A search for “Okanagan” in wine-searcher for wines sold in Australia promptly yields a nil return. This I suspect may serve as an indicative proxy of our local knowledge, and certainly prior to the last couple of years, my own state of knowledge of this warm region in Canada. Having just returned from British Columbia where I had the fortune of being trapped in scenery such as below and so did not venture several mountain ranges beyond to the Okanagan, I was nonetheless able to undertake a random walk of sorts through some local wines sometimes capturing, but always hinting at, the essence of holidays.
But first some vinous background. The Okanagan Valley is an inland wine region situated in Canada between 49 and 50 degrees of latitude, to the east of British Columbia, and north of the Washington State border alongside Lake Okanagan and neighbouring lakes. The Cascade and Coast mountains create a rain shadow, and leave this region with rainfall of only between 250mm to 400mm per year – practically desert like conditions. The climate in winter is bitterly cold, with temperatures that can risk damage to vines. In summer though the region enjoys 1,423 sunshine hours during the growing season, compared with 1,315 sunshine hours in Burgundy.
The results in the glass of my tiny survey were almost universally good, providing assurance that Canada can indeed produce excellent red wine. There seems no particularly rational reason these wines should not have a wider market.
NK’Mip Cellars Talon Cabernet Syrah 2012
A traditional, or dare I say Australian, blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah sees a very good wine in the glass here. Its (Canadian) aboriginal ownership and operation explain the name. The wine has aromatics of rich plums and blackcurrant and capsicum in the background. These characters continue to the palate, as well as an attractive grapey texture and towards long length.
Rating: Very Good, Abv: 14%, Price: C$23, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: http://www.nkmipcellars.com, Tasted: 2015
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2010
Osoyoos Larose is the collaboration of the Group Taillan of Bordeaux (owner of Chateau Gruaud Larose) and Constellation Brands in Canada (formerly Vincor Canada – Canada’s largest producer), the former reportedly now having bought out the latter. This is a serious Bordeaux blend of 67% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 6% petit verdot, 4% cabernet franc and 3% malbec, retailing for a serious price of C$60. This wine revealed itself reluctantly in the glass, initially with some animal and herbal notes, the latter suggesting not fully ripe fruit. However, the palate is very balanced and restrained, and elegant in style with lovely fine grained tannins. It continued to improve in the glass, and the last glass was certainly the best. How to rate it? It is undeniably a good wine, so I will give it the benefit of the doubt.
Kettle Valley Winery Old Main Red 2010
This wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot and malbec. So another Bordeaux blend. I loved the rustic characters of this wine, reminding almost of a Wendouree in style. It has aromatics of leather, licorice, soy, plum and iodine. The palate has long length and a textural mouthfeel, with plum fruits and blackcurrant providing the power. This is an excellent wine.
OKV Okanagan Vineyards Vineyard Select Red 2012
This wine resembles a simple Vin de Pays d’Oc. There’s a spike of cherry liqueur on the nose, while the palate is balanced enough with hints of oak. Overall, well made, if a bit rough. An extra C$10 is money well spent.
Rating: Acceptable, Abv: 13%, Price: C$9, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: n/a, Tasted: 2015