After travelling so far North on some family business, we decided we needed a "vacation from our vacation" and came back to Victoria the long way, heading east from Cache Creek and south from Kamloops to the Okanagan for some R&R and, of course, wine.
I have always been fascinated/intimidated by choosing wine, but this short stay really helped me to develop better sense of the industry and taste profiles for local wine. I am already looking planning a stay again next summer for more liquid education!
We decided to stay in Peachland under the logic that it was more centrally located to visit both Kelowna and the Naramata/Penticton areas. It turned out to be the perfect choice!
Our first stop was Sumac Ridge, one of the larger and more established wineries in the region. They were one of the first to start producing wine, but really that shows how young the wine industry is in the valley: they recently celebrated their 30th anniversary! As one of the "big players" they certainly have their processes nailed down, but they told us they still turn their champagne by hand... although they now have a fancy machine to extract the sediment before corking.
Takeaway: a small size of the Stellars Jay sparkling (not pictured, but our favourite!)
Our second stop was Saxon Winery, a small organic winery that has recently changed hands and rebranded to reflect the English heritage of the new owners. It was nice to visit such a small winery where the owners are the ones giving the tasting!
Takeaway: the Pinot Noir Rosé.
Sleeping giant technically doesn't produce "wine" in the strict, VQA, definition of the term as all of their wines are fruit-based, meaning their products are only available at select private liquors tores. Half of their space is dedicated to their wines, and the other half is jams and syrups made from the same fruit. The fruit wines are good on their own, but are also interesting in their versatility to be used in cocktails or spritzers. Their line-up was extensive! We left several styles un-sampled.
Takeaway: the Saskatoon
Takeaway: we opted to share a flight of whites during lunch rather than take a bottle away (and still stay in budget!) Choice: two Pinots and the Viogner.
OK Crush Pad
Takeaway: The Haywire Pinot Gris
My saintly partner-in-food-and-life offered to drive so that we could visit a few wineries on the Naramata side of the lake before we came home, so we did a scaled back self-guided tour of several of the wineries. It was definitely less fun than the wine tour itself (half the fun is sharing the experience with others!) but it did mean we got a bit more of a picture of the scene.
Takeaway: the Muscat
This was our last formal sample stop, and I am very glad we did. Their sample room was packed, too, but we managed to sneak in and ended up picking up more than one bottle. They also had a small patio where you could sit and enjoy a slightly larger glass from their special flight menu, which we sadly did not have time or a sober driver for!
Takeaway: the Alexandria
This last stop was a bit unique - one of my former coworkers had an in at the winery and organized a private tour of the winery for us, although they will open a tasting room in the fall. It was exciting to see something in progress and hear the passion of the assistant winemaker as he described the vision of his boss, who is currently sourcing more equipment to complete the project. In addition to viewing the space that will be their tasting room, we got to peek in to the "wine cave" — the storage facility built right into the hillside, allowing the wine temperature to stay more stable and cool regardless of the weather outside! This behind the scenes chat really put a nice finish on our regional tour as we got to ask all sorts of questions that we didn't know we had about the process, and sampled two of their wines that are available at select liquor stores and restaurants in BC.