Saturday, February 13, 2010

Light the Torch! (Or at least 80% of it...)

As the world watches Vancouver and Whistler over the next couple of weeks during the Winter Olympics, Cecilia and I are reminded of our swing through Western Canada during our trip there in October 2007. Little known to most Americans, Vancouver sits four hours from one of Canada’s top wine growing areas.

The Okanagan Valley runs about 150 miles from its northernmost point to the US-Canadian border. If you have the idea that Canada is all "Great White North," you'll be shocked by this area. The southern part is a true desert – the only one in Canada. Even the northern reaches can see temperatures reaching 100 degrees in the summer.

Cecilia and I drove from Vancouver to Penticton for a weekend. As we came down from the mountains, the first thing we noticed was the sun. The glorious sun. Seriously, if you've ever been to Vancouver in October, you probably know that sunshine can be in limited supply. (Important life lesson: Taking an hour long stroll through Stanley Park without rain gear during a thirty minute break in the rain is a BAD idea – particularly when the temperature isn’t going above 40.)

Back to the subject...

This is where I was going to tell you about the wonderful wineries in the Okanagan valley. Sadly, I have to report that this was pre-blog and we didn’t take very good notes. The wines have all since been consumed, so I can’t even pop open a bottle and make something up.

This is really as embarrassing as, say, an Olympic torch malfunction.

What I will say is that the Okanagan wines we tried were solidly good to great. I don’t remember a bad taste in the bunch. The wineries themselves were, for the most part, smaller operations. Of course, there were bigger operations, but if smaller wineries are your thing, you’ll do quite well.

Another thing that sticks out even now was how few of them charge for tastings. This may well have changed in three years, but I only remember one "fee," and even that was simply a donation to their wildlife cause. Many just seemed tickled that a couple of people from the other side of the continent would have come up there to try their wine.

The other thing to note is that only 10% of Okanagan wine leaves Canada. Be prepared to do some exporting on your own. The good news is that the border guards coming back into the United States seem to be a pretty laid back bunch. Cecilia and I brought back half a case -- well over the duty-free limit -- and the border guard just let us through.

So tonight, I drink to thee, O Canada. And hopefully, a few Olympic attendees will make that same trip over the mountains. There are some darn good wines awaiting them.

1 comment:

Olivia Tejeda said...

Hi Cecilia, I posted an award for you on my site. You can see it here:

Congrats and enjoy! ~ Olivia