Saturday, 8 June 2013

wines of the west bank...

Israel and the Biblical Lands are gaining worldwide attention for producing quality wines, of which most are located in the cooler altitudes of the Golan Heights. Lower altitude, extreme temperatures, and a hot-bed for political unrest, the West Bank is not as well suited for viticulture. There is, however, another West Bank that is well suited for grape-growing and winemaking, and that West Bank is right here in the Okanagan Valley.
Peaceful Vineyards of the West Bank
If any city in the world (let alone wine region) was in need of a name change, it was West Bank, BC. Mostly sub-urban sprawl and strip malls, what is now officially known as West Kelowna is also home to vineyards that, as with Kelowna across the lake, are suited to aromatic whites and a handful of cool-climate reds. Also found on these volcanic slopes are some of BC’s most iconic wineries as well as a growing number of boutique producers.

Mission Hill ( – Say what you will about the Hill, but the success of the Okanagan can be attributed to that of Mission Hill. Winner of the World’s Best Chardonnay in a 1994 London competition, the international reputation of the Okanagan can be attributed to Mission Hill. Since then, it’s iconic, Mondavi-inspired hilltop winery and restaurant attract tens of thousands of visitors each year, and the wineries of the West Bank reap the benefits of these visits. Solid wines at various price points are offered from the everyday Five-Vineyards labels up to the top-tier Meritage Oculus; a recent tasting of a 2002 showed how long these wines can age.

Quail’s Gate ( – Although it tends to sit in the shadow of Mission Hill, Quail’s Gate is another icon of the West Bank. The tiny tasting cottage was expanded to a large tasting room, shop, and restaurant complex to accommodate its growing reputation. Surprisingly, the Swiss grape Chasselas is Quail’s Gate largest selling wine, but the Old Vine Foch is also truly unique.

Rollingdale ( – A small producer that has a growing reputation for its organic wines. As with Quail’s Gate, look for their Marichel Foch for something different and good; recent releases that have seen no oak are showing great fruit flavours.

Mount Boucherie ( – The north may be all about aromatic whites, but Mount Boucherie shows that cool climate reds are also a source of interesting wines. Their Gamay is light and fruity, and the Austrian Blaufrankisch is one of the few in the province.

Volcanic Hills ( – A newcomer to the West Bank, Volcanic Hills is a throwback to my obsession with Okanagan geology; the soils around Kelowna have pockets of volcanic residue from long extinct eruptions. The reds are gaining a reputation.

Kalala ( – Another chapter in the grower-turned-vintner story of the Okanagan, the Sidhu family have branched out onto their own, taking all 90 acres of prime vineyard with them. Even more important, Kalala is entirely organic and are improving with each vintage. The weighty and aromatic Viognier is more Rhone-style than others in the region, and their Merlot-based Dostana label  is also very good.


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