Landslide rips through BC wine country

Landslide rips through BC wine country

Photo of Testalinden Creek mudslide in Oliver, BC - Globe & Mail Photo
Photo of Testalinden Creek mudslide in Oliver, BC – Photo: Globe & Mail

A landslide came crashing down the slopes of the south Okanagan's Golden Mile bench on Sunday, tearing out homes and farm fields. Up to ten buildings were destroyed and the main route – Highway 97 – has been temporarily closed for the next few days. Tonnes of mud slid down the hillside along the route of Testalinden Creek after an earth dam broke at the top of the hillside.

Testalinden Creek is just south of Road 13 Vineyards. While the slide did not appear to rip through a working winery, there was vineyard and orchard damage that has devasted several local residents. Fortunately there are no reported injuries or deaths. The amount of clean-up of the surrounding area is considerable, with hills of mud up to six feet deep and up to 200 metres wide in places.

The Globe and Mail speaks with Road 13's Mike Luckhurst in their report

Earlier Sunday, when Mick Luckhurst first heard the cracking branches on the hillside near his yard, he thought a tractor was at work removing foliage.

Then he turned around and saw trees falling like bowling pins, as a massive mudslide covered the hill just a half-kilometre away. A torrent of dirt and debris flowed down the hill, taking out his friend's house.

“It just exploded off the foundations,” Mr. Luckhurst said. “The power of the mud and water was mind-boggling,” he said.

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SOWA Banée 2010 reflections

SOWA Banée 2010 reflections

Banée Dinner at Passa Tempo restaurant (Nk'Mip Winery)
Dinner at Passa Tempo restaurant (Nk'Mip Winery) – click for larger

We're still catching up on a busy week, but we're going to post up some of our many reflections from last weekend's Banée.

Our drive to Osoyoos was an easy one, as there is not much tourist traffic on the highway at this time of year, and it made for a relatively quick trip. We arrived at the Watermark Beachfront Resort mid-afternoon. The Resort is situated in the heart of Osoyoos and overlooks the lake. We headed up to our room, which was a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom suite. Our Banée package awaited us!

After a short break, we headed down to meet up with the other Banée attendees. Our Banée coordinator, Sue Alexander, greeted us in the Resort's wine bar. We were then shuttled to Passa Tempo restaurant at Spirit Ridge for a media reception, hosted by Anthony Burée. We were pleased to be seated with such great company – such as Bill Eggert, maverick winemaker at Fairview Cellars; Brooke Blair, winemaker at Jackson-Triggs; Sandra Oldfield of Tinhorn Creek and Rob Summers of Hester Creek.

It was an informative dinner conversation, with a discussion of old world vs. new world styles. Wine flowed as the evening progressed. A few wines of note were Gehringer Brothers Dry Rock Chardonnay 2009, Fairview Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Road 13 2008 Rockpile (one of their new blends!), and Dunham & Froese 2008 Amiticia.

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Weekend Wine – Banée comes back to the South Okanagan

Weekend Wine – Banée comes back to the South Okanagan

Banée – a tradition begun in France is growing in the South Okanagan

Our BC wine travels have taken me and my family regularly to the South Okanagan, and each year we return to find the industry maturing, and the wines evolving into something great. Many have worked hard over the years to improve their wines, and you can see from the quality of their work that they give a whole new meaning to 'learning on the job'.

For example, Stoneboat Vineyards was recently recognized by Wine Press Northwest magazine – a Washington state-based quarterly – as BC's 'winery to watch'. Then there is Okanagan Inniskillin, owned by the Vincor group. At our house we worship at the Temple of Sandor Mayer. Mayer is Inniskillin Okanagan's winemaker of the past 18 years, and one of the great wine craftsmen of the region. His rich reds (especially his Merlots) are one of life's great pleasures.

The South Okanagan is also home to other fine winemaking establishments like Burrowing Owl, Road 13 Winery, Quinta Ferreira, Jackson Triggs Okanagan, and the standout Fairview Cellars run by Bill Eggert.

Those who cherish the wines of the South Okanagan, or anyone who just wishes to know more about them are invited to the 7th Annual Banée (April 16-17, 2010), which was previously a closed event only for wine industry types. The Banée offers a selection of winemaker dinner + accommodation packages (ticket info further in this post). What you get next weekend in Osoyoos, BC is a behind-the-scenes experience, and an opportunity to mix with the folks who make the wines. My wife and I will be attending and we plan to share some of our observations on

Modeled after Burgundy’s famed Banée de Meursault, a wine industry celebration that marks the end of pruning and the beginning of a new season, this festival will feature exquisite food and wine and will surely create a lasting tasting memory. Originally a small gathering of South Okanagan winery owners and winemakers enjoying a wine-focused, no-frills forum to taste local and international wines, exchange ideas and share meals, the Banée has grown and word has spread but the concept remains the same – good food, delicious wine and great company.

Another participating winery is Nk'Mip Cellars, who were recently profiled last Thursday on KBCS-FM which is the Seattle-area affiliate of the Pacifica Network. The independent station focuses on progressive politics and culture, and their feature story by reporter Toby Nelson looked at how First Nations casino projects were struggling in the current economy. They contrast that situation with the success of the Osoyoos Indian Band and their Nk'Mip winery. They speak with Lindsay Anderson, who I interviewed as part of our 2010 Updates. Toby interviewed me for some local thoughts about Nk'Mip, and I'm heard near the end of the piece. You can here the clip here:

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