When you think of wine producing regions of the world, I’ll bet Canada wouldn’t be the first that springs to mind. Can you imagine my jubilation then to find out that Penticton, about 4 hours away from Vancouver, is some prime wine real estate? And that Penticton was stop number 2 on our tour of the Canadian Rockies in September? The Newmans were going wine tasting in British Columbia. It’s almost like we planned it that way…
The Okanagan Valley is Canada’s second largest wine producing region and home to over 200 vineyards so short of taking 2 years out and producing a Wine & Beer Metro style guide to the area, we were never going to even scratch the surface of what was on offer. So, we filtered our choices down to the ones that were geographically closest to our hotel and got some decent reviews online.
We narrowed it down to the top four, however one turned out to be closed the day we visited and, like trying to get anywhere in North America, we had the car, so Dave’s wine adventure would be limited to say the least. With Dave on the bench it required me to dig deep. We were in our first tasting room by 10.30am. This was shaping up to be the best day of the whole holiday
Elephant Island Orchard
Founded in 1999 by Miranda and Del Halladay, Elephant Island Orchard was the perfect starting spot with it’s brightly colour circus themed tasting room and extremely friendly, knowledgeable and welcoming staff.
We started off with a tasting tour which was $5 (redeemable off any purchases) and included 5 different wines. The selling point of this particular winery is undoubtedly the fact that they produce a lot of fruity wine, but not fruity in the sugary, syrupy sense. Most fruit wines I’ve tried in the past have been quite low abv so that the sweet flavour of the fruit comes through. This usually means you’re essentially drinking slightly stronger squash and is something I’ve never really been a fan of. At Elephant Island though the abv goes untouched so you’re getting the same bang for your buck booze wise, as well as the nice fruity flavour. The black current in particular was delicious, tasted exactly like boozy Ribena!
We loved the ‘The Other Way’ Chardonnay so much we bought a bottle, with the intention of bringing it home. But I’m not ashamed to say it didn’t last that long and we drank it the hotel a few nights later.
It was a shame we were there slightly out of season and that the weather had gone a bit grey and rainy (perfect wine drinking weather in my opinion) because there’s lots of pretty outside space in the vineyard we could have sat but, as tasting was what we wanted, and wine tasting was what we got.
Only 5 minutes down the road (honestly there are wineries within seconds of each other for miles, so if you had a designated driver to get you back to your hotel you could probably walk between them) is the Mocojo winery and we picked this one because it was set more up a hill and had some lovely views of the lake.
The tasting room was set up pretty similarly, although there was no charge for these tastings, which was nice. We figured if one placed charged then they all would. I loved hearing about the family history of this particular vineyard, the kids of which still work there when they’re not at university. Which begs the question, why couldn’t my parents own a vineyard? Because you’d be an alcoholic in the space for 5 days Newman, that’s why!
Anyway, again, it was a really friendly knowledgeable lady who helped us sample our wines. These were a lot more traditional and offered 2 whites, 2 rose (one of which was sparking) and a red. I was keen to find out how the grapes were successfully grown in that region, as the climate seemed more akin to here in the UK – and if anyone has tasted British wine before you’ll know what an insult to your taste buds it is.
The rose’s were my favourites, which is unusual for me as I’m not normally a rose fan, but they weren’t the sweet and sickly Californian ones we’re so used to in the UK, they were really dry and fruity. We again, ended up walking away with a bottle, which again, didn’t make it home with us! The bottle price to buy on the day though was only about $20 (about £12) so the equivalent of a nice supermarket bottle really.
This last stop on the tour was a given because it was walking distance from our hotel which meant we could ditch the car and get smashed enjoy a civilised wine flight each rather than sharing one.
Taking their name form the Perseus constellation which you can see on a clear night above their estate during harvest (you know how obsessed I am with the moon and stars) they probably had the widest range of wines on offer to try.
Like the first tour, a tasting flight was $5 which was redeemable off any purchases and started from the lightest most dry white to the heaviest most bold red. This one was slightly different though in that there were 7 wines available, of which you could choose 5 to sample. We went for 2 whites and 3 reds, as the reds seem to be the grape they pride themselves on the most.
The absolute stand out for me though was the 2015 Eclipse (a Malbec) which was quite possibly the smoothest tastiest red wine I’ve ever drank. Donna, who talked us through the wines is an absolute asset to the business, what she doesn’t know about wine isn’t worth knowing as she talks you passionately through what you’re drinking and what you should be tasting.
Thankfully the weather gods were on our side that afternoon as the sun eventually came out, so we treated ourselves to an extra couple of glasses over looking the beautiful Okanagan Lake.
So for someone who was pretty unaware of Canada’s wine heritage before, I’m certainly more aware now. I’ve even been scouting around Amazon to try and see if any of the wine we tried (to little or no avail) can be bought over here, for nostalgia purposes if nothing else. Some things never quite taste the same once you take the time and place out of the context. But if you’re ever in the region, have a designated driver and a day to kill, there’s worse ways to spend it than drinking wine all day, right?