Tag Archives: Okanagan Valley

Canadian Wine, eh? Part 3 of 3

8 Aug

They say it lives in the eerie darkness at the bottom of British Columbia’s Lake Okanagan, surfacing only a couple of times in the past 2,000 years. Its ominous form has appeared in ancient petroglyphs, and the First Nation peoples offered sacrifices to appease it.  Some eyewitnesses report having seen a bubble the size of an apartment breach the lake’s surface, causing a powerful wave as it burst.


Monster-spotting at Okanagan Lake, above.

Is it the Loch Ness Monster’s Canadian cousin? Is it a mammoth sturgeon? Or is it simply what Okanagan Valley wine tour guide Jim Harris calls  the “Fart Theory?”

“It can be calm on the lake, and suddenly you’ll see some rogue waves,” explains Harris. “It’s a volcanic lake, so maybe it’s a build-up of volcanic gas. It’s like the guy who drank beer after having pork and beans for dinner, and then he gets into the hot tub and just lets go.”

Okay, Jim–we get it. And if anyone’s curious, the monster goes by the handle Ogopogo.

Thankfully, Canadians love their wine as much as they love a good monster story, and you’ll get plenty of both in the Thompson Okanagan region of British Columbia.  Located about 250 miles east of Vancouver,  the Okanagan Valley is home to 12 wine subregions producing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Syrah and Zinfandel, among 75-plus grape varieties.

Wine barrels stack up nicely in Penticton.

Wine barrels stack up nicely in Penticton.

My home base for exploring the Okanagan Valley was the Penticton Lakeside Resort, which is where I stayed for Wine Bloggers Conference 2013. Although the wine excursions I attended were arranged by the conference, the town of Penticton is a convenient–and charming–place to stay while visiting area wineries.

Downtown Penticton.

Downtown Penticton.

British Columbia welcomes about 1.5 million people to its wineries each year. And even though the region is not nearly as large as California’s Napa Valley, it’s definitely growing. In 1990, there were a mere 17 wineries in British Columbia. Today, there are almost 220, and the Okanagan Valley contains 82 percent of total vineyard acreage in British Columbia.

Lakeside vineyards. (Image courtesy of Wines of British Columbia).

Lakeside vineyards. (Image courtesy of Wines of British Columbia).

That’s a lot of ground to cover, and being from Los Angeles, the last thing I want to do when I travel is drive a car. So for me, wine excursions  by bus are the way to go.  Harris owns Uncorked Okanagan Wine Tours, which was one of the companies that shuttled wine bloggers from winery to winery  (This is not a paid  mention. They had me at Fart Theory).

Wall of Vino at Road 13 Winery.

Wall of Vino at Road 13 Winery.

Depending on the tour operator and the size of your group, you can travel by luxury SUV or by bus. Different tour companies allow you to customize your excursion, and most packages include lunch.

I could go on and on about the myriad wines I tried while visiting the Okanagan Valley, but I’ll spare you. Check out the first two posts in this series for some of the highlights.

Refreshingly good- a winery with a sense of humor.

Refreshingly good- a winery with a sense of humor.

If you want the big picture, Wines of British Columbia offers this comprehensive list of area wineries.  Browse through it, see which ones appeal to you, and then find a tour company that can take you to your top choices, or rent a car and map out your own itinerary.

As for the Ogopogo, fans of scary monsters may be disappointed to know that the only critters I spotted in Lake Okanagan was a family of ducks.

Just duckies!

Just duckies!

My run-in with a version of Canada’s own Loch Ness monster happened not in the lake but at a downtown Penticton ice cream parlor. The only frightening part of the encounter: The caloric content of a double-scoop waffle cone.

Monstrously delicious ice cream in downtown Penticton.

Monstrously delicious ice cream in downtown Penticton.

Getting there: You can fly into Vancouver and rent a car, or you can fly directly into Penticton Airport or Kelowna Airport. Don’t forget your passport.

Getting around: Okanagan Valley wine tour operators: Grape Escapes Wine Tours (1-877-362-3382); Top Cat Tours ((1-205-493-7385); Grape Friends Lounge and Tours (1-250-328-2008).

Where to stay: Penticton Lakeside Resort (1-250-493-8221); Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa (1-877-313-WINE).

