Thursday, 9 May 2013

nachos and ehrenfelser in the land of summer...

A simple but flavourful dinner is sometimes best paired with a simple but flavourful wine. In today's case, I just finished homemade nachos with a glass (ok, maybe two) of Ehrenfelser. Nachos are a good way to clear the fridge of a variety of leftovers (chicken, beef, sour cream, tomatoes, cilantro... anything goes so long as it is oven-baked and over corn chips), but Ehrenfelser is a nice treat to the palate. A crossing of German grapes Riesling and Silvaner, Ehrenfelser is a unique grape that does better here in BC than in its homeland. It may not reach the heights of ageworthy Rieslings, but the youthful stonefruit characters, crisp acidity, and light body are just right for when summer sunshine strikes the patio.

For tonight's meal, I went with the Greata Ranch Ehrenfelser. A good expression of the grape in its own right, my choice stems primarily from a day spent visiting the wineries of Summerland, BC. Blessed with the opportunity to spend a month in the heart of BC wine country, this is the first of a series of blogs about visits to the extraordinary sub-regions that make up the Okanagan Valley.

With temperatures exceeding 30C under cloudless skies, the wineries of Summerland seemed the most appropriate place to start this journey of exploration. Perched on the western shores of Lake Okanagan, Summerland is a quaint town ideally located on the main road from Penticton to Kelowna. For this reason, the Bottleneck Drive Wine Route ( is a new initiative to attract visitors to concentrate their sips and spits to one local area rather than spreading out along the 100km stretch that is the Okanagan Valley.

Despite the focus on just one sub-region, you'd be surprised how much time can be spent visiting a limited area such as Summerland. What was intended to be a 90 minute whip-around the wineries for quick tastes ended up a 4-hour journey into the tasting rooms and cellars of 6 local wineries; just half of what Summerland has to offer. My apologies for those I did not get a chance to see, but a summary of today's tastings include:

Greata Ranch ( - At the northern end of the Bottleneck Drive, Greata Ranch is affiliated with Kelowna's Cedar Creek. Sourcing grapes from their own vineyards as well as contracted growers further south, Greata Ranch performs better with their aromatic whites and Pinot Noir; after all, their Ehrenfelser proved perfect for tonight's dinner. When not shellacking barrels and tidying the tasting room for the upcoming season, Judy is also a delight to guide you through their wines.

Sumac Ridge ( - A staple of the Okanagan for several decades, Sumac Ridge has long been an favourite on everyone's to-sip list. For me, however, it is their world-class sparkling programme that is worth checking out: the Traditional Method Stellar's Jay leads the way in BC bubbles, but the sparkling Gewurztraminer is truly unique.

Okanagan Crush Pad ( - Revolutionary by BC standards, the OCP is a custom crush facility with several different brands. Lead by the magical hands of Michael Bartier, such labels as Haywire, B.S are made in limited amounts and are well-worth a visit to this state-of-the-art facility.

Dirty Laundry ( - Hard to go wrong with a winery that bases its marketing on the legend of a turn-of-the-century brothel, including cleverly disguised naked women on the labels (there are 8 per label - see if you can pick them out!). Clad in all things feathery and lingerie, a visit to Dirty Laundry is a must when in Summerland; the trio of Gewurztraminer (Threadbare, Woo-woo, and Madam) are among the best in Canada, and their Hush Rose an annual treat with their dirty little secret grape we never hear about.

Thornhaven ( - Owners Jack and Jan Fraser have done an excellent job at creating not only award-winning wines but also a cosy tasting facility set high above Lake Okanagan; most important of which was to keep tasting room staple Danny as part of their purchase in 2006. The Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer have just enough residual sugar to tempt the palate, but look for the rare Pinot Meunier as a red complement to slightly spicy Asian cuisine.

8th Generation ( - With most producers in their first generation of wine production, 8th Generation refers to 7 generations of German winemaking before the eighth, Bernd Schales, moved to BC. There's no surprise that their Riesling programme is excellent, but look for more unique expressions of Pinot Meunier (a.k.a. Schwartzburgunder) in rose, red, and sparkling forms. Here, the friendly atmosphere is all about the wine; merchandise such as t-shirts, corkscrews, and quirky wine-themed paraphanelia are at a bare minimum.

In total, 30 wines at 6 wineries in 4 hours, all within 15km of my temporary home in Penticton. As far as wines are concerned, Summerland showed itself to be the perfect launching pad for a summer full of great wine.

No comments:

Post a Comment