On the morning of September 16th, we got up in Hope and hit the road heading towards WINE COUNTRY!!! The Okanagan-Similkameen region of BC is definitely one of our favourite spots. I first started visiting the region when Terreena and Stan moved to the area. I always joke that when I first discovered BC’s Wine Country, I drove a sporty two-door car. Now I drive an SUV. It’s not because I’ve had children or acquired a job that requires me to carry heavy loads to and from work. Nope…. It’s because I can fit many more cases of wine into the back of an SUV than into the trunk of a coupe!
We typically get out to the region at least once a year to visit with Terreena and Stan. They often have an August Long Weekend get together with a group of us that we all look forward to each summer. This year, we wound up meeting on Haida Gwaii, as covered in our long-winded blogs from that part of the trip. So, this time we opted to book two nights at the Nk’Mip Campground in Osoyoos. The campground is on the lake and, although each space is close to the next one, the views are amazing. Seeing as it was mid-September, with school back in and the high summer season over, we lucked into a campsite right on the lakeshore.
But before we even made it to Osoyoos, we stopped in Okanagan Falls to have lunch at one of our favourite wineries, Liquidity. We shared a bottle of wine, a house-made specialty pizza and delicious salad. Afterwards we enjoyed a wine tasting and left with a few of our favourite bottles. It’s absolutely beautiful here. Can you spot Stevie?
From there, we popped over to two more of our favourite wineries – Stag’s Hollow and Wild Goose. Jer has always loved the red wines at Stag’s Hollow, so he was more than happy to nearly fill a box just from their selection. We also grabbed a couple of bottles from Wild Goose. Normally, we would have purchased more from Wild Goose, as we love their Harvest Gold wine, but our lovely neighbours recently picked up several bottles for us. (JB: way to totally forget to offer to return the favour and pick up wine for them whilst YOU were in the regions, Dumbass. OB: you guys suck at being neighbours.)
And so it began!
As we drove towards our campsite, we thought we would squeeze one more winery in, so stopped at Noble Ridge. We arrived about ten minutes before closing, which we could tell did not impress the guy working there. He instructed the woman doing the tasting to make it quick, and boy did she ever! While we liked the wine, and did buy a couple of bottles, we didn’t overly enjoy the rushed experience. Part of tasting wine is to give yourself a second or two to gain a feel for it on your palate, but I really felt like we didn’t have the time for that, because I was rushing to meet her hurried presentation of the wines. As we were ringing in our sales, the guy came back into the room and made a wise-ass crack about the minimum purchase at closing is supposed to be three bottles. This said as I was eyeing up their $80 hoodie because I loved it. THAT sale fell through for him, though because I knew it would piss him off had I asked if they had the sweater in my size. Not to mention that I was annoyed at his demeaning attitude towards us from the moment we stepped inside. I appreciate the frustration of last minute customers, and yet his negative attitude cost the winery a sale of something that I’m sure has close to 100% mark up. Fortunately for the winery, the woman presenting the wines was friendlier, and I sense she may have given us more time if he’d not instructed her to be quick.
The next morning, after enjoying our shakes and coffee lakeside, we took Stevie to explore the wineries in the Similkameen Valley. We’ve been to many wineries in OK Falls, Naramata, Summerland, Peachland, Oliver, and Osoyoos as well as some in Kelowna over the years, but haven’t really spent much time in the Keremeos/Cawston area. Keremeos is known for their many fresh produce stands and Cawston advertises as the Organic Capital of Canada. In addition to their fruits and vegetables, they are part of BC’s wine growing region.
Our first stop was at the Crowsnest Winery, where we shared a salad and charcutier board for lunch. After placing our order, we went into the tasting room to try a few of their wines. They are a German influenced winery, and their whites were quite tasty. After sampling them, we ordered a couple of glasses to enjoy with our lunch. The winery neighbours an apple orchard and the apples were looking ripe for picking. (OB: pick one. Go ahead, do it!! JB: Don’t be a dumbass.)
After lunch, we stopped by Twisted Hills Craft Cider for a tasting of something other than wine (OB: I notice you didn’t even think to try any of the non-alcohol options, though! JB: there were non-alcoholic choices?) They have several ciders to choose from and their tasting room is housed in a very unique building. Jer says it’s a geodesic dome (OB: a what???? JB: I taught him that word.)
As we were chatting with the woman providing the tasting at Twisted Hills, she gave us a tasting passport for the Similkameen Valley. If we managed to have five stamps, we would be entered into a draw for a prize package. Wine as a prize? YES PLEASE! (OB: who needs a functioning liver anyhow?) We asked her for her recommendations, and she said, “have you been to Cork Sluts?” Or at least, that’s what I heard! Instead of repeating it back to hear, I simply said, “where did you say?” (OB: finally, she thinks before sticking her foot in her mouth! Cork Sluts…. C’mon now.) Turns out, she was asking if we’d been to Corcelettes, a winery on a ridge with gorgeous views. Phew! Glad I didn’t say what I heard, but c’mon…. Cork Sluts WOULD be a pretty great name for a winery, right? 😊
We drove to Corcelettes next, and their views are gorgeous! No surprise, we tasted the wine. (OB: shocking development.) The tasting included a bubbly wine. Normally, I am not a huge fan of bubbly wines, but I was surprised by the clarity of this one. While we didn’t purchase any of the bubbly, we did manage to choose a couple of bottles to bring home.
