You Don’t Have to Be In California to Enjoy Wine

Consider an RV road trip to the most scenic wine region in North America

You’ve heard the old Willie Nelson country music song with the lyrics, “On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on the road again…”

I just can’t get that tune out of my mind. I want to tour Wine Country and do more research.

Tinhorn Creek Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider a summer or autumn jaunt to the Okanagan wine region in British Columbia. It’s possibly the most scenic wine region in North America and a place where RVers and other normal people can afford to taste wine (nudge, nudge Napa).

Okanagan Crush Pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine tasting here is as much about the surroundings as the wine itself. Wedged between the Cascades and the Columbia Mountains, the Okanagan Valley enjoys hot summers and mild winters unique to Canada—it constitutes the country’s only temperate desert region.

Dirty Laundry Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape-growing region and boasts more than 130 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles across distinct sub-regions each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals. 

More on Okanagan Wine Country: Fall is the Perfect Time to Visit Okanagan Wine Country

The Okanagan Valley is the oldest and most productive of the BC wine regions attracting tourists year-round for its wineries, orchards, golf, mountains, and lakes. 

Church and State Winery © 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 gives way to cacti, tumbleweeds, and fragrant sagebrush.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Come September colorful foliage backed by blue skies make touring the Okanagan a glorious experience. Because of the size of the region and the number of wineries, covering the entire region in a day or two is impossible.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From world-class operations to family-run boutique vineyards, Okanagan wineries are rich with character and consistently ranked among the world’s best at International competitions. 

More on Okanagan Wine Country: The Okanagan has What it Takes to Rival Napa

Some of the most notable wineries are Mission Hill, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Burrowing Owl, Hester Creek, Nk’Mip Cellars, Quails Gate Estate, Hester Creek, and Tinhorn Creek. If you’re pressed for time the Penticton Wine Shop pours just about every wine made in the Okanagan.

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s a mountain region so obviously there’s plenty of hiking and biking but the area is also home to numerous golf courses including Fairview Mountain near Hester Creek Winery and Nk’Mip Canyon Desert. Or if you want to take a day off from wine tasting and enjoy the agriculture, Covert Farms is a relaxing rustic farm with an in-house restaurant and acres of produce you can pick.

Moon Curser Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okanagan is the warmest part of Canada (relative, I know, especially when compared to Palm Springs or Yuma). That means it’s a winter home for Canadian snowbirds from the really cold parts of the country (think the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) who want milder climes without having to RV to Arizona.

Hester Creek Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So yes, Canada might not be the first place you think of when considering a wine-tasting vacation. But if you’re more into the quality of your experience than name recognition it’s a tough destination to beat. The wines are good, the food is fresh, the scenery is unbeatable, and it won’t cost you a fortune. It might not be a connoisseur’s first choice as the wines here are good but not internationally known. But for most of us, we’re just there to have fun.

More on Okanagan Wine Country: 4 of the Best Wineries in the Okanagan Valley

As wonderful, affordable, and delicious as the Okanagan Valley is, it’s also not exactly right next to a major population base.

Adega on the 45th Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tell you what, though, it’s a great RV trip from Southern California or Arizona. As snowbirds, it’s an annual journey over emerald mountains into rough desert hills, along streams, down windy roads, and through lush valleys. The road sometimes slims to just two lanes and drivers might slow to do crazy stuff like bask in the scenery. But if you’ve got some time during the summer and autumn months when the mountain roads are clear of snow this is absolutely the way to do it.

More on Okanagan Wine Country: Why You Should Explore the Wines of the Okanagan Valley

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

Fall is the Perfect Time to Visit Okanagan Wine Country

Fall provides the chance to experience the 2022 harvest or crush in person

It’s that time of year—the kids are back in school, the grapes are coming off the vines.

Fall in Okanagan Wine Country is a gift. The region’s naturally relaxed pace, vibrant foliage, sunny and warm weather, verdant vineyards, and brightly colored roadside stands selling everything from freshly picked fruits and vegetables to ice cream cones and samosas are hallmarks of the fall harvest season,

Okanagan Wine Country in fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unofficial start to fall began last week. Finally, with the kids back in school and many more returning to the workplace in person, Okanagan Wine Country should revert to its much calmer, more rural roots and that’s good news for the many who have been avoiding the crowds and the travails of travel.

Shorter lines, less hustle and bustle, and fewer highway travelers make the fall a prime season to visit wine country. Best of all, the fall provides the chance to experience the 2022 harvest or crush in person.

Okanagan Wine Country in fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite a cool, wet spring and harsh cold winter, the warm summer weather across the province has buoyed hopes for a quality harvest although yields or quantities are expected to be below average.

More on Okanagan Wine Country: Why You Should Explore the Wines of the Okanagan Valley

If it is not already underway, harvest at sparkling wine producers is moments from kickoff. A two-step fermentation method is required to make traditional sparkling wine—one inside the winery, the other inside the bottle and it all requires a high-acid base obtained from early-picked grapes to commence. After that, phenolic-ripe grapes will flood wineries and “crush” as it is better known today will be full-on for the next two and half months across British Columbia Wine Country.

Okanagan Wine Country in fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First up in a long line of grapes to be picked will be Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris from the warmest sites. The timing of each pick is a fascinating study in terroir and the interaction of winegrowers. It lasts for at least two months, if not lengthier, ending in early to late November with the picking of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Riesling from the coolest sites.

Okanagan Wine Country in fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The dance begins in the vineyards. Winemakers and viticulturists walk between the rows of vines daily to taste and assess the ripeness of the crop. Then, the grapes are analyzed in a laboratory but only to confirm what has already been physically tasted. In days gone by, the decision to pick meant the entire vineyard. Today it could be a row, one side of a row, or a designated block. In some cases, the pickers could pass through a vineyard block two or three times over a two or three-week period seeking different acidity and sugar levels to add complexity to the final blend.

Okanagan Wine Country in fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the next 10 weeks, the grapes will slowly disappear from vineyards across the province mainly during early morning picks when the bunches are cold and the acidity is freshest. With vineyards scores of miles apart there is no easy way to know when the Merlot or the Chardonnay will show up at the winery. The best winemakers can hope for is an orderly procession of grapes allowing enough time to flip tanks and vats between varieties and carry on.

More on Okanagan Wine Country: 4 of the Best Wineries in the Okanagan Valley

Okanagan Wine Country in fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As a visitor, you’ll know if the harvest is on by the smell of fermenting grapes in the air. However, if you are up early enough, you could witness people and machines picking grapes in vineyards all over the valley. While most wineries are not equipped to accept large numbers of visitors during the harvest, some will invite you to experience the crush up close. Crush pad activities can be a lot of fun to observe but be sure to be on your best behavior and stay out of the crew’s way. Unlike most jobs, they only get one chance a year to make wine so the pressure is on to get it right.

Okanagan Wine Country in fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want to play along and you find yourself in a vineyard over the next month, carefully select some individual berries to taste. Remember to pick fruit from the sunny and shady sides of the row. Next, taste for the sugar/acid balance, chew the skins to assess the tannins, and inspect the pips for color to see how ripe or brown they are.

Now breathe in and decide to call the pick. Is it yes, or is it no? No pressure but everything depends on you being right.

Okanagan Wine Country in fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fall harvest is a wonderful time to plan a visit to Okanagan Wine Country. Not only is the breath-taking scenery even more stunning but it’s the most lively time of the winemaking year.

Twenty-five years ago, visitors traveled to the Okanagan for the boating, the golfing, and the sunshine along the lake’s many beaches. Today, they also come for wine that can be savored only in these 155 miles of a narrow valley with its ancient soils, shimmering lakes, and youthful exuberance.

More on Okanagan Wine Country: Taste Your Way through the Okanagan

It’s a very precious region…especially in the fall.

Worth Pondering…

Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words,

―Plautus

10 Amazing Places to RV in September 2022

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in September

Live for each second without hesitation.

—Elton John

Elton John certainly hasn’t wasted any time in his decades-long career. He’s one of the bestselling artists of all time with more than 300 million records sold worldwide across an impressive 31 albums—including seven consecutive No. 1 albums in the U.S.

