Tales from the Canadian Okanagan: An Introduction

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Our home in the mountains last week: Idabel Lake resort, British Columbia, Canada. A 40 minute trip up the mountain from West Kelowna – the beginning of the wine trail.

So I’ve been reading posts lately on “Field Trips” taken by my fellow wine bloggers. Although I cannot say (yet) that I have been to any “exotic” wine locales, like you all, I CAN go visit the wineries in my own back yard!  My back yard is Canada. For two summers now, my family and I have taken a trip to the southern Okanagan for a week at a lake resort where there is nothing but blue skies, a peaceful lake and no cell phone coverage. For some, that could be the absolute worst thing to be cut off from civilization, but for me, it was a slice of heaven.  I did manage to have wi-fi now and then, but still you are limited as to what you can do, and there was no way I was writing a blog from my 5″x 2″ Android device!

Anyway, while there, I always take a day and visit some local wineries. The Canadian Wine Industry has come a long a way.  In responding to a post of a fellow blogger, I invited him to come to Canada to visit.  My friend at Confessions of a Wine Geek replied to my comment saying that it would indeed be great to visit. He informed me, that apart from Icewine, he knew very little about Canadian wine. Time to change that my friends! (As a side note, I happily invite ALL my fellow wine bloggers to come to Canada!)

Let me give you a brief history lesson:  Although wine has been made in my country since the early 19th century, the modern Canadian wine industry is very young.  Our wine was, in a word….plonk. Until the mid-1970’s it was sweet, highly alcoholic, sometimes foxy, and made from hybrid vines.  in 1974, Inniskillin was born (whom some of you will recognize as a major producer of Icewine) and the shift was made to drier, less alcoholic and more palatable tables wines.  In 1988, the VQA (Vinters Quality Alliance) was born and many of the old hybrids were ripped up in favour of planting the v. vinifera.   Yes, hybrids are still grown, and we do a nice job of some of them.  Marachel Foch being one of them, and the Vidal grape which makes some of the long-lived Icewines from Canada.  But guess what? There are acres of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinotage (what?), Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir….and the list goes on.  Like you, I’m dumbfounded at some of the varietals being grown!  It’s too cold you say!!  Yes, where I live….definately.  But down in southern British Columbia, microclimates abound, and there is desert like conditions in some areas.  The extreme heat is tempered by the vast Okanagan Lake, which is the largest of the valley’s chain of lakes.  Surprisingly, though we are north of the 49th parallel and outside of the optimum growing zone, the region is a prime area for growing grapes and grow grapes we do.

Ontario, the large province in Eastern Canada,  that MOST know of, has the most wineries and acres under vine.  British Columbia is next, and is the province right next door to me. There’s no excuse for me not to take a trek every now and then to my neighbour to the west.  Not to mention that it’s a beautiful province…period…I may just live there in the very near future.

Map

The check marks indicate the wineries I graced my presence with. Whether I did an actual tasting, did a walk-about or drove through, I saw them and thus the reason why they got a check mark. I had great intentions of seeing/visiting more, but I just literally ran out of time. And trust me…you cannot visit ALL in one day. It’s impossible.  In fact, I barely scratched the surface in the Southern Okanagan. And this is just the south! Last year, I toured West Kelowna and the Naramata Bench area, and again, I didn’t even come close to visiting them all. I simply ran out of time.

And I know what you’re thinking now…if Canada has this burgeoning wine industry, why don’t they export?  The answer?  We simply don’t make enough.  We physically do not have the space in the right climate zone to grow all the grapes necessary to make enough wine to go around.  We export within our own country, consume what is made here, and then there is not enough to even begin to think about exporting outside of Canada.  It’s unfortunate, because I think the world would be surprised by Canadian wine, and in an entirely good way.

So stay tuned for upcoming posts featuring the some of these amazing little wineries I was able to visit. Cheers!

 

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5 Responses to Tales from the Canadian Okanagan: An Introduction

  1. I need to head north to drink some Canadian wine! Thank you for your article. Cheers.

  2. timmilford says:

    Thank you for posting this, I had no idea about the breadth of Canadian wine. I look forward to learning more about it over your future posts!

  3. talkavino says:

    I agree with you. On the trip to Niagara. Falls, I enjoyed delicious Canadian wines, most of which are not available in US… I guess they don’t make enough…

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