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
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
Fitzpatrick Family, Peachland
(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.
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.
In 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.
Evolve Cellars, Summerland
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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
Nighthawk Vineyards, OK Falls
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.
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.
Wild Goose Vineyard, OK Falls
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.
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.
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.