Living in the Okanagan, we get our share of visitors. For the most part, they either want beach time or wine time (or both). We are happy to play tour guide since we are still exploring our new home region. In the last couple of days we had back to back visits that resulted in two incredibly different but exceptional wine touring experiences.
Our second day of wine touring could not have been more different from our Zufall led experience the day before. Our brother-in-law was in town – a few days before he had to give a talk at a conference. He works in the wine industry in Ontario, and this was an opportunity to experience the Okanagan and compare it to wine regions closer to home. However, there would be no dice rolling for him. As an insider, he’d had a very detailed (dare I say, VIP) schedule of visits drawn up. Our day was planned out to the minute – and each stop promised special attention and a private tour or tasting.
While plans like these usually give us hives, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to spend the day with one of our favourite people. Before our big outing, we got our first taste of special treatment at Mission Hill Winery, where Jessie gave us the extended tour and presented us with a highly educational tasting in a private room (not so private that we didn’t have a few people peeking in and wonder who we might be to have our tastings under the gargantuan chandelier). It was a very pleasant afternoon that boded well for the next day – uber-schedule and all.
We departed according to the dictated time on the schedule and pointed the car south on the 97. We were headed out of our home region and into “the benches” further south. The area has been divided into various different bands of land called ‘benches’ based on the micro-climates and unique soil composition found in each. On our tour we would discover the difference a few kilometres make in the grapes they produce.
Our first stop was the rustic and scenic See Ya Later Ranch. There is nothing quite like starting your day with a 10am bubbly and a sparkling view of the valley below. Sitting in the sunshine, we heard about the history of the quaint mountainside vineyard, even getting a tour of the doggie graveyard that inspired the k-9 theme seen throughout. We settled in to a private room for our tasting while our affable host, Nick walked us through the wines of the day. While he’d started us with one of his strongest wines (the brut is stunning) he finished us off with what would be the best of the day – an Ehrenfelser Ice Wine that was honeyed heaven on the tongue.
Our next stop was the always impressive Nk’Mip Cellars in Osoyoos (right next to the ever expanding Spirit Ridge Resort). Jon, our wine educator, walked us through the various varietals and surprised us with a buttery Chardonnay (he says it goes great with popcorn). The view on the patio was irresistible midday and luckily it was our scheduled lunch stop. There are few things in the world that make us wish we had scads of money and could live a privileged life…dining at The Patio at Nk’Mip is one of them. After a relaxing meal we all felt like we could have stayed there all afternoon…but the schedule demanded movement.
We pointed the car north again and made our way to Inniskillin Winery. After a long drive in the hot midday sun, we were happy that Audrey, our host for the tasting, ushered us out of the cozy tasting room to the shaded patio. She made some suggestions from their very large list, and we made a few requests – tasting from both their red and white sides of the menu. She advised us to sample the wines along with the cheeses, fruit and chocolate that she’d supplied and we discovered how much this can change the taste of the wine. A veteran of the wine industry in the Okanagan, we sipped on her knowledge as much as the wines.
Our final stop was the busiest. When we pulled into Jackson Triggs, and the tasting room was spilling out into the parking lot. We sat back and browsed the well stocked shelves and the numerous books and gadgets. When our presence was detected, we were ushered to the bar and handed a glass of sparkling chardonnay. With so many wines on the list, we barely scratched the surface but still managed to find a few bottles to call our own. And with that, it was time to call it a day.
We’d entered into the highly structured day with some trepidation that we’d be rushed from one winery to the next just trying to stay on schedule but the planner obviously knew what they were doing. The day was paced perfectly and we enjoyed it a great deal. We discovered that even though not a minute of the day was spontaneous, since we didn’t plan it and we didn’t have any control over it, the day still had plenty of surprises and so many rewards. Maybe it was the company, maybe it was the VIP treatment, but we freely admit that we’d happily succumb to another uber-scheduled wine tour given the chance.