The days are getting longer, but the winter frolicking continues, thanks to the Okanagan Wine Festivals. This January, the newly re-imagined Okanagan Winter Wine Festival comes to the southern area of the Valley.
The grand event, Sensation, takes place Friday, Jan. 27, at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. The festival’s new CEO, Kimberly Hundertmark, has elevated the event, shelving the massive tasting events of the past for a more sensory-inspired evening that features culinary pairings with both contrasting and complementing wines — and a chance to educate your palate. Tickets: $109.
For a whole wintery experience, spend your afternoon at the District Wine Village for the Taste Passport event on Saturday, Jan. 28, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Here, like tiny homes, the miniature wineries stand out against the tall cliffs of McIntyre Bluff near Oliver. The Village circle (even more stunning with its coat of white snow) marks the birthplace of a new generation of wineries, now boasting 13 wineries, the Workshop Spirits, and the Trading Post Brewery. While technically it is newbies in the District, one only needs to dive deeper to find the incredible pedigree driving these new labels.
Each Taste Passport ($60) provides guests with six vouchers to explore multiple tasting rooms and outdoor culinary stations.
Start your Passport adventure at Silhouette Cellars with a toast of sparkling — and winemaker Jacqueline Kemp is offering up more than one. With a nod to owners Mike and Jackie Boyd, the Boyd Classic Cuvee ($42.99) is a traditional method, Champagne-style sparkling wine aged 20 months on lees. The Chardonnay grapes are sourced from Silhouette Vineyards, a companion property to Therapy Vineyards on the Naramata Bench. The wine was honoured with platinum distinction at the 2021 British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards.
Those still in a celebratory mood and needing more bubbles can head over to Winemaker’s Cut for a traditional brut, Madame Butterfly ($32), a 50-50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The fine mousse erupts in the glass, its tender pink colour too tempting to refuse. If they’re not pouring it, find it on the shelf to enjoy one back home.
Staying with pink, Slovakian-born winemaker Michal Mosny has transformed Cabernet Franc grapes into a beautiful pale Provençal pink in his fruity and delicate 2021 Winemaker’s Cut Rose ($26.)
Choosing a red will be difficult as each offering in the Bohemian Wines tier is outstanding, incredibly balanced, and tastes far more mature than their age implies. The 2021 Winemaker’s Cut Bohemian Syrah is a blend of 92 percent Syrah with eight percent Viognier aged in three different oaks: French, Slovakian and American for ten months. This wine is all grown up but still has all the play of youth. Here is that big red wine you’ve been looking for but with incredible fruit.
The home vineyards for Bohemian Wines are three different vineyards in the Oliver/Osoyoos area that are growing grapes exclusively for this label.
Our journey must continue. To refreshen and wake up that palate, try the popular 2021 Gneiss Sauvignon Blanc ($27.99). The Naramata-sourced grapes were aged in stainless steel with 10 percent in barrels to soften the acidity. Here’s a crisp New Zealand-style white with citrusy grapefruit and lime.
Naramata keeps making headlines with its Pinot Noir grapes, and the 2021 Gneiss Pinot Noir ($45.00) sourced from the Naramata Bench is definitely topping my list. If I didn’t love this reserve vintage enough already, I then hear it is partially foot-pressed before 18 months of barrel aging in French oak. The result is a beautifully complex wine, with all the earthiness and dark berry notes to warm you up.
Husband and wife team Michael Daley and Josie Tyabji, the drive behind Gneiss Wines (the name pays homage to the rock of McIntyre Bluff), were one of the first onboard for the Village concept, teaming up with other industry veterans Craig Welsman and the District’s builder, Matt Kenyon of Greyback Construction.
Across the circle from Gneiss Wines is Canter Cellars, also crafting stellar premium wine in the style of the Burgundy wine region of France. The 2021 Canter Chardonnay ($39.99) has the perfect touch of oak to give this full-bodied white incredible mouthfeel, citrus notes and depth.
For a further dive into some fruity notes, the lively 2021 Canter Field Blend ($26.99) presents an aromatic experience. Green apples and apricot transform into more tropical flavours as you sip. The blend of Auxerrois Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Riesling is light, balanced and structured — a wine as ready for the dinner table as it is for the hot tub.
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