Along with his music, John is famous for his flamboyant style; he has done more for crystal-covered costumes and oversized glasses than arguably any other person alive. Today, in his mid-70s, the Rocket Man is still going strong. He plans to stop touring in 2023 but has no intentions of slowing down. As he explained to CBS News, “I want to do something different with the rest of my life.” 

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

September always feels like a reset. Summer isn’t technically over until later in the month but unofficially… we feel the shift. The temperatures are cooling and the days are growing shorter.

That doesn’t mean that the excitement of summer travel has to abruptly end. In fact, September is actually the best time to visit many popular destinations especially national parks. The shoulder season brings fewer crowds and lower temps with more accessibility and, in some cases, a display of early fall colors.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in July and August. Also, check out my recommendations for September 2021 and October 2021.

Mingus Mountain Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mingus Mountain Scenic Road

Traveling from Prescott to Jerome, you start a mile high, finish a mile high, and climb a mountain in the middle. This central Arizona route rises from the expanse of the Prescott Valley abruptly to the heavily vegetated Black Hills. In Yeager Canyon, the road is visually and physically enclosed by vegetation and canyon walls. Descending from the top of Mingus Mountain to the Verde Valley there are spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim, San Francisco Peaks, and the red sandstone cliffs of the red rocks. This scenic road makes a smooth transition into the history of the mining area as it meets the Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood Historic Road.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience the magic on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The misty blue hills beckon. The road twists and turns along the spine of a billion-year-old mountain range and in the fall months the beauty of the drive is magnified tenfold by the blaze of autumn leaves. They call the Blue Ridge Parkway “America’s Favorite Drive,” a roadway of mountain vistas, history, and recreation.

Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tracing the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains chains, the 469-mile ridgetop route is known for its unspoiled setting and its easy access to wildlife and nature. There are countless scenic overlooks, campgrounds, and not a single stop sign. Busy in the fall, the parkway is famous for its splash of autumn colors. Stop for homemade blackberry cobbler at the historic Mabry Mill (milepost 176).

Eight National Park Service campgrounds are located along the parkway. None have hookups although most can accommodate larger-size RVs. Many neighboring communities have private campgrounds with full RV hookups and amenities. Especially in the fall, it’s a good idea to make campsite reservations. In addition, check driving routes before heading out to ensure a safe match for driving conditions and RV size. The website blueridgeparkway.org lists all 26 tunnels and their maximum height.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore Georgia’s Only Bavarian Village

Step back in time in Alpine Helen, known for its Oktoberfest celebrations and shops, restaurants, and hotels with Bavarian-inspired buildings.

Alpine Helen’s Oktoberfest celebrations have been going on for more than 50 years involving multiple weeks of traditional dancing, food, and, of course, beer from September to November. Held in the city’s riverside Festhalle, the permanent home of the festivities, the celebration is the longest-running of its kind in the United States.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Revelers dress in traditional attire, lederhosen, and dirndls while dancing to the polka. Find out for yourself what makes this tradition so unique by planning your trip to the event!

If you’re not visiting during Oktoberfest (51st annual; September 8-October 30, 2022), you can still enjoy seasonal tubing through operators like Helen Tubing & Waterpark and Cool River Tubing. Ride the thrilling Georgia Mountain Coaster down the mountain or see the forest at nearby state parks like Smithgall Woods and Unicoi.

There are also restaurants serving traditional German fares like Hofer’s known for pastries and sandwiches. The Troll Tavern has the best patio in town with burgers and bratwursts.

For a drink, head to the Alpine Brew Deck which has a menu of craft beer and wine as well as live music and river views. Habersham Winery is the closest winery to town and offers tastings.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit All Five of Utah’s National Parks

Plan a road trip to visit “The Mighty Five,” an unforgettable journey through Utah’s colorful Canyon Country. Utah is home to five remarkable National Parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. To see all of them on a road trip, start from Zion if you’re coming from the west or Arches if you’re coming from the east. On this beautiful drive, you’ll pass alien-like rock formations, sheer cliffs, and graceful arches. Note that in the summer, afternoon temperatures can be extremely hot.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Stretching 105 miles across Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive offers 75 overlooks, picnic areas, and trails, best enjoyed during peak foliage from late September to mid-November. If you’re making a day trip of it, pick one of the 30-mile stretches such as Front Royal to Thornton Gap where you can stop at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center.

Hiking enthusiasts can head to Mary’s Rock for 360-degree views or enjoy a more leisurely lookout by driving to Pinnacles Overlook perched at 3,320 feet. The area offers numerous wineries such as Little Washington Winery and Quievremont Vineyard and Winery where you can enjoy the views while nibbling on cheese and sipping wine.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg—known for its historic German charm and stone buildings—sits in the heart of Texas wine country. The city is a year-round destination: Oktoberfest is a no-brainer in the fall but the holidays make Fredericksburg look like a gingerbread village.

Texas Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many Fredericksburg RV parks and campgrounds are within minutes of historic Main Street and major attractions while others are located in nearby municipal and state parks. Choose from Fredericksburg RV Park, The Vineyards of Fredericksburg RV Park, Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, Oakwood RV Resort, and Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.

Then, meander the wine route—with more than 50 local wineries—check out the farm stands, learn about the city’s pioneer history, and shop and dine along Main Street. After dark, nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park while the one-of-a-kind Luckenbach General Store, Bar & Dancehall hosts a nightly picker’s circle.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drink in the wine and sunshine in the Okanagan

Imagine a valley floor filled with a 170-mile-long lake, wildlife including bighorn sheep, cougars, and rattlesnakes, rainfall of fewer than 12 inches a year but with the greatest concentration of wineries and orchards, you can imagine. The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape-growing region and boasts more than 130 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals. 

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Add to this the Okanagan’s natural beauty (it’s a hallowed summer-vacation spot for Western Canadians), its wide range of non-wine-related things for the whole family to do—from riding the century-old Kettle Valley Steam Railway and swimming in those pristine lakes to biking and hiking and its lush orchards selling juicy peaches and cherries on the roadside—and you’ve got a wine-country experience like no other.

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home to the Miraculous Staircase

When the Loretto Chapel (Santa Fe, New Mexico) was completed in 1878 there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena (devotional prayer) to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself having come in answer to the sisters’ prayers.

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The stairway’s carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. The staircase has two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway’s construction.

Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including Unsolved Mysteries and the television movie titled The Staircase.

The nearby Cathedral of St. Francis is also worth a stop as are the Spanish Mission attractions.

Corning Museum of Glass © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Corning Museum of Glass

The glass collections at this offbeat museum in upstate New York are intriguing but it’s the striking 100,000-square-foot Contemporary Art + Design Wing that has visitors planning a trip to the Finger Lakes for more than just wine and waterfalls. Live glass-blowing demos are available daily and current exhibitions include Fire and Vine, the history of glass and wine from the grapes of Romans to bacchanal experiences in modern culture. Fire and Vine: The Story of Glass and Wine is scheduled to open in 2022.

In addition to the museum’s ongoing Innovation Center and the Jerome and Lucille Strauss Study Gallery with objects spanning 3,500 years of glass making across the world. Stay for the make-your-own-glass projects available to everyone.

Cliff Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Panoramic Ocean Views & Gilded Age Mansions

The Cliff Walk along the eastern shore of Newport is famous as a public access walk that combines the natural beauty of the Newport shoreline with the architectural history of Newport’s gilded age. Wildflowers, birds, and geology all add to this delightful walk. What makes Cliff Walk unique is that it is a National Recreation Trail in a National Historic District.

The Breakers near the Cliff Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1975 the walk was designated as a National Recreation Trail—the 65th in the nation and first in New England. The walk runs 3.5 miles and about two-thirds of the walk is in easy walking condition. Parts of the southern half of the walk are a rough trail over the natural and rugged New England rocky shoreline. Walkers need to be especially careful and alert in these challenging areas.

Worth Pondering…

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.

—Henry Rollins

Osoyoos: Canada’s Desert Wine Country

Osoyoos is located in the South Okanagan in the south-central portion of British Columbia just north of the Washington (US) border

The Sonoran Desert reaches its Northern terminus in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains. This produces a hot and sunny environment with very little precipitation. Osoyoos experiences 2,039 hours of sunshine each year and an average of 9.8 inches of rain/2.1 inches of snow annually. While the warmest in Canada, the temperature does still see a significant range. The average high in the warmest month of August is just over 79 degrees while the average low in the coldest month of December is just over 13 degrees.

Osoyoos and Lake Osoyoos © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The name Osoyoos comes from the Sylix word soo-yoos, referring to the lake’s narrow gap. Indigenous people lived in the Okanagan region for thousands of years before the arrival of the first European fur traders in 1811. In 1821, the Hudson Bay Company took over operations, and a major trade settlement developed in the Okanagan Valley. As of 1858, the gold rush began transforming the economic incentives of the region. 

Osoyoos and Lake Osoyoos © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the early 20th century, the first commercial orchards (apples, pears, cherries, apricots, peaches) were established taking full advantage of the long growing season. In 1927, a major irrigation project is known as “The Ditch” helped disperse more water into the desert climate. By the 1960s, the optimal combination of natural and artificial conditions led to the first large-scale grape vineyards that currently support Osoyoos’s thriving wineries. 

Vineyard near Osoyoos © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Osoyoos area is one of the largest grape-growing regions of British Columbia with more than 15 estate wineries within a 15-minute drive of the town center.  Most of the wineries are VQA rated (Vintners Quality Alliance), meaning that they have passed the rigid quality standards set by the alliance of Okanagan vineyards and that the wines are made from 100 percent BC-grown grapes. The wines have won many prestigious awards for wines produced from the many grape varieties grown in the area.

Related article: South Okanagan: Beaches, Peaches, Wine, and More

Grape harvest season near Osoyoos © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The numerous microclimates and soil variations make it possible to cultivate some 60 different varieties of grapes within a small area. You’ll find wineries producing an assortment of varietal wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Ice Wine.

Local in Osoyoos are Nk’ Mip Cellars, Adega on 45th, Moon Curser, Borderland Vineyards, Young & Wyse, and La Stella wineries.

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Owned and operated by the Osoyoos Indian Band and located on 1,200 acres of band land, Nk’Mip Cellars is the first Aboriginal-owned and-operated winery in North America. The word Nk’Mip translates to “Bottomland” in English, and is located at the southern end of the Osoyoos reservation. Nestled in their vineyard overlooking the town of Osoyoos, the Cellars offers spectacular views of the lake and surrounding hills and mountains.

Related article: Taste Your Way through the Okanagan

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During a recent visit a selection of wines from their Winemaker’s Series and premium Qwam Qwmt (which translates to “achieving excellence”) reserve were available for tasting—2015 Pinot Blanc, 2014 Pinot Noir, 2014 Merlot, 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon QQ, 2014 Syrah QQ, and 2014 Mer’r’iym QQ. Mer’r’iym is their word for “marriage” and the inspiration for a wine that represents a perfect union of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. 

Moon Cursor Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the east side of town just before ascending the steep switchbacks of Anarchist Mountain (Highway 3) is Moon Curser Vineyards. We knew—and previously visited—this winery under its original name, Twisted Tree, which had been the name of this winery since it first opened in 2004. In the dark of winter 2011, they made the bold move to change their identity to Moon Curser Vineyards—a name that captures many colorful stories of the Osoyoos area, as well as the renegade spirit of their winemaking.

Moon Curser Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Osoyoos, the border town where Moon Curser Vineyards is located, has long been celebrated for the rich soil and brilliant sunshine. But during the gold rush, it was the dark of night that brought commotion to the area. Then, an unscrupulous procession of gold-smuggling miners returned stateside by the hundreds, if not by the thousands. All under the cover of night—trying to avoid customs agents at all cost. Often, the light of the moon would foil their plans, shedding light on their covert travels and activities. Need we say more about the name?

Moon Curser Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And you don’t forget a Moon Curser bottle when you see one. The labels are whimsical.

Related article: 4 of the Best Wineries in the Okanagan Valley

While the name and packaging are memorable, the wine inside the bottle is what is most important. From the start they decided to get creative and try different varieties in their portfolio. The approximate 5,000-case production includes 13 different wines. 

Moon Curser Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As alternative varieties are becoming a trend all over the world, the vintners at Moon Curser are a few steps ahead of everyone else, fittingly, just as the moon cursers on their labels try to keep one step ahead of the law.

I enjoyed a selection of some serious and inventive wines—2015 Afraid of the Dark (a blend of whites from France’s Rhone Valley), 2014 Tempranillo, 2014 Dead of the Night, 2013 Contraband Syrah, and 2014 Border Vines (Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carménère).

Adega on 45th © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adega on 45th has a bell tower, set in a vineyard not far from Nk’Mip Winery overlooking the town of Osoyoos. The 6,000-square-foot winery has thick concrete walls and a naturally cooled cellar for 400 barrels buried against the hillside. The winery’s ambience reflects the Portuguese heritage of the owners.

The winery sits high on the vineyard’s west-facing slope. The tasting room windows offers a grand view over the town and the lake.

Odega on 45th © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Young & Wyse is owned by Stephen Wyse former winemaker at Burrowing Owl Winery and his partner Michelle Young. The vineyard is located on the East bench overlooking beautiful Osoyoos Lake. The plantings are on sloping terraces and consists primarily of sandy loam soil. The southwesterly exposure offers long days of sunlight hours. The cooling effect from the lake balances the heat from the day, which is optimal for grape and vine growth. Plantings include four acres primarily with Melbec, Zinfandel, and Viognier.

Related article: Why You Should Explore the Wines of the Okanagan Valley

Nk’mip RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to Stay: Nk’mip RV Park and Campground; Walton’s Lakefront RV Resort

Worth Pondering…

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.

―Benjamin Franklin

The Ogopogo! One More Reason to Visit the Okanagan

What is Ogopogo?

Throughout the course of history, there has been a sense of mystery when it comes to deep water and what could be living beneath the surface. Just as Lake Champlain has its legendary lake monster, Champ, and Loch Ness has woven a tale of Nessie, the legendary monster that supposedly swims beneath its dark waters, Canada, too, has a legend of its own.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the Western Canadian province of British Columbia, near the very bottom of Canada, there is a series of lakes in a desert. The Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate and beautiful landscapes. The region receives about 12 inches of rain and two inches of snow annually and is the hottest and driest place in Canada. On the horizon are mountains of green foliage, aqua blue lakes, and, in the distance, rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 fruit stands. 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.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okanagan Lake is home to boating, swimming, and general summertime recreational fun. It’s a place for families and adults to gather and enjoy the warmest days of the year but as it turns out, many think they may not be alone in the water. Ogopogo, the sea serpent that’s believed to live in the waters of this scenic lake, may just be swimming around right beneath their feet. For many, this is enough of a reason to visit the area—but how likely is an Ogopogo sighting, really?

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Legend Of Ogopogo

The legend of Canada’s lake monster and sightings of it dates back to the 19th century. It’s believed that the serpent which is consistently estimated to be anywhere from 40 to 60 feet in length lives in Okanagan Lake, the largest of the five freshwater lakes that are interconnected by a river channel in the British Columbia interior.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the legend of Ogopogo seems like it should be older, the lake itself is much older than the legend. These glacial lakes were formed some 10,000 years prior when the water from melted glaciers flooded the Okanagan Valley. The depth of the lake is 762 feet which, for some, means that the lake is far too expansive to know for sure what lives in it. For others, all of this depth is just further proof—who’s to say that something this extraordinary couldn’t be hiding beneath the surface?

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One night in 1924, a song was sung in a local music hall about a strange creature. Not too many details of the song are known but the lyrics are cited as being:

His mother was an earwig,

His father was a whale;

A little bit of head

And hardly any tail

And Ogopogo was his name.

Two years later, the song was published in the Vancouver Province. Since then, the elusive creature has gained the nickname Oggy, with potential names for its offspring being ‘Ogopups.’

