Archive | September, 2010

Twist & Shout…

16 Sep

Day two in the Southern Okanagan was full of winery visits – with each putting their own unique twist upon B.C. winemaking.

After a quick and yummy breakfast at Watermark, our first stop of the day was Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery in the heart of Oliver. John and Maria (and their son, and winemaker, Michael) Ferreira are pulling inspiration from their traditional Portuguese roots.

Their Portuguese heritage is found in not only the style of building, but also in their wines. There’s  the ’08 Mistura Tinto, a red blend of all six wines they make. It’s full of raspberry jam, cherries and spice with a velvety texture and a long finish. A stand-out of my visit was the ’08 Mistura Branca, that has a gorgeous floral nose from the 65% Muscat and 35% Gewurztraminer in its blend. Yummy, silky and citrusy – this has got it going on. And stay tuned for some more Portuguese influence – a fortified wine is hinted to be in the works.

The next stop of the day was at Stoneboat Vineyards where the Martiniuk family has been growing vines in the South Okanagan for over 25 years.

Entirely family-run, Stoneboat is shaking things up by not only creating wines like an energetic, berry-rich, pleasing Pinotage, but also using non-grafted vines in a winemaking area that generally only thrives because of them. I loved the tasting room piano and the musically-inspired wines. From the ’09 Chorus made to showcase the white Germanic varietals owner Lanny is so proud of, to the ’08 Duet, an affable wine of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Pinotage, these wines are in perfect harmony.

Our third visit of the day was at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery and their patch of heavenly landscape. We sampled a few wines in the tasting room before having a lunch in the Sonora Room where Vines-surveyed sommelier Jay Whiteley is manager.

My favourite in the tasting room was also my favourite accompaniment to a delightful lunch – their ’08 Chardonnay. A approachable Chard that’s great with food, this is luscious and has a great balance of spice, fruit and crisp acidity. It’s just plain and simply good – very, very good. Burrowing Owl is like a really comfortable sweatshirt – you may not want to wear it every day, but it’s good to know it fits perfectly when you need it.

After lunch, we moved along to Hester Creek Estate Winery. On top of having a kick-ass, dream kitchen to host all sorts of functions, they are making some interesting wines.

A personal favourite was the ’09 Trebbiano – one of the first wines produced from start to finish by winemaker Robert Summers (a Niagara boy with stints at Peller, Henry of Pelham and Cave Spring Cellars who joined the team in 2006). I imagine sitting down to a plate of spicy pad thai or spring rolls dipped in sweet and sour sauce and this refreshing, appley, grapefruity, minerally, yummy wine. Also cool about Hester – they’re producing 3 L casks (aka, wine in a box) of their Pinot Blanc and Cabernet Merlot. Identical to the wine in regular bottles, this form allows for a great party wine that’s easy to pour and even easier on the pocketbook.

Finally, we made our way to Nk’Mip Cellars, back in Osooyos.

The last visit of a day always seems to get lost in the sludge of spit buckets past, but Nk’Mip did it’s best to deliver solidly crafted wines. The first Aboriginally-owned and -operated winery in North America, my favourite bottle of theirs was their ’08 Riesling that we drank at dinner back at Watermark. A perfect apéritif with great minerality – this certainly goes down easy after a long day of tasting.

Hills and valleys…

12 Sep

Day one in the Okanagan area of British Columbia and I’m already dreaming about packing up the apartment that I just moved into, selling off my worldly possessions (my Packers’ memorabilia has got to be worth something) and heading west. But who doesn’t want to live in a place this beautiful? There’s a reason that Clifford Sifton fellow didn’t have to give the hard sell to early 20th Century farmers. It’s stunning out here.

After getting picked up in Kelowna, my kind host Sue Alexander and her longtime friend – and my marmot and rattlesnake guide – Dan Schnell, led me to the eye-popping Mission Hill Winery.

We got a behind-the-scenes tour of this great entry into Okanagan wines. Let’s be honest – few wineries in B.C, let alone Canada are like this. The architecture is amazing, the grass amphitheatre is unbelievably crafted and the wines are award-winning.

We tasted through a flight of their more premium wines, including my favourite the ’06 Oculus. At $70 a bottle, this stuff better deliver – and it does. It’s a Bordeaux-inspired blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot from specific clusters of specific blocks of specific vineyards (sense a theme?) that are all hand-picked and hand-sorted and spend over 14 months in French oak. With rich chocolate and cherry notes on the nose, coffee and cassis on the palate and a finish that’s more persistent than the nerd who hit on me in high school, this is simply a stellar wine.

After we wrapped up at the all-mighty Mission Hill, we dropped back into reality and meandered southward. Close to the northern most tip of the ‘South Okanagan’ was our next stop – Dunham & Froese Estate Winery.

We were hungry, so we ate – pulled pork sandwiches from Covert Farms. We were thirsty, so we drank – a bone-dry, beefy ’09 Rosé (a blend of Merlot and a tiny bit of Syrah) and the ’09 Amicitia White Blend were stand outs. As luck would have it, winemaker Kirby Froese was behind the tasting bar and managed to sneak away to join our crew on the picnic tables out front of the shop. A great contrast to Mission Hill and just a great little stop to make.

Then it was onward to our resting place to check in. The Watermark Beach Resort has it all – large, comfortable suites, a pool with waterslide and hot tubs and prime location. I kid you not, my suite is better equipped than my own apartment!

And you can’t beat the view.

After a brief refresh, we were back on the road – heading up to Tinhorn Creek for a BBQ and the Bedouin Soundclash concert.

The kids danced, Bedouin rocked out and Tinhorn wines were as great a backdrop to this amazing night as the mountains were.