*takes out duster*
Is this thing on?
Sorry to have been quiet for so long. It’s been a busy couple of years.
- Finished my WSET 2 class (and passed, with flying colours)
- Finished my Public Relations Extension Certificate from Mount Royal University
- Withstood the crumbling of the Albertan economy, even while being employed by an oil and gas co
- Got engaged!
- Planning a wedding
- Sold my house
- Bought a house
- Ran my first two half marathons
- Countless visits to Okanagan wine country
It’s always there for you. And the Okanagan is probably my favourite quick trip nowadays, even though we end up buying more than we intend to.
We’ve visited, probably, upwards of 50, 60 wineries? But there are a few that have really stuck in my mind. I thought I’d share them.
(You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly that we seem to favour the southern end of the Okanagan for wine)
Moon Curser – Osoyoos, B.C.
This is, hands down, our favourite vineyard – so much so that we inquired whether they do weddings when we started looking for a venue (they don’t).
The view is beautiful, the facility crisp, and the wines varied and impeccable. We’ve never had a bad experience tasting here – except the time we visited in the off season and missed their opening weekend by a week. But they’re open year-round now, so that’s never a problem!
Moon Curser grows varietals that you don’t see anywhere else in the Okanagan, like Tannat. And they were at the forefront of some of the varietals that are gaining popularity in the area, like Carmenere. They specialise in big, bold reds – the Contraband Syrah is an old favourite – but their whites, Afraid of the Dark and Arneis, are unique and sure to please even red wine drinkers.
And their wine club is affordable for even us middle class joes. You can score some of their more popular wines in stores in Alberta, but not everything – and it’s really worth trying everything.
There’s a reason why these guys win countless awards every year – don’t pass them by as you travel down the highway.
Culmina Family Estate Winery – Oliver, B.C.
To be fair, we’ve only been to Culmina once – we’d like to go again, and probably will this year – but even just that first visit left such an impression on us that it makes our list of favourites.
Culmina is situated at the top of a hill, near Road 13 (more about them later). The setting is immaculate – buildings gorgeous, views cannot be beat. Their tastings are a little different, in that they take place at scheduled times. You are welcome to drop in but might have to wait for the next seating. There are a number of different tasting options, including a vineyard tour – but if you’re looking for a place to quickly pop in and out, this likely won’t be the spot!
When we visited, we had the honour of meeting Don Triggs briefly – it was off season so only the two of us were in the tasting session and it took place in their private tasting room. We heard the story about how the site was chosen, the soil testing that took place to determine what varietals would grow best and the winemaking philosophy at Culmina.
While their wine portfolio is smaller than other vineyards, everything we tasted was delicious and the hardest part was narrowing it down to just a couple we could bring home (how many cases can one bring home from a long weekend trip? 6, apparently).
If you have the time, and want a different tasting experience, I highly recommend Culmina as a stop.
Road 13 – Oliver, B.C.
I alluded to Road 13 a bit back. I fell in love with Road 13’s Pinot Noir back in 2009 at a Gold Medal Plates competition, and it still ranks as one of my go-to vineyards. While our first visit to the tasting room was a bit disappointing (it was my first experience with a limited selection menu instead of being able to taste all wines in the portfolio, plus they were out of the Pinot Noir!) we’ve been back almost every year, faithfully.
Road 13 continues to surprise and delight with their wines – both standard and innovative. This summer, their Marsanne and Rousanne were excellent; we came home with a bottle of the latter. In fact, my mom, who is a die-hard red wine drinker, even liked the Rousanne enough that she purchased a bottle as well. Hear that, red wine drinkers? There are full-bodied white wines – you just have to find them! And they don’t have to be oaked. Also, white wine aficionados? Try an Okanagan or Oregon pinot noir – they’re light and fruity. Yum!
Road 13 also has the Lounge, which requires a bit more of a tasting fee, but is more comfortable, quieter and has an expanded wine tasting menu – plus you can order food. If you have the time and are looking for something to nibble on, it’s worth it.
Black Hills Estate Winery – Oliver, B.C.
The last winery I’ll feature is Black Hills. These folks are on the Black Sage Bench, which has a number of amazing vineyards, as you might expect. I can’t recommend their Syrah or Viognier enough – both wines just burst with flavor when you sip them. But, again, I can’t recall there being a single wine in their portfolio that is short of delicious.
They have a beautiful patio, with a fountain/pool, so if you’re visiting during good weather, I’d recommend the Portfolio tasting. Again, it takes longer, so you can’t be in a rush, and it’s a little pricier, but we split one tasting between the two of us, so we each get to try all six wines (expert tip!).
This is not an exhaustive list – there are so, so many wineries that I haven’t covered. And I’ll likely expand on this in the future.
As you can see, there’s a theme here – if you want better tasting experiences, don’t be in a hurry to hit up ten wineries in a day (no judgment – we’ve done it). Pick your top five or six, make it a leisurely trip and don’t forget a) water and b) to stop for lunch. Actually, this might be better expanded in to a blog post in the (near) future, too…
What are your favourite wineries? Any region! And why?
*I wasn’t compensated to write any of this – I just love these wineries that much!