Discover Okanagan Valley

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.

Discover Okanagan Valley   © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Discover Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the southern interior, the Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes.

The mountains are lined with ponderosa pine, which give way to cacti, tumbleweeds, and fragrant sage brush.

The region receives a mere 10 to 12 inches of rain annually and is geographically considered a semi-desert—the hottest and driest place in Canada. But the sandy slopes are the foundation of an ever-expanding industry that is producing world class, award-winning wines.

An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a growing range of varietals.

Lake Country/Kelowna/West Kelowna

Home to more than 25 wineries, this region has become synonymous with wine, and for good reason. BC’s first vines were planted in Kelowna in 1859 by Father Pandosy. Kelowna also boasts the province’s oldest continually operating winery, Calona Vineyard (established 1931).

Discover Okanagan Valley   © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Discover Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the first families of the BC wine industry call this area home such as Gray Monk Estate Winery’s Heiss’ family, the Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Organic Winery, and the Stewart family of Quails’ Gate Winery. Several wineries in the region also offer exceptional culinary experiences, some with year-round dining options.

Peachland/Summerland

Driving into Peachland and Summerland, you are greeted with spectacular views of Okanagan Lake and a glimpse of the striking Naramata Bench across the lake. Not only is this an exciting area of new development, but the region is also soaked in history with a few wineries and vineyards over 25 years old. The picturesque rolling hills will lead you to delicious Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Rosé in addition to a lineup of sparkling wines to make any occasion a little more special.

Penticton/Naramata Bench

The vineyards of Penticton and Naramata Bench boast ideal conditions for ripening Merlot and Bordeaux varieties and full-flavored Pinot Gris and Viognier. To the south of Penticton is Skaha Bench where Painted Rock Estate Winery and Pentâge Winery produce award-winning wines. And with an established (and simple) wine touring route, breathtaking views, and several wineries with delicious dining spectacular settings, it’s easy to see why the Naramata Bench is one of the hottest wine regions in the province

Okanagan Falls

Discover Okanagan Valley   © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Discover Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okanagan Falls claims some of the most charming vistas in the Okanagan. Better still, this compact region is home to more than 10 wineries and 32 vineyards. Famous for its rolling hills and winding roads, the wineries are well worth the drive, offering a plethora of wine styles. Because of the unique climate and elevation, cool-climate varietals thrive here producing some of the province’s most awarded sparkling wines, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling. With wines as delightful as their owners, this a must-visit region.

Oliver

The ‘Wine Capital of Canada’, Oliver is home to nearly half of British Columbia’s vines. To the west, the Golden Mile soaks up the morning sun making it ideal for white wines such as Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, and bright fruity reds like Cabernet Franc. To the east lies the Black Sage Bench which basks in the afternoon sun, and cultivates powerful red wines and full-flavored whites. The combination of hot days and cool night’s produces fruit with the perfect BC balance―exceptional flavors as well as vibrant acidity.

Osoyoos

Osoyoos lies at the Okanagan’s southern-most tip, stretching all the way to the US border.  Officially Canada’s hottest spot, this is red wine country. Wineries from many other regions utilize grapes from the south to produce award-winning red wines. Osoyoos is home to well-known vineyards including Jackson-Triggs and the famed SunRock Vineyard, producer of the world’s Best Shiraz (2006 International Wine & Spirit Competition). North America’s first aboriginal winery, Nk’Mip Cellars is also located here.

Discover Okanagan Valley   © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Discover Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine Festivals

Wine festivals are a great opportunity to meet the winemakers and sample wine. A superb wine experience, the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival is now in its 35th year (October 1-11, 2015).

Worth Pondering…

Anyone who tries to make you believe that he knows all about wines is obviously a fake.

―Leon D. Adams, The Commonsense Book of Wine

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Touring & Tasting Lodi

Longing to spend a weekend in a land less traveled? A land covered with acres and acres of fertile vineyards, fruitful wineries, and interesting things to see and do? Spend a week in Lodi, California wine country.

