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The Wine Route: acting like an Okanagan oenophile

© By Alex Eberspaecher
A visit to the VQA winestore and visitor centre in Penticton is helpful and enjoyable

As distinctive as the soil and its people, wine reflects both where it's made and who makes it. Okanagan wine country contrasts vividly from that of Niagara. Part of the southern Okanagan is a mountainous desert region, hot and dry in summer, while Ontario is more temperate and level. Yet both produce excellent wines that are competitive in the world market.
     Along Lake Okanagan, sandwiched between the majestic mountains of British Colombia, we pick up the Okanagan wine route that takes us through one of the most unusual wine regions of the world, a delight for any would-be wine connoisseur.
     Just south of Kelowna, on Highway 97 along Lake Okanagan, Mission Hill Winery welcomes the visitor to wine heaven. Standing tall, Apple blossoms in Naramata overlooking Kelowna to the north and the lake to the south, Mission Hill is built amongst immaculate grounds and vineyards like an old Spanish mission. Known for its fine white and red wines, it's one of Canada's most identifiable wineries. As we drive south on Hwy 97, winery after winery compete, and like Napa or Sonoma in California, offer restaurants and tasting rooms.
     Cooler regions are more fitting for the production of white wines and farther south, the hotter it gets, it becomes more suitable for red. Most white wine grapes are planted away from the shores of Lake Okanagan, a few hundred meters up the mountainside. Here, on the higher elevations, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc and other grapes produce world class wines that are flowery and fruity yet delicate. The foothills are appropriate for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir while the flatter areas often reaching right to the lakes, are used to grow some of the finest Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz that British Columbia has to offer.
     Highway 97 south, the wine route, snakes along Lake Okanagan, past such well known wineries as Quail's Gate and Sumac Ridge, past the town of Peachland, perfect for lunch, and on to Summerland and Penticton. Here, we suggest that you cross to the east and head back up a few A unique display of 2007 Qwam Qwnt Merlow - Osoyoos kilometers to Naramata and its countless boutique wineries. There are plenty of B&B's along this short stretch of dead-end road, and it would be a good idea to spend some time there before advancing along the wine route further south through the town of Oliver, past Tinhorn Creek, Jackson Triggs, Inniskillin, Stag's Hollow, Wild Goose and See Ya Later Ranch wineries amongst a host of others.
     The Okanagan wine route ends at the town of Osoyoos, 235 km from where we began in Kelowna. Osoyoos is the last Canadian town before the US border, and while it is the home of Canada's only desert, surrounded by sagebrush and cacti, the soil produces incredibly complex wines.
     Nk'Mip, a winery owned and operated by First Nations People, is most certainly a high point of a trip to the wine country. A golf course and resort and a native interpretive centre adjacent to the winery add flavour to your visit. The Okanagan will convince you that Canadian wines are as good as the best from anywhere in the world.

Alex Eberspaecher is an award-winning author and journalist with a number of Canadian and international lifestyle magazines and trade publications, and a contributor to the Toronto Star. His main focus is travel, wine and food and nature. He is a member of SATW, NATJA, TMAC and WWCC. Contact Alex at www.winecop.com Judy Eberspaecher enjoys travel, wine and nature photography. She has been published in Centre of the City, West of the City and Good Life amongst other credits. Contact her at Judy@eberimage.ca Click for Kelowna, British Columbia Forecast

Photo Credits
Judy Eberspaecher

If you go
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West Jet flies from Toronto to Kelowna. HWY 97 runs south from Kelowna for about 235 km and ends at the US border in Osoyoos. Availability within Canada itself is a problem thanks to trade barriers and regulations. Ironically, it seems easier to import wine from Australia than from BC as there are 100 Australian wines at the LCBO but only about 20 from BC.

Okanagan wine festivals: www.thewinefestivals.com
Thomson Okanagan: http://www.hellobc.com/en-CA/RegionsCities/ThompsonOkanagan.htm
Wines of BC: www.winebc.com
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okanagan
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Okanagan
Churches & Synagogues: http://www.kelownabc.com/churches/index.php ; http://www.ojcc.ca/
Fiction: http://anthropology.si.edu/outreach/Indbibl/bibplat.html

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/



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