48 Hours in the Okanagan

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Steve Latchford says casually, almost without thinking, that all of Europe is contained within this short, 150-km stretch from Kelowna to Osoyoos (pronounced O-soo-yuss). He means, of course, that every grape varietal found across the pond can also be found growing here. He’s wearing an untucked plaid shirt and a baseball cap as he stands behind the counter at Therapy Vineyards & Guesthouse, where he is the primary winemaker. Then he hands us a beat-up business card and we smile. We smile because what he’s just told us is true. We smile because he’s so perfectly laid back about it. It’s not braggadocio, it’s B.C. charm at its finest, and we smile because it’s only the second day of our five-day wine tour of B.C. and we’re already beginning to recognize just how lucky we are to have this stretch of land sitting in our own backyard. If you haven’t been to interior B.C., you almost can’t believe its beauty. Snow-capped mountains shoulder every landscape. Cobalt blue lakes cut through long, unfolding valleys, feeding the land and leaving it fresh at every turn. This is what a postcard looks like when it comes to life. Only this postcard happens to be signed with world-class wine.

You meet people everywhere you go, but you don’t always meet characters. In 48 hours we meet so many of the latter we can’t keep track – and wine people are wonderful people. They’re passionate, knowledgeable, and full of fun (likely from, you know, all the wine).

Within seconds of being introduced to Judi Skinner, the Sales & Marketing Manager/Viticulturist at Dirty Laundry Vineyards, she’s holding a pink corset up around our waist and encouraging us to take close-up photos of their bottle of Secret Affair because it has the silhouettes of a small naked couple on it. She can do this – she can be so fun and relaxed – because their wine is so effortlessly good.

At St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Family Estate Winery, co-owner Leo Gebert literally walks in from working on the vines to step behind the tasting table and pour us some delicious Pinot Noir while he tells us about the 2003 fire that severely damaged the estate. The amount of time it took them to get back up and running? 30 days, he says proudly.

While sipping on some of Red Rooster winemaker Karen Gillis’s superbly flavourful Gewürztraminer, she pokes fun at our cardigan, telling us to leave our sweaters at home the next time we come west. “You look like you’re from a city,” she says laughingly. We consider pointing out that we are, in fact, from a city, but take another tasty sip instead. We don’t want to get cut off anytime soon.

At Mission Hill’s unbelievably impressive Family Estate (complete with outdoor amphitheatre), Ingo Grady, Director of Wine Education, gives us a guided tour that leaves our jaws dropped nearly the entire time.

Which is actually a good thing, because there are five different wines we’re meant to try, each of which pushes us further into our belief that B.C. wine can stand alongside any in the world.  

You know what makes good wine? Strong character. So it’s little wonder that the Okanagan Valley is doing it so well. These are just a few examples of the warm, funny and accessible people you’ll find making wine whenever you visit. Of course, spectacular places to eat like Bognar’s of Penticton and Quail’s Gate Old Vines Restaurant and Wine Bar, perfect, nearly flawless road-trip views, and boutique hotels like The Eldorado don’t make the trip any harder to love. Like we said earlier, if you haven’t been, you almost won’t believe the beauty that’s waiting for you. 

Click here to see the full photo gallery.

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