This came up last year and for some reason I was thinking about again this year as we in the valley begin to welcome the thousands of visitors over the summer. It was something that I didn’t even really notice at the time but has been showing itself a little more lately.
I was on a tour bus heading to an event last summer. I won’t say who’s or where I was going or why because that doesn’t matter. Most of the people on the bus were from a big city somewhere else and not from the Okanagan. There was a little conversation going on but it was early in the trip and people were a little subdued. I was just looking out of the window watching the scenery that I rare get to see because I am usually driving myself and shouldn’t pay attention to the scenery while driving.
As we passed by a special high mountain lake, I heard someone say something like, “Wow, it’s such a shame what’s happened to that lake. It looks so polluted.”
Further on, we passed a construction site where a large building was going up. It was fully framed and filled it but there were not yet any windows, doors or signs to indicate what it was. It happened to be on land belonging to a local Native Indian Band. “Must be a bingo hall, it’s huge!” is the comment I heard from someone on the bus.
As it happens, the lake in question is endorheic, meaning that the only way that the water leaves this lake is through evaporation. Any of the minerals that were dissolved in the water are left behind and collect in the lake bed. I know of at least 2 other similar lakes in the south Okanagan and there may be more. Even though they are colorful and can reflect light in weird ways that may not look like a regular lake, it doesn’t mean that it’s polluted. That is an assumption.
The “bingo hall” in question is actually the new Band offices for a local tribe. It is not a bingo hall.
I hear and see wine articles written all of the time about the Okanagan from people who, for someone who actually lives here, are obviously not that familiar with the landscape here. Of course, it’s completely unfair to expect everyone to have the same level of knowledge about a region from short visits that may not be that frequent. The Okanagan is a weird looking place and it took me a few years to really figure this place out – how far away things actually are compared to how far away they look. But reading “facts” like this have me questioning all of the books that I have been reading, including the ones currently for my WSET diploma and have read in the past. Most of the authors live in America or England. Who knows how many times they’ve ever been to the wine regions that they’ve written about. One imagines that it is often enough to know the intricacies of the land but how many times is that exactly?
Are the maps that I see in those books as badly drawn as the ‘maps’ that appear in most of the new wine books about BC? A recent book on Naramata has the towns and vineyard areas scattered around almost randomly, nowhere near their actual locations. Keremeos is too far west and is shown as being where Hedley actually is. Osoyoos isn’t near the US border and Summerland’s vineyard area is south of town closer to Penticton. Except that in real life there’s a mountain there and strangely no vineyards. Even casual wine tourists can see this is not accurate. What else in that book is not accurate?
Perhaps I’m being unfair but in some ways I don’t think I am. There seems to be less and less importance put on getting facts straight these days. Since 2000, anyone with a computer and microphone can call themselves a musician without any training in actual music and now everyone with a keyboard can be a writer. This is why I’ve always been hesitant about blogging and preferred podcasting instead. To be honest, I don’t actually read other blogs regularly because I like reading to learn new things and I can never fully trust a blog to tell me anything accurate other than opinions. I hope that you, who are reading this, can properly question what I’ve written here. It’s the debate and the questioning of motives, routines, and structure that I’ve learned to appreciate about blogs and why I still write for this one, albeit occasionally. With every post I always try to make sure that if I put anything truly factual up about anything in wine country, I’ve checked those facts to the best of my ability. It’s not rocket science, it’s wine with a little bit of basic geography. Please do your homework people.