8 Must See Okanagan View Wineries

A View Kissed List

There’s only one problem with making a short list of view wineries in the Okanagan. In a valley of superlative panoramas,  you’re guaranteed to upset somebody. So many rate, it’s impossible to do them all justice.

With that disclaimer, here’s a quick look at what’s new and in the wings. Where to go and what to taste, based on my most recent visit to the valley.

What’s the general take away on these newbies? The level of Okanagan hospitality is growing by leaps and bounds. And now rates with any other wine region on a world scale.

 

Play Estate, Penticton

A view from every table, and from the tasting bar

A view from every table, and from the tasting bar

This recently opened winery enjoys a commanding aspect above the southern approach to Penticton, on the curve before you hit the bypass. When I first heard the name I didn’t quite comprehend it. In fact, ‘Play’ ties in to a theatrical theme that runs throughout, most notably on the art deco labels.

play-moscato-label

Previously at Spirit Ridge and Black Hills, Mohamed Awad runs the show and makes the wines. The bistro’s modern lines and deck overlooking Skaha Lake are already winning fans.  Even though these are still early days, in development is a 14 acre vineyard planted to Cab. Franc, Cab. Sauv, Merlot, Sauv. Blanc, Muscat, and Viognier.

We enjoyed a quick tour and tasting here post judging. Awad is a passionate and committed player. First tastes and a strong creative element suggest good things to come indeed. Hence, this is very much a winery to watch. www.playwinery.com

 

Indigenous World, West Kelowna

The view at twilight, looking north up Lake Okanagan, from Indigenous World

The view at twilight, looking north up Lake Okanagan, from Indigenous World

BC’s newest First Nations owned winery has sprung up just off Hwy. 97, immediately before heading down the hill to the Kelowna bridge. (Look for the Paintball!) Former chief Robert Louie and his wife Bernice and the Westbank First Nation have just opened this impressive winery. It sports a clean, modern look, with an impressive tasting room. A casual bistro and patio, plus cozy restaurant below looks right up Lake Okanagan.

The winery building is close by. And Jason Parkes (of The Hatch fame) is the winemaker. He sources most grapes from elsewhere in the valley. A small vineyard of 2.5 acres is home to three clones of Muscat, three-year old vines. A distillery also is in the works.

Indigenous World entrance

Indigenous World entrance

The tasting room is quite beautiful, with a long bar and impressive First Nations art. We enjoyed an excellent meal here from an inventive menu. Top dishes range from whole Pacific anchovies to ‘native’ spiced salmon (below).

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The labels are pleasingly distinctive, emphasizing First Nations art and lore.We were impressed with the polished feel, sophisticated setting and vibrant energy of this winery.

 

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Taste: 2015 Gewurz (rose petal toned and spicy hints, 90 pts).

Hee-Hee-Tel-Kin Red Blend 2013 (60-40 Cab. Franc / Merlot, from Black Sage). Luscious red fruit and mulberry notes wrapped in  approachable tannins, a complex, lingering finish. The name, in Syilx, refers to an elusive, high country stag deer with enormous antlers. (white blend pictured) 91 pts. $18.49.

We also tasted an excellent, creamy and vanilla toned, well managed oaked 2014 Chardonnay (90 pts.), sadly no longer able to be made, as the 40 year old vineyard has now been developed for condos…

It’s very good to see another First Nations player in the valley.

http://indigenousworldwinery.com/

 

Fitzpatrick Family, Peachland

The sweeping lake vista from soon to be opened Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

The sweeping lake vista from soon to be opened Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

(Opening spring 2017). You may know it as Greata Ranch, the former off-shoot of CedarCreek, now owned by Mission Hill. The Fitzpatricks retained this vineyard below Hwy 97, on the dramatic west side of the lake. For a while there was talk of a real estate development in some of the areas where cold air could threaten vines. But that’s all now in the past.

Likely more ready than this shot, the new cellar access and bistro at Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

Likely more ready than this shot, the new cellar access and bistro at Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

The Fitzpatrick family has decided to put the land to its best use. They’re growing grapes for sparkling wines.  The steep slope loses afternoon sun about 2-3 hours before most of the surrounding area. Hence, the marginally ripened grapes are prime candidates for sparkling.

img_8441In a region not short on dramatic vistas, the new winery boasts a spectacular crush pad view. Also nearing completion are a traditional cellar, bistro and tasting room. Running the show is Four Seasons alumnus Jeff Hanson. This breathtaking, very accessible location will be a magnet for weddings and more.

