An Okanagan Summer Wine Roadtrip Special

I’ve spent the last week driving around the Similkameen and Okanagan, visiting vineyards, revisiting Vitamin D and sipping / staying at wineries en route. 

Fewer places in the world are as attuned to wine tourism than the Okanagan Valley. Just this week it was announced that the Okanagan Valley was voted the second best wine region to visit amongst 20 worldwide nominees by the USA Today  Readers’ Choice 2014 Awards.

The widest newspaper in circulation in the United States, USA Today describes the Okanagan as, “Drop. Dead. Gorgeous”. The publication states, “British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley came in at a strong #2, its loyal fans reminding voters of the area’s lush landscape of mountains and rivers.  The Okanagan offers excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation in between tastings.”

It’s easy to forget what incredible opportunities we have in our own backyard. From campgrounds to luxury resorts and farmers’ markets (Penticton Saturday Market is THE best in the province) to fine dining, there are options and abundant fruit stands enough for everyone. The region, agriculturally anchored, absorbs wine culture into everyday life seamlessly, making it easy for visitors to take in as much, or as little, BC wine as they want. Clear wine route signage line the roads, various maps are available and online resources are plentiful. In addition, there are a number of wine tour companies offering services in vans, busses and bikes, so you can leave the planning and navigating to someone else. And when you’ve had your fill of tasting, there are lakes, waterparks, golf, cycling, hiking and so much more to do.

Like most of you, I’ve spent the last week in flip flops, in suntan lotion and at ice cream shops (just about filled out a full Tickleberries frequent licker card). I oscillated between fruit stands, lakes, chicken coops, vineyards and cafes within one afternoon. I filed stories under a patio umbrella by the pool, with a cocktail at my side. I enjoyed my fill of small production, high quality BC wine and the opportunity to taste local wine every single place I went, without fail. The following dozen wines are some of my highlights from my last 7 days of summer wine roadtripping in BC wine country.

Scroll down for photos from the road trip and of course wine!

Switchback Vineyard Pinot Gris 2012
Okanagan Valley, BC
*$23  + 629444

Every vintage this wine gains in complexity as the global team at Okanagan Crush Pad zero in on their Summerland terroir and their home vineyard, Switchback. Pinot gris grapes were harvested and processed in five separate lots, dependant upon their unique characteristics. The layered blend then underwent fermentation in concrete eggs, yielding a creamy, lightly waxy mouthfeel and a delicate herbal earthiness that complements the herbal sagebrush terroir. More savoury than fruity, with crisp and creamy pear, lime, granny smith apple, wild honey, light lees and a stoney finish with a juicy bitter grapefruit twist. 90 points.


Tinhorn CreekTinhorn-Creek-Gewurztraminer
Gewurztraminer 2013
Okanagan Valley, BC
$17  +530675

From Oliver’s Golden Mile, this off-dry Gew is mainly from 17 year old vines (that’s old for the Okanagan) and enticing with alluring rose perfume, fragrant lemon blossom and ripe gooseberry. Juicy grapefruit acidity and a medium body keep it food friendly, with lingering peach spiciness to lead through the finish. 88 points.


Black Hills Estate Winerycellarhand-free-run-white
Cellar Hand Free Run White 2012
Okanagan Valley, BC
*$16  +200758

Cellar Hand is the approachable second label from Black Hills, and meant to be drunk and enjoyed now –which is exactly what I did at the winery on a hot summer day with a just pulled pizza from Joy Road’s Vineyard Kitchen.  This vintage is a blend of pinot blanc, muscat, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier from the Double Black and Sharp Rock vineyards on the Black Sage Bench. Round and creamy, this medium bodied, off-dry white shows orange blossom, lemon and white peach, with a whiff of anise and a whack of citrus pith acidity on the finish. 87 points.


Liquidity Winesliquidity-wines-chardonnay
Chardonnay 2012
Okanagan Valley, BC

This is one reason I love wine so much. I love where this wine is right now. I tasted it a few months back and it was good, but just a few more months along and the wine was showing fantastically. The 2012 is with the old scenic label, watch for the 2013 vintage with the new, fresher labels. A lovely nutty maturity, with light eraser and ample mineral notes. Bright lemon on the palate, with gentle hazelnut, fragrant dough, apple and Anjou pear. A partial malolactic fermentation ups the mouthfeel while keeping a bright line of acid, and wild ferment adds an earthy/herbal interest. The whole has arrived together, and will continue to hold and deepen over the next couple of years (if you can find it, that is. Only 330 cases). 89 points.


Quails’ Gate qgcheninnovintage

Chenin Blanc 2013
Okanagan Valley, BC
$19 + 391854

These chenin vines, nearing 20 years of age, are planted on the winery’s sloping estate soils, rich in volcanic rock and glacial till. A splash of sauvignon blanc ups the herbal citrus acidity ante. Alluring aromas of honey, grapefruit, flint, stone and light lees lead to a creamy palate of herbal meadow flowers, honeycomb, wild grass and tangerine pith, lifted with vibrant acidity and ending with lingering mineral spice on the lengthy finish. I want to see more delish chenin in the Okanagan – please! 89 points.


