And away we go…

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Here we are, on the first full day of June, and the impending Wine Bloggers Conference begins next week.  This year marks the sixth annual event, and it’s hard to believe that my little old Luscious Lushes has been up and running for that long as well! As I sit here and wait with anticipation for my flight to Kelowna, BC, I am getting excited about the time I will have to explore more of the Okanagan.  Last year, I was able to travel around the northern end of the lake, experiencing Kelowna and the wineries surrounding it, and this year, before the conference I will do more exploring down near Penticton, where the conference is actually occurring. Flying in to Kelowna, the larger of the two regional airports, is a breeze from my home base in San Francisco.  One hop to Seattle, and another hop to Kelowna.  A few short hours, and I’m in the spectacular lakeside region, full of wine, summer sports, and scenery. As I’m flying in a day early, I’m excited to check out some places that I didn’t see on my trip last spring.   There are so many spectacular wineries to visit, I’ll have a hard time choosing! With some help from the local tourism folks at Tourism Penticton and Thompson ‎Okanagan Travel, as well some very welcoming local businesses, I look forward to setting out to explore the Westside Wine Trail, Bottleneck Drive, and some places in Penticton I won’t see during the conference. The excitement is infectious as Penticton has been rolling out the red carpert, declaring June 6th Wine Bloggers Day in the city.  What odes that mean?  That means every business, from coffee shops to our host hotel, has been tweeting, Facebooking and smoke-signalling their welcome to the 200 or so strangers that are invading their town. You just can’t buy that kind of hospitality.  I will be driving down the lakeshore from Kelowna to Penticton, stopping at local wineries, spending some pretty colored money, and taking in the spectacular scenery at a couple of wineries before meeting up with some locals in town for dinner. Settling in for the night at Gods Mountain Estate.  This 115 acre estate is a Mediterranean style B&B escape, with views of Skaha Lake, vineyards and mountains.  This sounds like a place I need to come back to! On Wine Bloggers Day, I will be visiting some beautiful, small production wineries that we won’t visit on our excursions on Friday, exploring what local really means.  With wineries that have been in families for generations, and a few rebels thrown in, I am looking forward to tasting Okanagan! Stay tuned for more updates from the road, but in the meantime, a few more tidbids from Istria.  

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!

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. […]