Lodi has maintained its heritage in the historic downtown area.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lodi has maintained its heritage in the historic downtown area.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s closer than you may think—just 30 minutes south of Sacramento and 90 minutes east of San Francisco—and it has all you need for an ideal wine country getaway.

Our day started with a stop at the AAA to pick up area and regional maps. Next we drove to the Sacramento Delta to observe the Sandhill cranes and snow geese on Staten Island (wintering grounds) and Historic Walnut Grove, one of the earliest settlements along the Sacramento River.

We concluded the day with a delightful wine-tasting experience at Michael David Winery.

Named for brothers Michael and David Phillips who represent the fifth generation of the Lodi grape growing Phillips family, Michael David Winery has a knack for producing premium quality wines with eye-catching quirky labels. With more than 800 vineyard acres and more than 30 years experience making wine, the winery is considered one of the region’s finest.

The dynamic winemaking team crafts an exciting portfolio of wines. Perhaps the most quickly recognizable in the lineup is the iconic 7 Deadly Zins, a sinful blend of Zinfandel from seven of Lodi’s best Old Vine Zinfandel vineyards. Other fruit-driven wines, like Petite Petit, a non-traditional blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot, and Sixth Sense Syrah, produced from one of California’s oldest Syrah vineyards, have also developed quite a following.

We spent several enjoyable hours wandering historic downtown Lodi with century-old brick buildings, brick-cobbled streets lined with elm trees and turn-of-the-century light poles.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
We spent several enjoyable hours wandering historic downtown Lodi with century-old brick buildings, brick-cobbled streets lined with elm trees and turn-of-the-century light poles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even the winery building itself pays homage to the Phillips legacy. It was built in 1972 around the family’s original roadside fruit stand. Today, it also features a café serving farm-style breakfasts and lunch, a bakery with famous pies and gourmet cookies, and a tasting room where Michael David wines are proudly poured.

The Michael David label, available in all major U.S. markets and Canada, embraces the Phillips family’s long history in the Lodi area.

The next morning we located Sweet Mel’s Bakery, tucked away behind a vacant used car dealership on Cherokee Lane and Oak Street. Sweet Mel’s specializing in pies, sweet breads, cookies, and other delicious sweets that owner Mel Haining, 79, has quietly run for the past four years.

Sweet Mel’s got its start with Haining baking pies in his garage in his spare time. He could not find any pies in town to his liking, so he decided to open up his own bakery and share his homemade pies with others.

Haining’s best selling pies are his Marionberry, apple, apricot, and peach pies, but he also offers a German kuchen pie, creme pies, and cheesecake by request. Aside from the typical cookie varieties, Haining makes a popular ranger cookie, which is a mix of corn flake cereal, coconut, and walnuts.

The Van Ruiten Family Winery tasting room was voted Best Winery and Tasting Room by The Record’s Best of San Joaquin in 2011, 2012, and 2013. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Van Ruiten Family Winery tasting room was voted Best Winery and Tasting Room by The Record’s Best of San Joaquin in 2011, 2012, and 2013. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We spent several enjoyable hours wandering historic downtown Lodi with century-old brick buildings, brick-cobbled streets lined with elm trees and turn-of-the-century light poles. We love this area and the way the city has maintained its history and heritage. Many unique shops, restaurants, and more than a dozen wine tasting boutiques and exciting restaurants.

We checked out the amazing selection of cheeses and charcuterie at Cheese Central. Pausing at The Dancing Fox Winery, Bakery, Eatery, and Brewery we sampled several unique wines and purchased a loaf of artisan bread.

