Saturday, 11 May 2013

wine flows in okanagan falls...

Day Two of exploring the wineries of the Okanagan Valley brought me to the sub-region of Okanagan Falls. (It's more of a "rough current" than an actual "falls" by the town, but that's another story). A few errands at a friend's cabin served as the perfect cover; we're in the area, so why not make the most of our gas? (Which, by the way, shot up 10-cents a litre yesterday just an hour or so after filling the tank; summer means sunshine and tourist price-gauging, I suppose).

The Okanagan Falls Winery Association (OFWA - has done a great job of late promoting the wineries of the sub-region, dubbed "the Heart of Wine Country." Situated where the string of lakes that moderate the North Okanagan end, giving way to the hot desert climate of the South Okanagan, OK Falls is indeed at the very centre where wine styles bridge these two distinct BC regions. Where glaciers up to 3km thick once sat, varied soils and slopes now hold more than 100 acres of prime vineyard land at the southern tip of Lake Skaha.

As with Summerland, most of the wineries of OK Falls are concentrated within a few kilometres of the small lakeside town on what was once referred to as Corkscrew Drive. Slightly further afield, wineries along the eastern shore of Lake Skaha and in the sleepy summer town of Kaleden are also a part of the Okanagan Falls sub-region.  With about a dozen wineries in the area, a few hours between early morning errands and picking up kids from school is not enough to fully take in what is available here. Nonetheless, 9 wineries is still a fair go I think, and below are my findings for the day:

Kraze Legz ( - an intriguing find in Kaleden, I would have to say this was my pleasant surprise of the day. Owners Jerry and Sue look after all details from vine to wine on their 9-acre property. Production is small, but the quality and potential is there with their Pinot Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. That, and I have to admit I'm a bit of a sucker for clever marketing that revolves around a prohibition-era theme.

See Ya Later Ranch ( - The winery formerly known as Hawthorne formerly known as La Compte has long been a favourite of visitors to Okanagan Falls. High in the hills above the town, the wines here are fresh and fruity, but today their brut stood out as something special.

Blue Mountain Vineyards in Okanagan Falls
Blue Mountain ( - Blue Mountain has the fortune of having for years a cult reputation...and the wines to back up this reputation. While I may not have taken note of their exact acreage (40-ish?), it is sufficient enough to ensure that their wines are 100% Estate fruit; a sign of control from vine to wine. Their Brut is among the best traditional methods in Canada, their Pinot Blanc a benchmark of how this grape can be BCs signature on the world scene, and the newest addition is their Sauvignon Blanc; a more restrained style than in New Zealand, and better than most attempts in the Okanagan. Best thing is that Blue Mountain is now open for visitors!

Noble Ridge ( - A fantastic find for the wine geek in you, the first thing that impressed me was the Geneva Double Curtain and modified Scott-Henry trellising systems when you drive up to the property. (These may sound like figure-skating moves, but are indeed ways of growing grapes, and are not common in the Okanagan). That aside, the Burgundian-styled wines are fantastic, and the hospitality also top-drawer; Tamsin is just weeks away from her WSET Diploma, and David could easily ace any exam.

Stag's Hollow ( - Without wanting to offend the others on the list, Stag's Hollow has long been one of my favourite BC wineries. Owners Larry and Linda work in perfect tandem with winemaker Dwight to create wines that are both commercially successful and unique in their own rights. Today's visit was highlighted with a look at the brand new bottling of the 2010 Tempranillo (a first for the Okanagan) as well as a tank sample of the 2011 Syrah. Long standing favourites of Syrah, Syrah Rose, and Heritage Block were also sampled to great success.

Wild Goose ( - Yet another fan favourite, Wild Goose last year expanded their tasting facilities to accommodate their ever-growing acclaim. The Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Autumn Gold were as great as always, but you shouldn't miss out on the Mystic River Pinot Blanc either; a benchmark standard for Okanagan Pinot Blancs. It is also worth noting that we have Wild Goose to thank for spearheading the OFWA, an effort that is finally seeing fruition.

Tangled Vines ( - Scores well with friendly service, but if you can't say anything nice about the wines, you shouldn't say anything at all. (Sampling a 2009 rose at the winery? Seriously?)

Meyer Family Vineyard ( - Specialists in Burgundians (with a touch of Gewurz for good luck), going in to Meyer I had high expectations....which were exceeded. Unique among samplings, each wine was paired with an unexpected food item. No cheese and crackers here; try Gingersnaps with Gewurztraminer (my highlight!), Oaked Chardonnay with Blueberries (turns out I'm not the only one to dream this up), and Pinot Noir with dark chocolate? Each a pleasant surprise and well worth the visit.

Blasted Church ( - A classic example of the successes that can come when solid winemaking meets innovative marketing. Blasted Church is an icon of BC branding with clever puns on religious themes. For example, their Chardonnay isn't just a Chardonnay; it's an Unorthodox Chardonnay (which, indeed, includes an aromatic Chardonnay Musque crossing). Another favourite is the red blend Big Bang Theory; they have the rights since it was a label before the show. And with so many winery email addresses of info@, you can't help but wonder what is afoot at a winery where you are

With family fun and bikers expected to descend on OK Falls this weekend for an annual festival, the remaining wineries of the area will have to wait until next week.  In the meantime, a glass of the Stag's Hollow GVM (Grenache-Viognier-Marsanne) with stuffed green peppers will tide me over until the next adventure.

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