Exploring the Wine Capital of Canada Okanagan Valleyby Robin Dohrn-Simpson
You never know where inspiration will come from: a picture in a magazine. In a most unexpected discovery, a scenic photo of Blue Mountains surrounded by prolific vineyards next to a lake reflected verdant possibilities, lush with large trees, calm and about the Okanagan Valley and thought “Canada has a wine region? I’ve got to see this.” So we headed north.
The US has the Great Lakes, Canada has the Grape Lakes. Okanagan Lake spills gently into Skaha Lakes flows in a large river to Osoyoos and eventually makes its way through Washington and out the Columbia River. These lakes travel south through Washington, offering irrigation, water for cities, recreation and ultimately flow into the Columbia River and out to the Pacific Ocean.
“The OV is B.C.’s largest and oldest wine appellation and has experienced unprecedented growth over the last two decades.” NEED TO REWORD In 1990 there were less than 20 wineries in this area and the wines left a lot to be desired. A handful of visionaries sw the potential for growing grapes and winemaking
Top 5 white varietals (by acreage planted) Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc
Top 5 Red Varietals (by acreage planted) Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (Shiraz) and Cabernet Franc
Very similar to San Diego terrain with pine trees, semi-desert and dry conditions (not counting winter)
March through November this valley comes alive with greenery, huge flower baskets hang everywhere you can find a pole or hook. Baskets overflow with flowers. Hillsides teem with vineyards.
A non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Kelowna, the northern gateway to the valley or a scenic four hour drive east of Vancouver, across the dazzling Cascade Mountains lies a lush and verdant farming area: the Okanagan Valley. The OV is 100 kilometers of wine region in Canada, just over the border from Washington.
The lakes fill the valley floor and offer welcome respite from the blistering summer heat.
OV is home to Canada;s only desert, an extension of the Sonoran which stretches up from Mexico.
Unique microclimates in the various pockets of the valley – and this why there are profound diversity in the varieties of grapes and styles of wine produced here
History buffs will like the frontier-like atmosphere and landscape. Back in the day this area was know for ranching and gold mining and still retains a lot of that Western charm
A thriving tree fruit industry…. Dubbed the Fruit stand capatial of Canada
Rivals California’s Napa Valley.
Canada has its own Napa Valley, a large and successful wine region.
Not just grapes are grown in this region but apples, peaches, East of the Cascades lies a lush and verdant farming area. Farm stands are everywhere and filled with many kinds of fruits: More varieties of apples than I knew existed, large cherries, peaches all pit fruits and 200+ wineries.
East of the Cascades is a micro climate all its own. All the way north from the Okanagan Valley to the south in Walla Walla. Hundreds and hundreds of wineries have created a vast wine region.
Many families return year after year and try
The areas are called Benches. There is the Naramata Bench, the Penticton Bench, the Kelowna Bench, (double check the names of the benches) each with its own micro-climate.
It has something for everyone:
Widely known family vacation area. You can camp beside the lake, or stay in a hotel or motel. Why it’s a great vacation area for adults only or for a family.
If you go:
Starting in December 2012, United Airlines has two daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Kelowna. akeside farmers markets
Beautiful lakes – Okanagan Lake, Skaha Lake Osoyoos Lake skiing
Hiking, biking, rock climbing, boating, sailing, waterskiing, sailboarding Verdant garden area- can put a stick in the ground and it would grow.
Apples, peaches, cherries (large and dark red with lots of pulp)
I went for the wine. It all started with a Sunset Magazine article about this new wine region in Canada. Canada? I said. That’s crazy. So I read the article and sure enough, just north of the wine region in Washington (east of the Cascades) lies a climate region similar to the desert land of eastern Washington. Just a wee bit colder in the winter.
The cooler weather makes it better to grow grapes for white wines here.
Although they do hold their own with red wines.
One of their specialties here is ice wine. Not everyone makes it, grapes have to stay on the vine well into November when the vines have frozen. Then they are picked and made into a sweet wine.___ write more about ice wine.
Naramata Bench on the east side. A bench is a tier of the land of the lake there are 3 benches (elevations)
Penticton- cute town with a beach. Hotels along the beach. Many nice restaurants in town. Parks along the lake to bring a picnic lunch or dinner to. Because life is very stark grays and white in the winter, they really jazz it up in the summer, with many large hanging flower balls
Most fun was inner tubing down the canal between the Oakangan and Skaha lakes. The ____ Indian tribe owns a concession where you can rent an inner tube for $5 and have a bus ride back to the starting point for $5. So much fun! People go down in crazy contraptions. With bottles, books, snorkel gear, dogs-- floating along. Takes about 45 minutes.
Last updated: October, 2015
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