My girl friend and I were in Vernon, enjoying the hospitality of “Sparkling Hill Resort”. And after a two day and two night stay, we were ready to head home to Vancouver. However our morning check out and evening flight meant we had some hours to kill in between.
We decided to use this time hitting up as many wineries in Lake Country as possible. First, the largest: “Gray Monk”, where we tasted and lunched. For the comprehensive review, visit the link below.
Gray Monk Winery
Now with only 3 hours left, we did a lightening round of tastings; attempting to stop at as many smaller wineries as possible, on our way to the airport.
We solicited the help of a cab driver, willing to chauffeur us to the wineries he knew, and keeping the meter running while we tasted at each one. The cost did rack up, but no more than what you would pay for one pass with any professional wine tour bus. Plus we didn’t have to share the space with anyone else, and were able to go at our own pace, and leave when we wanted to.
First was “Arrowleaf Winery”, where we were told their cream puffs were a must try. But unfortunately due to the influx of people trying to keep entertained on this rainy day, they soon sold out. In fact, their in winery cafe sold through of their entire showcase of baked goods. The owner has two daughters, both of which are pastry chefs, who bakes these desserts fresh daily.
As for the wine tasting, they aren’t a large winery, so you get a flight of 4 specific wines for $5, a fee waved if it leads to the purchase of a bottle. But sadly, we flew here with only carry on luggage, and were flying back with no way to bring a bottle of that much liquor with us.
The tasting began with their “2018 Pinot Gris”. A white with notes of ripe apple, pear, peach, and delicate floral aromas. It’s fermentation is done mostly in stainless steel tanks with added yeast. Although 10% of the wine is allowed to ferment in neutral barrels, with no yeast added. For their efforts, it won gold at the 2019 “National Wine awards of Canada”.
The “Field Collection 2018” is a blend of Germanic and Alsatian grapes that thrive in the cooler parts of the Okanagan. Floral freshness and lemony acidity is what you get here.
“Archive Pinot Noir 2016” is a full bodied red with dark cherry, raspberry, hints of spice, and rose petals. It is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, resulting in an distinct oakiness. It is best paired with richer dishes.
The “Field Collection 2016” is a medium to full bodied red with dark cherry, plum, vanilla, and hints of black pepper and sage. It too is aged in barrels, but here, both American and French barrels; thus giving it a different oak finish.
With no food for purchasing, we only stayed a little while longer. We enjoyed a drink on their patio, overlooking their sloped vineyard. My girlfriend a glass of their Pinot Gris, and me a cup of tea to stay warm with.
Next, we stopped at “Ex Nihilo Winery”. They serve food under their covered area, but our limited time meant we couldn’t try any of it. It is a fairly large winery with various areas inside to sit and enjoy a glass of their wine, and the company of your loved ones.
“Ex Nihilo” means “out of nothing” in Latin. It is named after a famous sculpture. Here, tastings are $7 for five wines of your choice. The following is what we tried between us two.
The “2018 sX Imagine” is a refreshing processco fermented in stainless steel vats. It is fragranced with plenty of fruit flavours like lychee, melon, clementine, and lime.
The “2018 CHAOS Vampata” is their favourite rose. Its name means “blush” in Italian, a name given for its colour, earned through the leaving on of the skins for 16 hours. 100% pinot noir grape with flavours of ruby grapefruit, strawberry, citrus peel, and rose petals.
The “2017 Pants Down Riesling” is fun for its name that serves as an inside joke. In 2017 there was an early and sudden snow fall. Their grapes had not been picked yet, so they were left scrambling to collect the crop. The result, a white with more concentrated flavours of orange peel and floral, lemons and limes, and honeydew to finish.
The “2018 Pinot Gris” boasts the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. D’anjou pear, green apple, and orange; wrapped around notes of ginger, and white nectarine.
The “2017 Privata Chardonnay” is exclusively from “Ex Nihilo’s” estate vineyard. It is described as having intense tropical flavours of pineapple and mango, complimented by a creaminess of butterscotch and honey.
The “2016 Merlot” contains grapes from “Black Sage Bench Vineyard” in Oliver. Aged in French and American oak barrels this wine is dark with fruit, reminding you of a Black Forest cake.
