A wine excursion of Canada’s stunning Okanagan Valley

Even to someone acquainted with going spherical wineries, Mission Hill is just jaw-dropping. The forty particularly commissioned sculptures, the 12-storey bell tower, the collection of historic Greek amphorae, the Chagall tapestry … this is as grand as a wine enjoy receives, yet it’s no longer in the Napa Valley but 1000 miles to the north in Canada’s Okanagan Valley.

 

Wine is booming inside the Okanagan. Twenty years in the past, there had been simplest 31 wineries within the location; now there are over a hundred thirty. The location is dominated by using the spectacularly stunning 135km-long Okanagan Lake, which runs from Vernon in the north all the way down to the semi-desolate tract vicinity of Osoyoos. It’s even reputed to have its personal equivalent of the Loch Ness monster, the Ogopogo.

Although not that famous to overseas vacationers, it’s a favorite summer season holiday spot for Vancouverites and a shelter for Canadians from states along with Saskatchewan and Alberta escaping the brutal wintry weather temperatures of the midwest. “As quickly as you return out here, you sense as in case you’re on holiday,” my manual told me. “There’s a lot to do at the lake – cruising, boating, kayaking – otherwise you simply pull over and go for a swim.”

Ambitious wineries consisting of Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate were fuelled by means of a tech industry boom that has brought an increasing number of properly-heeled millennials to the location. Wineries have constantly been a plaything for wealthy marketers like Mission Hill’s Anthony von Mandl but much less flamboyant estates, consisting of LaStella and Hester Creek (which has its own chef’s desk and cookery faculty), are enticing locations, some modelled on Tuscan farmhouses.

The Okanagan, like parts of the neighbouring US states of Oregon and Washington, changed into until lately an undeveloped rural location, dotted with ranches and fruit farms, and this tradition can be witnessed before everything hand thru farm-to-plate reviews on estates consisting of Covert Farms’ sprawling 650 natural acres.

This is the only area I’ve been to where you can integrate a tasting tour of the farm with a wine tasting. Owner Gene Covert, the fourth era of his family to farm the assets, drives us round in his choose-up truck, stopping in the vineyards for a tumbler of sparkling “pét-nat” evidently fermented rosé and to cram our faces with wild blueberries instantly off the bush. From the farm, there are hikes up the towering McIntyre Bluff, a 300-metre cliff shaped over the past ice age. Maybe earlier than, as opposed to after, the wine tasting, I propose.

Another a lot smaller farm, Backyard, does the farm-to-plate thing by means of walking a chef’s table and cookery college. It’s owned with the aid of chef Chris van Hooydonk, who walks us across the closely weighted down cherry timber of his -acre “hobby” orchard before cooking us a easy, impeccably sourced lunch matched with neighborhood wines. All the ingredients are rigorously name-checked: fats, candy Red Bay scallops, sustainable prawns, organic lentils, domestic-grown peas and pea shoots.

With expertise that might effortlessly have made him a shining mild in Vancouver, van Hooydonk chose to live in the Okanagan, so he can spend greater time together with his own family and “cook meals I’m excited about that week”. It’s now not a reasonably-priced meal – minimal spend for the eating room is C$500 (£three hundred) – but it can accommodate 10 people and you may take your very own wine. “And I’m there within the kitchen,” says van Hooydonk. “A lot of human beings say they prefer shaking palms with the man or woman making ready the food.”

There’s an individuality to the Okanagan that’s now not observed in Napa, or maybe Sonoma. Take the tiny Upper Bench Winery & Creamery in Penticton, where UK-born Gavin Miller makes the wine and his wife, Shana, an impressive choice of cheeses. We can flavor the 2 collectively, and Gavin’s deep purple rosé is a suddenly proper healthy with Shana’s punchy Stilton-fashion King Cole blue.

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Upper Bench is just one among some of wineries alongside the Naramata Bench, a 14km ridge that changed into once part of the lakeshore. From a travelling point of view, they’re best as they’re intently spaced. Practically next door to Upper Bench are Poplar Grove, with a show off tasting room, and its rock’n’roll sibling Monster Vineyards – an allusion to the Ogopogo – which has all of the urban vibe of a downtown Vancouver wine bar.

At biodynamic vineyard Summerhill in Kelowna, the wines are elderly in a four-storey reproduction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which reputedly complements their aroma and clarity and well-known shows “the knowingness of eternity”. Er … OK. But it makes a in reality rather scrumptious and multi-award-prevailing glowing wine called Cipes Brut (modestly named after the owner, Stephen Cipes), so perhaps there’s some thing in it. I’m no longer positive I ever reached the “knowingness” of who I become, though: there’s quite a few hippy-dippy stuff in the Okanagan.

At the other give up of the valley in Summerland, a funky winery called the Okanagan Crush Pad is filled with tulip- and egg-fashioned concrete tanks designed to carry out the great in the “no-additive, native ferment” wines made for its Haywire label and different small manufacturers. As Captain Beefheart pumps out over the sound gadget, a small white fluffy fireplace rug inside the shape of a Great Pyrenees puppy known as Bijou wanders across the tasting room. They inspire you to have a seminar – now not just a tasting. Oh, and the winemaker has a beard and tattoos. Of path.

As you force further south, it gets step by step warmer and drier. A large a part of this southern part of the Okanagan, Canada’s only desert, is owned by using First Nation Canadians, who farm a few 32,000 acres round Osoyoos. They, too, have a vineyard and lodge known as Nk’Mip (said kameez), at the side of an absorbing cultural centre which strains the history of the Osoyoos humans.

“You do not often see one,” my manual Darlene tells me later, handiest half convincingly. Rarely is just too regularly for me.

This comparatively unspoiled part of the world appears to be especially rich in critters, which include black widow spiders (eek!), wild deer and bears. These ultimate are a specific threat for winery owners as they can consume their own weight in grapes in sooner or later.