The following afternoon, we stopped by Van Ruiten Family Winery. Founded 15 years ago, its wine-growing history dates back more than 65 years. The Van Ruiten Family Winery tasting room was voted Best Winery and Tasting Room by The Record’s Best of San Joaquin in 2011, 2012, and 2013. It’s a wonderful place to sample from the winery’s superb portfolio of 12 varietals, including Carignane from 106-year-old vines and Zinfandel from the first vineyard John Sr. planted in the 1950s. Guests relax on the outdoor patio and enjoy tasting wines served by a knowledgeable staff that enhance their overall wine tasting experience.

At Jessie's Grove we enjoyed their ancient-vine wines in an ancient building.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
At Jessie’s Grove we enjoyed their ancient-vine wines in an ancient building. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We were met at Jessie’s Grove Vineyards & Winery by owner, Greg Burns, a 20-year commercial winemaker.

Jessie’s Grove was founded by and named after Jessie Spenker, who was the daughter of Joseph and Anna Spenker who founded the Ranch and Estate in 1868. Throughout the years, the ranch and farm have survived the depression, prohibition, droughts, disease, and more.

The property is currently over 320 acres, with 265 acres of premium grape vines. Some of these vines were planted in the 1800s making them over 120 years old. Fabulous wines are still produced from these ancient vines.

Jessie’s Grove is all about history. We enjoyed their ancient-vine wines in an ancient building. Built in the late 1800s, the Olde Ice House Cellar is home to their second tasting room in downtown Lodi, just blocks away from restaurants, shops, and other wineries.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on Exploring Lodi Wine Country

Worth Pondering…

Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.”
―Andre Simon

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A Perfect Week in Lodi

Lodi Wine Country is one of California’s major winegrowing regions, located 100 miles east of San Francisco on the eastern edge of the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta, south of Sacramento, and west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

There are over 80 wineries, hundreds of Lodi-labeled wines, and approximately 100,000 acres of premium wine grapes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
There are over 80 wineries, hundreds of Lodi-labeled wines, and approximately 100,000 acres of premium wine grapes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is named after the most populous city within the region. Lodi is characterized by a rural atmosphere where wineries and farms run by 4th – and 5th generation families operate along-side a new group of vintners who have brought creative winemaking and cutting-edge technology to the region.

Lodi has been a major grape growing region since the 1850s when prospectors drawn by the California gold rush began to settle the area. Today, Lodi comprises 18 percent of California’s total wine grape production―more than Napa and Sonoma counties combined.

Twenty years ago there were eight Lodi wineries. Today there are over 80, hundreds of Lodi-labeled wines, and approximately 100,000 acres of premium wine grapes.

Lodi is predominately a red wine-producing region, with approximately two-thirds of the acreage dedicated to red varieties. However, with over 75 varieties in commercial production, Lodi offers a vast portfolio of interesting and unique wines.

After settling into Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, we started our seven-day tour. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
After settling into Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, we started our seven-day tour. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lodi is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World, producing over 32 percent of California’s premium Zinfandel. Many of the region’s most distinctive wines come from the thousands of acres of “old vines”—some dating back to the 1880s. An estimated 2,000 acres are unique pre-Prohibition own-rooted vines.

Cabernet Sauvignon is prevalent along the eastern edge of the Lodi appellation. Although a part of the local landscape for over a hundred years, Petite Sirah has seen a recent rise in popularity. A relative newcomer, Lodi Syrah has quickly become more prominent.

Winemakers have also begun to explore the broad range of emerging varieties originating in similar climatic regions of the Europe, including Spain, Italy, Southern France, and Portugal such as Albariño, Tempranillo, Verdelho, Sangiovese, Viognier, Carignane, and Touriga Nacional.

Life is slow and easy in Lodi. The locals not only make you feel welcome, they appreciate you being here. After settling into Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, we started our seven-day tour by driving to Galt about 8 miles north of Lodi on Highway 99 for their large outdoor market (weekly, Tuesday and Wednesday).

