The sparkling 130km long Lake Okanagan, rollings hills lined with grapevines that are grown in soil of mainly silt with sand and clay, and liquid gold in a glass (aka WINE). What more could you want from a 3-day vacation? I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite things in the world to do is taste wine. There is something so magical about listening to a winemaker tell his/her story while sipping on the very wine they have made with their own two hands. Not to mention, drinking wine is fun (obviously!)
I was lucky enough to go to Kelowna with Peter, my best friend Gill, and her husband Adam. On Saturday morning, bright and early (10AM) we were picked up by Matt of Experience Wine Tours. Let me tell you, I will never in my life do a wine tour on my own again. Matt’s knowledge (all of his guides have sommelier training), combined with his knack for finding the best croissant I’ve ever had in my life (only available on Saturday from Okanagan Grocery) made for an incredible 5 hour tour of the best spots in Kelowna.
Our first stop of the day was Cedar Creek. Purchased by Mission Hill, it’s soil is clay based which is perfect for Riesling. As you can see by the incredible view, Cedar Creek is super close to the lake and therefore does not have to worry about frost. We were told upon arrival that this year has been the best yet and boy do I believe it.
Our tasting consisted of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir Rosé, Ehrenfelser and Meritage. I had never heard of Ehrenfelser, but absolutely loved it and brought it home with me! Having won many awards, it has notes of tropical fruit but is much more acidic and pungent on the taste, making it very easy to drink. The Riesling was also fabulous. It had lime on the nose and was balanced with nice acidity. I would pair it with a dijon marinated salmon.
Next up, just down the road, was St. Hubertus. It felt like a small farm off the highway in Provence. With a tasting room set up to encourage a quick taste and purchase, it was a perfect pit stop. My favourite wine from here was the Pinot Blanc – and at $14.95 it was a no brainer to bring home a few bottles! I served it with Spanish tapas at my last dinner party and it was a hit.
I have to say that my favourite spot of the day had to be Tantalus. Tantalus has a LEED-certified tasting facility, gorgeous vineyards, and a serious art collection. The building was cutting edge and seeing their art brought a different twist into the day. The stand out wine here was the Riesling Lab for me. I bought one bottle but when I brought it home and had my first sip, I wished I had bought two cases (I will be doing that shortly). What they mean by “Lab” is that the winemaker can experiment a little bit. The French oak barrels that this wine ages in adds a serious punch of flavour and texture. Drinkable on it’s own, I’d also pair it with an aged gouda and honey crostini (YUM).
Matt and I clinking glasses to celebrate finding my favourite spot of the day at Tantalus among the vines!
The tasting room was playing Snoop Dogg (umm, already obsessed!) and we sat outside while Matt put together this incredible artisanal charcuterie and cheese plate. When Matt and his wife were in Napa, they put together a similar spread for themselves when they were wine tasting and decided that they needed to recreate it for their tour groups. Boy am I glad they did! Everything you see is local – the meats range from Ukranian-style ham sausage to cured links and chorizo. The cheese was Triple Island gouda, and Alpindon Parm. Top it off local tree cherries, ground cherries (these are the small things on the platter that look like mini tomatillos) and you have yourself a wine tasting meal!
My favourite wine at The Hatch was the Sauvignon Blanc. It was zippy enough for oysters, with notes of Apricot, citrus, and green apple. The best part of the The Hatch, though, was the demeanour of not taking themselves too seriously and the funky labels. It’s definitely not a spot you want to miss.
Last but not least, the beautiful Quail’s Gate. I mean, do you even need to taste wine with this amazing view? Don’t answer that.
We snapped a few pics to go through the “proper” process of tasting a wine. First, you’re going to want to smell it. I usually close my eyes, shove my nose in the glass and take a GOOD whiff. Next, take a sip, but don’t swallow it. You’ll want to get some air in your mouth and swish it around. Last up, swallow (or spit if you have a lot of wineries to check out) and smile! It’s that simple. People always tell me they get super intimidated wine tasting, but it’s just about finding what you like. The best wineries will be helpful and anything but snooty, and we definitely experienced that during our visit to BC wine country!
It’s easy to recreate this day, but I would highly suggest hiring Experience Wine Tours. They know what you should taste, and you don’t have to drive (double positive). If you want to have the same experience we did this weekend, check out the contest below!
The BC Wine Institute is running a BC VQA Pour & Pair Instagram and Twitter Contest from today until December 31, 2015 giving away a fabulous five day/ four nights wine tour for you and a friend to explore the world of BC VQA Wines.
How to enter:
Two easy steps:
1) Take a photo of your favourite BC VQA wine including the label on the bottle paired with food
2) Post it to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #BCVQAPourandPair
TRAVEL in style with private car service, float plane ride and guided wine tours.
STAY in a luxurious winery villa, lakefront hotel and an acclaimed bed & breakfast throughout BC.
SIP some of the finest wine BC has to offer and learn about wine directly from the winemakers.
The 5 day tour includes:
Day 1: Island-Hopping Wine Tour on Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands.
Day 2: The Great Estates Okanagan Valley Wine Tour.
Day 3: South Okanagan Valley Floatplane Wine Tour.
Day 4: Similkameen Valley River Float Wine Tour.
Day 5: Lake Country Stand-Up Paddle Board Wine Tour.
Get instagramming! And make sure to tag me so I can see what you’re up to (@sophieccollins)
Thanks for following along our amazing trip!