There have been a few new additions to the winery scene in the south Okanagan and Similkameen valleys recently. As I have been deep into research for my book and WSET diploma, the “blogger” part of my brain that usually jumps out in front whenever I see a new winery sign on the road has been preoccupied for the better part of a year. Rest assured, I am getting back into the swing of it although not with the same pace that I used to. I’m sure this will pick up again as soon the book reaches production.
So here are a few of the wineries that I’ve been able to visit over the past couple of weeks. Two of them are in Osoyoos and one in the south Similkameen Valley. Osoyoos has generally been slow to develop wineries. Just ten years ago there was only one – Nk’Mip Cellars – before Young & Wyse, La Stella, and Adega on 45th opened their doors. 2016 may be the first year ever when vacationers staying in Osoyoos don’t have to venture very far from their hotel to spend a day or two tasting the local wines.
Blue Sky Estate Winery
Blue Sky Estate Winery is the newest winery in Osoyoos and, for visitors to the area, this might be off the beaten path just slightly. Locals know it because it is just down the road from the BC Tree Fruits packing house (where we locals often buy our apples, peaches, and nectarines) and motorcyclists know it because it’s an awesome, winding road to get into town without a lot of cars. It is absolutely worth the drive and is quiet and out of the way. They have a beautiful patio to stop and enjoy the view so there really is no rush when visiting.
It’s a beautiful location and they have a welcoming and spacious tasting room with a large tasting bar. The labels stand out brilliantly without being gaudy. The wine portfolio is concise and strong across the board. It is based on the grapes that are most suitable for the Osoyoos area – Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc – so there may not be everything for everybody. The Rosé is wonderful and has been a big seller since they opened in July but the whole collection is quite strong.
Overall, it was a fun and welcoming experience that is well worth seeking out.
Liber Farm & Winery
This winery joins The Vine Glass and Forbidden Fruit on Sumac Road south of Cawston, which makes it one of the three southern-most wineries in the Similkameen Valley. The addition of Liber to that stretch of road now means that there is a stunningly beautiful, serene destination for a quick afternoon of wine touring that is only 15 minutes away from Osoyoos. The wineries at either end (Liber and Forbidden Fruit) both have beautiful picnic areas for a little extra lounge time.
New to the BC wine industry, Mike and Nicole took over a recently developed winery that had not yet opened. They hired Pascal Madevon as their winemaking consultant who will be guiding them through their first vintage this fall. The current lineup of wines – a red blend, a Cabernet Franc, and a Chardonnay – is short but worth it. The Chardonnay stands out at this point in time but the reds might still need a little more time. All come from the excellent 2015 vintage.
Two of the wines were given scripted names that show that they clearly aren’t taking themselves too seriously, which is refreshing these days. The “Let’s Be Franc” Cabernet Franc is bold and assertively fruity while the “Everyday Chardonnay” is a great example of a big and rich wine that is not bombastically oaked – no vanilla or creme brulée here in this wine – but it has a beautifully full texture and fruit flavours. Perhaps the name belittles the wine’s image somewhat because I believe it is clearly more than just a run-of-the-mill version of this grape variety.
Bordertown Vineyards and Estate Winery
This is a winery that should have already appeared on Wine Country BC by now. Over the past few years, I’ve seen them build their winery and wine shop and knew that they were coming. (I think I even tweeted a photo of the wine shop under construction at one point…)
If there was anyone in the industry who have lucked out with the old business adage “Location, location, location…”, it is Bordertown. They are right on Highway 97 leading north out of Osoyoos and are super easy to access. In fact, it would be almost impossible to miss this place.
And really, you shouldn’t miss it. Stopping in is a rewarding wine tasting experience. There is the past, present, and future of the BC wine industry embodied in their sizeable portfolio of wines, especially in the whites which make up the majority of their wines. It’s odd that a winery in Osoyoos would be stacked so heavily on the side of the whites and not reds but the reality is that in the hot summer, a cool bottle of tangy Pinot Blanc or Gruner-Veltliner is just what the doctor ordered.
There is a lot of choice when it comes to whites, which makes for a very enjoyable tasting. There is a Muscat, Riesling, two Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer in addition to the aforementioned Pinot Blanc and Gruner. For reds, being Osoyoos, they are based on the biggies – Cabernet Franc and Syrah are the two single varieties and The Living Desert Red takes on a Cheval-Blanc-like blend of Cab Franc and Merlot. Before you write off the blends as the simple, base-line wines, be aware that The Living Desert Red is one of the few wines that have won a Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wine as is the deepest and most complex red wine that I tasted in their portfolio.
So, please check out these new wineries during stops between your favourites on your next visit to BC’s wine country. It’s always an adventure to taste a new winery’s wines and often, you will be rewarded with the experience.
Cheers from wine country!