And first sips of Fitz, the inaugural Brut,  a well textured, citrus toned, traditional method Pinot Noir Chardonnay blend, 36 months sur lie (90 pts), suggests the wine will easily match the view.

http://www.fitzwine.com

 

Evolve Cellars, Summerland

The dramatic bench view from Evolve Cellars

The dramatic bench view from Evolve Cellars

As you leave Summerland heading north, blink and you’ll miss it.

Evolve Cellars is located in the former Bonitas Winery. A quick turn to the right leads down to a bench not visible from the highway. It’s a short hop down discover a sweeping lake vista, tasting room and a good bistro. Evolve makes value priced, varietally correct, affordable wines. They’re widely available, including a soft and fruity, apple and pear toned Pinot Blanc 2015, 89 pts. $14.99; and a fun, ‘drink don’t think’ pink, strawberry toned, Effervescence sparkler 88 pts. $19.99.  http://www.evolvecellars.com/

 

Time Winery, Penticton

Evolve is part of the McWatters collective, known as Encore Vineyards. The wines will be made by Lawrence Buhler in due course at Time Winery in downtown Penticton. The former Pen-Mar cinemas building is being reincarnated into a winery, tasting bar and bistro complex, slated to open in mid-2017.

Uncovered ceiling at Penticton's new Time Winery

Uncovered wooden ‘whalebone’ ceiling at Penticton’s new Time Winery

As the deal to take over the cinemas was closing, McWatters said he hoped to retain some elements of the building where possible. When I dropped by to see Lawrence, construction was well under way. Above a false ceiling, the contractor had discovered a beautiful whalebone shaped wooden ceiling. It’s now incorporated into the winery. The priority is to get the production end of the operation happening asap this fall.

Time Winery concept drawing showing tasting room view overlooking winery

Time Winery concept drawing showing tasting room view overlooking winery

Over the winter the other pieces will fall into place. Here’s a view of a different kind… The winery will be visible through a glass wall from the tasting bar and bistro. It should be a bustling destination, part of a growing beverage community. Close by are two breweries and a distillery, all within walking distance. Worth checking out, both on the plate and in the mug, is Bad Tattoo Brewing.  http://www.badtattoobrewing.com/

Time is definitely marching on.

From the current release:

Time White Meritage 2014. From the just sold Sundial Vineyard, two thirds Sauv. Blanc with one-third Semillon. Creamy vanilla and toasty notes on top precede a leesy, textured palate of orchard and stone fruit. 90 pts. This could be the last vintage of a once  iconic BC white. Reportedly the grapes are to be pulled out by the new owner to make way for more red Bordeaux varieties.

Time Meritage 2013. This Merlot dominant blend yields red and black fruit aromas followed by a palate wrapped in good acidity.  Juicy red fruit, mulberry and good length with grippy tannins that should mellow over the next couple of years. 91 pts.

Time 2013 Syrah. Aromas of intense black fruit with some nice meaty, gamy notes on the  back palate. Well balanced mouth feel with good viscosity, very definitely more of a nod to old world. Less extracted than before. Good varietal character, pepper notes and a powerful, lingering close. No wonder it grabbed a Platinum Award at the just concluded BC Wine Awards. 91 pts

 

VinAmité, Oliver

The hidden patio and view at Oliver's VinAmité

The hidden patio and view at Oliver’s VinAmité

This tiny, perfect winery has just gone through a name change, which means, if you ask Google, it might still show up as Vin Perdu. The smart tasting room—and the wines—are a real labour of love. When faced with the demand to change their name the family felt they had no alternative, as the expense to fight to maintain their original name would have been prohibitive.

Creative canapés at VinAmité

Creative canapés at VinAmité

Never mind. Onwards. What’s interesting is that this winery is on Oliver’s southern edge, right on Highway 97. What you can’t see from the road is the vineyard behind, and the terrace that overlooks the vines.