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Native Myths Surrounding Lake Okanagan

Some have consulted history that dates much further back than the first settlers to the region to understand the mystery surrounding Ogopogo. The Secwepemc and the Sylix native tribes believed that the lake monster was an evil supernatural entity with great power. It was believed that the creature was destined to carry out an ill will and they referred to it as Naitaka.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The word “n’ha-a-itk” has various translations, such as “water-demon”, “water god”, or “sacred creature of the water”. In native lore, Naitaka demanded a live sacrifice for a safe crossing of the lake. For hundreds of years, First Nations would sacrifice small animals before entering the water.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oral traditions often described visiting chief Timbasket who rejected the required sacrifice denying the existence of the demon. Upon entering the lake on a canoe with his family, Naitaka “whipped up the surface of the lake with his long tail” and the canoe and its occupants were sucked to the bottom of the lake. The Naitaka was often described as using its tail to create fierce storms to drown victims. In 1855, settler John MacDougal claimed that his horses were sucked down into the water and nearly his canoe before he cut the line.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is reputed that the demonic view of Naitaka came about through miscommunication between Canada’s early European settlers and the Syilx/Okanagan people. To the Syilx, it’s n ̓x̌ax̌aitkʷ (n-ha-ha-it-koo), a sacred spirit of the lake that protects the valley. The spirit was said to dwell in caves under Rattlesnake Island (a.k.a. Monster Island) or adjacent to Squally Point.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Modern-Day Sightings of Ogopogo

During the 1980s, there was a reward of one million dollars offered for anyone who could obtain definitive proof of the monster. From that point on, the legend of Ogopogo became almost a part of daily life around Okanagan Lake. From sculptures that were made of the mythical creature to people claiming that they sighted him on an almost monthly basis, there was seemingly no escaping the legend. According to BBC, the lake monster was even declared an ‘endangered species’ by Greenpeace and was featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Compelling Evidence

The most recent and most compelling evidence for the existence of Ogopogo comes from a cell phone video taken back in 2019. A man by the name of Jim La Rocque captured footage of what appears to be several large humps rising out of the water and swimming away from where he and his children were enjoying the lake on a sunny day.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The movement in the water is unlike any other known creature and has a snake-like appearance that one might expect with lake monsters such as Champ or Loch Ness. While some scholars believe that the motion in the water is the result of varying temperatures in the lake, others swear that it’s Ogopogo—to this day, nothing as convincing has been spotted or caught on camera.

Worth Pondering…

His mother was an earwig,

His father was a whale;

A little bit of head

And hardly any tail

And Ogopogo was his name.

Summer 2022: 11 Best Things to Do in Western Canada

Your Canada bucket list just got (a lot) longer…

We could all use a break this summer. The last two summer travel seasons have been especially challenging for everyone—travelers, destinations, and small businesses alike. But 2022’s summer could be the biggest one yet for travel within Canada and I’m here to help you experience the absolute best of it.

Rocky Mountain sheep in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best things to do this summer in Western Canada include many hidden gems and unique experiences. You’ll find plenty of tried-and-true staples too. But, I tend to embrace under-the-radar spots as well as famous attractions. You’ll likely find things to do that you didn’t even know existed!

Believing the most authentic recommendations derive from personal experiences, the list highlights the places I’ve discovered and explored on one or more occasions. But, no matter where you plan to travel you’re bound to find something unique and fun to do this summer!

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Hit all seven of the Rocky Mountain Parks

Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes national parks in Alberta, Kootenay and Yoho national parks in British Columbia, and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine, and Hamber provincial parks in British Columbia. The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems, and deeply carved canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess an exceptional natural beauty that attracts millions of visitors annually.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Snap postcard-worthy photos of Banff National Park

Explore pine forests, glacier-carved valleys, and snow-capped peaks in Alberta’s Banff National Park. 

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you Google “Canada nature,” you’ll see pictures of Banff National Park in the Rockies—and for good reason. Canada’s oldest and most popular national park is Mother Nature’s best. Anywhere you look, there are jagged peaks sprinkled with fluffy powder, bluer than blue glacial lakes, and majestic wildlife including bears (black and grizzly), elk, wolves, big horn sheep, and foxes.

Related: Doctors Can Prescribe Year-Long Pass to Canada’s National Parks

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite being busy year-round, Banff is big enough that you can find something to do without being shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists (well, except perhaps if you’re waiting for that photo of Lake Louise).

Banff National Park is a hiker’s playground with more than 1,000 miles of trails. Following these trails up ridges leads to impressive viewpoints of craggy peaks, surprise waterfalls, and massive glaciers. The higher you go, the more you’ll see of the 1.6 million acres that make up the park.

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Immerse yourself in nature at Jasper National Park

Jasper has been named one of the 30 best national parks across the globe. Outside, an online publication has included the picturesque spot on its list of must-see destinations. Jasper is the only Canadian entry.

Elk in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jasper can sometimes be overshadowed by its cousin to the south, Banff, but the park is the definition of “wild and scenic.” It’s the largest park in the Canadian Rockies as it has one million-plus more acres than Banff.

Jasper is also host to a robust population of wildlife including black and grizzly bears, elk and moose, and big horn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats, making it a popular tourist destination for travellers to explore.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. A scenic drive of a lifetime

Linking Lake Louise with Jasper is one of the most beautiful journeys on the planet—the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Rated as one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, the Icefield Parkway is a 145 mile stretch of double-lane highway winding along the Continental Divide through soaring rocky mountain peaks, icefields, and vast sweeping valleys

Columbia Icefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Icefields Parkway is dotted with more than 100 ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock spires, and emerald lakes set in huge valleys of thick pine and larch forests.

Related: RV To Canada This Summer

Just as the name implies these glaciers or “fields of ice” is the largest south of the Arctic Circle. They are 90,000 acres in area and 100 to 360 feet in depth and receive up to 7 feet of snowfall per year.

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glacier Sky Walk, opened in May 2014, is a unique experience that puts you on a glass-floored observation platform 280 feet over the Sunwapta Valley. The entire experience starts with a walk along the Discovery Trail. If you are not into heights, you can still view the Sunwapta Valley from a look-out point nearby.

Mount Robson Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Reach new peaks at Mount Robson Provincial Park

“On every side the snowy heads of mighty hills crowded round, whilst, immediately behind us, a giant among giants, and immeasurably supreme, rose Robson’s Peak.”

—Milton and Cheadle, 1865

Mount Robson Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Robson Provincial Park, the second oldest park in British Columbia’s park system, is truly one of the Canada’s crown jewels. The mountain for which the park is named guards the park’s western entrance. At 12,972 feet, Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, towers over the lesser surrounding peaks; this is one of the finest views in the Rocky Mountains. Just as the early trappers, hunters, and explorers felt in awe at the mountain’s magnificence, travelers today experience the same feelings.

Mount Robson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With Alberta’s Jasper National Park as its easterly neighbor, Mount Robson Provincial Park comprises a portion of one of the world’s largest blocks of protected areas. Designated as a part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990, Mount Robson provides everything from developed, vehicle-accessible camping to remote valleys that seldom see a human footprint. Mount Robson Provincial Park also protects the headwaters of the Fraser River.

First attempted in 1907, it was not until 1913 that humans finally stood on the summit of Mount Robson. On that clear, cold day guide Conrad Kain, W.W. Foster and A.H. McCarthy beheld a view no person had ever seen before.

Fort Langley National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Stand in the spot where BC began

Experience the excitement of the early West Coast fur trade at Fort Langley and stand in the spot where British Columbia was proclaimed a British colony in 1858. Explore the scenic fort—built by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1827—where fur traders once exchanged furs, salmon, and cranberries with Indigenous communities.

Fort Langley Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Langley National Historic Site offers interactive displays and activities. Watch blacksmithing, barrel-making, or historic weapons demonstrations, take a guided tour and pan for gold. Additional experiences include overnight stays in a furnished oTENTik, audio tours available in seven languages, and Sxwimelə Boutique and Gifts. There is also free parking on-site for visitors.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Special events take place throughout the year such as Grave Tales walking tours, Brigade Days, Canada Day, the Cranberry Festival, Christmas events, and Vive les Voyageurs Winter Festival in January.

