A Sampling of Okanagan Valley Wines — Just In Time For Summer.

Thanks to the generosity of one of our wine friends, we recently tasted a group of wines from Canada’s Okanagan Valley. Our friend Stephanie travels to the British Columbia wine region regularly to visit friends and of course taste the wine. She recently made such a trip and returned with wine, some of which she generously shared with a group of her wine friends. We were happy to be included in that group.

The Okanagan Valley wine region in British Columbia, Canada begins at the border with Washington state, near Osoyoos, and reaches over 150 miles in a northerly direction to the area around Kelowna. The valley is bound to the west by the Cascade Mountains and to the east by the Monashee Mountains.

A string of lakes run through the center of the valley, beginning with Okanagan Lake in the north, followed by Skaha Lake, Vaseux Lake and Osoyoos Lake in the south. Okanagan is the largest and deepest of these lakes, large enough to moderate temperatures during winter.

The valley lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade range and is therefore relatively dry. One area of the southern portion of the valley is extremely dry, receiving only 8 inches of rain per year, which allows a patch of Sonoran desert to reach into Canada near Osoyoos.

Temperatures are cooler in the northern portion of the Okanagan Valley where white grape varieties predominate. Red varieties thrive in the warmth of the southern portion of the valley. The most-planted varieties in the valley are Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. According to Wines of British Columbia, Colona Vineyards was the first winery to open in 1931 and there are now 131 licensed wineries in the Okanagan Valley.

Here’s what we tasted:

2013 Blasted Church Hatfield's Fuse2013 Blasted Church Hatfield’s Fuse almost colorless in the glass with pleasant melon and floral aromas. On the palate melon flavors are echoed along with minerality and a squeeze of citrus. Lots of flavor, nice acidity and very refreshing. 13%ABV.

This delightful white wine is a blend of nine varieties: 29% Pinot Gris, 24% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Pinot Blanc, 10% Chardonnay, 8% Viognier 5% Gewurztraminer, 5% Riesling, 5% Optima, 4% Ehrenfelser. Both Optima and Ehrenfelser are crosses produced in Germany, but that have found a home in the Okanagan Valley.

Winemaker’s notes: “Each parcel of fruit was vinted separately. Various strains of yeast were incorporated to achieve maximum flavour layering for each of the varieties in this blend. All wines were fermented cool to retain flavour intensity.”

In case you were wondering about the name of the winery, Blasted Church, here’s the story from the winery’s website.

On a cool spring morning in 1929, a small crew from Okanagan Falls set off to a deserted mining camp some 16 miles away from home. Their mission: to dismantle an old wooden church and bring it back to Okanagan Falls.
The plan called for a controlled blast of four dynamite sticks inside the church in order to “loosen the nails”. Odd as it may seem, the explosion spared the wood from damage during dismantling.
Save for losing the steeple, the plan succeeded. Now, the 120 year old wooden church stands proudly in its second home of Okanagan Falls.
In naming our VQA wines “Blasted Church”, we celebrate the ingenuity of this initiative, and honour these pioneers for their vision, steadfastness and craftsmanship.

What a great story!

Blasted Church is a member of the Okanagan Falls Winery Association, along with 12 other wineries in the area around Okanagan Falls, reaching up to Penticton and down to Vaseux Lake.

2012 Dirty Laundry Secret Affair2014 Dirty Laundry Secret Affairpale yellow in the glass with floral aromas. On the palate melon flavors combine with minerals and juicy acidity. The finish is very long with a bit of citrus pith at the end. 13.1% ABV.

Dirty Laundry Vineyards is located in Summerland, north of Penticton along the western shore of Okanagan Lake. The Dirty Laundry name and theme of the winery reaches back to the late 1800s when a local establishment took in laundry downstairs while serving drinks and providing other “entertainment” upstairs. Local Summerland residents referred to the establishment as Dirty Laundry — the dirty upstairs and the laundry downstairs.

Though the Dirty Laundry website is long on history, other than stating that Secret Affair is a white blend the varieties are not named. Wines from Dirty Laundry Vineyards have names like Bordello, Dangerous Liaisons and A Girl in Every Port. I think you get the idea.

2013 Lake Breeze Ehrenfelser2013 Lake Breeze Ehrenfelserlight yellow in the glass with dry stone aromas predominating. On the palate stony minerality combine with a bit of sweet melon and earth for unique flavor profile. It’s a very distinctive flavor that you will recognize again once you’ve tasted it. Interesting wine. 13% ABV.

Lake Breeze is located along the Naramata Bench on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, just north of Penticton. The Bench is comprised of sand bluffs that rise above the lake creating a shelf that gently rises to the mountains beyond.

The wine farm is named for the breezes that blow in from the lake. The 12-acre vineyard, originally called Rock Oven Vineyards, was planted in 1985. It is among the oldest on the Naramata Bench.

Lake Breeze call themselves a wine farm rather than a vineyard as a nod to winemaker Garron Elmes who comes from Cape Town, South Africa. In South Africa vineyards are referred to as wine farms.

2014 Hidden Chapel Blushing Bride2014 Hidden Chapel Blushing Bridetranslucent ruby in the glass with sweet berry aromas. On the palate sweet berry and cherry flavors combine with nice acidity to produce a fairly long finish. For those enjoying an off-dry finish in a rosé, you will find this wine very enjoyable. 13.2% ABV.

Hidden Chapel Winery is located in the southern portion of the Okanagan Valley near Oliver. The boutique winery has a 3-acre vineyard that was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in 2009. They purchase grapes from nearby vineyards for the rest of their production.

2014 Hester Creek Rosé Cab Franc2014 Hester Creek Rosé of Cabernet Francpale ruby in the glass with generous bright berry aromas. Blackberry flavors combine with a bit of earthiness and juicy acidity. This wine is complex and well balanced with just a hint of tannins. It would be lovely on a warm afternoon or with a light meal. 13.5%

Hester Creek Estate Winery is situated on a 95-acre vineyard named for the creek that runs along the south edge of the property. Located within the Golden Mile Bench, the only sub-geographical indication (sub-appellation) designated within British Columbia, the area is sunny and warm. The Golden Mile Bench is a prominent terrace escarpment located southwest of Oliver.

We visited the Okanagan Valley in June 2013 when we attended the Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Penticton, BC. The valley scenery is varied and dominated by the beautiful lakes, bluffs and rocky mountains surrounding them. Orchards and vineyards dot the shoreline of the lakes and the contrast is spectacular. There are plenty of hiking opportunities around the valley, not to mention lake activities. It is a wonderful vacation destination, with delicious wine thrown in. If you wish to read our posts about our visit just search our blog for “Okanagan”.

In addition to producing outstanding wine, many wineries have excellent restaurants which take advantage of the abundance of local produce.  The menus are fresh, creative and delicious.

This tasting of wines from the Okanagan Valley was a real treat for us and the flavors of these wines brought back fun memories of our trip. Thanks Stephanie for sharing your wine bounty with us.


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