Three sips. That’s what it takes, according to the Summerland sommelier. The first will still have traces of your last taste – lunch, 3 pm chocolate, another wine. With the second sip, your mouth is preparing itself for the wine at hand. By the third sip, you are fully into the “taste and experience” of the wine in your glass.
If it’s sips you want, Okanagan Valley has plenty on offer – 84% of BC’s vineyard acres, according to the BC Wine Institute. This 250 kilometres of valley stretches through Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland, Summerland, Naramata, Penticton, Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Golden Mile Bench and Osoyoos. The first area winery, Calona Vineyards, opened in 1932. Now, ~182 are licensed.
If you’re leaving from Vancouver, the drive is hours long, but beautiful.
Okanagan Crush Pad
On this visit, we started out at Okanagan Crush Pad, makers of Haywire and Narrative wines. Winemaker Matt Dumayne and his team make ‘pure, terroir-driven wines from organic grapes using native yeast fermentations.’ They use precision viticulture to enhance the performance of their vineyards and concrete fermenting and aging tanks from Italy.
Our tasting menu included a wide range of delicious options from rieslings to rosés, pinots to syrahs. A particular favourite was the 2017 Pink Bub from Haywire – created from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from their Summerland and Oliver vineyards. ‘The palate has hints of wild strawberries with a touch of sweetness and mouthwatering acidity.’
Dumayne and OCP have also ventured into distilling with products like Twelve Botanicals Gin whose notes include cebeb berries, coriander, citrus peels, chamomile and lemongrass.
For the next stops, our designated driver drove us to the gorgeous Naramata Bench area which, according to Wine BC, features 898 planted acres and 41 licensed wineries.
With psychologists in the mix, we had to go to Therapy Vineyards. You might have seen their bottles featuring various Sigmund portraits and names like ‘Freudian Sip’ or ‘Freud’s Ego.’ Winemaker Steve Latchford – there for near a decade – has won multiple awards for his Therapy work, including a recent Okanagan Wine Festival medal for his 2016 Pinot Gris.
Our tastes here included a gewürztraminer with lovely ‘aromas of rose petals, ginger, and tropical fruit,’ ‘Fizzio Therapy Blanc’ bubbles and a limited edition red with a smoky flavour they attributed to a fire that had broken out over the border, near one of their vineyards.
The sweet-toothed among us left with a purchase of Therapy’s famous fortified wine – or ‘Freudified’ as they call it – a Port-styled blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay spirits.
Our final stop was at Serendipity Winery, a beautiful Italianate building just around the corner from Therapy. Winemaker Katie O’Kell – ‘Second-in-command and Chief Grape Stomper’ – was there to walk us through the tasting herself. More importantly, so was her rescue dog, Whisky.
Katie, runs the winery with her Mum – the computer science-trained owner Judi Kingston. Katie fell so deeply in love with the business that she deferred law school and completed her winemaking degree at UC Davis – earning 100% on her final exam, no less.
Katie introduced us to a wide variety of their award-winning wines which included their delicious 2016 Sauv Blanc – ‘it has an herbaceous nose with the traditional grassy notes together with dill, lime, pink grapefruit, ripe cantaloupe, melon and asparagus. The taste has flavours of kiwi, lime and pear with hints of minerality.’
We tore ourselves away from Whiskey cuddles and carted home our final purchase: Serendipity’s 2015 Viognier, with its hints of blood orange and tangerine.
It was time to drive back down to Vancouver, but we will be back. These are but three great examples of the Okanagan winery tastings available. For those who would prefer to be guided and driven, there are a number of local wine tour companies available.
Written by Elizabeth Newton