Sunday, May 24, 2015

Half Corked - Again

For the second year running, Mr. Cool and I have donned our grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts and Nikes to take part in the Half-Corked Half Marathon. Along with a thousand other wine-loving crazies, we arrived at the Hester Creek start line ready for a glorious day of taking in the Golden Mile and Black Sage Bench for what is definitely one of the most celebrated runs in Canada.

We were lucky to be positioned in the first wave of runners because the day was already heating up by the 8 a.m. start time and it was promising to be a hot one. We arrived just in time to act as witnesses for a wedding of two participants. The vows were timed to finish just before the starting gun. So, naturally, there was a toast to the happy couple as we all readied to start them off on their honeymoon.

Nothing like a few first sips of wine before starting a half marathon. It's definitely part of a proven training regime when it comes to this race.

The course winds its way through the southern half of the Okanagan Valley, traversing up and down the rolling terrain (or is that "terroir" given this is wine country?), through grapevines and along service roads. Although incredibly scenic, it's quite the taxing course. No one sets out to run a personal best on this race. Indeed, it quickly became evident that grapes grow best on slopes - a fact that we can all attest to now.

Of course, one of the most appealing aspects of the run is that water stops are regularly scheduled every one or two kilometres as the course passes through or by another winery. And, funny, but for some reason those water stops all featured wine tastings and occasional bites of artisanal foods.

A few highlights of the fifteen water wine stations were Sandra Oldfield and Tinhorn Creek's Sangria party tent, Rustico's western themed BBQ (not that I ate the baked beans as a courtesy to the other runners) and, my personal fave, Stoneboat where they'd MacGyver'ed part of a crusher/de-stemmer to provide a chillingly refreshing shower and offered an icy granita of their Piano bubbly. Admittedly, I added three or four of the granitas to my pineapple water bottle for the next part of the course. Even watered down, it was just so perfect for the occasion.

Unfortunately, I starting having a problem with my left knee shortly after the race began. So, poor Cool, he had to deal with my intermittent run/walk means of tackling the race. Even after the medical tent at Silver Sage tried to jerry-rig a tape job on my knee, it was slow going at best. Cool could easily have finished the race a whole lot sooner than we did but he was good enough to stick it out with me, all the time offering encouragement like, "alright now, I figure that, if we jog it out for a couple hundred metres, there's bound to be another wine stop just around the corner."

It might have been a sad finish to the race but, lo and behold, there was a festival tasting at the end - featuring all the Oliver-Osoyoos Wine Association members that weren't encountered directly on the Half-Corked route. By then, my knee was in pretty bad shape; so, we didn't stick around too long at the race festival - just long enough to watch some Flintstones, I Dream of Jeanie gals and sock puppet monkeys join us at the finish line. As sacrilegious as it might seem, I chose an afternoon nap and a heavy dose of ibuprofen over continued wine tasting.

As soon as the nap was over, we got back to real reason for this Odyssey and added another bottle to The List.

1924.  2012 Intersection Mile's Edge White (Okanagan Valley VQA)

I first ran across Intersection and its intriguing wines at the Vancouver International Wine Festival and The Grape Debate back in the spring. The winery is a relatively new entrant to the BC wine scene - although its principal, Bruce Schmidt, is a definite veteran. As early as the late-1970's, he was a marketing executive with Calona Wines and local writer, John Schreiner, reports that Schmidt is famously known for making Calona's Schloss Laderheim Canada's largest-selling white wine of its time. Schmidt spent the better part of the '80's, 90's and 00's working in other fields but he returned to the Okanagan in 2005 when he purchased an old orchard property and packing house.

Schmidt and team worked on converting the orchard to a vineyard and the packing house into a winery and they started releasing wines in 2010. Unfortunately, the 2008 and 2009 winters were so severe that they lost almost half the vines they'd planted.  After only being able to release a couple hundred cases of wine in those initial years, they finally reached their full production goal of 2500 cases in 2012.

Having been impressed with their offerings at the earlier tastings, Boo, Mr. Cool, Mimster and I stopped in to do a tasting yesterday and we grabbed this bottle as a weekend treat. An unusual blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Viognier, Mile's Edge White was a great afternoon sip on our deck overlooking Lake Osoyoos. Body. Aromatics. Fruit. Acidity. It might not have healed my sore knee but at least it helped dull the pain.

Following our Intersection interlude, we made our way to Tinhorn Creek and Miradoro restaurant. The winery was hosting one of its annual Canadian Concert Series nights and Rich Hope & His Blue Rich Raiders were playing away to a lively crowd in the amphitheatre below. I don't think too many of the revellers had taken part in the Half-Corked. Catchy music or not, there was no chance that I'd be dancing the night away.

2013 Tinhorn Creek Rosé (Okanagan Valley VQA)

I wasn't sure whether it was the 2012 or 2013 vintage that we'd enjoyed recently. Turns out that it was the 2013; so, I don't get to add this vintage a second time to The List. No matter. As the last vintage of Rosé where Sandra Oldfield was at the winemaking helm, it was a welcome addition to the table. It matches with all assortment of dishes and just goes down so darn easy. A welcome thing with this gang.

1925.  2012 Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc (Okanagan Valley VQA)

I couldn't have a dinner in wine country, on such an auspicious day as the Half-Corked, without adding a new bottle of Tinhorn Creek to The List though. So, a second bottle just happened to get ordered. Sandra pioneered the planting of Cab Franc in the Okanagan and her perseverance is now paying off as the variety is seen as being well-suited for the region. Instead of all the Cab Franc forming part of Okanagan Meritage blends, more and more varietal Franc wines are showing up on winery lists and they're deservedly proving to be popular pours.

This is a big, dark-fruited version, well-suited for our richer main courses and for our simple sitting back and enjoyment of the concert.

With luck, the knee will recover quickly and I can think about coming back for next year's Half-Corked. After two years of knee issues, I could use a bit of "third time lucky" coming my way.

For some strange reason, Mr. Cool is all ready to suit up again. Maybe it's the wine.

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