Two years ago I traveled to the Okanagan Valley to experience the wines as I considered importing them to California. There are some great wines to be found, though I’m not importing any Canadian wine because of small quantities, duties and taxes that were too much as a new wine importer.
If from June 6-8, you’ll be attending the Wine Bloggers Conference here are my four tips to visiting wineries in Okanagan Valley:
1. Beautiful Okanagan Valley: Better whites in north, better reds in south
The Wine Bloggers Conference is set in Penticton, the southern city of Okanagan Valley. This area has some of the best wines in the entire valley (and British Columbia) with higher quality red wines. If you have the time and want a gorgeous two hour drive go north towards Kelowna. Along the way you can stop at wineries that have better white wines, lighter in style with less oak than we see in the United States. Also, if you visit any liquor stores, you’ll find lighter style wines from the Southern Hemisphere imported to Canada that you might not find in the United States.
2. Get ready for more than red and white wine
The Okanagan Valley has excellent red and white wines, but there’s more. By now you are preparing for Canadian ice wine. Also, their sparkling wines are receiving some of the highest accolades in international competitions. I was very surprised to find sparkling mead called Joy by Meadow Vista Honey Wines or the fermented and infused wines with sage and the “Flame” with a hot pepper at Silver Sage Winery. These wines are not gimmicks they are quite interesting and definitely worth trying.
3. Three small to medium size wineries to visit
As part of the conference you will have a tasting of the Great Estates of the Okanagan, (aka the larger wineries owned by the same company). If you are looking for small- to medium-size wineries to visit or try, check out these three.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery – perhaps the best winery in Canada as both red and white wines are incredible
Road 13 – great winery doing some unique blending lots of wines I’ve never tried blended before or since
Desert Hills Estate Winery – the smallest winery on the list with outstanding red wines
4. If you try something you like grab it
Beyond the ice wine of Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin it’s not common to see Canadian wine in the US. If you try a wine and really like it buy it then as it may be difficult to find elsewhere even in Canada.