The Galt Market covers ten acres of great deals with fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seafood displayed along ‘produce row'. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Galt Market covers ten acres of great deals with fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seafood displayed along ‘produce row’. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From its roots as a farmer’s market at the old Sacramento County Fairgrounds in the 1950s, the Galt Market of today is an expansive open-air mall with diverse products available. With over 400 vendors offering merchandise for sale, the quantity of items available is staggering. The Galt Market covers ten acres of great deals with all the adjacent parking lots reserved for customer use.

Fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seafood are displayed along ‘produce row’―an aisle 100 yards long with spaces on both sides of the aisle overflowing with offerings from both local and distant farms.

Returning to Lodi we oriented ourselves to the area briefly exploring the historic downtown area and stopping at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center situated on the picturesque grounds of the Wine & Roses Hotel, Restaurant, & Spa , and wine-tasted at the nearby Abundance Winery, a family owned and operated boutique winery.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi's intimate Visitor’s Center focuses on its family tradition and pours several small lot, winery exclusive wines. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi’s intimate Visitor’s Center focuses on its family tradition and pours several small lot, winery exclusive wines. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our following day began with a delightful wine tasting experience at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi where roughly 30,000 cases of wine are produced in eight hours. Despite its capacity, Woodbridge’s intimate Visitor’s Center focuses on its family tradition and pours several small lot, winery exclusive wines.

The seven wines we tasted are available only at the winery. The staff were friendly and informative enhancing the experience. The $5 tasting fee was waved as we purchased a bottle of petit syrah.

We drove to Hutchens Street Square Performing Arts Theater and Conference Center, home to the weekend’s 18th Annual Sandhill Crane Festival (November 7-9, 2014). The cranes winter in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta wetlands west of Lodi.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series on Exploring Lodi Wine Country

Worth Pondering…

Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.
―Ernest Hemingway

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RV to Western Canadian: 4 Great Destinations

Canada is a land of diversity and outstanding natural beauty, and every region of this great country offers different opportunities for adventure and excitement.

The rush of the Chuckwagon Races,  Calgary Stampede (Credit: Tourism Calgary)
The rush of the Chuckwagon Races,
Calgary Stampede
(Credit: Tourism Calgary)

From sea to sea, Canada is a land filled with fascinating places and amazing adventures.

But, where to travel? Following are four of the best, must-see spots in Western Canada.

Calgary (Alberta)

The Stampede is always a reason to visit Calgary. It is a mega-event that doesn’t disappoint. Cities become most interesting when they embrace what is distinct about themselves. Calgary did that over a century ago when the Calgary Stampede was born. When the hay starts flyin’ you know it’s time to gallop over to the Calgary Stampede (102nd annual; July 4-13, 2014).

Alberta’s largest city launched an intriguing event called Beakerhead, a festival that celebrates innovation through engineering and science. Astronaut Chris Hadfield was the celebrity participant in this curious cultural experiment. Calgary has more engineers per capita than most cities in the world, meaning Beakerhead has the foundation to build something big and cool. It’s a festival to watch as it gears up for its second go-round from September 10-14, 2014.

Calgary is also emerging as a destination because of its wealth of, well, wealth. Big money from the energy and finance sectors is sponsoring creative projects and helping to sustain the city’s culinary scene, which is one of the best in the country.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (British Columbia)

No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without a visit to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park
No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without a visit to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park (Credit: vancouverisland.travel)

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a thin strip of land along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. Its magnificent islands, beaches, and dramatic seascapes divide into three geographically distinct park units: Long Beach (the most accessible), Broken Group Islands (about 100 islands in Barkley Sound), and the challenging 45-mile West Coast Trail.

The Long Beach Unit is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island between the villages of Ucluelet and Tofino. They host the annual Whale Festival from mid-March to mid-April to mark the gray whale spring migration north through park waters. Long Beach is an almost mystical place, a broad and—yes—long beach of great waves and breathtaking beauty. Long Beach Unit includes Green Point Campground, with 105 campsites situated on a forested terrace with trail access to Long Beach.