As we spent time at the wineries, we heard a gunshot-like sound at consistent intervals. It turns out that several wineries use propane blasts to help keep birds from eating the grapes at this time of year. They also use netting to help deter the birds. Poor Pepper was terrified of the noise, and demonstrated her fear by looking at us with her big, scared whale-eyes and leaping in Jeremy’s lap as he sat in the driver’s seat. At Corcelettes, she also bolted out of Stevie when Jer went to leash them for a quick walk before we left. She ran to the stairs and almost made it up into the tasting room before we stopped her.
Jer: Who knows, maybe a shot of alcohol would’ve helped calm her nerves! 😉
JB: pretty sure poisoning a dog is not a viable solution, Dumbass.
Jenn: To quote the song lyrics, in Pepper’s sad Eeyore voice…
“Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang Bang, that awful sound”
Now with two stamps on our passport, we next visited Robin Ridge for a taste. The woman providing the tasting here was so friendly and shared with us that she and her husband moved to the area in retirement after he worked for 35 years with BC Ferries. Guess what we did? (OB: they know, they know. You bought wine.) Yep, we bought wine!
OB: is ANYONE thinking of where in the hell all this wine will fit in Stevie?
JB: These two? Thinking? Don’t be ridiculous!
Jenn & Jer *clinking imaginary glasses*: Cheers!
Next up, we visited Clos du Soleil for a fourth stamp and sip, sip, hooray! By now, they all tasted REALLY good to me. Luckily for me, Jer is better at pacing himself and remembering that spittoons exist. Weird how I seem to miss those! (OB: the big silver things on literally EVERY tasting counter? Suuuuure you’re missing those.) I DO recall that we purchased a rather voluminous bottle of their dessert wine, though. And, I loved the teal-blue colour on the exterior of their tasting room along with their chalkboard with an oh-so-appropriate quotation.
At Liquidity, we noticed they plant roses at the end of each row of grapevines. This is because roses are subject to some of the same diseases as grapevines, so they serve as an early-detection device for the vineyards. At Clos du Soleil, they have planted sunflowers at the row ends. According to my Encylopedia (OB: aka Google), the sunflowers attract larger insects. These predatory insects then eat the aphids that are attracted to the grapes. The sunflowers also attract the pollinating insects to help increase fruit production on the vines. And, seeing as “soleil” means sun in French, it seems fitting that this winery opts for sunflowers!
With only one stamp needed, we were cutting it close to quitting time for the wineries, so pulled into Orofino. Unlike the rushed experience we’d had at Noble Ridge the day before, our tasting host at Orofino welcomed us in as though we were at the start of her day rather than being her last customers. She happily poured our samples and explained the wines to us and told us not to rush our tasting. We made sure to purchase several bottles and complimented her on her customer service. This tasting room had a really neat countertop – made of glass set upon ribs from oak barrels. We left our passports with her and are just awaiting the call to notify us we’ve won the prize! 😉
In all, over two days, we purchased 27 bottles of wine and one bottle of cider without thinking of where in the world we would be able to store it all for our last night or two of camping! Not to mention the 20 pounds of tomatoes and bag of apples we picked up from a couple of the Keremeos fruit stands! Mom inspired Jeremy with her home-grown roasted tomato soup, so he is looking forward to roasting these fresh tomatoes and making soup and spaghetti sauce.
Stevie has become a living Tetris Game when it comes to storing everything. The shower space was already filled to the brim with birthday gifts, driftwood and lampshades. So that means the two boxes of wine are being stored on the floor in front of the toilet. On top of them sits our laundry basket. Once we park for the night, we haul everything out of the bathroom and take over the kitchen floorspace. The apples fit under the sink, and the tomatoes go wherever we find room! It’s obviously time we headed for home! We can’t possibly fit anything else in Stevie!
OB: I still want to buy yarn at Joann’s.
Jenn: but we can’t cross the border with all this alcohol on board!
JB & Jer: *high five* our plan worked!!
OB: that’s OK – it’s Fall Shindig season when we get home!
JB: what the hell is a Fall Shindig?
Jer: it’s like a craft fair but only with yarn.
JB: so, no beer?
Jer: no beer.
JB: we get to stay home, right?
OB & Jenn: *high five* our plan worked!!
Oh we almost forgot to mention that if you ever find yourself in Keromeos and are feeling peckish, they have an excellent Thai restaurant in town called Benja Thai. The food was fresh, flavourful, and well worth the stop.