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Oh Canada, Oh Okanagan

Oh Canada, Oh Okanagan
Oh, Canada; Oh, Okanagan: B.C.’s premier wine region is having a coming-of-age moment
By Anthony Gismondi, Vancouver Sun July 4, 2014 1:03 PM

“It seems fitting to be writing this on Canada Day, after orchestrating a five-day, Canadian-only, wine-tasting that featured 1,330 wines.My first thoughts, and I apologize for the cliché, is that Canadian wine has never been better. At some 35 years of age the journey is far from over but there is now a foundation to be built on and the endless reinventing of the wine wheel in B.C. is mercifully coming to an end.

It’s easy to say the region is all grown up — the price of everything will tell you that — but it’s the little signs that tell the real story and should you pay attention and get off Highway 97, you will discover change for the good everywhere. For those of you heading to the Okanagan Valley this summer, or just into a wine shop, here’s some observations as a result of the competition and three weeks of travel across the region.

At Okanagan Crush Pad, in Summerland, you encounter chickens, ducks and Baby doll sheep all of which roam and graze at Switchback Vineyard, provide weed control and much needed natural manure to the site. It is respectful farming and stewardship of the land, albeit on a small scale, but an important development in the quest to be unique. You can add amphora fermenters, concrete tanks and concrete eggs to one of the world’s most expensive and gentle filtering machine and you have a winery that would be cutting-edge anywhere in the world.

In Kaleden, at Kraze Legz, owners Gerry and Sue Thygesen have turned out an amazing chardonnay that was awarded a 2014 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in British Columbia for the Skaha Vineyard 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay ($20). It is a delicious-drinking chardonnay that will make you forget there’s no oak in the wine.

Across the lake, Skaha and Okanagan Falls producers continue to refine a sub-region in need of an appellation. At Painted Rock, the view, tasting bar and syrah will take your breath away. At Meyer Family, the pinot noir and chardonnay makes you think about Burgundy in a respectful way. At Wild Goose, the 2013 Gewürztraminer ($19) could soon challenge the benchmark labels of Alsace. The Blue Mountain Blanc de Blanc sparkler is a stunning example of a wine style that could turn heads world-wide should we ever consider sparkling wine worthy of even more serious study.

Owners Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose at Bella Wines think sparkling wine is something to believe in and have set a goal of making single-vineyard, single-varietal wines that show off characteristics of the vintage and the vineyard; again, niche and unique. Look for them to open their digs shortly after a successful incubation at Okanagan Crush Pad.

The Naramata Bench is crawling with tourists and there is no shortage of spots to stop for food or wine. At Laughing Stock David and Cynthia Enns have made an amazing 2012 Syrah ($36) while down the road at Bench 1775, one of the best winery patios in the world is a must stop for a glass of Glow Rosé ($20) and an Ogopogo sighting. The top deck at Hillside Bistro is the place to sip the Hillside 2012 Reserve ($20) with some braised Fraser Valley pork cheek lettuce wraps.

The gamay grape is the new darling of the Canada’s wine press and should you dare to forsake the Coquihalla Highway for the Crow’s Nest southern route on your way to the Okanagan, be sure to stop in the Similkameen Valley load up on the juicy, Orofino 2013 Gamay Celentano Vineyard ($23).

In the coming weeks I will report on some of the amazing recognition local wines have garnered at recent respected competitions; clearly the game is on.”

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