There are certain things that I think everyone should make time for during their lifetime. . .
After returning back home from touring and tasting wines for a whole week in the beautiful Okanagan, right outside our back door here in Canada, this type of vacation was immediately added to that list. It was an amazing experience to say the least.
Wine was never something I would order at a restaurant. I may have had it on the rarest of occasions and only in small portions. However I did have a desire to be educated more on the process in which a bottle of wine was made and understand why it was such a popular drink. Spending one of our only weeks off during the year to learn about a drink I previously had no desire to allow into my body was a very different decision for me. All of the sudden I saw how common this sort of trip was! Many of my friends had done it locally, or had travelled somewhere to sip on perfectly crafted wine. And then my favourite bloggers from Sutton + Grove, Jill and Luke, also took a trip to Kelowna to explore some organic wineries which you can find HERE.
My desire for learning about wine, and the obviously enjoyable experience our friends had, led us to plan our week in the Okanagan where there are over 200 wineries to choose from!
At 4:30 am on a Sunday morning, Elih and I were off on our pursuit of wine.
Our first stop after a long drive! Summerhill Pyramid Winery is a certified organic winery. It may sound as if I am exaggerating, but you can almost taste the difference between their organic wines and wines where chemicals are used. They take advantage of the rich soil and natural climates to create wine where the grapes are harvested to their full raw potential.
After a very long drive, being greeted by a stunning view of Okanagan Lake as well as rows and rows of grape vines was a double thumbs up that the long – butt falling asleep – drive was very much worth it.
We had previously booked a Sensory Sit Down Tasting, which was nothing short of fabulous. A big picnic table placed in perfect view of the vineyard held six glasses of wine. Three reds, a Chardonnay, Cipes De Franc, and Cipes Blanc De Noir. A wood plate filled with meats, olives, lemon, cheeses and some nuts sat surrounded by the wine, bringing my mouth to water the minute I saw it! A very personable young man, by the name of Kenny, guided us through the pairing experience. We learned allot about which foods to pair with what wine, what to look for in the taste of each sip, and basically the entire process of how wine is crafted. He blew our minds! Kenny, if you ever read this, we want to be best friends with you!
The architecture of this winery is simply stunning! Walking into this vineyard gave me the sense that I had just travelled to Europe. The vineyard seemed to go on forever! Our guide showed us through the barrel room, as well as took us through the whole fermentation process.
Our second day started at Quails Gate Winery. Oh. My. Gosh. While we were there, smoke from the wildfires had taken over so we could not see the full extent of the view from the vineyard, however it was still a beautiful location. The tour we went on consisted of one of my favourite things: Chocolate. Our tour started with a glass of Rose in hand and a walk through the vineyard. Afterwards we made our way to the private wine library of the family who owns Quails Gate, overlooking the barrel room. Wine and chocolate ready to be enjoyed. . . or in my case, devoured. A glass of Merlot, Late Harvest Optima, Vintage Foch, and Riesling Icewine placed with a piece of chocolate made specifically for each wine, created by the Chef who runs the Quails Gate Restaurant. And let me tell you something. . . Those chocolates are little bits of heaven paired perfectly to their partner in wine. . . Yes I just made that aweful joke. That was a dad joke. . . Ahem. . . Anyway! Chocolate was amazing, wine was amazing, together they created the best firework show on your tastebuds!
When first arriving at Mission Hill we assumed that maybe the owners bought an old abby and turned it into the beautiful location it is today, set on a volcano. In actual fact, they designed and built this incredible architecture for the sole purpose of their winery.
At locations like Quails Gate and Summerhill, we found that the tours and tastings were very personable and natural. Mission Hill, being the massive winery it is, had a museum feel to it. Don’t get me wrong! Our tour guide was very nice and knowledgeable as well as professional! But it really felt like a classic tour where some of the other wineries we booked tours at made us feel as if we were friends coming to hangout and drink wine in a professional and classy way. Again, don’t get me wrong! We really enjoyed all the wineries that we had a tour at!
Our tour took us down into the barrel room, which was actually blown into the volcano itself. When blasting away the rock, the workers found a perfectly placed air pocket inside the volcano. Instead of wiping away any existence of the air pocket, they placed large gates in front of the pocket and the family now uses it as their private wine library as well as a showcase of sorts for ancient relics dating back to before the time of Christ. And incase you were wondering, yes that gate has a very big lock on it!