Canadian #wine, eh? Part 2 of 3

19 Jul

Question: What’s worse than taking bad photos on a wine tasting trip?  Answer: Accidentally deleting the album on your computer.

Yep, color me embarrassed chicas y chicos, but somehow I managed to lose a chunk of my pictures from Canada’s wine country. But in the spirit of Stiff Upper Lipping it, let’s all keep calm and drink wine.

Today’s post features more wines I discovered while attending Wine Bloggers Conference 2013 in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley wine region.

And you all know what comes next: El Full Disclosure! Say it loud, say it proud–I got free wine samples while attending Wine Bloggers Conference 2013, which happens at these events (duh!). None of the folks who plied me with free sips paid me to write any of the following content; the opinions are mine,  as are thet photos I rescued from my iPhone.

In no particular order, I give you…

1. Nk’Mip Cellars (pronounced Inka Meep)

A FIrst Nation dancer greeted us at Spirit Ridge Resort.

A FIrst Nation dancer greeted us at Spirit Ridge Resort.

The first North American winery to be owned and operated by aboriginal, or native peoples, Nk’Mip is run by the Osoyoos Indian Band of First Nation people. The winery produces Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Icewine and various blends. In other words, there’s something for everyone.

Not a wine drinker? There’s something for you, too. Nk’Mip Cellars partners with Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa, which is located on Lake Osoyoos. So while you’re friends are a-sippin’, you can be a-destressin’. Sippin’ just happens part of my de-stressin’ routine, but I digress…

Nk’Mip Cellars was voted “BC Winery of the Year” at the Canadian Wine Awards in 2012.


Inniskillin's classy packaging. Oh, and the wine's pretty good, too.

Inniskillin’s classy packaging. Oh, and the wine’s pretty good, too.

Remember my blog post about what makes a wine sweet? You don’t?  I’m not offended. Here it is again. If you look at #2, cryoextraction, you’ll get a sense for how Icewine is  made. And it bears repeating that Canada produces some of the world’s finest Icewine.

Inniskillin harvests the grapes they use in their Icewine during the Okanagan winter months. The grapes freeze on the vine at -8 degrees Celsius. That’s 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is a glorious, nectar-like wine with a honeyed taste and hints of ripe apricot and honeysuckle.

Inniskillin won the Top Canadian Producer International Wine and Spirits Competition in London in 2012.

3. See Ya Later Ranch

Who doesn’t love a juicy bit of chisme? (That’s ‘gossip’ for my English-language readers).

In 1919, dog-loving Major Hugh Fraser purchased land in this remote part of the Okanagan Valley and built himself a ranch. Quite the character, the Major threw some wild parties and was a bit of a free spirit. Legend has it that his lovely English bride grew tired of the dogs and the isolation, so she bailed, leaving behind a note that said, “See ya later.”

Today, See Ya Later  is the highest elevation vineyard in the Okanagan Valley, and the views from there are breathtaking. If you can’t visit, try hunting down the 2011 Pinot 3, which won a Silver  Medal at the 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition and a Bronze Medal the same year at the International Wine & Spirits Competition.

No photos of See Ya Later Ranch survived my iPhoto fiasco, which leaves me with no choice but to go back. ¡Salud!

Next week: Visiting the Okanagan Valley: How to plan your own Canadian wine odyssey

Vino Voyages – Washington and Canada

13 Jun

I haven’t forgotten about you, chicas y chicos! Last week I was on the road, the road between Seattle-Tacoma airport, the Lake Chelan wine valley, and British Columbia’s wine region, to be exact. I’ve missed you, but I’m back with some exciting vino discoveries I think you’ll enjoy, along with the usual dose of snob-free Vino 101.

In the coming weeks, I’ll take you on a journey through the vines and cellars of Washington State and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, with a virtual detour through Uruguay and Rueda, Spain. You’ll explore charming towns,  discover delicious wines, drink in gorgeous vistas, and learn how to get 40 wine bloggers all hot and bothered. Hint: It’s not what you think.

For now, here’s a view of what’s in store.

Road 13 Vineyards in Oliver, British Columbia.

Road 13 Vineyards in Oliver, British Columbia.

Until next week, ¡Salud!

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