. The wine lounge is a relaxing setting to taste these French varietals. We lingered to savour an Artisanal Local Cheese and Charcuterie Board prepared by Catherine that eclipsed others any of us experienced anywhere.
When asked by our warm, friendly and familiar-to-me server where next and I responded Hester Creek Estate Winery, she kidded “why go there?” A case of someone in a different setting out of context, my mental acuity took a hit as Sandra Summers said she slept with the winemaker there. My ego took a second dive when I referred to Winemaker Mark Hopley rather than Hester Creek’s Senior Winemaker Rob Summer, her husband. Oops, there I was propagating untrue rumours!
The Hester Creek vineyards were established in 1968 by BC wine pioneer Joe Busnardo. Many of these first plantings have thrived since Curt Garland, current owner, invested to steward the site, and to plant other varietals. Garland’s investments have facilitated the creation of outstanding wines through extensive new facilities and hiring the expertise needed to bring it to renown. The grounds boast a gorgeous patio and lawns to host such not-to-be-missed events such as the Annual Garlic Festival – 10 am to 5 pm, October 5, 2019.
The magnificent tasting room showcases the Hester Creek wines and an impressive collection of local products and culinary merchandise. It is also home to the decadent demonstration kitchen, base to Hester Creek’s famous seasonal cooking classes. Overlooking it is a villa that offers six Mediterranean-style suites. As if that’s not enough to motivate you to visit, through a cooperative venture next door is Terrafina at Hester Creek by RauDZ. This Tuscan-style restaurant is brought to you by the culinary and service team of RauDZ Creative Concepts Ltd. Those same creative minds behind Kelowna’s beloved RauDZ Regional Table, micro bar • bites, Sunny’s – a modern diner, and soon to be opened The Okanagan Table.
On a mission to retrieve a wine cherished by one of the ladies’ husbands, last stop was Road 13 Vineyards at its castle-style setting with vineyard views of Osoyoos Lake. Despite the crowded tasting room, knowledgeable staff ensured the mission was accomplished.
We visited Okanagan Falls Wednesday Afternoon Market in The Park before returning to D’Angelo Winery & Guest House, their vacation base. As we said our goodbyes, I felt proud to show our Okanagan Valley wine country in all its diversity and bounty.
Featured photo: Drop-dead gorgeous picnic area of Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.