Distinctive OK Falls flavours defining BC wine
One of our favourite BC wine events of the year is the trade & media tasting of the OK Falls Winery Association. Over the years we have seen this group of independent wineries (plus one “large” winery — See Ya Later Ranch, owned by Constellation Brands) has really coalesced into a group that works well together to promote their region. We can say that we have some genuine friendships among the group, after visiting (and celebrating) the wines of OK Falls for several years.
For the uninitiated, Okanagan Falls is on Route 97, about 25 minutes drive south of Penticton. As a town it does not present well at first glance. The frontage of the commercial buildings are dull and in need of some TLC. There is a small, modern accommodation right on the SW edge of Skaha Lake, then a large parking lot/strip mall with an IGA grocery store (always a convenient stop for us), and of course the most famous landmark is Tickleberry’s Ice Cream, which is a seasonal attraction that would not be out of place at Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition.
You need to get off Highway 97 if you want to revel in what makes Okanagan Falls great. Finding where to go (assuming you have no navigation tools) can be a challenge. In spite of the grand culinary offerings (such as Liquidity Bistro, or lunch at Smoke and Oak Bistro) there are no signs in the town to point you in the right direction. Why this is the case is a puzzle, but between the governing Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen or BC’s Ministry of Transportation they should figure it out.
Thousands of cars pass through OK Falls on the highway. More of them need to spend time visiting the adjacent wine country.
All of this detail is to emphasize one thing — Get Thee to OK Falls!
You will not be disappointed that you got off the beaten path to visit all of this region’s wine and culinary delights.
A trip to OK Falls would not be easily done in one day. Not even close. If you are wine traveling in the Okanagan, and are lucky enough to be staying nearby, be sure to make multiple trips.
See their website for a guide to all the wineries you can visit. We strongly recommend visiting the wineries around Skaha Lake, and taking a trip up Mclean Creek Road, as well as touring the cluster of wineries around Oliver Ranch Road. The drive up along Green Lake Road is also visually stunning.
Now back to the OK Falls tasting, which took place in Yaletown. There were 14 tables — one for each member of the winery association — and a great representation by the owners of these wineries. A separate bar was set up to taste a lineup of Rosé wines from the region. Unfortunately, neither Stacey nor I were able to get to that part of the room. I did, however, get to taste Meyer Family Vineyard’s lovely, dry Rosé.
There were so many great wines and a few that really grabbed our attention. I’ve been excited by how many Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Okanagan are distinguishing themselves. The 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from Blasted Church — its citrus notes, and luscious mouth feel made me want to take some bottles home.
We always love Wild Goose’s very inviting whites — particularly the Pinot Blanc. Pentages’ 2011 Roussanne Marsanne Viognier blend is a huge favourite. Noble Ridge wines always delight us, and their classic-styled Chardonnay is one of BC’s best. Painted Rock’s 2013 Red Icon builds upon the reputation of this Bordeaux style blend, by making it a real British Columbia wine. Blue Mountain pour samples of their amazing sparkling wine.
We both love the Skaha Vineyards label wines by Kraze Legz, and really recommend their Pinot Blanc and Unoaked Chardonnay. Stag’s Hollow continue to make wines that are pushing the boundaries for BC. They have a small production of Albariño grape wine that was exceptional.
Synchromesh Wines are just down the McLean Creek Road from Meyer Family Vineyard. Both of these wineries are making some of the most elegant and expressive wines in Canada. Synchromesh’s Rieslings were in high demand — one could hardly get to their table from the crowd in front of it.
Thankfully, we have a copy of the program from that day we can share — download it here. Try any of these wines and I believe you will immediately feel the pull of OK Falls, and want to visit this exceptional BC wine region.
For more details, I recommend that you read John Schreiner’s excellent notes from that day — find them here.