Wine Tasting In The Okanagan

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(Gewürtztraminer at Desert Hills)

When people think of wine, they don’t tend to think of Canada. The country isn’t really famous for making wine. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t great wine-growing regions there though. I grew up on the west coast, and lately there has been a trend of starting wineries on southern Vancouver Island. The temperate climate is good for white grapes, but red grapes have to be imported. On my trip to Canada I had the chance to go through the Okanagan, a region of BC that has hot, dry summers and is littered with orchards. In the past 15-20 years or so, wineries have sprung up everywhere as well. I haven’t been there since I was a child, and many of the wineries do not sell through BC Liquor stores, so this was the first time I had a chance to try a lot of the wines available in the region. Overall, I was very impressed. The climate is ideal for both red and white grapes, and the wineries are run by people who are passionate about wine. I found the wine to be more “modern” than the offerings in Europe.

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(Burrowing Owl)

We took the OK Wine Shuttle, a hop-on, hop-off service that picks you up at various, set points and drops you off at the wineries you want to visit. It was a good option, as we didn’t have a designated driver (there was just me and my mom), and while there are many organized tours in the area, they tend to run steep at about $75-$90 a person (not including tasting fees). We did the route between Osoyoos and Oliver, and visited five wineries: Burrowing Owl, Desert Hills, Oliver Twist, Road 13, and Rustico. Though there are many more wineries in the area, it was about all we could do in one day. Based on the selection we visited, most charge a nominal tasting fee, though this is usually either a mandatory donation to a charity, or is waved with a wine purchase. Both suit me fine!

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(Vines at Road 13)

My favourites of the day were Oliver Twist and Rustico. At both wineries, the vintners conducted the tastings. They were both very passionate about wine (as many people owning or working on wineries tend to be), and very good sales people as well. They had a lot of confidence in their wines. Rustico in particular is very charming. It has saloon-style decor and a very eclectic feel.

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All in all, it was an enjoyable day! I’d recommend a tasting in the region to anyone visiting the area.

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(Sign outside the door at Rustico)

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