With over 900 active wineries in Washington State, and another 600+ in Oregon, there’s plenty to keep wine lovers busy! Yet for those who have been to Yakima, Walla Walla, Woodinville of course, and maybe Willamette Valley, what’s next to visit? Okanagan of course!
Western Canada has a decent wine producing region? Beyond what you may think. Okanagan Valley has hundreds of wineries and most are not only producing wine, but unlike Washington, most grow their own grapes too. And while I love the ease of visiting wineries in Woodinville, Okanagan Valley has an abundance of gorgeous wineries surrounded by lush green vineyards in one of the most scenic wine regions in North America.
To American’s, Okanagan Valley is North and thus must be cold. To Canadian’s, Okanagan Valley is as South as you can go, and this their warmest region and great for Canadian tourists. And Okanagan has some pockets that are warm enough, especially those with SW exposure to get sun all day, to ripen Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah. However, the red grape getting the most attention in BC is Cabernet Franc, which ripens a little easier and earlier.
My last visit this spring was truly a quest to find good, solid reds. It’s well established they can do whites, and whites well, as they need less heat and a shorter growing season. But with so many wineries and such a big region, and a limited amount of time, our search party contained our search to the area just across the US Border, starting with Osoyoos and heading up about 20 minutes to Oliver. So to be fair, there’s a plethora of wineries we didn’t visit in the regions we were in, as well as further north into Kelowna, Okanagan Falls, & Penticton.
But what we did discover was a rich landscape of cool, locally owned wineries, with incredibly friendly staffs and incredibly friendly pricing. Most tasting fees are still $5 to $10 and waived with purchase, and we found something at every winery except one to bring something home! And how does that work? Bringing wine from Canada to the US does require you declare it at the border. And then they have you go inside if more than 2 bottles each, and pay a huge tax of about 14 cents per bottle. If they’re sticklers, they might make you fill out a form for Washington State who wants to collect tax on it. So for 2 cases it added up to $4 for the Feds and $4 for the State!
Our favorite reds from this trip in June 2018:
Platinum Bench Merlot 2016
Nk’Mip “Talon” Red Blend 2015
Nk’Mip Pinot Noir 2015
Maverick “Provenance” Pinot Noir 2016
LaStella “Fortissimo” Red Blend 2016
Kismet “Karma” Red Blend 2016
Desert Hills Merlot 2013
And of course, a couple great whites and rose’s:
Fairview Cellars Gruner Veltliner 2017
Kismet “Infinity” Rose’ 2017
Nk’Mip Rose’ 2017
Check out the up close visuals here: https://youtu.be/D_9gr7Cl2Ko
For a good overview of the regions and wineries, visit www.winebc.com/discover-bc-wine-country/okanagan-valley/
Want a great spot to stay? Check out Hawk Heaven Lodge for an incredible vista north, gazing over the Okanagan Valley perched high up in the hills outside Oroville! We loved the quiet and amazing surroundings in a cabin-esque setting with a few rustic elements. It’s private, affordable for a few couples to all pitch in, and you’re only 20 minutes from wine country!
Contact Sommelier David LeClaire