Since moving to beautiful British Columbia, two girlfriends and I embark on a wine-filled weekend in the Okanagan region. In previous years, we have hit up the wineries and nightlife in the Kelowna and West Kelowna area.
This year, we took a more ambitious route and tackled Penticton, Naramata, Oliver and Osoyoos; all within 48 hours. This was a game-changer, we found the land of big, bold and delicious reds which, as it happens, are my favourite kind of reds.
18 wineries visited, 15 bottles of wine purchased, 3 great vinyls added to my collection, a lot of laughs and a hangover or two later it is safe to say the trip was a success!
With an exhaustive list of stops, here are a few highlights from the weekend.
Good music is one of my big loves and vinyl, my new found obsession. Late last year, I picked up a cheap turntable and it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve made since moving here. There is nothing better than hearing the needle hit the record while making supper and sipping on a big glass of wine. I would say, after this weekend, I’m well prepared.
Radiohead is one of my favourite bands of all time and I’ve been looking for this album for a while. Tina Turner is a legend and reminds me of my childhood, and Rod Stewart….well…he’s Rod Stewart, full stop.
Now on to the wine tasting.
After stopping at a few wineries on the Naramata Bench with little success of finding a red that stood out, we saw the familiar sign of Moraine Winery and decided to try our luck. I have sampled their Mablec/Merlot blend, Cliffhanger Red (which runs for under $20 a bottle), on a few blurry evenings and knew we were in for the start of something good.
This is me walking out one happy customer with three bottles of wine to start off my (first) box of wine finds. Things were looking up!
Sometimes it’s the wine the makes the wineries, sometimes it’s the people. But when it is both, you know you’ve found a great place.
Quinta Ferreira is a small Portuguese-owned winery in the heart of Oliver, and was my number 2 favourite stop of the weekend. To be perfectly honest, we were little ambivalent about stopping here. On the recommendation of a co-worker, we thought we’d try it out anyways.
Upon entering the tasting room, we were greeted by the tiny and cheerful Bonnie (shown above), who could barely reach our tasting glasses as she poured. Don’t let her small stature fool you, this lady is full of character, wit, knowledge and packs a punch.
We ended up buying some local cheese from their tasting room cooler to pair with a Meritage blend that had a list of awards as long as my arm, and shot the breeze with our wonderful host.
I am no stranger to the Church & State reds. I don’t know if it is the marketer in me that is intrigued by the very cheeky labels, or that they offer a decent red at a great price, either way we knew we had to stop here.
Their sprawling facility has a young, hip vibe and is pretty phenomenal. They offer both indoor and outdoor tasting areas that more resemble a wine bar than an out-of-the-box tasting room floor plan a lot of wineries seem to follow. To help put us in the mood for sitting and sipping, there was a young Elton John dvd playing in the background.
I don’t know if it was the wine or the sassy labels but everyone around was fired up and offering up their best bedroom innuendos at any chance they could. The brilliant marketers Church & State have set the stage for a great day/night with their provocative Lost Inhibitions labels.
A few labels that really made me chuckle:
- Have your lips met mine?
- Hold my glass & watch this
- Classy, sassy & smart-assy
Though their wine is pretty great, and their winery is jaw-droppingly beautiful, Burrowing Owl was more of an emotional visit for me this time. This particular visit was filled with a smile, some sadness, a text home to loved ones and a lot of great memories.
My head was filled with memories of sharing better wines than I’ll ever be able to afford with some of my favourite people on the planet. It was also filled memories of Benvon, one of the most amazing women I’ve had the graces of meeting. Memories of being made fun of for “just happening” to show up whenever Pat would pop a new bottle of wine, of a lot of laughs and of sing-songs over Burrowing’s Syrah or Athene around the sunroom table.
I picked up a Cabernet Franc to add to my collection and to keep the memories close to my heart.
Rustico Winery is, by far, one of the most unique wineries we visited. The owner, a peculiar character dressed as the sheriff, poured wine more like he was slinging whiskey in a saloon than offering up a 2013 Pinot. The interesting set up and frontier-inspired motif, makes this one of the most animated stops we made over the weekend.
What left me in awe about this winery was to see how close the recent wildfires got to, not only the vines, but the owners home. Maybe 100 feet sat between the property and the blackened grass and hillside, it was crazy. I asked owner, James Nevison, what he did when he saw the whole mountainside ablaze. His response: “I opened a good bottle of wine from the cellar and waited.” Ha!
Fairview Cellars was hands down my favourite stop over the weekend. It is a boutique winery, a little off the beaten path, with signage about as big as a piece of printer paper. This winery was hard to find, but worth the effort to stop. I had had a glass of their Meritage blend, “The Bear”, at The Watermark Beach Resort’s wine and tapas bar the night before, and knew it had to be a stop before we left town.
We were lucky enough to be the only ones visiting the winery at the time and the owner’s brother, Chuck, took a liking to us. He asked if we had time to look around and offered to show us how they make the wine. We toured the back rooms and barrel room of the winery as he went into a passion-filled description of the wine-making process from grape picking to wine bottling. To top off the unforgettable experience, he shared a taste of their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon with us, which made my legs numb (and no I wasn’t drunk).
As much as I was in the “treat yourself” mentality and buying wine like it was going out of fashion, I passed on buying the 2006. I bought a 2013 “The Bear” and decided it was the one I would (try) not to open for a while.
All around, this is one of the best weekends I’ve had since moving here. Needless to say, we’ve already planned a trip back for next year. This time we’ll be tacking on an extra day or two to the itinerary and bring our river tubes to do some summer floating.
If you get the chance, and you like wine – GO!