The Okanagan has always had the stunning vistas, the gorgeous and pure lakes and the hot, sunny summers. When you combine that with a diverse and exciting lineup of wines — every conceivable variety and style under the sun — it’s no wonder so many people are in love with this region.
The widest newspaper in circulation in the United States, USA Today, describes the Okanagan as, “Drop. Dead. Gorgeous.” The publication states, “British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley came in at a strong No. 2, its loyal fans reminding voters of the area’s lush landscape of mountains and rivers. The Okanagan offers excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation in between tastings.”
Ellen Walker-Matthews, marketing chair for the Okanagan Wine Festivals said: “To not only have the Okanagan Valley recognized among the finest wine regions globally but to finish in second spot by readers of a major international newspaper is a tremendous honour. This will continue to build the incredible momentum we have seen in our wine region over the past several years. This type of recognition inspires travel to the Okanagan Valley as a premier wine tourism destination.”
The full list of winners in the USA TODAY 10 Best Readers’ Choice contest for “Best Wine Region to Visit” is as follows:
• Alentejo, Portugal
• Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
• Maipo, Chile
• Marlborough, New Zealand
• Napa Valley, Calif.
• Tuscany, Italy
• Hunter Valley, Australia
I spent a bit of time in the Okanagan Valley this spring, mainly to explore the exciting things going on the Summerland area, especially at the innovative Haywire winery. I was on assignment for a story to appear in an upcoming edition of Quench wine and food magazine.
It is so beautiful and pristine in the Okanagan Valley no matter where you travel.
And the wines just keep getting better.
Here’s a cross-section of wines (mostly summer whites) from the Okanagan I tried while visiting recently along with some (unsolicited) samples that have come my way lately.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench White 2013 ($23, 89 points) — A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and touches of Viognier and Muscat. Big aromatics of sun-drenched peach, pear, lemon, apricot and pineapple. It’s mouth watering on the palate with peach and quince to go with integrated spice and good acidity.
Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2013 ($19, 89 points) — Only 16% of this Chardonnay spends two months in new French oak barrels. The nose shows apple, lemon, guava, pineapple and just a hint of toasty vanilla. It’s clean and fresh on the palate with creamy pear, tropical fruits and a citrus blast on the finish.
Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2013 ($17, 90 points) — A classically styled Gew with lychee, grapefruit, rose petals and sweet exotic spices. It’s ripe and juicy on the palate with pear-grapefruit notes, ginger and nutmeg spices. Pair with spicy dishes such as curries.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench Rose 2013 ($23, 87 points) — A nose of cherry, strawberry, cranberry and grapefruit zing. It’s bone-dry with meaty red fruits and made in a refreshing style. 100% Cabernet Franc.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2010 ($30, 92 points) — The grapes for this outstanding Pinot were crushed as whole berries. After primary fermentation, 100% of this wine received ML bacteria and was aged in three- to five-year-old used French and American oak barrels for 12 months. After bottling it received three years of bottle aging before release. The nose is gorgeous with black cherry, plum, cassis, nutmeg and smoky vanilla toast nuances. It’s a rich and spicy Pinot with structure and assertive tannins that meld nicely with all those delicious fruits and spices. Try with fresh-caught wild Sockeye salmon.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2011 ($30, fall release, 90 points) — 2011 was a cool year by Okanagan standards and as a result the wines are less concentrated and lower in alcohol. Tinhorn’s 2009 Oldfield Merlot reached 15.3% while the 2011 is pegged at 13.9%. That translates to better balance and more finesse, in my books. The nose on this classy Merlot shows succulent red berries, black currants, cassis, kirsch and sweet savoury spices. It’s a lovely drop in the mouth with red fruits, currants and anise all nicely balanced by a healthy vein of acidity and spice. Obviously, a lot of work went into the vineyard to achieve phenolic ripeness.
Haywire Switchback Vineyard Raised in Concrete Wild Ferment 2012 ($30, 92 points) — A showcase for B.C. Pinot Gris, with a nose of ripe apple, melon and apricot-peach notes. Such complexity and a wonderful creamy texture on the palate with balancing acidity.
Haywire Raised in Concrete Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($23, 91 points) — Aromas of fresh squeezed grapefruit, citrus and herbs. Made bone-dry with a round texture on the palate and lovely fresh citrus fruit.
TH Wines Viognier-Pinot Gris ($25, 90 points) — This is a delight with a nose of apricot, peach, apple and melon. It is viscous and lush on the palate with ripe orchard fruits and touches of exotic mango and apricot.
SummerGate Muscat Ottonel 2012 ($20, 90 points) — SummerGate is certified organic and only produces white wines from its small property. This Muscat is loaded with pure citrus fruit that is supported by laser-sharp acidity.
SummerGate Kerner 2013 ($23, 88 points) — The nose shows lime, tropical fruits, peach and a nice minty-leaf note. It’s made slightly off-dry with apricot, creamy peach and a note of ginger beer through the long finish.
Silkscarf Viognier 2013 ($21, 91 points) — A floral nose with highly aromatic apples, peach and apricots. Lovely balance in the mouth with ripe tropical fruits, ginger, peach and zesty acidity.
Silkscarf Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 ($21, 92 points) — I love this pure expression of Summerland Chardonnay. Made with no malo, and no lees stirring, the nose shows fresh green apple, lemon-citrus and just a hint of tropical fruits. It’s highly refreshing on the palate with pure flavours balanced out by crisp acidity.
8th Generation Vineyard
8th Generation Classic Riesling 2012 ($21, 88 points) — Classic, in this case, means bone dry. Look for a foundation of slate minerality and rousing citrus fruit on the nose. The citrus is pronounced on the palate with added grapefruit and apple notes and a zesty, fresh finish.
Quail’s Gate Dry Riesling 2013 ($17, 90 points) — From estate vines that are nearly 30 years old. A lovely nose of citrus, peach, apple and flinty minerality. The palate reveals bright green apple flavours with citrus and lime accents to go with that vein of minerality and firm acidic backbone.
Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc 2012 ($19, 88 points) — Fantastic expression of this grape with a nose of white flowers, melon and pear-apple fruits. Nice and crisp in the mouth with pure apple, minerals and refreshing citrus notes through the finish.
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery
Sumac Ridge Pinot Grigio Private Reserve 2013 ($15, 88 points) — I know the label says Grigio, but this is made in the Gris style. The nose shows rich peach, tangerine, star fruit, melon and ginger. It has wonderful texture in the mouth with fleshy ripe fruits that are well-integrated and quite tasty.
Time Estate Winery
Time White Meritage 2012 ($25, 90 points) — A classic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with aromas of pear, melon, tropical fruits and gooseberry. It is made in an elegant style with oak nicely integrated and a long, vibrant finish.