Rattlesnakes, tales of trickster coyote, and temperatures in the 100s with desert lakes for cooling off, not exactly the scene one expects from British Columbia. Four and a half hours drive from Seattle, the south Okangan region of B.C. is rich with history and a growing wine and dining scene. One of the warmest places in Canada, the area’s friendly and gregarious character creates an atmosphere so welcoming it feels like you are always among friends.
The Okangan valley in British Columbia offers a stunning red earth landscape with dramatic bluffs soaring above blue waters. Sprinkled across the valleys are beautiful vineyards framed with blue skies, ponderosa pine trees and warmed by an imposing sun. The Okanagan Indians have been in the region for many centuries and take great pride and care for the region. Under the leadership of Chief Clarence Louie, the Osoyoos band has been able to work alongside other Okanagan Indians and with Bellstar Hotels and Resorts to create the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa in Osoyoos, B.C. A five-star accommodation for the region, the resort offers a golf course, pools, views and lake access. On site there is a desert cultural center where visitors can learn about the Okanagan Indians and their work protecting and monitoring endangered wildlife. The Osoyoos Indian Band’s hard work and commitment to the land can be tasted on-sight at the Nk’Mip Cellars, pouring glasses from the resort’s winery. The resort has everything needed to be kept extremely comfortable, including Mica, delicious wine country comfort food, locally sourced, offering creative spins on old favorites lime merlot poached eggs.
Le Vieux Pin
Named after a lone pine tree towering in the middle of the vines, Le Vieux Pin captures the essence of French winemaking in the south Okanagan. “Old World” wine making traditions have demonstrated that the best wines come from the best vineyards. Known as “terroir,” French for earth or soil, the Okanagan Valley has an assortment of different climates and soils, allowing for different flavors in the grapes. The “terroir” becomes the palate for French wine maker and viticulturist Severine Pinte to blend the grapes, carefully considering how to create a flavor that is honest to the area. The small-scale production means the focus is on high quality. Having total control over how all grapes are grown and assuring that there is no oxidation of the grapes during the de-stemming process, the wine captures all of the integrity of the fruit and the land. Detailed attention paid to the barrel selection helps bring even more character to the finishing process. With a strategy that is at once jovial and practical, the winery has dozens of chickens of all shapes, sizes and colors that are “the hardest workers,” they are sent into the vines to scratch and help fertilize the soil. In addition, the services of two adorable pygmy goats are enlisted to help with weed control and falconry is used for pest management… “Old World” traditions indeed.
LaStella is the second of the two sister wineries (Le Vieux Pin being the other) capturing a vision of fine food, fine wine, and beautiful music. Each wine is carefully crafted with attention to detail at every phase, and then each wine is carefully named after an Italian musical note. Together with Le Vieux Pin, they have 50 acres of vineyards scattered throughout the South Okanagan. Not available for purchase here in Seattle, these fine wines can be purchased on site or up north in Vancouver.
Something Different: A Symphony for the Senses
This past August the sister wineries, LaStella and Le Vieux Pin, hosted many of British Columbia’s most glamorous people for two soiree’s benefitting the South Okanagan General Hospital. The first evening at Le Vieux Pin was western chic where Joy Road Catering created a family style BBQ perfectly paired with Le Vieux Pin wines. A live band performed and dancing under the stars followed the feast. It was hard to think LaStella would be able to produce another elegant evening of conversation, music, food, and beautiful wine but they did. The second evening was a “Symphony for the senses,” where chefs from La Quercia (in Vancouver) prepared an Al Fresco style four-course dinner paired with LaStella’s best wines and the melodies of an operatic singer.
One of the most visited wineries in the South Okanagan, Tinhorn Creek welcomes 40,000 tasters per year to the region with a self-guided tour and demonstration vines. The first winery in Canada to support carbon neutral measures, the winery has an outstanding commitment to conservation and environmentally sustainable practices. Familiar to Seattleites in the environmental world, this winery is certified through the Salmon Safe Certification program based out of Portland. They are committed to 100% drip irrigation on all their 150 acres of vineyards by 2014. In addition to a welcoming wine tasting atmosphere, the stunning Miradoro restaurant has views that imitate those of being on a hillside in Tuscany looking across a valley. Chef Van Geest is committed to locally sourced, sustainable cuisine, connecting the food experience patrons get with the South Okanagan community. Food selections like stuffed zucchini flowers, burrata cheese on top of watermelon gazpacho, and wine fed beef (locally produced where the cows are fed 1 liter of wine daily for the last 90 days of their life) make the view taste even better. The wine, the view and the food will glue your seat to the chair and cause you to linger all afternoon.
Final notes: Exploring British Columbia is a must do for every Seattleite. Although it’s only just a few hours north the culture, communities, and landscapes are really different, for more tips on travel information checkout HelloBC.