Sipping (and eating) The Okanagan: Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos and The Similkameen Valley

Head to Canada’s westerly wine region and discover why you need to visit this region (Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos and Similkameen Valley) now.

City Style and Living Magazine Noble Ridge Vineyards in The Okanagan
Owners Jim and Leslie D’Andrea of Noble Ridge Vineyards; The vineyard on a Fall day/ K&S Media

Noble Ridge Vineyards
With a name derived from the noble varieties of grapes grown and the east- west ridge that divides the property, owners Jim and Leslie D’Andrea began their winery in 2001 in the northern tip of the Okanagan desert, producing their first vintages of pinot noir and meritage in 2003. Today, the winery has 22 acres of planted vines producing: pinot noir, chardonnay, malbec, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. Visitors can sip a glass of wine, enjoy a picnic and take in the beauty of Vaseux Lake.

City Style and Living Magazine Bartier Brothers Vineyard during fall in The Okanagan before harvest
Fall colours at Bartier Bros. Vineyard and winery/ K&S Media

Bartier Bros. Vineyard & Winery
Over the course of thirty years, award winning winemaker Michael and brother Don Bartier have bolstered a philosophy to produce wine that express Okanagan Valley’s geography, history and people without a need to mimic the styles of other wine regions around the world. Being from the Okanagan Valley has been a driving force for the pair, describing their wines as ‘an expression of the Valley.’ Their straightforward approach has earned Bartier Bros. two Canadian White Wine of the Year titles and several consecutive Lieutenant Governor’s awards for red wines. The winery produces three white styles: Gewurztraminer, Semillon and Chardonnay and three red styles:Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah as well as The Goal, (a Cabernet Franc Merlot blend).

City Style and Living Magazine CC Jentsch Harvest of grapes during the fall
Grapes from the fall harvest/ K&S Media

C.C. Jentsch Cellars
Known as BC’s first sub-appellation, ‘The Golden Mile Bench’ in Oliver, is home to viticulturist and owners Chris and Betty Jentschs’ winery, C.C. Jentsch Cellars. The Jentsch family, originally fruit farmers since 1929, made the progression into grape growing in 2002, when owner Chris planted 63
acres of vinifera and opened the cellar and tasting room in 2012. Head winemaker Amber Pratt crafts the estate grown fruit into premium wine, with a portfolio that includes: viognier, The Quest, Cab Merlot,
syrah, ‘The Dance’ (Rose), `The Chase`(a Bordeaux style blend) and a limited release small lot series from select varietals. Branding and names of each wine reflect deep reverence for his wife, ‘The Chase’, and ‘The Dance’ (a rosé) and The Quest are, according to Jentsch, “all themes coming the pursuit of, and desire for the one woman I have loved for so many years. And one day I am going to catch her.”

City STyle and Living MAgazine Spirit Ridge Resort at sunset in Osoyoos
The spectacular Spirit Ridge Resort at sunset/ K&S Media

Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort and Nk’Mip cellars
The Adobe style resort hotel developed and owned by the The Osoyoos Indian Band, seamlessly blends into the landscape of desert sage, rolling vineyards and Anarchist Mountain. Featuring 226 fully-equipped 1, 2, and 3– bedroom condo suites which are spacious (starting at 595 sq ft) with private
balcony, soaker tub, full kitchen, dining and living room, rooms mimic the earthy colour palate of the natural surroundings. Mica restaurant serves both breakfast and dinner, with a focus on BC produce (think smoked steelhead trout, salmon and mussels), with exceptionally bold flavour and creativity.

City STyle and Living Magazine Nk'Mip cellars bronze statue of Aboriginal man on horse and lunch at The patio restaurant
A bronze statue of an Aboriginal man on horseback at Spirit Ridge Resort and a delicious selection of lunch at The patio restaurant / K&S Media

Nk’Mip Cellars is the first Aboriginal–owned and operated winery in North America, designed by Penticton based architect, Robert MacKenzie. Offering a wide selection from riesling icewine, chardonnay and pinot gris to premium table wines (Qwam Qwmt) and Meritage blend (Mer’r’iym)
merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec, Nk’Mip has been consistently awarded dozens of honours at National and International Wine competitions.  The seasonal Patio restaurant serves farm to-table fare using traditional Aboriginal techniques and with a landscape backdrop that resembles a painting.

City Style and Living Magazine Culmina family estate winery owner Donald Triggs in The Okanagan
Donald Triggs, owner of Culmina Family Estate Winery; The modern tasting room at Culmina / K&S Media

Culmina Family Estate Winery
Donald Triggs was first drawn to the Okanagan because of the potential of producing high quality Bordeaux style reds. Formerly the chief executive officer of Vincor International Ltd, and one half of Jackson-Triggs wine, this latest venture is a true labour of love that involves Donald’s wife Elaine and
one of his three daughters, Sara. Steadfast in producing the highest quality wine (hence the latin name Culmina, meaning peak), Triggs consulted with Bordeaux based Alain Sutre to determine the ideal location for the vineyard, testing soil samples and taking temperature readings, ultimately settling on an area of 54 acres in the South Okanagan Valley in the Golden Mile Bench consisting of 43 micro blocks or three vineyards: Arise, Stan’s Bench (in honour Elaine’s father) and Margaret’s Bench (in honour of Donald’s mother, and which at 600 metres is the highest in the region). The lower and warmer vineyard produces reds: merlot, syrah, malbec, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, while the higher two
produce mostly white varietals with some malbec ad petit verdot.

The gravity flow winery is guided by organic farming methods, one of Triggs major tenets. This includes solar panels to measure soil moisture, a ‘ranch’ irrigation system, and the use of electric cars on property. Education is another integral component at Culmina, where personalized sit down tastings, involve in depth discussions about terroir, viticulture, and the philosophy of the winery.  Wine enthusiasts will be keen to learn that Culmina is the first winery in the Okanagan currently producing the cult Austrian grape Gruner Veltliner for their 2015 Unicus. Partly fermented in concrete to add roundness, this wine has signature crisp acidity with subtle bursts of herbaciousness and citrus. The 2014 Dilemma is a classic and elegant chardonnay with subtle French oak and mid–palate minerality, while the 2012 Hypothesis is the pinnacle of Culmina’s portfolio.  Made from selected micro blocks from
the Golden mile bench estate, the blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc come together to produce an intensely structured red wine with a controlled balance of spice, deep red fruit and toasted oak. A true culmination.

City Style and Living Magazine Terrafina Lunch farm to table
Lunch at Terrafina Restaurant/ K&S Media

Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek
You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to the Mediterranean: creeping vines, red and pink roses, and lavender grow beside wrought iron tables and chairs. Owner Edwin Huber and staff create a convivial, familial vibe at the restaurant. BC Native, and head chef Jenna Pillon focuses on exceptional flavours. The roasted depth of cauliflower saffron soup, the charred richness of roasted root vegetable salad and requisite potato and truffle pizza–all are worthy of several visits alone. The smoky chicken panzanella and prawn and lentil galette with cherry tomatoes and chipotle aioli are simplicity at its best.

City Style and Living Magazine Crowsnest vineyards similkameen valley
Ann and Olaf Heineke of Crowsnest Vineyards/ K&S Media

Crowsnest Vineyards
You’ll feel like you’ve walked into a German chalet at this Similkameen winery. A true family affair, winemaker Ann Heineke focuses on producing Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Rose, and Dessert wine. Crowsnest also has a restaurant and wood fired oven bakery on–site serving European fare.

Tourism Kelowna

Wines of British Columbia

Want more Okanagan? This original travel article first appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.

Don’t Forget to Follow City Style and Living on Social Channels: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest.