Hot Okanagan: The Classics Wine Edition

The Okanagan wine world is old enough to have produced a handful of veterans and young enough to still welcome new faces each year.

The northern most point of the Sonora Desert is Western Canada’s beautiful Okanagan Valley, home to British Columbia’s prime grape-growing region with over 8,000 acres planted and 131 vineyards and wineries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The northern most point of the Sonora Desert is Western Canada’s beautiful Okanagan Valley, home to British Columbia’s prime grape-growing region with over 8,000 acres planted and 131 vineyards and wineries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While it’s well and good to point out the continuing growth in new wineries, the B.C. wine community owes much to wineries with staying power that have set the stage for those new players. In today’s post we’ll take a closer look at a few in the industry who took chances for today’s emerging talent, and what these classics do to remain at the forefront of the growing Okanagan wine scene.

Hester Creek Estate Winery

Hester Creek Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hester Creek Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First vintage: 1982

Why it’s cool: Trebbiano, first varietal planted, thick and gnarled vines turn out a tasty wine

Wine to watch: Syrah Viognier third vintage to be released this month; the first vintage of the Syrah Viognier won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wine; first two vintages were sold out within three months.

Location: Road 8, Oliver

The Hester Creek property has a long history by Okanagan standards. Hester Creek’s grapevines were first planted  in 1968, when Italian immigrant and would-be grape grower Joe Busnardo was looking for the perfect spot to plant the cuttings he’d brought from Italy. There were only a few other vineyards in the Okanagan Valley; he could have planted anywhere. He chose this spot, a sun-drenched, east-facing bench for good reason: it’s a perfect place to grow grapes.

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First vintage: 1985

Why it’s cool: Always reliable and well-priced, favored pure fruit character over oak

Wine to watch: Dry Rock Vineyards 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Location: 876 Road 8, Oliver

After Helmut and his brother Karl completed a seven year micro-climate evaluation, the present vineyard site was purchased in 1981. In 1985 the winery was built and the first vintage produced. The past 30 years of passionate winemaking on the Golden Mile Bench south of Oliver is reflected in the unparalleled level of consistency. Today, the winery boasts an impressive line-up of 20 wines consisting of the following labels: Gehringer Brothers Classic, Private Reserve, Optimum, Dry Rock Vineyards, Minus Nine, and Signature Icewines.

Quail’s Gate Estate Winery

Quail's Gate Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quail’s Gate Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First vintage: 1989

Why it’s cool: Quiet perseverance, consistent wines, and unapologetically

Wine to watch: Subtle, layered, sea-briny Rosemary’s Block 2014 Chardonnay

Location: 3303 Boucherie Road, West Kelowna

Since 1989, the Stewart family has grown as small family business into a 60,000 case-per-year operation. This success brings with it inevitable expansion; a rustic log cabin tasting room was replaced by a modern building with unparalleled views of lakefront vineyards. Still, Quail’s Gate harvests all 200 acres by hand.

Winemaker Nikki Callaway joined the team in 2013, bringing a lighter touch with oak and embracing the beauty of young gamay in the Quail’s Gate Cailleteau Gamay Nouveau. Mature vineyards bring minerality to chardonnay, riesling, and pinot noir. A Collector Series highlights the best, and after almost 30 years, the best of Quail’s Gate is very good. The winery and restaurant are open year-round.

Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery

Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First vintage: 1989

Why it’s cool: Second farm-gate license in B.C., third generation, riesling

Wine to watch: Ever-deepening, zesty, and lengthy, any vintage Stony Slope Riesling

Location: 2145 Sun Valley Way, Okanagan Falls

When Adolph Kruger bought land in Okanagan Falls in 1983, it was unknown and unproven for grape growing. By 1990 he opened Wild Goose, the second winery license of its kind in the province. Sons Ronald and Hagen eventually took over the business, and Adolph “retired” to head tractor driver. In November 2016, the Krugers bid farewell to their family patriarch, a loss that resonated through the industry and marked the close of a chapter in B.C. wine.

Over the years, the winery embraced its white wine strengths and limited red wine production.

Where to Stay: Desert Gem RV Resort, Oliver; NK’mip RV Park and Campground, Osoyoos; Walton’s Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos

Worth Pondering…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time. Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event.

―David Hyde Pierce

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