Road Rules Okanagan Style

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You know the show, similar to The Real World, where 7 strangers are chucked in a small RV (aka the Winnie) and scoot off around the country on missions of adventure.  Throw in some wine, and I’m all in.  Nevertheless, when I first found out one of the stops on our tour of the Kelowna region of British Columbia was an RV park, I had visions of Clark Griswold and bad episodes of septic pumping.  Luckily for me, I was completely taken aback at Canyon Farms. When we first got to the facility, all I could see was a small farm, with chickens and a large garden, bordered by the semi-rural home sites, and trees nearby.  Oh yes, and on one side there was a 5 star resort golf course. Little did I know that hidden behind a full scale organic poultry farm were eight RV parking spots, with full hookups.  The owners, Lesley Reid & Michael Coulthard, had gone to the extent of crating a bath house, with an internet surfing station that had wifi wafting in to the park.  You also have a washer and dryer, which everyone knows is required on a long road trip. The best part of this hidden gem? Leslie will bring you farm fresh free-range eggs in the morning for your breakfast! If you’re lucky, you might be there in berry season and can send the kids out to pick some snacks in brambles nearby. With the local wineries just a short bike ride or car ride away, you can make Canyon Farms your home base and stay a while. I had visions of renting an RV and going Road Rules style through the Okanagan next year…three bloggers, one wifi, and a whole lot of fun!  If you are interested in sponsoring us, driving us, or joining us, let me know.  I’m still figuring out logistics but it will happen. Leslie also runs a thriving floral business, specializing in Dahlias. The greenhouse has ample blooms, and you can see the vast array of flowers that are growing year round in this special spot. Feel like stopping by?  Contact them on Facebook, or their website.  I know I am trying to craft a plan to visit! Happy trails!

Crushing on the Okanagan

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Those of us in California, or other parts of the United States, probably know about Crushpad;  Crushpad is was a custom crush facility that was once upon a time located in urban San Francisco, and not only offered custom crush facilities for budding commerical wineries, but also for the consumer who had some extra money to spend under the guise of being a budding (pun intented) winemaker. Alas, recent news has indicuated that Crushpad will cease operations before the end of June, citing lack of sufficient funding.  But that is for another post!  I have all sorts of thoughts, good, bad and ugly, about that – but here in Okanagan, there is a new kid on the block. The Okanagan Crush Pad operates on a simple model:  small wineires share equipment and resources in a small facility that has invested heavily in capital equipment costs.  The importance of such an operation in an expanding wine region is critical; the largest hurdle to get over as a new winery is the major investmetn you must make in winemaking equipment.  By sharing these facilities, effectively renting the press, crusher, barrels, and in this case concrete eggs, as well as a mobile bottling line, you are paying a fraction oi the price; you are only only paying for the equipment when you use it, stead of all year round. OCP offers a variety of services, from vineyard management, winemaking expertise, as well all full service branding & markeing efforts.  Their philospiphy is “from field to market”, allowing the client to select how much or how few services they require in thier journey from grape to glass.  With three brands currently, they strive to produce distinct, Okanagan terroir focused wine. As we sat down to taste some of the wines that OCP produces, I was reminded of how wonderful it is to experience new wines.  OCP products Bartier Brothers, Bartier Scholefield, and Haywire, as well as the Crush Pad series of wine on tap. I was particular impressed by the 2011 Bartier Brothers Semillon, which had wonderful lemon and mineral notes.  Oh how I love a semillon!  I also really enjoyed the 2011 Canyon View Pinot Noir, which was still in tank but was a great preview of what will come.  The pinot had fabulous fruit, black cherry, rhubarb, and bold pepper notes on top of cola flavors.  Love!  Another fave was the 2011 Switchback Pinot Gris.  I adore Pinot Gris, and this was no exception with the crisp acid and medium body.  This was aged sur lie and with a heavy battonage schedule, the grapefruit notes gave way to creamy lemon curd and green herbs. I can’t wait to go back and visit again in 2013, if not sooner!

Ogopogo and other fish tales from the north

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When I first found out that the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference would be in the Okanagan Valley region of British Columbia, I, like many fellow bloggers, was somewhat dubious.  Canada?  Passports?  No transport of wine?  What the heck? Little would I know that many months later, I would fall in love with this isolated region east of Vancouver.  When flying in to the Okanagan Valley from Calgary, as I did, you get a bird’s eye view of the long, thin lake and the mountains that surround it.  It reminds me a lot of Lake Tahoe, except that is a glacial valley and not a caldera as Tahoe is. It’s here that the requisite lake monster, Ogopogo calls home.  You know the type – looks like a dinosaur, swims around, might be friendly, might eat small children.  Every large inland body of water has one:  Lake Tahoe has Tahoe Tessie; Lake Champlain has Champ, and of course – Loch Ness has Nessie.   These Darwinian mysteries swim the depths of these lakes and draw tourists to the souvenir stands.  But…I wonder if Ogopogo likes wine? The wine region is located in a narrow glacial lake valley, with Okanagan Lake to the north, and the much smaller Skaha Lake to the south.  There are actually several lakes dotting the region to the south, with the Okanagan River connecting them.  Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake were at one point a continuous body of water after the glaciers melted, but now, the town of Penticton  separates the two on a narrow strip of land. It is there in Penticton, and the base of Okanagan Lake that the wine bloggers will gather in June of 2013.  A small beach resort town, it’s cleverly walkable, with the lakeshore next to our host hotel (and casino…which I expect will have an interesting impact on the bloggers!), and wineries within a short drive. This steep sided valley is very reminiscent of the Rhine in Germany.  Historically fruit orchard territory, it is increasingly becoming the Napa Valley of the north.  The first known wine was produced in the Okanagan in the mid 1800s for the mission, which of course required Sacramental Wine.  However, much like the U.S., Prohibition wiped out the early vinous settlers, and the area turned the focus back to fruit production.  Once Prohibition was repealed, there was a booming fruit wine industry, but traditional wines were not produced here again in earnest until the 1970s. At that time, the first vinifera grapes were planted, focusing on the aromatic whites of Europe, such as Riesling, Ehrenfelser and Scheurebe which were well suited to the northern climate.  In the late 70s and early 80s, more and more wineries popped up.  The region has seen a massive growth in the last 20 years and has changed from a fledgling area with experimental still wines, to one of elegance and unique terroir.  The Okanagan started to gain more attention int he early 1990s when winemakers and consultants from around the world were courted to produce in the region.  This draw resulted in cross border penetration, with Old World winemakers from France and Germany mingling with New World rebels from Napa and Chile. […]