The Fort Langley National Historic Site is within walking distance of the Fort Langley Village where you can explore locally-owned shops, cafes, restaurants, museums, and beautiful walking trails along the Fraser River.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Drink in the wine and sunshine in the Okanagan

Imagine a valley floor filled with a 120-mile-long lake, wildlife including bighorn sheep, cougars, and rattlesnakes, rainfall of fewer than 12 inches a year but with the greatest concentration of wineries and orchards, you can imagine. The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape-growing region and boasts more than 130 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals. 

Related: What you should know about Wine and Canada

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Add to this the Okanagan’s natural beauty (it’s a hallowed summer-vacation spot for Western Canadians), its wide range of non-wine-related things for the whole family to do—from riding the century-old Kettle Valley Steam Railway and swimming in those pristine lakes to biking and hiking, and its lush orchards selling juicy peaches and cherries on the roadside—and you’ve got a wine-country experience like no other.

Lesser Slave Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Travel off the beaten path in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park

As you dig your toes into warm, soft sand and watch the setting sun reflect off the glassy surface of the lake, you may feel like you are far away in some tropical locale. At nearly 450 sq mi, it isn’t hard to mistake Lesser Slave Lake for an ocean. Its white sand beaches are some of the finest in Alberta and when the west wind blows across the vast waters, you can get wave action big enough to surf on—though most people choose to ride the big breakers in kayaks.

Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unique microclimate that encompasses the lake and rich habitat of the surrounding boreal forest has created a haven for nesting and migratory birds—particularly songbirds—which is why the area has been dubbed the continent’s bird nursery. Built to study them, the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory and Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation are fascinating to visit. You’ll learn that nearly half of all North American bird species nest and raise their young here and billions of birds pass through during the spring and fall migrations. Tour the Boreal Centre and take a walk along the Songbird Trail pausing in the middle to stand quietly and listen to the natural symphony created by songbirds in the towering aspen-poplar forest.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Travel back in time to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

The unusual landforms of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi resulted from the dynamic interaction of geology, climate, and time. In a dramatic landscape of steep-sided canyons and coulees, sandstone cliffs, and eroded sandstone formations called hoodoos, Indigenous peoples created rock art in what is today Southern Alberta. Thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs at more than 138 rock art sites graphically represent the powers of the spirit world that resonate in this sacred landscape and chronicle phases of human history in North America including when Indigenous peoples first came into contact with Europeans.

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Search for Well Gray’s breathtaking waterfalls

Wells Gray is not as highly acclaimed as Mount Robson or the national parks in the Canadian Rockies. And having been there, I have no idea why. I mean… this place is awesome!

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors, or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes, but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park, but eight of them are easy to reach from Clearwater Valley Road.

So you might be wondering: Why are there so many waterfalls in the same small area? And how did they form? It turns out the waterfalls in Wells Gray use the same secret formula as another favorite waterfall destination, Iceland: volcanoes + glaciers = waterfall magic.

Elk Island Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Explore the natural wonders at Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park played an important part in the conservation of the plains bison. This “island of conservation” is 30 miles east of Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway which goes through the park. Watch for wood bison to the south and plains bison to the north.

Elk Island Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore the park by foot, bike, or car, and be on the lookout for wildlife. Bison and other mammals are most active at dawn and dusk when females travel with their young. Beyond bison be ready to glimpse deer, elk, coyotes, and the countless birds that call Elk Island National Park home. Many animals shelter in the trees during the warmest parts of the day.

Elk Island Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elk Island has several trails of varying lengths winding through the different habitats found within the park. Since the park is not mountainous, the trails have very few steep inclines. Each trail contains many wildlife viewing opportunities from two different subspecies of bison to a multitude of songbirds. Whether you’re out for a leisurely hike or a longer adventure, make your trip a safe one by checking the latest conditions.

Read Next: Plan Your Travels around a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

4 of the Best Wineries in the Okanagan Valley

Canada’s stunning Okanagan Valley is emerging as a varied and exciting wine destination

California, Oregon, and Washington State are well-known for their variety of wines and wineries. Now follow the vine north and you’ll find a new world of wine just across the border in British Columbia’s wine country.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is believed that the very first vineyard planted in the southern Okanagan region of British Columbia was the Oblate Mission in Kelowna in 1859 but its only purpose was for preparing sacramental wine for the Catholic Church. Other vineyards began popping up but many were uprooted during prohibition.

It wasn’t until 1932 that Calona Wines became the first commercial winery in British Columbia. It took much longer for the idea of producing quality wine in the Okanagan to catch on.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 hybrid vines and replant them with the more desirable European (Vitis vinifera) grape varieties.

Today, over 180 wineries are operating in the Valley. From large estate wineries to small mom-and-pop shops, wine is available everywhere you turn. For wine lovers, the Okanagan should most definitely make your vino bucket list.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best time to visit the Okanagan is up for debate. The summer is by far the most popular as everything is in full swing and the vineyards are green and lush. But it is also the busiest, so planning is important. Oh, and it’s hot! (The Okanagan is Canada’s only desert area, after all.) The crowds are much smaller during the spring and fall, but tasting room hours are more limited. However, you’ll have a better chance of meeting a winemaker during these times, as well.

Related Article: The Okanagan Valley: A Special Place

Everyone has their favorite winery for various reasons but I have detailed four that offer my favorite experiences. Visit each of the wineries’ websites for the most up-to-date information and reserve your tasting experience online. Some will waive the tasting fees with the purchase of wine.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Black Hills Estate Winery

Location: 4318 Black Sage Road, Oliver

Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Malbec

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently available Wines: 2019 Tempranillo, 2020 Chardonnay, 2020 Roussanne, 2020 Alibi (blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon), 2021 Rosé, 2019 Ipso Facto (blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon), 2020 Viognier, 2019 Per Se (base of Cabernet Franc,), 2018 Syrah, 2018 Addendum, 2020 Bona Fide, 2020 Nota Bene (signature wine; available at Release Party, June 18, 2022, 5-9 pm)

Master of Wine: Ross Wise

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: Black Hills Estate Winery vineyards have some of the most favorable grape growing conditions in the country resulting in exceptional terroir. Located on Black Sage Bench, Black Hills’ Wine Experience Centre offers wine tastings year-round. The modern facility offers tastings on the dining balcony around their water feature and under a few covered gazebos.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experiences: The Portfolio Wine Flight ($20) offers an array of the winery’s current releases. It is a combination of red and white wines. The Red Wine Flight ($30) showcases Black Hills’ most popular red wines including the rare Carmenere wine as well as new releases.

Related Article: Taste Your Way through the Okanagan

During the summer months the tastings get better as the Tapas Kitchen is open providing bites that pair nicely with the 2 oz. samples.

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nk’Mip Cellars

Location: 1400 Rancher Creek Road, Osoyoos

Varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently available Wines: Nk’Mip wines available in 3 tiers: Winemaker Tier: 2020 Chardonnay, 2021 Pinot Blanc, 2021 Dreamcatcher, 2020 Rosé, 2019 Merlot, 2019 Talon; Qwam Qwmt (Premium Tier): 2019 Chardonnay, 2020 Riesling, 2020 Riesling Ice Wine, 2019 Merlot, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018 Syrah, 2019 Pinot Noir; Mer’r’iym (Premium Blends): 2020 White Mer’r’iym, 2019 Mer’r’iym

Estate Winemaker: Justin Hall

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: Overlooking the town of Osoyoos and its lake, Nk’Mip Cellars is the first Indigenous-owned and operated winery in North America. The culture and history is a part of everything they do and produce. Inside, the building is modern with a tasting bar and retail center. Outside, the patio offers spectacular views of the surrounding hills.

Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experiences: Sample a flight of four Nk’Mip Cellars’ wines at the Main Tasting Bar. Choose from the two available wine flights: Winemaker’s Series Flight ($5) and Premium Series Flight ($15). For an enhanced wine tasting experience choose a pre-set flight of 5 wines paired with Chef’s inspired small food bites. Reservations highly recommended. The Four Food Chiefs food and wine experience is available during March and April ($50). The Patio Restaurant offers contemporary North American cuisine in a picturesque location with fresh Farm-to-Table innovations. Lunch and afternoon lounge service Fridays-Mondays, weather permitting.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

Location: 537 Tinhorn Creek Road, Oliver

Varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently available Wines: Tinhorn Creek wines are available under four groupings: White Wines: 2019 Chardonnay, 2021 Pinot Gris, 2021 Gewürztraminer; Red Wines: 2020 Pinot Noir, 2019 Merlot, 2019 Cabernet Franc; Reserve Wines: 2021 Reserve Rosé, 2019 Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc, 2018 Oldfield Reserve Merlot; Library Wines: 2008 Merlot, 2009 Merlot Merlot, 2010 Merlot, 2006 Oldfield Series Merlot, 2014 Oldfield Reserve Merlot

Related Article: The Okanagan has What it Takes to Rival Napa

Head Winemaker: Leandro Nosal

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: Established in 1993, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards is located just south of Oliver in the famed Golden Mile Bench wine-growing district with 150 acres between two vineyards on the Black Sage and Golden Mile benches. Tinhorn Creek is a beautiful estate vineyard that offers a great visitor experience. It provides tastings and tours seven days a week. You might want to begin your day with a walk along the Golden Mile hiking trail before taking in one of the tours, tastings, or lunch at the Miradoro Restaurant.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experiences: Bar Tasting ($8).

The Tinhorn Creek Tasting Flight ($20) is enjoyed on the outdoor patio overlooking the South Okanagan vistas. Four wines are sampled and selected by the wine ambassador.

Black Glass Tasting ($25) is led by a wine ambassador who will serve you four wine samples served in black glasses. With the help of your senses, you’ll guess what each wine varietal is. If you guess two of the four correctly, the tasting fee is waived.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Stemware Tasting ($30) is a private experience where you’ll learn about the importance of varietal-specific stemware while relaxing in the Crush Club Lounge.

The Guided Tour Experience ($35) will take you on a walk through the estate property, be welcomed into the barrel cellar and then return to the tasting room for a bar tasting.

The Private Lounge Experience ($40) offers a one-hour session with one of Tinhorn’s wine ambassadors who will explain the history, what it takes to make a great wine, and the importance of the right glass to enjoy one’s wine.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Library Lounge Experience ($50) allows you to sit and be surrounded by Tinhorn’s collection of vintage library bottles while enjoying a flight of wines focusing on a particular vintage or particular wine varietal.

The Miradoro Restaurant has been named Vancouver Magazine: Gold Best Winery Restaurant six years in a row. The setting is elegant with a casual feel to it with treehouse-like spectacular views. Led by executive chef, Jeff Van Geest, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients are used with an emphasis on culinary creativity. Open for lunch and dinner.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hester Creek Vineyards

Location: 877 Road 8, Oliver

Varietals: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently available Wines: 2021 Pinot Gris, 2021 Pinot Blanc, 2021 Character White, 2020 Chardonnay, 2019 Old Vine Late Harvest Pinot Blanc, 2021 Ti Amo (sparkling wine), 2018 Old Vine Brut, 2020 Rosé Franc, 2021 Select Vineyards Merlot, 2020 Select Vineyards Cabernet Merlot, 2020 Character Red, 2019 Syrah, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 Old Vine Merlot, 2019 Old Vine Cabernet Franc, 2018 The Judge, 2018 Garland

Related Article: Why You Should Explore the Wines of the Okanagan Valley

Winemaker: Mark Hopley

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: Hester Creek Vineyards date back to 1968, making them among the oldest vineyards in the Okanagan Valley. Hester Creek is located just south of Oliver on the Golden Mile, a sun-drenched bench that slopes down toward the valley floor. Located on the west side of the valley, it gets morning rather than afternoon sun making it one of the cooler regions in the Okanagan Valley. The soils here are fast draining alluvial soils of stony, gravelly, sandy loams.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mediterranean influenced setting offers customized tastings, scenic patios, summer barbeques, live music, farm-to-table cooking classes, six Tuscany styled villa suites, and Italian inspired dining at Terrafina at Hester Creek.

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

The Okanagan has What it Takes to Rival Napa

Wine lover? Consider visiting the Okanagan in Western Canada instead of California’s Napa Valley.

Napa Valley conjures up images of grand hillside chateaus, opulent tasting rooms, dining at Michelin-starred restaurants, and perhaps a little celebrity spotting, all factors that have contributed to its anointing as America’s most celebrated wine region.

The Okanagan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plucky Napa pinned its place on the global wine map by beating French wines in blind tastings at the 1976 Judgment of Paris. To say this was unexpected is an understatement and it proved to be a turning point in California’s wine industry.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The number of wineries in the Napa Valley increased from a few dozen in the 1970s to approximately 475 today—good news not just for the wine industry but also for the state’s tourism industry. Napa became a major attraction, creating a market that supports some of the country’s poshest restaurants and hotels—the French Laundry and Auberge du Soleil to name two—and, in turn, crowds, particularly evident in late summer and fall. There are still workarounds: You can avoid weekends or head for wineries off the jam-packed main road. Or you could go north to Canada instead.

Related Article: Forget Napa! It’s Always Wine O’clock in these 5 Underrated Wine Regions!

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okanagan Valley of British Columbia is a roughly 155-mile-long valley that stretches from Osoyoos on the Canadian border with Washington State to roughly Vernon, British Columbia.

It’s located approximately 240-miles east of Vancouver, BC, between the 49th and 50th parallel. That puts it on the same latitude as Champagne in France and the Rheingau in Germany.

Skaha Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region has a continental climate, but its extremes are moderated by the presence of a series of deep, interconnected lakes—Okanagan Lake, Skaha Lake, Vaseux Lake, and Osoyoos Lake.

This is a largely desert region that averages less than 12 inches of rainfall a year. The valley gets progressively drier from north to south with roughly 16 inches of rain at its northern end around Kelowna to less than 10 inches a year around Osoyoos.

Vaseaux Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of Canada’s sunniest areas, the fertile basin has long been known as the country’s fruit basket. If you visit in summer, you can stop at roadside stands to fill up on just-picked apples, cherries, apricots, and peaches. Cycling or hiking the Kettle Valley Rail Trail which is part of the province’s longest trail network is a popular pursuit as is skiing the deep powder at Big White Ski Resort and boating on Okanagan Lake. But today, the Okanagan is better known for its wine.

Osoyoos Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its northern latitude also means that the region’s vineyards experience more daylight during the summer growing period—roughly 14 hours of direct sunlight. Compared to Napa Valley, for example, the Okanagan receives about two hours more sunlight a day and has markedly hotter temperatures.

Related Article: Planning a Wine Country Road Trip

The northern latitude, however, also means that the onset of cool autumn weather can often come quickly reducing the amount of hang time that grapes can receive.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The steeply-sided slopes and surface geography create a range of aspects and produce varied microclimates across the valley. The resulting wines vary from Mosel-style Rieslings to concentrated Bordeaux-inspired red blends.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The result is powerful, concentrated wines that have high alcohol levels but also offer remarkable fruit concentration and a smooth velvety texture while avoiding the jammy character typical of warm climate Pinot Noir. Many wines also have faint vegetal notes reminiscent of Burgundian Pinot Noir, a characteristic that is usually lacking in Pinot Noir wines from the Northwest.

Unlike Napa, few of the Okanagan’s 186 wineries export their wines: Around 90 percent of British Columbian wine is sold within the province. So if you want to drink Okanagan wine, you’ll probably have to go there and the experience the personal touch that makes it worth the trip.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As a younger wine destination, the Okanagan also still offers a wallet-friendly experience. Tasting fees are typically less than $10 (compared with $58 in Napa) and are often, though not always, waived with a purchase of a bottle. It’s easy to hit up multiple wineries in a day by following a wine trail or downloading the Wines of BC Explorer app.

Although it’s about 155 miles long, the Okanagan is surprisingly diverse, climate-wise. In the Lake Country subregion the province’s oldest continually operating winery, Calona Vineyards, was established in 1932. Wineries here are known for such varietals as Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Noir. At one of the best, Quails’ Gate, you can visit the lakeside tasting room, have a wine-paired meal at Old Vines Restaurant, and sleep it all off at the adjoining guesthouse.

