We're taking a deep dive into the Napa of the North, BC’s Okanagan Valley - and checking out all the things to do in Osoyoos. Today, the who, what, where, when, and why of wine in B.C.
Trivia time – where’s the closest place to Seattle to go to a Napa-level vineyard sans airplane ticket? Believe it or not, it’s in Canada.
The Okanagan Valley, located just north of the Washington-BC border, enjoys a ridiculously lucky micro-climate; sun bounces off of Anarchist Mountain, the ground stays warm, and the nights in the winter get very, very cold. The end result is a bounty of gorgeous white, red, and true ice wines at wineries that dot the valley, all available at ridiculously affordable prices with barely-there tasting fees. Here are three worth checking out.
Talk about a success story. The family being Kismet started growing grapes in the 1990s after immigrating from India, and after spending decades selling grapes to other winemakers they took a turn themselves. The result is incredible – mostly blends – and the standouts are Moksha, a Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre blend with vanilla and oak tastes, and Infinity Rose, basically the platonic ideal of summer wines. Enjoy both at the family’s restaurant, Masala Bistro, where you really shouldn’t leave without trying every appetizer on the menu. (Pro tip: the Paneer Pakoras are insanely good.)
Famous in Canada for its accessible wins, Jackson-Triggs is a victim of the fact that Canada’s provinces don’t let you ship from spot to spot that easily. That’s a shame, because it means everyone who’s not in BC – including friends just over the border in Washington – miss out on the winery’s fancier offerings, all of which are ridiculously delicious. Check out their Sun Rock Vineyard experience, where four wines are paired with four different snacks. Winemakers walk you through each pairing – think a red wine with a ladyfinger, each side of which is dipped in a different kind of chocolate – to teach you how to really complement the wine you’re taking home with flavors in food. It’s an educational experience with a view that can’t be beat.
Located just off Spirit Ridge Resort’s main drag, this is the first band-owned vineyard in the area, and the winemaker is a band member himself. Nk’Mip is famous for Dream Catcher, a white blend so drinkable it’s actually dangerous to be around (seriously, watch how fast a bottle goes if you just leave it on the table), but the shining star is Qwam Qwmt (pronounced kw-em kw-empt), a line of premium table wines. Pick up the line’s Pinot Noir for a real treat. Finally, Nk’Mip manages to make a real ice wine – no easy feat – and it’s a dessert worth saving room for.
Alas, it’s not that easy to get the goods here in Washington. Spirit Ridge Resort Manager Daniel Bibby said that exporting wine form Canada is a little tough – usually customs will let up to a case go through without an extra duty charge if you’re just purchasing for personal use, but it’s difficult to find the stuff in any wine shops around Seattle. (Less easy to get through the border: hard liquor. Don’t even try it.) Flying home has to be direct, too – a pit stop in any other airport (say, a flight from Kelowna to Vancouver before heading to Seattle) precludes you from taking home anything bought at the duty-free.
The point? That four-hour drive (or trip on the Clipper, or cheap flight to BC, or any number of ways to sneak up to our neighbor to the north) is worth it.