Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Report from ... British Columbia Day 3 - July 24, 2008

For my mother's 70th birthday she wanted to travel the Okanagan tasting wine ... I being the curious wine writer that I am decided that sounded like a really good idea ...

Day 3 was a hectic day for McGinty, Mom and myself, visiting the Grand Estates of the Okanagan Valley – aka Vincor properties: See Ya Later Ranch (formerly Hawthorne Mountain), Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, Inniskillin, Nk’Mip, and Sumac Ridge.

The day start
ed with a trip up the mountain to See Ya Later Ranch … the views are absolutely spectacular from there … and the wines, mostly whites, are mass market made for all palates. I am not saying this as a bad thing, because some of the wines are wonderful – but winemaker Dave Carson said that he is trying to hit a broad spectrum of wine lovers.

Wines of Note:
2006 Gewurztraminer ($16.99), 2007 Riesling ($16.99), 2006 Pinot Gris ($19.99) and 2005 Ehrenfelser Icewine ($29.99 / 200ml)

Next stop Jackson Triggs … D
ave was kind enough to run us down the mountain – we followed him in our car through some twisty turning backs roads with lovely scenery and mountain lakes all over the place. For those of you who know the Jackson-Triggs building in Niagara as a tourist destination, you would be sorely disappointed in their Okanagan venue. It is a functional wine store with minimal attraction – but they have won plenty of awards, the most recent Red Wine of the Year at the 2008 All Canadian Wine Championships. Here we were introduced to the Sun Rock Vineyard line of wines – which is the equivalent to the Delaine Vineyard in Ontario – though I was admonished for making the comparison, “This is BC Wine,” I was told. Wine Acquired: 2005 Sun Rock Vineyard Meritage.

Wines of Note:
2005 Grand Reserve
White Meritage ($21.99 … outstanding), 2007 Grand Reserve Riesling ($21.99); 2005 Sun Rock Vineyard Shiraz ($35.00), and 2005 Sun Rock Vineyard Meritage ($35.00 – the ACWC winner … amazing).

As the day progressed the further south we go. It’s on to Inniskillin where we meet up with winemaker Sandor Mayer (pronounced Shander), who has been with the property since 1990, when he helped plant the vineyard for the then Okanagan Vineyards. In 1996, Inniskillin bought the property. Sandor has been there through it all, and these days he keeps himself busy and interested with his Discovery Series of wines: grapes that are rarely seen in the Okanagan: Tempranillo, Pinotage, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Zinfandel, in single varietal bottlings. We had a sneak peak at the 2007 Chenin Blanc and the 2006 Malbec, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel (all are excellent and worth purchasing when they are released in September). Being on a tight schedule we didn’t get much of a chance to try many other wines at the tasting bar; we didn’t mind though, Sandor kept us interested in the wines and history until we had to depart. But being a huge Zinfandel fan I snuck into the tasting room to try the 2005 version of the Discovery Zin – incredible. Wine Acquired: 2005 and 2006 Discovery Series Zinfandel.

Wines of Note:
2005 Zinfandel ($29.99) a
nd all the above pre-releases.

One more stop in the south, down the valley to the furtherest point, Nk’Mip – the world’s first, or at least Canada’s first, native owned winery. Where we learned plenty about the band and the winery. Surprisingly only 3 band members work in the
winery, the two assistant winemakers and Tilly, who works in the wine store. We had a very nice lunch/snack of bison, venison, wild rice, smoked-candied salmon, and the most delicious grilled shrimp I’ve had in a long time. There was plenty to see and do, and through a surprising phone call from a fellow wine writer, was advised to make some time and visit the Cultural Centre down the road – hopefully we can get a chance to do that later in the week. Interesting fact: Qwam Qwmt (Q2) is the name of their “reserve” wine; though I was told by our tour guide Barry, “we don’t like to use that term around here.

Wines of Note
: 2005 Q2 Merlot ($24.99), 2005 Q2 Cabernet Sauvignon ($34.99) and 2006 Q2 Meritage ($34.99).

Having hit the very bottom of the Valley it w
as time to head back north for our final destination, about half way back up just past Summerland (about a 45 minute to an hour drive) to Sumac Ridge where we met Mark Wendenburg, the winemaker, executive chef for the Okanagan Estates, Rodger, and Blaine the happy-go-lucky, ever-smiling all-around-good-guy sales representative. Mark ran us through the majority of the wines, until other duties called him away and we were left in the hands of Blaine … and Rodger, who also joined us for a stint in the private tasting room. The price-to-quality ratio of the wines is exceptional. Black Sage Vineyard (Single Vineyard) wines were $19.99 for the Merlot and Cabernet Franc while the Cabernet Sauvignon and Meritage were five and ten dollars more respectively. The piece-de-rĂ©sistance was dinner. Joining us on the terrace overlooking the valley was Chef Rodger, as he discussed the restaurant, his philosophy and ran us through each course, even going as far as to whet our appetites for things not being served, he even took the time to eat with us. The food was wonderful.

Wines of Note:
2007 Private Reserve Gew
urztraminer ($14.99), 2005 Black Sage Cabernet Franc ($19.99), 2005 Black Sage Merlot ($19.99), 2005 Black Sage Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99), 2005 Black Sage Meritage ($29.99), Stellar’s Jay Sparkling (available in 3 sizes - $15.99 - $40.00) and 2001 Sparkling Pinnacle ($35.00).

With full bellies and happy hearts we traveled down the valley 20km to our Bed and Breakfast in Penticton, dropping Alan back as his hotel along the way.

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