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the valley’s southernmost tip which is surrounded by a shrub-steppe semidesert and is one of Canada’s hottest spots, conditions are ideal for reds such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Nk’Mip Cellars near Osoyoos Lake is North America’s first Indigenous-owned and operated winery. Next door, in the Spirit Ridge Resort, the Bear, the Fish, the Root & the Berry serves Indigenous-inspired cuisine, and the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre describes the history of the Osoyoos people.

Nk’Mip RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Open year-round, Nk’Mip RV Park and Campground offer more lakefront, beach access, and view sites than any other park in the Okanagan. Big rigs welcome.

Related Article: Exploring Canada’s Breathtaking Wine Country

Below are tasting notes on a selection of Okanagan Valley wines from some of the region’s leading wine producers.

Quails’ Gate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quails’ Gate, 2020, Okanagan Valley Dry Riesling, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, 12% ABV, 750 ml

Quails’ Gate sits below the extinct volcano of Mount Boucherie in West Kelowna on the west shore of Okanagan Lake. The area is characterized by deeply decomposed, ancient, mineral-rich volcanic soils that date back roughly 60 million years. This Riesling is produced from 30-year-old vines that reflect the region’s signature minerality as well as its characteristic intensity.

Quails’ Gate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fruit is whole-cluster pressed and then subjected to long, cool temperature fermentation in a steel tank. The result is a very fruit-forward wine with pronounced aromatics.

On the nose, there are notes of green, stone, and tropical fruit including, in particular, apple and apricot, along with some lemon zest, a hint of grapefruit, and melon with just a touch of pineapple. On the palate, the wine is dry with notable acidity.

Quails’ Gate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The finish is long, with lingering green apple and crisp lemon-lime notes. Stylistically, this seems a little less dry than your typical Alsatian Riesling but lacks even the hint of sweetness that is typical of German-style Rieslings. It’s a great food wine that will pair well with a variety of foods, especially seafood, cured meats, and soft cheeses.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Black Hills, 2019 Nota Bene, VQA, Okanagan Valley, Black Sage Bench, 14.5% ABV, 750 ml

Black Hills’ vineyard sites have been recognized as having some of the best terroirs in Canada. Located on Black Sage Road, their microclimate provides one of the hottest, driest, and sunniest sites in Canada. The southwest-facing aspect and moderate slope combined with deep desert sand yield intensely flavorful and complex grapes.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Their twenty-first vintage of Nota Bene brought a rare opportunity to return to the wine’s origins. For just the third time since the very first vintage (1999), the blend is headlined by Merlot, rather than Cabernet Sauvignon. The moderately cool 2019 vintage produced outstanding Merlot from their Sharp Rock and Double Black vineyards and it was impossible to ignore these barrels in the final blend. The beauty of Nota Bene is that it always represents the best of its Estate vineyards in a given year and quality drives the final blend, rather than a recipe.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2019 Nota Bene opens with intense and ripe black cherry, strawberry, and plum on the nose. On the palate, the ripeness and richness of this fruit are beautifully balanced by crunchy red currant flavors while a subtle yet warming layer of cinnamon and clove spice weaves effortlessly into the wine. There is also a savory element to the wine showing through as dried herbs, sage, and cigar box. The tannins are elegant and velvety and the wine finishes strongly with refreshing acidity and a fine silky texture

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tinhorn Creek, 2019 Cabernet Franc, BC VQA, Okanagan Valley, Golden Mile Bench, 14% ABV, 750 ml

Established in 1993, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards is located just south of Oliver in the famed Golden Mile Bench wine-growing district with 150 acres between two vineyards on the Black Sage and Golden Mile benches.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2019 vintage provided a vibrant, natural acidity with fresh, elegant, and ripe flavors from their South Okanagan vineyards. The grapes are harvested, destemmed, and gently crushed to release the juice and color from the skins. The grape juice or must is pumped over twice a day until fermentation using natural yeast begins to take place. A steady fermentation helps preserve the fruit flavors.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once fermentation is complete, the juice is drained off the skins or called ‘free run’ juice. The wine is placed into a variety of French, Hungarian, and American Oak barrels where it will age for 12 months. The barrels are stored in our temperature and humidity-controlled barrel cellar until bottling. On the nose, there is lots of ripe red fruit mingled with a hint of black pepper. 

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hester Creek, 2019 Old Vine Merlot, BC VQA, Okanagan Valley, Golden Mile Bench, 14.4% ABV, 750 ml

Hester Creek Vineyards date back to 1968, making them among the oldest vineyards in the Okanagan Valley. Hester Creek is located just south of Oliver, on the Golden Mile, a sun-drenched bench that slopes down toward the valley floor. Located on the west side of the valley, it gets morning rather than afternoon sun making it one of the cooler regions in the Okanagan Valley. The soils here are fast draining alluvial soils of stony, gravelly, sandy loams.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the nose, the wine offers up fruity aromas of ripe plum with hints of prune, black cherry, milk chocolate, vanilla, and some dry, brushy herbaceous notes.

Related Article: Why You Should Explore the Wines of the Okanagan Valley

On the palate, there is more plum and black cherry, along with notes of cinnamon, a hint of clove, and a bit of well-seasoned oak.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a robust wine, with a notable palate weight and mouth coating character that offers up ripe, well-integrated tannins and good acidity.

The finish is very long with lingering notes of black cherry and plum.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okanagan produces the northernmost Pinot Noir in North America. Although located some 300 miles north of Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley, this region is much hotter and receives more sunlight over the summer.

If you are not familiar with the wines of the Okanagan, they are certainly worth exploring and often represent exceptional values.

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

Why You Should Explore the Wines of the Okanagan Valley

Thirsty? You’re in luck. Hundreds of wineries line the fertile Okanagan Valley, clustered around a string of scenic lakes.

The Okanagan Valley is a roughly 155-mile-long valley that stretches from Osoyoos on the Canadian border with Washington State to roughly Vernon, British Columbia.

Okanagan Wine Country Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s located approximately 240-miles east of Vancouver, BC, between the 49th and 50th parallel. That puts it on the same latitude as Champagne in France and the Rheingau in Germany.

The region has a continental climate, but its extremes are moderated by the presence of a series of deep, interconnected lakes—Okanagan Lake, Skaha Lake, Vaseux Lake, and Osoyoos Lake.

Okanagan Wine Country Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a largely desert region which averages less than 12 inches of rainfall a year. The valley gets progressively drier from north to south with roughly 16 inches of rain at its northern end around Kelowna to less than 10 inches a year around Osoyoos.

Okanagan Wine Country Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winters can be cold here with temperatures falling to below 10 degrees Fahrenheit but they are generally short. Summers can be exceptionally hot. Average summer temperatures in July and August are 85 degrees with temperatures over 100 degrees are common.

Okanagan Wine Country Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its northern latitude also means that the region’s vineyards experience more daylight during the summer growing period—roughly 14 hours of direct sunlight. Compared to Napa Valley, for example, the Okanagan receives about two hours more sunlight a day and has markedly hotter temperatures.

Related Article: The Okanagan Valley: A Special Place

The northern latitude, however, also means that the onset of cool autumn weather can often come quickly reducing the amount of hang time that grapes can receive.

Okanagan Wine Country Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The steeply sided slopes and surface geography create a range of aspects and produce varied microclimates across the valley. The resulting wines vary from Mosel style Rieslings to concentrated Bordeaux inspired red blends.

Okanagan Wine Country Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region experiences a pronounced diurnal cycle (a pattern that recurs every 24 hours) especially during the harvest season with warm days and cool nights combining to promote acidity as well as maximize hang time. The result is new world style, concentrated fruit forward wines that retain a notable, vibrant acidity.

There are over 60 different varieties of wine grapes grown in the Okanagan Valley. These are vinified in a variety of styles ranging from sparkling to still to ice wines.

Okanagan Wine Country Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The geology of the Okanagan Valley is particularly complex; presenting an array of rock types (basaltic lava flows, carbonaceous sedimentary beds, intrusive granites, and metamorphic rocks) which have been shaped by complex processes of mountain building, volcanic eruptions, glaciations, and erosion.