The view down the south valley from a small patio is delightful, along with the comfortable settee from which to enjoy it. Family members run the tasting room, which exudes a friendly, intimate feel. An added bonus, you can pair your wines with excellent small bites based on local ingredients.

The wines are clean and well made in an understated style. Of note: Compass 2014 Bordeaux blend (90 pts.), Cabernet Franc 2014 (90 pts.), Gamay 2015 (90 pts.), Pinot Gris 2014 (89 pts.)

vinamitecellars.com

 

Nighthawk Vineyards, OK Falls

The idyllic lakeside setting at Nighthawk Vineyards

The idyllic lakeside setting at Nighthawk Vineyards

Most people make the twisty drive up the side road that turns off just before OK Falls (heading south) to check out See Ya Later Ranch, itself definitely vista kissed.  Carry on a few yards beyond SYL and you’ll arrive at tiny, perfect Nighthawk Vineyard. While it may not boast its neighbour’s views, this is a beautiful and tranquil spot.

Greeting guests in style at Nighthawk... Christy and Daniel Bibby

Greeting guests in style at Nighthawk… Christy and Daniel Bibby

Nighthawk has been growing grapes for 14 years. This year owners Daniel and Christy Bibby and David and Melanie Flotten opened their own winery. The tasting room is small but delightful; and the wines showed well at a casual outdoor tasting. The estate grown Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were highlights. Note winter hours.

www.nighthawkvineyards.com

 

Wild Goose Vineyard, OK Falls

The view from Wild Goose Smoke & Oak Bistro

The view from Wild Goose Smoke & Oak Bistro

Wild Goose continues to make some of the Okanagan’s most consistent, perennially award winning wines. But the big news here is the arrival of much traveled Canadian chef Richard Desnoyers—who happens to live just down the road.

Pig's 'wings' at Smoke & Oak

Pig’s ‘wings’ at Smoke & Oak

Smoke & Oak Bistro has been popular since day one. But Chef Richard has come out of retirement to take things to the next level. The ‘don’t miss’ list is long. It includes a zippy gazpacho and a delectable, rare grilled Albacore tuna Niçcoise salad. “Drunken” smoked chicken is another keeper, plus pig’s “wings” and more.

vistas-wild-goose-riesling

Bonus points for the gorgeous view across to Stony Slope. And that means you should enjoy at least one glass of Stony Slope or God’s Mountain Riesling. Not to mention the Pinot Blanc, Gewurz. and more.
wildgoosewinery.com

By | 2018-01-21T15:05:03+00:00 October 19th, 2016|Wine|5 Comments

About the Author:

Tim has been covering the food and wine revolution for about 20 kilos. Count 15 kg alone thanks to the blossoming cuisine and wine culture of British Columbia, Canada. Tim’s hallmark is seeking out and recommending value wines from BC and around the world that offer quality at every level. He also scopes out noteworthy restaurants that live up to their promises—and often over deliver. Readers depend on the Hired Belly for his “Belly’s Best” and “Belly’s Budget Best” picks to help them find the right wine for the occasion. He writes, tweets and shoots his own images for columns in the Vancouver Courier and North Shore News. He also contributes to WHERE Vancouver magazine, as well as to several other publications. They include Taste magazine, Tidings Magazine, and Montecristo. His columns are frequently picked up by major newspapers across Canada. Tim is a frequent judge for wine competitions, such as Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards. He is a founding judge of The BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine. He is frequently invited to judge at The BC Wine Awards, and others. Tim has traveled to taste in many of the world’s leading wine regions, most recently in Burgundy, Argentina and Chile.

5 Comments

  1. Julian Park October 20, 2016 at 9:35 am

    You missed the great winery lake views in Naramata.

  2. Tim Pawsey October 20, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Thanks, Julian. I figured somebody would chime in. Definitely they’ll be there at some point. There’s a bunch, for sure—Hillside, Lake Breeze, Poplar Grove et al, in fact just about everyone on the Bench. But later, in another piece. Cheers and thanks for reading, Tim

  3. Julian Park October 20, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Tim: It was a good read. Like you said, too many great views to include them all. Cheers, Julian

  4. Ray Coulombe October 25, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Thanks for the review Tim and kind thoughtful words.

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