The West Coast Trail includes the section of coast southeast of Barkley Sound between the villages of Bamfield and Port Renfrew. One of the best-known and most challenging hikes in North America, it follows a rugged shoreline where approximately 66 ships have met their demise along this stretch of the “Graveyard of the Pacific”.

Park’s marine and forest environment features sand beaches, an island archipelago, old-growth coastal temperate rainforest, and significant archeological sites. The area is home to a variety of marine mammals, including seals, sea lions, and whales.

Okanagan Valley (British Columbia)

The sunny corridor of the Okanagan Valley, with its river and chain of lakes, leads

Okanagan Valley
I breathe in deeply. I’m back in the Sunny Okanagan… © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

northward from the U.S. border through a smiling countryside of irrigated orchards and vineyards. The mild climate, delightful landscape, and easy access from north and south draw RVers as well as retired people.

There are attractions and recreational activities aplenty, from water sports to zoo parks. One of the best ways to explore the Okanagan is to follow the signed Okanagan Wine Route, which takes in over 40 of the region’s wineries, now enjoying a renaissance after the introduction of new vines and advanced winemaking techniques.

Kluane National Park & Reserve (Yukon)

Home to Canada’s tallest peak (Mount Logan, altitude 19,551 feet), this giant park in western Yukon—8,490 square miles of untamed territory—can be seen from the sky, aboard a helicopter or an airplane equipped with skis (which allow high-altitude snow landings).

Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada. Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures. A National Treasure. Aerial view of the St. Elias Mountains
Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada. Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures. A National Treasure. Aerial view of the St. Elias Mountains (Credit: Parks Canada/Laura Gorecki)

Or, even better, hike it using the park’s vast network of trails—you could walk for days without seeing another person.

It is a land of precipitous, high mountains, immense icefields, and lush valleys that yield a diverse array of plant and wildlife species and provides for a host of outdoor activities.

Haines Junction is Kluane National Park and Reserve’s administrative centre and the location of the main park visitor reception centre. The Alaska Highway and the Haines Highway parallel the park boundary in the Haines Junction area. Visitors are able to drive into the park at Kathleen Lake and Tachäl Dhäl (Sheep Mountain).

Worth Pondering…

“It’s a friendly town

A friendly town

Cal-gar-eeeee!”

—Friendly Town (sung to the tune of Bonanza) in Shadowy Men On a Shadowy Planet, 1988

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Explore the Okanagan: Beaches, Peaches, Wine & More

If you think that Wine Country and Canada have as much in common as beaches and the Arctic Tundra, think again.

Make your first stop the Okanagan Wine Country Information Centre in Penticton. The knowledgeable staff will assist in all aspects of your Okanagan vacation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Make your first stop the Okanagan Wine Country Information Centre in Penticton. The knowledgeable staff will assist in all aspects of your Okanagan vacation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the Western Canadian province of British Columbia, the Okanagan Valley has developed into a significant wine-producing area. This undiscovered wine country is often referred to as the “Napa of the North”.

That may be stretching the truth somewhat with Okanagan wine production a literal drop in the bucket compared to that of Napa Valley.

Located in the southern interior, the Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes.

The mountains are lined with ponderosa pine, which give way to cacti, tumbleweeds, and fragrant sage brush.

The region receives a mere 10 to 12 inches of rain annually and is geographically considered a semi-desert—the hottest and driest place in Canada. But the sandy slopes are the foundation of an ever-expanding industry that is producing world class, award-winning wines. In 2011, BC wineries won over 2,000 medals in national and international competition.

Before becoming a wine destination, the Okanagan was a family holiday spot, best known for its “beaches and peaches”—the lakes with their sandy shores, boating, and waterskiing as well as the countless farm stands offering fresh produce and fruit. The beaches and peaches—and cherries, apricots, apples, and pears—are still there, and the Okanagan still welcomes families. With its mild, dry climate, the region is also popular with golfers, hikers, and bikers.

