I devoted today to a winery tour of the eastern shoreline of Okanagan Lake immediately around Kelowna, with a side trip to a local distillery. I bought from every estate I visited, so I had to cut my trip short. Next time I visit I’ll make more room in my suitcase… as it is, I’m returning to Calgary with a case-and-a-half of wine and liquor.
Kelowna is terrific grape-growing country of fertile soils over a base of warm rock, with most of the estates in close proximity to each other. With views of the expanse of the lake, rows of grapes, and the hills beyond, all of the estates were beautiful locations for weddings, and two of them were hosting such on the day I visited; all of them also have well-regarded on-site restaurants. Some of the red grapes used are not exactly local, but sourced from closer to the national border a little further south, where they can gain more sun. I thought I would share a few tasting notes and impressions:
CedarCreek Platinum Chardonnay 2009
Grey Monk Chardonnay 2009
I was really surprised by the local chardonnays: they're much more mellow than I expected, lacking any crisp “bite” at the end. From the tastings I slightly preferred the Cedar Creek over the Grey Monk, but that may just be because it was the first to convince me. Perfect summer drinking whites.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Foch 2008
Both full-bodied reds, the Foch even more rounded and robust. I think the Fochs may be my new favorite BBQ wine. While lovely, the Summerhill Estate is also a major vortex for woo: absolutely everything is “organic” or “biodynamic”, and the “Pyramid” in the estate name is because the proprietor built a gigantic white pyramid which is visible from the road. But if you can ignore the magical thinking, the wine itself is very good.
My last stop was not a winery at all, but a very small, hand-crafted boutique distillery, Urban Distillers. After only 18 months in production, the owner has recently branched out from vodka and gin to rums and whiskey. The rum line is so new that he lacked any labels for the bottles, so it came in just clear glass, which I rather liked. The small batches – significantly less than 100 bottles a day – and pure water and grains, all locally sourced, makes for extremely smooth liquor: the single-malt whiskey line (which had unfortunately sold out a few days before I got there, although I did get a taste) was more akin to a pure scotch.