UPDATE: There are still a few tix to be had for this year’s Sun Peaks Winter Festival of Wine (January 12-20, 2013). Take a look at last year’s post and you’ll see it’s a lot of fun—particularly if you’re a skier or into any other winter sports. Sun Peaks is one of those ‘just right’ sized resorts that combines all the amenities without ever feeling too crowded. It really has a pleasant feel—plus the scenery’s spectacular! Details here.



Sun Peaks Village is truly accessible, Tim Pawsey photo

How much fun can you have at an award-winning ski resort with a couple of dozen BC wineries in tow, more than a few good meals—and even some healthy outdoor exercise? Plenty!

Last week’s whirlwind trip to Sun Peaks Resort for the 14th Annual Winter Okanagan Wine Festival yielded more material than we could squeeze into our column in the North Shore News. If you check Sunday’s issue you’ll find a fun anecdote and a few Winter Wine Festival picks. But here are a few more thoughts and images to go along …

Nancy Greene Raine, supplied

It’s been a while since we last saw Nancy Greene Raine, now a federal senator, so it was pretty cool to catch up. Suffice to say, even though she’ll be hitting a major senior milestone soon, she hasn’t slowed down one bit. As mentioned in the column, she gets back from that other hill, down east to ski at Sun Peaks with no shortage of fans, who still show up for her weekend 1 p.m. impromptu get togethers.

Celebrating 50 years, Tim Pawsey photo

I wound up sitting next to her at dinner because husband Al Raine, who’s Mayor of now incorporated Sun Peaks (Canada’s only Resort Municipality), was tied up elsewhere. I’d forgotten quite what a dynamo she is. But I was soon reminded, as our conversation shifted rapidly from skiing to  education (Sun Peaks now has its own Discovery Centre for Balanced Education—the only one in Canada where kids take a ski-lift to get there), and to her work surrounding First Nations education reform, part of her role on The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

Then it was on to the question of certifying origin for Maple Syrup, a project she’s working on with interested parties on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. It seems there’s a real problem with bogus maple syrup, much as there was—and still is, some suggest—with fake icewine.

A delightful, ski-in village setting, Tim Pawsey photo

Sun Peaks really is quite magical, so much so we’d even be tempted to get on skis again. Now that’s a scary thought. But Ms. Greene makes it sound so easy. I’m sure she’d have no problem convincing us to forget about cross country. Maybe. Less a few pounds from now.

Guide Heather offers tips on building your own snow cave, Tim Pawsey photo

I did take time out to snowshoe, with the right equipment and properly escorted, by our professional guide, Heather. This was two hours well spent, a good workout. And even though we didn’t really wander that far from the village, we did experience a good variety of terrain, with a few slopes thrown in for good measure. Along the way there’s also a chance to watch and learn about chickadees and a sip of hot cider at the warming hut. Yet one more example of just how accessible Sun Peaks is, and of the wealth of activities it offers. Last time we went dog-sledding, also a lot of fun.

No shortage of activities, and plenty of room, Tim Pawsey photo

We did notice fewer international visitors this time, compared to the last time here, some eight years ago—a sure sign of the economic times. But there’s no shortage of fancy real estate, though at decreasingly fancy prices.

Find good pints post tastings at Morrisey’s

Regardless, this truly unique winter wine festival adds up to one of the best of its kind, so everything pretty well sells out.

Even though a well planned build-out, that will bring more accommodation is ongoing, the overall strategy is to never build too much housing that will ever permit the hills to become overcrowded. Smart. The village itself has a pleasing, intimate  sense of scale, with nowhere ever far from the centre of the action.

Sun Peaks turned 50 on November 18th. 2011.  If you’re on the hill you might bump into some of the original skiers from Tod Mountain days. You can tell them by their ‘Sun Peaks Antiques’ badges!

Delta’s hot tub, still the best seat in the house, Tim Pawsey photo

In short, we can’t say enough good about this family friendly resort, which is BC’s second largest ski area. If you haven’t visited it’s time you did—either in winter of summer.