The “2016 Night” is their priciest bottle of their tasting menu, listed at $50. This is a Bordeaux style wine and their best selling red. It is balanced with aromas of blackberry and red plum; with notes of white pepper, all spice and chocolate on the tongue.
Winery number three was “Intrigue”, a smaller winery stocked well with plenty of white wine, due to their location well up North.
Here, tastings are $3 for 5. The best deal yet! And like with all the other wineries, it is waived if you purchase a bottle for them. Once again, we weren’t able to bring a bottle of wine back with us to Vancouver via plane. So we spent the money we saved from their inexpensive tasting on their giftshop. They boasted a great collection of wine themed odds and ends, including wine flavoured popcorn.
“Intrigue’s” tasting menu lists 7 whites, 3 reds, 1 rose, and 2 sparkling wines. But a chalk board at the back of their tasting bar mentions the only 5 that were actually available for trying today. No quirky names here, just the grapes that went into them.
The “Chardonnay” was lightly oaked with a nice minerality, and buttery fruit. Pineapple, peach, almond, and apricots. Crisp citrus and a touch of nutty caramel. Oddly enough, it smelled like durian to me, but in a good way.
The “Reisling” is their flagship varietal. It starts with aromas of nectarine and dried apricot; and finishes with high acidity in green apple and pineapple. So good that it was awarded double gold at the “Cascadia Wine Competition”.
The “Pinot Gris” comes with a little bit of colour, from 16 hours of skin contact. From it you get passion fruit, strawberry and lychee; for a clean finish. Its sweetness is best paired with seafood.
The “2018 Gewurztraminer” is fresh on the tasting block, having been opened and released a mere 1 hour before our arrival. It has a lower acidity, and is softer on palate with tropical notes. Lychee, nectarine, elderflower, orange, blossom, and soft white pepper. It is recommended as an accompaniment to spicy food like curry and/or chilli prawns. For me it was a little too sweet, giving me a soreness in the back of my throat.
The “Social Red” was the only red available today, and the lightest that they can make. Described as a sipping red; rich with vanilla, blackberry, and black cherry. Perfect with pizza or their charcuterie made with locally grown blackberry and sourdough. Shame, we were in a rush and couldn’t enjoy some of the latter.
Because it was on to the last winery. With 10 minutes before they closed, the staff out front were still encouraging us in.
Right across the street was “O’Rourke’s”. Where as “Intrigue” looked like a cozy chapel for intimate weddings, “O’Rourke’s” looked like an sterile government-run clinic. At the entrance your choice is left to the stainless steel vats and their fermentation operation, or right to their tasting room. With the latter a handsome wall greets you. Bottles against a stone wall, and more housed on shelves under it.
Across the way is their bar that mimicked a barrel with its oak and steel build, not to mention its round shape. $5 gave us a tasting of 4 out of their 10 wines made available. The following was what we choose based on how unique they read.
The “2017 Pinot Gris” is kept in French oak barrels for 3 months. It is easy to drink, beginning with citrus and pear, leading into apple and peach.
The “2018 Gruner Veltiner” was a new one for both of us. Only half of the wineries in the Okanagan produce it, making it pretty rare. If wine has volume, you can taste it here. Pineapple, thyme, and peach skin.
The “2018 Fielding Block” is a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. All the above juices intermingle during the fermentation process. It has notes of lime zest, Mandarin, green apple and pear. With a palate full of lemon, lime, peach, apricot, baking spice, and a hint of fresh ginger.
The “2018 Pinot Noir Rose” was fruit forward. Light and dry with lots of berry: strawberry, raspberry, and red liquorice. The palate is long and tasty with more strawberry, and raspberry; coupled with pomegranate and blood orange.
And with that last sip, our Lake County wine tasting, speed trial ended. Then it was a mad dash to the airport. Having drank around 2-3 glasses through tastings, we were ready for an easy 40 minute airplane ride home. Half the fun of the Okanagan is being able to visit all these wineries, learn where your wine comes from, and to taste as many as you want, to learn what you like. And as West Coast Canadians, we are so luckily to have it all here in our backyard, for an easy getaway.