The production facility at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, mostly underground, was completed in 1998. A viewing tower features an informative tour display. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The production facility at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, mostly underground, was completed in 1998. A viewing tower features an informative tour display. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Popular cities and towns in the Okanagan include Vernon, Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Pentiction, Naramata, Oliver, and Osoyoos.

Although the premium Okanagan Valley wine industry didn’t begin until the late 1980s, it’s booming now with over 180 licensed wineries.

After dabbling for decades in easy-to-grow hybrids and labrusca (native American varieties), the Okanagan wine industry got its real launch in 1988. In a move designed to counter the North American Free Trade Agreement’s negative effect on the Canadian wine industry, the government began paying growers to pull out labrusca and French hybrid vines and replant with the more desirable European (Vitis vinifera) grape varieties.

Today, most vines in the Okanagan Valley are less than 25 years old and many of its wineries are still run by the families who started them.

The wide diversity of growing environments in the Okanagan means that the region is suited to an unusually varied selection of grape varieties.

For quality wines with a sense of humor visit Oliver Twist Estate Winery on the rugged desert hills of the South Okanagan's Black Sage Bench. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
For quality wines with a sense of humor visit Oliver Twist Estate Winery on the rugged desert hills of the South Okanagan’s Black Sage Bench. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The top white varietals include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling with some grapes being left to freeze on the vine for the region’s famed ice wines. These are concentrated, sweet dessert wines often served in chocolate shot glasses.

Among the reds, expect outstanding Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Marechal Foch, and Syrah.

Combined with their ever-increasing depth of knowledge and experience, Okanagan wineries continue to drive quality forward with every new vintage. We experienced that tremendous momentum  on our most recent visit last month.

Wineries that clearly exceed our grape expectations include Tinhorn Creek, Burrowing Owl, Gehringer Brothers, and Hester Creek along Oliver’s Miracle Mile; Quail’s Gate, Mission Hill, and Cedar Creek overlooking the shores of Okanagan Lake near Kelowna; and NK’mip (pronounced ‘Ink-a-meep’) Cellars, North America’s first aboriginal owned and operated winery near Osoyoos Lake. NK’mip sits on natural desert land surrounded by the stunning contrast of sagebrush and vineyards.

Wineries with quirky names reflect the Valley’s colorful history. For instance, Blasted Church alludes to an Okanagan Falls church dismantled with dynamite.

Unparalleled views of the valley combined with some of the highest quality wines waits each visit to Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, currently celebrating their 20th anniversary. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Unparalleled views of the valley combined with some of the highest quality wines waits each visit to Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, currently celebrating their 20th anniversary. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Haywire, an old Canadian term that refers to wire once used for baling hay, which tended to tangle in a chaotic way, is an apt description of the steep learning curve in transitioning from the city to owning a vineyard and winery.

And don’t overlook Dirty Laundry which takes its name from the true story of a Chinese fellow who, after escaping the hard work on the railway, came to Summerland in the early 1900s and started up a laundry service—but the rumor persisted that upstairs he had gambling and a brothel.

Wine festivals are a great opportunity to meet the winemakers and sample wine. A superb wine experience, the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival is now in its 34th year (October 3-13, 2014). Other annual festivals include the Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival (January 17-25, 2015) and the Spring Okanagan Festival (April 30-May 10, 2015).

The summer beach experience and tree-ripened fruit is still part of the Okanagan’s unique charm. But now the RV also comes back loaded with cases of wine.

Worth Pondering…

Anyone who tries to make you believe that he knows all about wines is obviously a fake.

―Leon D. Adams, The Commonsense Book of Wine

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Five California Wine Country Road Trips

You and your family, a recreational vehicle, and the wide open California road.

What could be a better combination? Pairing it with California wine country, of course!

Because there are so many choices, California’s Wine Institute has developed five road trip ideas to inspire wine lovers, giving them options to pick their favorites, and set their pace. And speaking of pace, don’t forget to pace yourself when wine tasting (spitting is more than polite in wine country) and have a designated driver.

