Thursday, May 5, 2011

Okanagan Valley Wine Region Continues in the South

It was traveling day, but not before I got to fully check out my current accommodations with the Delta Grand Okanagan Director of Marketing, Heather Farris. As I walked through the resort – with terrific ocean and mountain views from just about everywhere – I wish I could stay longer and check out the spa, indoor, outdoor and rooftop pools. There’s also a casino going through an expansion while the rest of the resort gets renovations.  This place is definitely going on my “want to return to list,” but it was time to head off to the next area.

Susan and I got into our rented car and headed south.  It was one of those rides where you wished you could stop constantly and take pictures of the views. We were making our way around to the other side of the lake, with the car hugging the mountains on one side and while we watched the calm waters (and the road, of course). Our first stop was at the Penticton & Wine Country Visitor’s Center. We picked up some maps and checked out VQA, an amazing non-profit store set up to promote and sell British Columbia wines.

I was very impressed with VQA, where you can buy wines for the same price you would get them at the winery.  They have wines from 95 different wineries at this time, as well as local products, like sauces and salsa. I was driving so I didn’t get to do any real tasting, but I took a light sample of one of this week’s finalists at the Okanagan Wine Festival, the 2009 Intrigue Riesling.  It was a bit too much mineral for me, but I loved the ripe green apple.

Our next stop was in Oliver at Road 13. We were just in time for a barrel tasting with winemaker Jean-Martin Bouchard, who just took over there this year.  The tasting room is also brand new and offers great views of the valley. The 2010 Syrah was young. But has great potential for both blending and on its own. 

We had a wonderful cheese and bread platter with our formal tasting. The about to be released 2010 Chenin Blanc was just perfect, full of banana and pineapple.  It is even made in a sparkling version, which holds the fruit nicely. Another wine here definitely worth getting is the 2007 Jackpot Fifth Element, a mix of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot and cabernet franc.

From Road 13 we went straight to our hotel for the next two days, the Bellstar Hotels Spirit Ridge Resort. Susan and I both remarked that the area of Osoyoos, especially in and around this resort, reminded us a lot of Tucson, Arizona.  Though there aren’t any cactuses, there is definitely a dessert feel and a Southwestern styling to this resort. We had a great apartment with two bedrooms and two baths, as well as a wrap around balcony.

After we settled in when went for a tasting at Nk’Mip (pronounced ‘Ink-a-meep’ and meaning “where the creek meets the lake”) Winery, located right on the resort’s grounds.  The winery opened in 2002 and is the first aboriginally owned one in Canada. In fact, the entire resort is owned by the Osoyoos Indian band. This winery produces 18,000 cases per year on 300 acres.  They have a variety of reds and whites that are impressive, including the   2007 QwAMQw Meritage, 75% merlot, 1`5% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc. It was a gold medal winner and I liked the very different combination of cherry and raspberry playing off the green and white pepper. As for my personal drinking preference, I thought the 2009 QwAM Qw Riesling Ice Wine was filled with apricot and the way I want every dessert to taste.

The day ended perfectly at the Passa Tempo restaurant (also on the Spirit Ridge property). It was a dinner for Meyer Family Vineyards that started with an excellent 2009 Rose. Jack and Janice Meyer were as delightful as their wines and Chef Jeremy Luypen’s food was creative and delicious, from the first pairing of the 2010 Meyer Family Chardonnay (unoaked, light and fruity) with the Green Bean and Roasted Artichoke Salad (a wonderful mix with a hazelnut vinaigrette) to the Rhubarb Lychee Nut Flam with the 2010 Meyer Family Gewurztraminer (creamy, sweet and fruity at the same time).

The Pacific Northwest was really calling me this year!  I’m spending a good part of my spring exploring this beautiful area and tasting its wine so stay tuned.  After Washington, I headed to British Columbia, Canada, which will followed by a Pacific Coastal Wine Cruise on the Celebrity Millennium. I will be checking out the wine of each region on and off the ship, as well as doing some interesting and unusual tours.  Stay tuned for my coverage through the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia; Catalina Island; Napa and Sonoma; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Victoria, BC, Canada; and Vancouver, BC, Canada. It’s going to be a blast!

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