Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Few Stops on the Way Home

The 2011 BCWAS Bus Tour is officially over. All the bottles have been packed into various nooks and crannies of vehicles heading off in all directions and I've bid "adieu" to the Wine Grrrlz. Unfortunately, Boo was right in his fear that I'd end up finding a way to fit three cases into the Miata - and I'm pretty sure he'll easily discover the Orofino box that's being delivered on its own.

The bad news for him - unless he should take a "good news" viewpoint like I do - is that even the Miata has a few of those aforementioned nooks and crannies. And I'm hoping to take in a few wineries that weren't otherwise on the Bus Tour. The real goal is to venture up to Painted Rock for a quick visit and the winery is located just outside of Penticton - half way up the Valley. So, I'm going to have to drive by a whole lot of wineries in order to get there.

The good news for Boo is that I'll only stop at a few wineries that I haven't been to in some time. Of course, he might not like the fact that I'm stopping because I know there are at least a couple of bottles that I'm hoping to pick up. There are times when you just have to seize the opportunity - and this is one of them. After all, I haven't stopped in at any of the Southern Okanagan wineries for some years.

I won't go into any detail with the various tastings today. Since I had the long drive back to Vancouver, I was being a very good boy and spitting and, since there was no actual downing of a bottle, there's no wine to add to The List. I can, however, grace the blog with some of the spectacular views that greeted me along the Wine Route.

The large shot at the top was looking back over Osoyoos. Since Boo's and my previous journeys through Osoyoos were often in the Winter or Spring, I don't always get such a clear and outstanding view. Once I'd committed to taking the scenic shot, it only made sense to stop in at Nk'Mip as I had to drive right by it. Plus, I was hoping to taste the winery's new premium Meritage, Mer'r'iym, as it wasn't available at Passa Tempo (the Nk'Mip Resort restaurant) the other night when I was there with the Wine Grrrlz. I got the chance, but did a self-serving tug on the No Buy Leash due to the $50 price tag. There aren't that many BC wines that I want to shell out $50 for - yet. Particularly when compared to the Qwam Qwmt Meritage that is $20 moin cher.

After Nk'Mip, I headed North. Took a quick stop below Burrowing Owl to take a shot of the iconic barn and valley floor. Remember this Valley is the Northern tip of the Sonoran Desert that starts down in Mexico and extends all the way up to the Okanagan. I then stopped by some of the wineries in OK Falls - some of the very stops that the 2012 BCWAS Bus Tour may take in. I'd heard that there were still some bottles of the Lieutenant Governor's Award winning Pinot Blanc at Wild Gooses and I hoped to grab one if there were any left. Generally the LG Award winners fly off the shelves within days of the awards being announced. I wonder if this is a statement, by the wine drinking public, about their love of (or lack thereof) Pinot Blanc? As luck would have it, I also had a quick chat with Roland Kruger of the winery. He was in the back office during my tasting and, ultimately, felt compelled to come out and answer a couple of the questions that I was throwing at the woman at the tasting bar. I'll be looking forward to trying both the Pinot Blanc and a rare botrytis affected Riesling that I picked up.

Since Tangled Vines is literally across the street from Wild Goose, I dropped in to see if winemaker Craig McKenzie was anywhere around. I'd known Craig from university days when he was in a rival fraternity and I enjoy taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to see what he's up to. Again, luck held out and Craig had just returned to the winery from some errands. Enjoying his take on the state of the wine world, I hope to get an opportunity to organize a more extensive visit some time down the road.

Next up was Blue Mountain; however, I didn't have an appointment. No worries. My how times have changed. After all the years of grief that the winery took for not always being available for or welcoming of unannounced drop-in visitors, Blue Mountain's tasting room is now open for regular hours on a daily basis. I knew that before I showed up though. After all the jokes about the big 2003 fire stopping before it hit Blue Mountain's vineyards - the fire hadn't phoned in advance for an appointment - I was glad to be able to stop by just because I was in the neighbourhood. Anyone who's had a bottle of Blue Mountain and looked at the label should recognize this shot of the landscape as you approach the winery.

There was one more quick stop to made at Blasted Church before I reached my actual destination. The winery was obviously having a successful season because more than a couple of the wines I'd specifically hoped to try were long sold out. At least three other groups of tasters came to the tasting room while I was there and the young gal running the counter had only started at the winery a couple of weeks ago. So, this wasn't the most expansive tasting session to be had - either with the wines or the information provided. I did, however, get to take a thorough look at all of the new avatar-esque labels that the winery has introduced. I may be old school but I've yet to decide whether I like them or not.

Finally, it was time for Painted Rock - the winery that gained almost instant "cult status," taking BC wine circles by storm a couple of years ago with their introduction of a limited line up of wines - but one that managed to win two LG Wine Awards with its initial vintage. This was one of the wineries I'd most wanted to visit - especially after this Spring's BCWAS gala wine dinner that paired Painted Rock wines with dinner at Raincity Grill.

I'm not sure that this little shack was what I'd expected after tasting such premium wines. Far from a destination winery and tasting room, BC's Best New Winery at the 2009 Okanagan Fall Wine Festival primary interface with the public is a temporary shack (that's been spruced up mind you) that used to be a lunch room for winery workers. It sits by its lonesome overlooking the vineyards and the lake in the background and I had wonder about the daily excitement (or grind as the case may be) the young lady at the tasting bar must run across regularly.

She was pleasant and very welcoming though. It probably doesn't hurt that she has a premium product to serve and talk about either. I'd hoped to maybe bump into owner, John Skinner, but I didn't call in advance and I rather needed to get on the road back to Vancouver. It was already mid-afternoon and I still wanted to hit the produce stands in Cawston and Keremeos.

So, with a final few bottles coaxed into the trunk, I set off on the road home. If nothing else, the Bus Tour - and side trips - showed that there's plenty happening with BC wine. But, beyond that, it was a novel way to take in some of what the BC interior has to offer. I can't wait for the next little adventure up here - and for some tasty reminders of this trip once some of my newest purchases are opened.

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