From California’s iconic coast to dramatic deserts and the magnificent High Sierras, the great California road trip is on just about everyone’s bucket list. With a little planning, you can include amazing wine regions in your adventures, from hidden gem off-the-beaten path regions like the Sierra Foothills and Temecula to the well-traveled, such as Sonoma, Napa, and Paso Robles.

Here are five of California’s great wine country road trips, starting from either San Francisco or Los Angeles. Don’t forget to check out other amenities offered at many wineries, from picnics, bocce ball, and concerts to hiking, biking, horseback riding, and garden tours.

The California wine country map is divided into 15 wine growing counties. Inside each county there may be several wine growing regions or areas. This California Wine Country Map courtesy of Wine Web, providing information on wineries (currently over 34,000) and wines.

North Coast

There’s nothing like a drive on California’s scenic North Coast to show you not only the Pacific Ocean’s dramatic beauty but also how profoundly it affects the region’s climate. That coastal influence gives us San Francisco’s famous fog, towering redwood trees, and a perfect home for cool-climate grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and others—so let’s explore. This scenic round trip from San Francisco takes you wine tasting, shopping, dining, kayaking and more: visit Sausalito; Muir Woods National Park; quaint, coastal Mendocino; and Sonoma County’s diverse wine regions.

San Francisco Bay Area

This five-day round-trip itinerary is a foodie’s paradise, with stops from San Francisco’s Chinatown and Little Italy to Berkeley, the legendary birthplace of California cuisine. It also takes you from mountains to the sea: you’ll take in the thrilling scenery and wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Livermore Valley, and Half Moon Bay.

Napa Valley to the High Sierras

This adventurous round-trip itinerary starts in Napa Valley, any wine lover’s dream destination, where exquisite Cabernet Sauvignons await alongside pampering hot springs and bike tours. Then it heads for the hills, exploring Gold Country and the Sierra Foothills for gondola rides, panoramic views, and off-the-beaten-path wineries before winding back down to earth in Lodi, home to some of California’s oldest Zinfandel vines.

Central Coast-Highway 1

What says California more than traveling up Highway 1? With the ocean in view and wine on your mind, this trip takes you from Santa Barbara’s Sideways movie territory to the cool-climate wines of San Luis Obispo and red-wine mecca Paso Robles, then swings back to the ocean and beautiful Monterey before ending in San Francisco. Besides wining and dining, there’s a zip line, hiking, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to interest you.

Southern California Adventure: Hollywood and Grapevine

Oh yeah, you’re going to Hollywood. And for a wine lover, there’s more to Southern California than blue skies, surf, and sunshine—it’s full of surprising wine regions, where winemaking has taken place since the late 1700s. On this round trip, you’ll hit hot spots like Malibu and Palm Springs while also exploring wineries in Temecula, Cucamonga, and even San Diego and Malibu.

Details

Wine Institute of California

Wine Institute is the association of more than 1,000 California wineries and wine-related businesses dedicated to enhancing the environment for the responsible production, consumption, and enjoyment of wine.

California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world, making 90 percent of all U.S. wine and two out of every three bottles enjoyed in the U.S.

Each year, nearly 20 million tourists visit wine regions throughout the state to explore and enjoy the wines, the cuisine, and cultural offerings associated with California’s signature industry. September, during California Wine Month, is a great time to visit to experience the annual wine grape harvest first hand.

For more ideas on these and other great California wine country road trips, including California wines, wine regions, and winery activities—from tastings to tours, picnics, concerts, bocce ball, and more check the Wine Institute lifestyle and travel website.

Address: 425 Market Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone: (415) 512-0151

Website: discovercaliforniawines.com

Worth Pondering…

As Ben Franklin said:
In wine there is wisdom,
In beer there is freedom,
In water there is bacteria.

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