I can’t say it enough, Mission Hill’s “fortress” (for lack of a better word) is beyond stunning. The attention to detail, big or small, is very evident. From their front entrance, to their courtyard, the restaurant, bell tower, barrel room, et cetera, there is a constant elegant atmosphere. And of course, their wine is divine.
Tantalus was one of our favourites. Just so happens it was the one place I didn’t take any pictures! We were given a tour from one of the Manager’s, Ryan, who blew us away with the incredible self sustaining efforts and practises that Tantalus holds to. Beside their vineyard is a large piece of land owned by the winery where they keep a forest environment to help balance the eco-system. They have Coyotes to scare away deer from eating the grapes, bats to keep insects away, large birds to chase away the small ones from feeding off their crops, and allot of Bee hives to help pollinate the different flowers around the vineyard that specifically attracts friendly species of animals that will be of assistance to the vineyard in one way or another. Tantalus has spent a fortune on equipment that self cleans the water before it goes out into the vineyard, as well as reuses the water used when washing their harvested grapes. There are a million facts I could give you about Tantalus and its astonishing work to be fully self sustaining all the way down to their roads and the exterior building’s paint choice, but that may take up your whole day! Let us not forget their wine. Crafted to perfection. My personal favourite was their Riesling Lab. Tantalus is also the only winery that makes a Syrah Icewine which is to die for!
Yes, i’m still hitting myself for leaving their without a picture to spare, but it shows you how amazing the experience was! In a way, you could take it as “a picture speaks a thousand words” but in this case, no picture would contain the right words to describe Tantalus. You will simply have to experience it for yourself!
The Vibrant Vine
My husband, Elih, came up with the perfect description for this wild winery. Those who consider the art of wine to be religious would find this place to be sacrilegious. It is not what you would expect from a winery especially after visiting a place like Mission Hill. Two brothers. One a master wine maker. The other a master artist. Combined, they have created a truly unique wine tasting experience. Upon walking inside the tasting room, you are given 3D glasses because the entire interior design, merchandise, and wine bottle labels all pop out at you in 3D. AH-MAZE-ING. The Vibrant Vine is edgy, unique, exciting, whimsical, and fresh. Of course, while the tasting room of a winery is important in order to place every customer into the proper atmosphere for the wine you are about to drink, the wine either makes or breaks the entire experience for you. Unexpectedly the vibrant atmosphere does not take away from the elegance of the wine, it adds to it. Don’t ask me how because I can’t explain that. You will simply have to experience it for yourself and then you can send me an email saying “I get it. . . But I can’t explain it. . .” Then I will respond with the same mood of pondering the whole ordeal over again. Aaaaand after that we will bond over our love for the Vibrant Vine and become best friends.
WOOPS? No I didn’t make a mistake, because I purchased this perfect blend of whites. But the labeler made the mistake of putting all these labels UPSIDE DOWN!!! I know. . . But as the woman who guided us through the tasting told us, “WOOPS?” was not the first word that came out of the owners mouth. However, they changed the original name to WOOPS? and ran with it. Then they sent it to Geneva for the World Wine Competition to be placed in the label competition. Turns out it was actually placed in the White Wine competition and ended up placing Platinum in the entire world! Again. . . WOOPS? A pretty good whoops though! This wine definitely deserved that title. I am absolutely saving this bottle for a special occasion!
One of the last stops we made was to ArrowLeaf. Sleek. Very sleek. This was the only winery we went to where we purchased every single one of the six wines we sampled, as well as a few extra we knew would be a hit! Wildblume was my personal favourite from their selection. They have a small bistro/cafe onsite and so we enjoyed a delicious lunch overlooking Okanagan Lake and the vineyard. By the time we got to Arrowleaf, our week in paradise was almost over with one day left before heading home. Our lunch there was the first time we had actually sat down with a glass of wine and simply relaxed and reminisced over our favourite wines. It was the perfect spot to do so.
38 bottles of wine later. . .
Our time spent in the Okanagan was remarkable to say the least. As I stated before, wine touring is something everyone should do at least once in their life. Be warned. . . You may get hooked immediately and spend more than you expected! For example, Elih and I didn’t think we would need to bring a cooler for our purchases. After our first winery, we bought a big cooler to store the wine in. Halfway through the trip we realized we needed a second cooler to store the wine we knew we would eventually buy. And if our trip was any longer than what it was, there would have been a third cooler in the truck as well. And all this coming from two people who prior to our trip had zero education and a very limited appreciation for wine.
We will be back in a couple years, with plenty of coolers.
Other wineries we enjoyed:
The House of Rose
If you will excuse me, I am going to enjoy a glass of Tantalus Riesling.