DEVOUR & CONQUER

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Hiking to a wine tasting in Okanagan Falls

June 14, 2013

I had the palate-pleasing privilege to spend last weekend at the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference during its first visit to Canada in Penticton, BC. The weekend was so filled with great wine experiences that it's almost hard to know where to begin. But one of the most memorable tastings of the weekend actually took place high above the Okanagan landscape, and left an lasting impression on me that's too good not to share right away.

On the Friday afternoon of the conference, all 250 attendees boarded wine tour buses after having selected one of five mystery wine excursions based on a description that offered a few hints like mentions of farms, beaches, landscapes and bluffs to help us choose. I like a vertical challenge so I decided to pick the 'Hike to Wine' option. I was happy to discover that it would take place in the Okanagan Falls area of the valley and hiking bloggers would be rewarded for their efforts with a wine tasting and picnic high above the Okanagan valley.

Our hike began on the eastern side of Okanagan Falls heading up towards Peach Cliff. Our adventurous group of wine and food writers were joined for the 600 meter assent by wine makers and representatives from the 12 award-winning wineries that work the vines in this region. While OK Falls itself is a sweet, sleepy tourist town with a lovely beach, this wine-producing area is an impressive player on the BC wine stage, producing 11% of all domestic bottles in British Columbia.

The Okanagan Falls area has a unique climate and terroir, it is a 'semi-arid steppe' that indicates how close it is to Canada's only desert just to the south (also evidenced by the sagebrush and cacti we encountered along the way). It has a fascinating geological history, our hike to Peach Cliff was created by an ancient volcanic eruption and this location has seen repeated treks in the past to extract the silver and 'gold in them hills'.


When we reached a plateau near the summit of Peach Cliff, we were greeted by more representatives and winemakers from the Okanagan Falls Association who had set up a wind-swept wine tasting area to share a taste of the wines this region produces. Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars began moving through our somewhat breathless group to revive us with bubbly glasses of their Brut (as seen in the image at the top of this post - I could have spent an entire afternoon enjoying the view and a bottle of Blue Mountain Brut with a friend).

I then sampled a few of the crisp and fresh whites this area is know for, including Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Any Gewurztraminer from this area pairs perfectly with spicy Asian and Indian dishes, as I have discovered through years of dedicated research and See Ya Later Ranch's Gewurztraminer is a personal favourite because of the ideal growing location of their vines.

Then I moved on to the reds. I have a long love affair with the reds that are produced in the Okanagan Falls area and tasting a variety from this one region only solidified my high opinion. The long sunny days bring out bold fruity flavours in Pinot Noir and Merlot, while the cool nights retain the acidity the wines need to enhance those fruit flavours. It's hard to go wrong with any reds from this region, but I have a personal preference for both the Pinot Noir offerings from Stag's Hollow, and have found Painted Rock's 2009 Merlot so memorable my palate craves it for days after. I may actually be pining away for it since returning home from the conference.

Our sky-high wine tasting was paired with a picnic lunch provided by Penticton's The Bench Market catering, who not only treated us to a lovely selection of sandwiches, fruit and fresh veggies, but also had the most enticing dessert/cheese plate boxes I've ever seen on a picnic - filled with meringues, cheeses and crackers, red grapes, and tiny morsels of gooey chocolate cakes and other delicacies. I went to sleep that night wanting a second box.

I appreciated all the winemakers and winery representatives taking the time to share both the picturesque hike and the wines of the region with us. Hiking to a wine tasting was a unique and wonderful way to appreciate the terroir of the Okanagan Falls region while getting to know the people who put hard work in year after year at vineyards and wineries to bring that terroir to life in their wines.

To learn more about Okanagan Falls Wineries, visit the Okanagan Falls Wineries Association, or better yet, go visit the area, tour the wineries and taste the wines for yourself.

To learn more about the 12 wineries I have the privilege to sample during my hike, visit their Okanagan Falls Wineries Association profile below to learn more.

 

 

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Such a great experience - I was on the Wine & Geology and we ended up in the Similkameen Valley. Despite being a local living in the Okanagan it was my first visit to the area and absolutely loved it.

I'll have to find out where this awesome hiking trail is!

Murissa

This sounds like a wonderful experience. On my next trip to Canada I will be sure to visit some wineries.



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