Saturday, 18 May 2013

filling your boots in osoyoos...

When you take your WSET certification courses (naturally, with!), you learn that the latitude threshold for viticulture is between 30- and 50-degrees north or south of the equator. This is where the sun's rays are at their optimum for grape growing, and average temperatures are, like a proverbial bowl of porridge, not too hot, not too cold, but juuuust right.  As a country that by and large fits outside this latitudinal limit, it is not too much a surprise that in my travels most people are intrigued to find out wine is made in Canada. Granted the Great Lake-tempered wine regions of Ontario (Niagara, Prince Edward County) fit within the band, here in BC we are at the very fringe of grape growing; a fringe that begins its end in Osoyoos.

A small town of about 5,000, Osoyoos swells in both tourists and temperatures when summer hits. The namesake lake provides a cool dip and moderating temperatures - even if these temperatures often exceed 40C. Not the weather you'd expect for Canada, but Osoyoos defines how full-bodied reds can ripen successfully this side of the 49th parallel (and quite literally).

While the northern reaches of the Okanagan explored thus far are generally suited for whites and cool-climate reds, the soaring temperatures of the south are well suited to reds that require heat to ripen effectively. A winery may be based in the Naramata or Summerland, but quite often their reds are sourced from growers in the south. Despite the large plantings in the Osoyoos area, there are only four wineries in the area:

La Stella ( - Delightfully French in her demeanour, winemaker Severine Pinte crafts beautiful wines in an Italian style at the lakeside La Stella. The elegant Vivace Pinot Grigio shows that this grape is more than just patio sipping, the intriguing Fortissimo has a splash of BC-rare Sangiovese, and the Maestoso Merlot is among the best Merlots in Canada.

Nk'Mip ( - As North America's first entirely First Nations-owned winery, a visit to Nk'mip is a must while in Osoyoos. The wines are consistent, but Nk'Mip is an resort unto itself with a hotel, golf course, and information centre. Well worth a visit if just to experience it.

Moon Curser ( - It's hard to choose best among equals, but the wines of the-winery-formerly-known-as-Twisted Tree are among my favourite in BC. Locally sourced in Osoyoos, the whites are Rhone reminiscent and the Syrah is (sorry everyone else) my favourite in the province. Also unique for someone just back from Uruguay is the Tannat-based "Dark of the Night." Plus, the view from the hillside winery of Osoyoos is amazing. Dinner Choice: paired this Tannat-Merlot blend with a good old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs. Sufficient acidity in the wine balanced the homemade sauce, while the tannins were perfect for the hand-rolled balls like-a mamma.

Young & Wyse ( - I may sound like a French region yet again declaring another vintage of the century, but Young & Wyse is also a favourite BC producer. Considered a "black sheep of the family," Stephen Wyse set out with partner Michelle Young to create rich, full-bodied wines; the Merlot and Cab-Sauv are great, and check out their rare-to-BC Zinfandel; much less jammy and a little lighter in body than the heady stuff from California. Another fun fact? Young & Wyse is arguably BC's southernmost winery: the border is just down the street.

Which brings me to the real reason for my trip down to Osoyoos: yes, the wineries and their great and wines are worth the trip, but so is the attraction of cheap gas and groceries in Oroville. Interesting to note is that as important as the Osoyoos region is to the BC wine industry, very little goes on just across the line. In my opinion then, fill the tank with gas but when filling up on groceries, be sure to leave plenty of trunk space for filling up with the wines of our Deep South.

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