Janet Harrison: find time to go to Canada’s Okanagan Valley

Janet Harrison: find time to go to Canada’s Okanagan Valley

There really is something for everyone in the Okanagan Valley. When you are not taking in the jaw dropping views there are plenty of head turning wines to taste and wineries to visit.

Not a huge amount has been written about Okanagan Valley wines for two very good reasons: firstly it takes a while (and a couple of small propeller planes) to get there from the UK; and secondly the area is very much a ‘new kid on the block’ in terms of winemaking.

Many of the wineries have emerged in the last 10 years or so, with some of the oldest dating back to the late sixties.The soils are varied, depending on the area.Granite is clearly visible, there are also volcanic gravels and some areas are very sandy.

Despite having a short growing season, they have long daylight hours in the summer, when it can get surprisingly hot.However, the temperatures at night fall dramatically, hence the reason many of their wines have fantastic acidity.

Despite Canada’s reputation, ice wine isn’t something they want to discuss.They are keen to move on and show the world what else they can produce in this bijoux and beautiful area.Which is quite a lot!Generally speaking, Alsace styles dominate in the north, Burgundy varieties in the west and Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the south.

Do(n’t) mention the ice wine…

Whilst no-one wants to mention IW, I thought I would.Enter Boutique winery Pentage in Penticton, situated towards the south of the region.Founded and run by Paul Gardner and Julie Rennie, it makes the unique Roussanne ice wine for Rebel Pi, owned by Jackie Fast (better known for her appearance on BBC’s The Apprentice).

I loved visiting this couple who literally built the winery into the side of a huge granite rock formation, which looks like something out of a James Bond movie.The views, at the front towards the lake, are to die for (which should be a Bond film title but, sadly, isn’t).

Gardner’s low-yield cultivation strategy produces top quality grapes making premium, limited release, hand-crafted wines. He experiments with many grape varieties including those from a plot dedicated to his ‘Dirty Dozen’ (his words not mine), 12 varieties grown on one graduating slope from the lakeside.

It was a fascinating trip and we went away with a fabulous frizzante ice wine made from Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay and Muscat – its not often you can say that!...

*this article was originally published in The Buyer and the full article can be read here.