Tantalus Vineyardstantalus-rose

Rosé 2013
Okanagan Valley, BC
*$23  +439687

Though Tantalus will always be known for their striking Riesling (and iconic labels) that brought worldwide acclaim for BC riesling, you shouldn’t write them off as a one-trick pony, as their prowess for cool climate grapes shows throughout their entire portfolio. This singular rose is from a block of pinot meunier planted in 1985, splashed with a hit of pinot noir. Lovely ripe strawberry, raspberry and sunripened cherry, a wave of fragrant plum and a waft of wild herbs and citrus peel on the finish. 88 points.


Lock + Worth WineryL+W_sauv_blanc_sem

Sauvignon Blanc + Semillon 2013
Okanagan Valley, BC

Lock + Worth is a fairly new partnership between Matthew Sherlock & Ross Hackworth– longtime colleagues from Naramata’s Nichol Vineyard. With this project, they aim to create honest, site-driven wines at an affordable price. The duo’s low interventionist winemaking philosophy shines again here, with this whole cluster pressed, gently filtered wine sourced from 1999 vines planted on gravelly soils, from Oliver. 6 months in neutral French oak has filled out some of the minerally framework, resulting in a gently creamy, wild herb, flinty and citrus decked wine, with texture and length beyond its price. Striking labels are a tribute to beauty in simplicity – much like this wine. 90 points.


Little Farm WineryLittle-Farm-Riesling

Riesling 2013
Similkameen Valley, BC
*$30  +861286

Limey! If you like acid like I like acid, you will like this wine and we can drink it together. Riveting acidity, shimmering lime pith, juicy lime pulp and a lively pulse. An austere, chalky core is lightly loosened with hints of exotic orange and green apple. Lip smacking acidity leaves mouth watering with memories of white grapefruit. Alishan Driediger makes the wine and husband Rhys Pender MW farms the grapes on their 4 acre (Little Farm) in Similkameen. In this vintage, 6 different Riesling clones were whole cluster pressed directly to a mix of old, neutral barrels and a stainless steel tank before allowing for a long, slow ferment on the lees. 90 points.


Tyler Harlton Wines

Rosé 2013
Okanagan Valley, BC

Every single time I’ve come across this wine I take special notice. Or rather, my palate does. There’s something about Tyler Harlton’s rose and its pale peach orange hue, orange blossom, kiwi and pear skin aromas, and fresh, textured wild strawberries, juicy raspberries, citrus and sage scented finish that I gravitate (and salivate!) towards. Not shy, but not an assertive wine, Tyler filled his basket press with buckets of merlot skins and juice and pressed to yield this characterful rose. Only 118 cases of this merlot rosé were made, so if you’re lucky to cross paths with one, drink it.  90 points.


Bartier BrothersBartier_Bros_2012_Semillon

Semillon 2012
Okanagan Valley, BC
*$20  + 487900

Cerqueira Vineyard is a special site, gently western sloping on the lower side of Black Sage Road, nestled between Oliver and Osoyoos. The soils are laced with granite cobbles coated with calcium carbonate. Now, I’m not admitting to any rock-licking rumours, but let’s just say all the wines made from grapes searching for nutrients off these soils have shown to be quite special. This semillon confirms my Cerqueira crush; herbal spice, thorny white wildflower bushes, apricot fuzz and crisp citrus over a textured, focused palate. Chalky shimmery acidity closes out the finish. This wine has grown in depth each time I try it. 89 points.


Stoneboat Vineyardsstoneboatfauxpasbrut

Faux Pas Rosé
Okanagan Valley, BC

Light, bright, easy, fruity and fizzy – what more could you ask for on a sun dappled patio? I enjoyed this overlooking the Golden Mile hillside at Miradoro Restaurant while nibbling on warm olives and olive oil dipped, just out of the oven foccacia. The bright, ripe lightly sweet cherry-berry fruit and frothy mousse refreshed with each sip. Simple, enjoyable. 86 points.


Synchromesh WinesSynchromesh-Pinot-Noir

Palo Solara Pinot Noir 2012
Okanagan Valley, BC
$25  + 63610

Not your average Okanagan pinot noir. But then again, Synchromesh is far from your average winery, and Alan Dickinson and family are far from doing anything ‘average’. Though their (brand newly built & soon to be opened) winery is in the exemplary Okanagan Falls, the Palo Solara Vineyard is on a cool, sustainably farmed slope in East Kelowna. Approximately ¾ of the grapes were whole bunch fermented, using mostly wild yeast, and each clone was treated separately before final blending. This is a whisper, not a shout. Earthy, savoury notes dominate, with bright black cherry, black raspberry, mandarin peel and wild lees/ grained tannins texture adding interest. This is a wine to revisit in a year or two. 88 points.


DRINKing Guide: How to use our purchasing information.
*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores. The price is suggested retail price, and may fluctuate depending on source. Wines are scored out of 100 points.

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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