Visiting the Okanagan and why it’s the most beautiful (so far)

It was the last week in May this year and it was in the low 30°C (86°F) at 10 am already. We were in the southern Okanagan visiting wineries in the Osoyoos area.

Moon Curser winery

Hey, it’s yours truly outside Moon Curser winery in Osoyoos, located in the southern Okanagan.

Typically, wine regions please the eyes, no? I haven’t been to many wine regions, but of the those I have visited, I’d have to say that the Okanagan is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful region I’ve been to. Where have I been? Admittedly, not much: Niagara, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Kelowna (Okanagan), Osoyoos (Okanagan), Walla Walla, Willamette, Napa, and Sonoma.

The Okanagan

The Okanagan is a semi-desert between two mountain ranges. It’s super hot in the summer, often going above 30°C and super cold in the winter, dropping below 0°C for a long time; sometimes very cold long enough to produce ice wine.

You’ll find a lot of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurtztraminer here. Specifically where we were, there’s a lot of Pinot Noir and Cabernet blends produced. Although there are some fantastic tasting wines produced here, I’d have to say that in general, it’s meh…

Why the Okanagan is the most beautiful wine region I’ve visited

The rolling hills plus the lake that dissects the area is breathtaking: morning, noon and night.

If you’ve never been to the Okanagan, Osoyoos in particular, here are the sort of views you can expect when you get there.

Nk'Mip

The view from Nk’Mip. Pronounced in-ka-meep.

Nk'Mip winery view

Another view of the Okanagan Lake from Nk’Mip. This winery is Canada’s first Aboriginal owned and operated winery.

Adega on 45th

Adega started off as a fruit orchard. In 2009, the land became vineyards.

LaStella winery

LaStella’s tasting room had a very Italian feel to it. The tasting experience and wines were fabulous.

Moon Curser winery

The view from Moon Curser.

You can’t disagree: these are gorgeous views. As I alluded to earlier, I’ve got so many more regions to discover. Where to next? Tell me where you’ve been and why I should make that my next destination to discover.

A story of a wine store disappointment

In the province of British Columbia, there are government operated liquor stores and private ones. I went to a private wine store last week to pick up a bottle of VQA wine for a private tasting session. That was our theme: VQA wines. I wanted to spend at most 5 minutes in the store. I thought it was going to be easy peezy: Head to the BC or Ontario section, grab a bottle that says VQA. Batta bing batta boom.

Not quite. I couldn’t find the Canadian section!

vqa wines

Some of the VQA wines we tasted.

The store was organized by varietal, the store employee advised me after I asked him where the above-noted sections were. In response I asked, so you guys carry old world wines too? He said yes. I pointed out, old world wines don’t normally show the varietal, and what about new world blends? How do you find what you’re looking for then? He said that’s what he’s there for.

Well, hooray for creating unnecessary work for your employees, Store Owner!  I wonder if this person thought this whole organizing of wines thing through.

The employee (who knows, maybe he owned it) walked me around the store, not certain where a VQA wine would be. I explained to him that the theme of this wine tasting I’m going to is VQA so I needed to get a VQA wine. He adamantly said that VQA doesn’t mean anything; it just means they’re large enough to be VQA – whatever that means! I didn’t respond to that. He should know that VQA (Vitners Quality Assurance) is a regulatory system to ensure quality, similar to how they have it set up in France, Italy, Spain, and Germany.

According to the Wines of British Columbia site, “These wines are also tasted by a qualified panel for quality characteristics prior to being able to use the BC VQA designation.”

On the VQA Ontario site you’ll find the following, “Through origin verification, extensive laboratory testing and tasting by an independent expert panel, as well as comprehensive label reviews, VQA Ontario ensures precise adherence to rigorous winemaking standards and label integrity that consumers can trust.”

Annoyed, I said, you know it doesn’t have to be BC wine; it can be from Ontario. Oh, but only BC makes VQA wine, he said. Now completely annoyed, I decided to correct him. Actually, Mr. Wine Store Employee, VQA is found in Ontario too. Do you want me to google it and show you? I didn’t call him Mr. Wine Store Employee but I did say the rest. He was surprised, he didn’t know, he admitted.

I’m not saying that non-VQA wines suck and I’m not saying that all VQA wines are great either. I’m saying you can expect a certain quality level at best with VQA wines and it’s not about operation size.

He also admitted he didn’t know how he’d identify a VQA bottle. It’s always says on the label, I schooled him. My intention wasn’t to make him feel stupid. I’m a very nice person. But he was so adamant with what he was saying. No wonder people are confused when it comes to wine. They’re getting the wrong info if these are the sort of people they’re getting advice from. I would’ve rather him admitted in the first place he didn’t know, but he’ll help me look for one. I’ve been in stores where employees have said that to me and I was perfectly fine. I’m not a wine snob. It’s frustrating when someone is blatantly wrong though and their advice is taken without question because of the authority they derive from their employment at a wine store.

Oh and he was recommending a non-VQA wine from the Okanagan explaining it’s like a Bordeaux style. So I said, oh like a Meritage (pronouncing it like heritage). Yes, he says and two sentences later he says Meritage with a French twist like ‘mari-taj’. SMH.

So the moral of this story, friends? Just read this blog or leave me a comment when you have a question about wine.