Thursday, 6 June 2013

kelowna and the great white north...

Penticton may be located at the centre of all things vineyards in the Okanagan, but the title of main city belongs to Kelowna. An urban centre of nearly a quarter million, Kelowna is home of to most of the province’s oldest vineyards and wineries. Most of these are located within a few kilometres of the downtown, including some of the most iconic wineries that date back to pre-tasting room days of the late-60s/early-70s (which is old by Canadian wine industry standards).
Forward thinking wineries in this area decided to go against the grape by planting quality European grapes, a.k.a vitis vinifera, rather than rely on hybrid and domestic local species that were not suited to premium wine production. Here, vineyards are literally at the northern reaches of viticulture, roughly on the same latitude of German wine regions. As a result, where the desert sun and sand of Osoyoos are perfect for ripening Cabs and Syrah, the cool mountains and big lakes of Kelowna are the land of aromatic whites. 
Pinot Gris is the current king of whites in the area (and is now the most widely planted white in all the Okanagan), but Riesling is gaining international reputation as winemakers work with what the terroir provides, resulting in varying styles of dry to sweet. More important, Riesling this far north is also responsible for the highest quality icewines that are Canada's signature wine style. Gewurztraminer and Ehrenfelser are also of aromatic importance, but cool climate reds like Pinot Noir, Gamay, and the Austrian Zweigelt also do well in this climate. 
Kelowna itself is divided into 3 sub-regions: Kelowna, Lake Country, and West Kelowna. Approximately 2 dozens wineries are found in the area, but distance makes it difficult to do it all in one day. Hence, we start with a look at the wineries of Kelowna proper. Most of the wineries are located on hillsides south of the city, and often have access to among the oldest vines in BC.

Tantalus ( – Tantalus focuses on a limited portfolio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Riesling, arguably BC’s best with their Old Vines from vines more than 30 years old. A recent project is a sparkling Riesling made from these vines – yum!

Sperling ( – a country cottage doubles as a rustic tasting bar, and the wines are lovely. The Spritz is a nice, off-dry bubble and their first Pinot Noir is a sign of good things to come.

Summerhill ( – Pyramid-power defines Summerhill’s eclectic approach to winemaking, so it is no surprise this is a leader for organic and biodynamic viticulture. Cypes is also among the leaders of BC’s sparkling wine labels.

St. Hubertus ( -  Another Kelowna classic, recent changes to production have brought quality back to St. Hubertus. Their Gewurztraminer in particular showed among the best of my visits with a fuller body and aromatics much more along the lines of a traditional Alsatian.

Cedar Creek ( – One of the first wineries to work with vinifera grapes from the 1970s, Cedar Creek has streamlined their portfolio to meet consumer demands, but unique standouts such as a Reserve Malbec and Madeira-styled Pinot Blanc.

Calona/Sandhill ( – BC’s first winery, Calona has suffered years of bad reputation but their Artist Series shows much improvement worth revisiting. The winery is also home to Sandhill, where the One, Two, and Three reds offer unique and high quality blends.


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