But you might just want consider next year’s Winter Wine Festival (January 16-20, 2013) as one of the best times to go. Sun Peaks is about 4 1/2 hours drive east of Vancouver, and within easy reach of Kamloops airport, as well as Kelowna and Vancouver airports, all of which have connecting shuttle services to the resort.  Make plans at sunpeaksresort.com or the winefestivals.com

Many thanks to Tourism Sun Peaks and the BC Wine Institute for organising our trip and for hosting us.

And, just because there is room, here are some more wine picks other than those already mentioned in the column, equally well worth chasing down…

• Hester Creek Cabernet Franc 2009

Made with fruit from some of the oldest vines in the Okanagan, this turned out to be the hit of the Winemasters Dinner (along with the Rollingdale icewine), paired with Delta’s superb bison shortrib. Plummy and peppery notes on top with red fruit and spice wound up in a very accessible, plush tannin palate through a lingering finish. (89) $26.99

• Rollingdale 2006 Pinot Blanc ‘Sweet Tooth’ Icewine

Owner Steve Dale (who could teach a few a few things to some standup comics we’ve heard) generously brought three cases of this for the Winemasters dinner, from only about a couple of dozen made. It’s an extraordinary nectar. All stainless steel fermented, it has intense peach and tropical tones, moderate acidity, is wonderfully viscous with extraordinary length and sweetness mod acidity only 20 or so cases made. It’s a rarity: $149.99 for  375 ml.

• Cassini Cellars Viognier 2010

A fruit forward style of Viognier with tropical notes on top followed by quite textured mouthfeel, pineapple and gentle citrus with a crisp, clean finish. A knockout with Sun Peak’s Globe Café & Tapas Bar’s five spice chicken. (91) $19

• Stag’s Hollow GVM 2010

The GVM stands for Grenache (66%), Viognier (23%) and Marsanne. “We opted to press off the Grenache as white,” says Stag’s Hollow’s Larry Gerelus. On the nose there’s a touch of citrus followed by what starts out as a simple entry but builds into a surprising, structured and very stylish complexity with stonefruit and lemon notes to a clean end. Also superb with Globe’s chicken  (89) $27.99

• Black Hills Alibi 2010

Made from 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon: green-gold in the glass, some waxy, floral and citrus notes on top, with dominant citrus up front before juicy mid palate acidity beneath stonefruit and lemon to a lengthy close. A truly well balanced wine. (91) $25

• Summerhill Organic Riesling 2009

Already showing a nicely developed petrol nose with some obvious mineral hints, floral on top with green apple and citrus wrapped in juicy acidity on the palate (89) $19.99 (BCLS)

• Summerhill Organic Syrah 2008

From an Okanagan Falls vineyard, overlooking Skaha Lake, these grapes come from vines grown off cuttings from Nichol Vineyard (Naramata), which were the first Syrah vines planted in the Okanagan: varietally correct, meaty gamey nose, chocolate black fruit earthy notes. Good weight on the palate, spicy and peppery; intensely fruited but not extracted; medium tannins with a little heat in the close. (89) $39.95

• Black Hills 2009 Syrah

Black fruit and earthy, dusty notes on top with some meaty hints; forward notes of black cherry, blackberry and mocha on the rounded palate with supple tannins and a generous, lengthy close. This inaugural Syrah from Black Hills already suggests great things to come. (90) $35

• Fort Berens Meritage 2009

The big surprise with this wine was its unofficial pairing with fermented black garlic (which has almost a quince jelly like quality) at Sun Peaks’ very worthwhile Asian fusion bistro of the same name. The fruit (70% Merlot, 25% Cab Sauv and 5% Cab Franc) is from Black Sage. Vanilla and black fruit notes on top, with a smooth palate of cassis and plum. Quite plush with firm tannins through a long close. (89) $28

Black Garlic Bistro prawn spring rolls with mandarin cilantro dip