Okay, so you have just left Naramata, satisfied with having tasted wines from some of the leading wineries in the Okanagan (and the province, for that matter). You are heading south, looking forward to first the Similkameen Valley and then the wineries in Oliver/Osoyoos that are further south.
But along the way there are also a couple of wineries you should check out. I’m not sure what to call this region, but you can’t leave it out, because it contains one of my favourite wineries!
1. Blue Mountain
Even if you only stop once heading south do it in Okanagan Falls to visit Blue Mountain. And now it is easier than ever before, because you don’t need to make an appointment.
The main reason to go is to taste the Reserve Pinot Noir (if they have any left!). Year in, year out, this competes with Kettle Valley Hayman and Reserve for the best in BC. A cross in style between Burgundy and California, look for the ripe, black cherry fruit of the latter mixed with spicy/earthiness of the former. Great on release, it can also age for 8 – 10 years in good vintages. Not cheap at $36, it is still have the price of a similar quality wine from either of those two regions.
Other reds to taste while there are the regular Pinot Noir (a Cali style wine well priced at $25) and perhaps BC’s best Gamay for $21 (if only more Beaujolais tasted like this!).
For the whites, the Reserve Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are good at $26, but the star is the NV Brut sparkling wine. Made in the Spanish Cava style, the crisp, green apple flavoured wine really delivers for $25!
2. Painted Rock
Painted Rock is the other winery I recommend, and it is actually just outside of Penticton. A relative newcomer on the scene, I first tasted the wines at the 2011 Vancouver Wine Festival, where they were very impressive.
For reds, I like the Syrah the best. It is made in northern Rhone style, meaning dark fruit, pepper, earth and a touch of licorice. It is very ripe, though, riper than most Rhone Syrahs, although not jammy like its Aussie counterparts. My only issue with this wine – as with almost all the Painted Rock wines – is price. At $40, it is more expensive than the best BC Syrah (from Nichol Vineyards) and not as good. Worth stopping to taste, but to buy?
The Merlot is much the same. While I really like the style here –more fruit than wood, chocolate and mocha – and it is really ripe, the $40 price tag makes it a tough one to recommend from a value point of view.
For whites, the Chardonnay is gorgeous, made in a Cali style with butter, vanilla and citrus fruit. At $30, it is not cheap but price competitive with other BC Chardonnays of this quality.
So there you go – if you can afford the time to stop at just two wineries on the trip down from Penticton, make them Blue Mountain and Painted Rock. The wines will be worth it!