Native Culture and Green Living in Okanagan Wine Country

If someone would have shown me photos of this area and told me about Native American land – that includes everything from a winery to a cultural center -- and buildings made out of straw, I would never have guessed it was British Columbia, Canada, but it seems that every day I’m here I learn something new about the area and helping the environment.
We began another sun-filled day at the Spirits Ridge Resort with a short walk down to the Nk-Mip Desert Cultural Centre. We were told to go into the theatre and watch a movie about the Osoyoos Indian band and I confess to being ready to catch up on my sleep.  I was instead riveted by the story of a young girl learning about the power this land had on her people and the importance of protecting it. By the time we got out for the tour and a short hike through one of the trails, I was on the lookout for every sign of nature and nurture, though I was glad we didn’t run into any rattlesnakes!

I was unable to make it over to Hester Creek Estate Winery so they decided to bring it to me via another great meal at Passa Tempo restaurant.  It was a group effort between Owner Paul LaGrange, Marketing Coordinator April Goldade and Chef Jeremy Luypen, who impressed me by remembering my favorite wines and foods from our conversation the previous night. As for the wine, there was:  2009 Pinot Gris, a bit acidy with lots of citrus; 2008 Pinot Blanc, lots of peach and pear with a touch of citrus; 2008 Sémillon Chardonnay, a combination of citrus and floral with notes of green apple; and 2010 Character White, a blend of pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot blanc and trebiano full of tropical flavors with an emphasis on pineapple.

I loved all the wine, with a slight favoritism to the Sémillon-Chardonnay, and it was perfectly matched with lunch: Pasta with Blue Gris Cheese in a Cream Sauce; Chicken Stuffed with Blueberry and a touch of Curry; and a dessert combo of Crème Brule and Pana Cotta.  Susan and I were thoroughly stuffed by the time Bruce, our guide from MJO Tours came to pick us up for a ride up to Cawson in the Semilkameen Valley. Our first stop was at Harkers Organic Farm and Rustic Roots Winery, where Sara and Troy Harker have continued and expanded Troy’s family farming business that dates back to the late 19th century.

The Harkers grow organic fruits and vegetables of their own, supply apples to public schools and also broker for local growers. In 2008, they began also making wines with the fruit and they know how to get it right. The tasting room makes it even more interesting by creating pairings – such as an award winning Santa Rosa Plum wine with an Almond and Coconut Nest with Cocolico Dark Chocolate Sauce and Sea to Sky Bacon Salt, or the delicious Apricot Wine with a local Camembert and Harker’s Micro Mustard. The Harkers also make a great Organic Apple Pear Cider for those who don’t which to drink alcohol.

We were attending an Orofino Wine Dinner so we didn’t stop there to taste, but we did want to see the famed building made of straw bale. John and Virginia Webber were set on building a structure that was super insulated with a huge energy savings and they did so using straw, with a stucco covering. It’s quite an accomplishment and the building is as attractive as it is energy efficient.

On the way back to Spirit Ridge Resort we made a quick stop at Eau Vivre where Dale Wright and Gerry Estin gave us a taste of their 2007 Gewurtztraminer, with a bit of tropical effervescence. We then headed over to the Watermark Beach Resort for the Orofino Wine Dinner, under the jurisdiction of Chef Natasha   We had a wonderful evening, though the food was a wide range of the spectacularly perfect (Macaroni & Cheese with Roasted Peaches and Bacon) to the odd (three fatty meat courses at the end).  I have to admit I was blown away by the good, which also included the Duo of Quiche and Tropical Lamb Taco, enough that I didn’t mind having a break of not eating the last few.

As for the Orofino Wines, there was also good and bad. The bad was mostly that they were already sold out of most of the wines we had, but the 2010 Pinot Gris is still available and worth getting, and I can only look forward to their new releases of the Pinot Noir and Red Bridge Red.


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