A Fresh Start in the South Okanagan

image: clockwise from left: new OOWA logo, Adrian Cassini at Cassini Cellars, extreme soil stratification, Moon Curser, Lanny Martiniuk of Stoneboat Vineyards.


Banée is a South Okanagan Winery Association (SOWA) industry event to mark the end of pruning and the beginning of a new season, and was modeled after Burgundy’s famed Banée de Meursault. This year SOWA announced another new beginning – the beginning of a new era, logo and name christening as Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country. The 21 member wineries made the decision to move from SOWA to OOWA so they could better define the region where their grapes are grown and to communicate a sense of place. Southern Okanagan is a pretty broad term for consumers to comprehend – where does it start? Where does it end? How far does it spread? The new name and marketing plan aims to clarify the area, and will work to highlight their unique climate, soil and wine growers and vintners.

Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country is now clearly bordered by McIntyre Bluff to the north, and the USA border to the south. Its major growing areas lie on 3 benches: the Golden Mile, The Black Sage and the Osoyoos Lake benches. OOWA’s new logo, cleverly designed, superimposed wine bottle sunshine with the tagline “uncork the sun!” is apt. While there are a number of soil types and microclimates, the unifying character is the extreme desert climate (Canada’s only pocket desert), with scorching summer days and cool nights – perfect for grapes.

And we got to taste a lot of those desert climate grapes, in their final, glorious vinified state. Over the whirlwind weekend we had the opportunity to meet and taste with every OOWA winery, and tour a handful of their vineyards. Here are my Banée weekend bests:

Best Bang-for-your-Buck Event:

Maybe you’ve heard of speed dating? Wine geeks play speed tasting. AtWalnut Beach Resort’s Speed Tasting, each winery principal had 5 minutes to present 2 wines to each guest, one-on-one. Being able to chat up every OOWA owner/winemaker in one room was great. Hectic and fast paced, but highly productive (once you got the hang of meet, greet, taste, juggle, notes, talk soil, find a spittoon, and not bump into someone).

Best Meal:

We had the opportunity to dine at Tinhorn Creek’s brand new Miradoro Restaurant. Fantastic and unpretentious Spanish-Portuguese-Okanagan menu from incredibly talented Chef Jeff Van Geest (ex-Aurora Bistro). Two words = Forno oven. For more on Miradoro, See Anya Levykh’s Wine Trail Eats on page 34 in the May/June issue of EAT.

Best Picnic:

Ok – so it was raining, and we were indoors, but if the roof flew off and the walls gave way, the cheese and charcuterie spread at Watermark Beach Resort would have made the best picnic ever. Chef Natasha Schooten’s housemade mustards,preserves and breads put it over the top. Plus, there were 21 open bottles of wine sitting out for us to pour and pair and help ourselves.

Best Conversation Starter:

“So what do you think about Moon Curser?”

Ahh – Moon Curser Vineyards. Newly christened moniker from the folks at what used to be known as Twisted Tree Vineyards. Same owners/winemaker, and same high quality and carefully crafted wines, but vastly new name and label. Their new boldly spooky and cartoonish marketing package is a polar opposite from the authentically earthy and elegant Twisted Tree. As owner Chris Tolley explained to me, Osoyoos is an old gold mining area, rich with both prospectors and smugglers. Moon Curser refers to the nighttime gold-rush era smugglers that would curse the light of the full moon when they were trying to sneak over the border and avoid paying duty on their gotten gains. Heaps of heated discussions abound: Do consumers take a cartoon branded wine seriously? Are high-end restaurants going to want to put this name on their lists? Though what’s on the outside of the bottles was up for debate, what was agreed upon unanimously was that the stuff inside the bottles is incredible.

Best Beginnings:

There were a number of brand new wineries present – some showing for the first time ever. Keep an eye out for Hidden Chapel Winery and River Stone Estate Winery. And if you see Castoro de Oro Estate Winery, it’s a fancied up version of Golden Beaver Winery of old.

Best Nature Lesson:

We got to rest our palate and exercise our legs on an hour-long educational tour at The Desert Research Centre. The Centre is working with several wineries to restore native plants and is also developing a seed mix of native grasses to be planted in the vineyards. On our scenic walk through the protected site I learned about sage, snakes, sumac and scat (bobcat is round, coyote is long).

Best Parting Gift:

One guest at each table of 8 at the final Banée dinner had a piece of paper under his/her plate that entitled them to take home the centerpiece. Being a winegrowers’ dinner, this wasn’t any bouquet. Instead the lucky diner received the propagatedvine, courtesy of Stoneboat’s Lanny Martiniuk. Perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t win – I might have started a vineyard in the unwilds of inner city Victoria.

Best Wines:

(In alphabetical order)

Burrowing Owl Meritage 2008

Textured, weighty and elegant Bordeaux blend, with the Owl’s best grapes from their best sites. Rich aromas and flavours of cassis, blackberries and dusty cedar, with ripe and finely polished tannins. $45

Cassini Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Zesty citrus, pear, apple and herbal tones. Restrained and old world classic in tone. $22.

Moon Curser Vineyards Afraid of the Dark 2010

Rhone varietals sing at this site – Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne come together with crisp citrus, honeysuckle and fragrant apricot. $22.

Moon Curser Vineyards Dead of Night 2009

These guys can work a blend. 50% Tannat and 50% Syrah, with ample dark cherry, crushed violet, plum and dark chocolate. Spicy and lingering. $38

Nk’Mip Cellars Mer’r’iym 2008

Mer’r’iym (pronounced mur’-eem’) translates as the marriage; here it is the perfect union of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Dusty red and dark fruit, meat and cassis – round, layered and dense. A new icon. $50

Stoneboat Vineyards Chorus 2010

Aromatic melody of old vine Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Muller Thurgau, Kerner, Schoenburger. Perfumed, juicy and balanced. $18

Stoneboat Vineyards Pinotage 2008

Baked earth, spiced red berry, medium body and round mouthfeel. I love the uniqueness of this wine – well done. $25

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Oldfield Series Rose 2010

Nobody in the Valley knows Cabernet Franc better than Tinhorn’s winemaker, Sandra Oldfield. This special release Rose is available only at the Miradoro Restaurant, or to the Winery’s Crush Club members, and is worth seeking out. Sweet strawberries and ripe pear, barely off-dry, with bright acidity. Delish!



Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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