The result is a series of ancient soils composed of glacial till and eroded bedrock. It’s not uncommon for a small 10-acre vineyard to exhibit a half dozen or more different soil types.

Okanagan Wine Country Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The valley has approximately 9,000 acres of vineyards. It represents roughly 85 percent of British Columbia’s wine production spread out over 185 wineries.

The valley is in turn organized into eight wine producing areas, four of which are official sub-regions or appellations that present distinct soil and climate conditions. From north to south these eight wine producing areas are:

Kelowna/Lake Country

Quails Gate Winery in the Kelowna wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grapes were first planted in this region in 1859. It also boasts the oldest continually operating winery—Calona Vineyards, established in 1932. The region hosts some of the valley’s best-known wineries including Gray Monk Estate, Summerville Pyramid Winery, Cedar Creek, and Quail’s Gate Winery. There are about 900 acres of vineyards across 44 wineries.

Soils here tend to be heavier, consisting of a mix of sandy loam, clay, and limestone. Grape varietals cultivated include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

Related Article: South Okanagan: Beaches, Peaches, Wine, and More

Peachland/Summerland/Penticton

Play Winery in Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This region overlooks Okanagan Lake and sits across from the Naramata Bench on the east side of the lake. Soils here are a mix of volcanic soils and very fertile ice age clays.

Dirty Laundry Vineyard in Summerland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Principal grape varieties include Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Noir. Among the better-known wineries here is Sumac Ridge which was established in 1980. The region has about 355 acres of vineyards across 23 wineries.

Naramata Bench

Red Rooster Winery in the Naramata Bench wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Naramata Bench consists of the bench lands overlooking Okanagan Lake situated between Penticton Creek and Okanagan Mountain Park. Okanagan Lake and the pronounced aspect of the terrain exert a powerful moderating influence resulting in a long, frost-free period compared to other regions of the Okanagan Valley.

Lake Breeze Winery in the Naramata Bench wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The soils here consist of nutrient rich topsoil formed by the deposition of silt loam in glacial lake sediments. At lower elevations soils are remarkably stone free but these give way to gravelly soils, mostly the result of deposits of glacial till that occurred when the ice sheets of the last ice age began to recede some 15 thousand years ago.

Upper Bench Winery in the Naramata Bench wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a total of 618 acres of vineyards spreads across 39 different wineries. The principal grape varieties cultivated are Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. The first winery established here was Lang Vineyards in 1990.

Skaha Bench

Blasted Church Vineyards in the Skaha Bench wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On May 13, 2019, wineries in the Skaha Bench joined the Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, and Golden Mile Bench, near Oliver, as wineries that meet the requirements of the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation.

With Okanagan Falls at its heart, vineyards stretch northwards along the East Bench of Skaha Lake and across the water to Kaleden and then south over rolling hills above Vaseux Lake.

Related Article: Exploring Canada’s Breathtaking Wine Country

Wineries in Skaha Bench include Blasted Church, Black Dog, Painted Rock, Pentage, and Crescent Hill. Principal grape varietals are Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.

Okanagan Falls

Wild Goose Vineyards in the Okanagan Falls wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okanagan Falls is, along with the Naramata Bench, Skaha Bench, and the Golden Mile Bench, a sub-geographical indication (a sub-appellation) of the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan Falls sub-appellation runs from the shores of Skaha Lake to the tip of Vaseux Lake.

See Ya Later Ranch in the Okanagan Falls wine producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region averages around 1,407 growing degree days which puts it on par with France’s Bordeaux or Italy’s Piedmont. Soils here are extremely heterogeneous with vineyards planted on both the valley bottoms and terraced slopes. Principal grape varietals are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Noir.

Noble Ridge Vineyards in the Okanagan Falls wine producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a total of 539 acres of vineyards spread out over 12 wineries. See Ya Later Ranch, originally founded as Hawthorne Mountain Winery, dates back to 1986.

Oliver

Black Hills Winery in the Oliver wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oliver, called the Wine Capital of Canada, hosts 40 wineries and, with 3,543 acres of vineyards, represents roughly half of British Columbia’s grapevines. The region runs from the Golden Mile Bench in the west to the Black Sage Bench in the east.

Church and State Winery in the Oliver wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The principal grape varietals in the area include Pinot Gris and Chardonnay (mostly planted on the west side) to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc (mostly planted in the east). Notable wineries include Black Hills, Burrowing Owl, Phantom Creek, and Church and State.

Golden Mile Bench

Hester Creek Winery on the Golden Mile Bench wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Golden Mile Bench was the first sub-appellation created in the Okanagan Valley. It dates to 2015. It’s located on the western slope of the Okanagan Valley, south of Oliver and across from the Black Sage Bench.

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery on the Golden Mile wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bench’s southerly aspect provides a warm climate. Its position on the west side, however, means that it gets morning rather than afternoon sun, and is cooler than the Black Sage Bench.

Tinhorn Creek Winery on the Golden Mile Bench wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Soils consist of well-drained fluvial fans, consisting of a mix of stony gravels and sandy loams. Principal grape varieties here are Chardonnay, Gewürztraminerm, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. There is a total of 791 acres in vineyards across nine wineries. Wineries of note include Tinhorn Creek, Hester Creek, Gehringer Brothers, and Road 13.

Related Article: Taste Your Way through the Okanagan

Osoyoos

NK’Mip Cellars in the Osoyoos wine producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Osoyoos lies at the southernmost tip of the Okanagan Valley, across from the US-Canadian border. This is Canada’s hottest spot and BC’s principal red wine producing region. It’s also one of the youngest. The first winery, NK’Mip Cellars, wasn’t established until 2002.

Moon Curser Vineyards in the Osoyoos wine producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently, there are 1,510 acres of vineyards across nine wineries. In addition to being a major wine producing area, the region also exports red grapes to other producers in the Okanagan Valley and elsewhere in BC.

Adega on the 45th Winery in the Osoyoos wine-producing area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Soils consist of glaciofluvial residues overlying the granite bedrock. Grape varietals include Chardonnay along with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah/Shiraz.

If you are not familiar with the wines of the Okanagan, they are certainly worth exploring and often represent exceptional values.

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

South Okanagan: Beaches, Peaches, Wine, and More

In the Western Canadian province of British Columbia, near the very bottom of Canada, there is a desert

The Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The region receives less than 12 inches of rain and two inches of snow annually and is the hottest and driest place in Canada. On the horizon are mountains of green foliage, aqua blue lakes, and, in the distance, rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see.

Okanagan Lake near Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okanagan Desert, defined as an antelope brush ecosystem, is just a small narrow finger stretching past the U. S. border and nearly reaching the city of Penticton. Surrounding the desert, however, are grasslands that look and feel as arid and dry as the official desert territory. But within this land, there is fertility. The desert and sandy slopes and benches that make up the South Okanagan also doubles as wine country, bursting with goodness.

Okanagan orchard post-harvest season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

S.S. Sicamoose and the sandy beach off Okanagan Lake at Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two towns are standouts for their concentration of vineyards and wineries: Oliver (named for long-ago British Columbia Premier John Oliver) and Osoyoos (which shares a name with one of seven Okanagan tribes (called “bands” in Canada); pronounce it “oo-SUE-yooze”). Together the towns boast 39 wineries that extend from the lush valley into the semi-arid mountains that surround the area.

Wine tasting at the Black Hills Estate Winery near Oliver © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine tasting here is as much about the surroundings as the wine itself. Wedged between the Cascades and the Columbia Mountains, the Okanagan Valley enjoys hot summers and mild winters unique to Canada—it constitutes the country’s only temperate desert region.

Osoyoos Lake, the warmest lake in Canada, is particularly suited for a dip early in the morning before the beach traffic reaches its busy peak, a blissful way to start a day packed with even more wine tasting.

Tinhorn Creek Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Grapes at harvest time © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Nk’Mip Cellars in Osoyoos © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The top white varietals include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, 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, Syrah, Gamay Noir, and Marechal Foch.

Hester Creek Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wineries that clearly exceed our grape expectations include Tinhorn Creek, Burrowing Owl, Gehringer Brothers, and Hester Creek along Oliver’s Miracle Mile, 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.

Adaga on 45th Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Nk’Mip RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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