Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Five Things to Love about the South Okanagan Valley

Since the kids these days are all about lists, I thought I'd create one to discuss some of the highlights from our recent trip to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. Before you ask, no we didn't see any of the Women's World Cup soccer (futbol for those of you from outside the U.S.) games, although we did walk by the Fox Sports pavilion when we were in Vancouver. The Okanagan Valley is about four hours to the east of Vancover across the mountains, and they make really good wine. We'd been there before, but this time we focused around the Osoyoos Lake and the wineries in and around Osoyoos and Oliver.

Without further ado, here are five things to love about the South Okanagan:

View from Tinhorn Creek Winery
1. The views.

Seriously, whether you're in the valley or on one of the ridges, everywhere you look, it's breathtaking.

Even the grapes have a view.
2.  The experience.

Hubby and I have tasted wine in several places including California, Oregon, Washington, and several other states including Georgia (duh), Pennsylvania, and Texas. Canadians have a reputation for being nice, and this comes through in the non-snobbishness of the tasting rooms. Granted, the wine-making operations seemed bigger than the previous time we were there, but it still felt laid-back and relaxed, even in the busier tasting rooms. Apparently winery-hopping is a popular "stagette" (i.e., bachelorette) activity, but everything was handled well.

3.  Drinkable white varietals

I typically stay away from Sauvignon Blanc because I find it to be too tart for drinking on its own, and Hubby doesn't like Pinot Grigio, but in the Okanagan Valley, these two grapes take on a smoother characteristic with stone fruit to balance the citrus. The Pinot Gris, as they call it there, also has more body to it than Italian Pinot Grigio, and we found the same with Hester Creek's Trebbiano. The highlight Sauvignon Blanc was from Maverick, which has an adorable tiny tasting room in the bottom of the valley right off the highway but still with a nice view. We enjoyed the one we bought from Fairview Cellars in Vancouver with a view of the harbor after an amazing sushi meal.

4. Interesting red varietals

Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are usually blended in with other Bordeaux grapes and rarely get the chance to shine on their own. They do in the Okanagan - pretty much everyone has a Cab Franc. The best we tasted were a Tinhorn Creek, and you can see that we came home with both the red and the rose. Another great find was the Desert Hills gamay, which they also make as a red and rose (and where the guy pouring the wine was pretty cute - don't tell Hubby). We already drank the red when we celebrated Canada Day last week. The regular reds - Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, are also pretty fabulous. We came back with a Moon Curser Syrah.

The haul

5. The food

The first thing we noticed when we drove into the valley was that cherries were ripening, which we were told was happening about a month ahead of the usual time. They were beautiful, as were the meals on the plate. The restaurants there take pride in using locally sourced food and do great things with it. Strawberries were also in season, and we enjoyed a strawberry crepe at a place in Oliver and a strawberry dessert at the Tinhorn Creek restaurant Miradoro, which is where we had our fancy meal, going for the chef's tasting menu with wine pairings.

Strawberry crepe at Cock & Bull in Oliver

First course at Miradoro.

If you're looking for somewhere off the beaten path, Canada's Okanagan Valley is a great place to visit. For more information or to plan your own wine tour, visit  They even have a Twitter account, @BCwinetour

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