Wine Tasting Stopover at British Columbia Valley
by Lora Hui
Seaside or Lake?
“When you come to Vancouver we can do a road trip to the Okanagan”, mentioned my partner Andrew, while we talked about my impending visit.
“A road trip to…where?”
The Okanagan…British Columbia’s most iconic wine country – famous for its wine and landscapes.
My mind drew a blank– Canada had more than just maple syrup?!
I knew that wine could be produced all over the world– in Australia (my home!), Italy, France, Argentina, South Africa, just to name a few– but I never thought Canada could grow wine grapes mainly because…
“Isn’t it too cold to have a wine region in Canada?” (Surely, I’m not the only person to have thought this!)
“Not at all! Just you wait and see.”
The day of our trip arrived
In the few days leading up to our road trip, temperatures had hovered consistently around 30 degree Celsius and the city was shrouded in smoke because of forest fires. Because of that, it became a bit more possible to me that vineyards could exist and thrive in British Colombian climate as it did get quite hot after all!
Our plan was to drive from Vancouver, visit a few wineries, stay overnight in a town called Osoyoos before visiting another town and then heading back home. Although I had enjoyed exploring Vancouver, I was looking forward to getting out of the city smoke and breathing in some fresh country air. I was hoping to see the green rolling hills covered in grapevines which were memories from previous visits to wine regions in Australia. However despite the warm weather, would the wineries be as green?
On our road trip, about an hour out of Vancouver, pine tree covered mountain ranges could be seen on the horizon– mountains which the Trans-Canada highway cut through to connect Victoria, British Columbia on the west coast to St John’s, Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada. I felt pretty Canadian as we cruised down the highway listening to some Alanis Morissette along the way to a town called HOPE. Besides having a quaint name, the town is also known for having the largest landslide in history of Canada. You could see the location of the landslide (which happened in 1965) from far away– there is a void on the mountain where it is just a bare rock face with no trees. The highway had to be rerouted as a result of the rock slide and there is now an area for motorists to stop and view the landslide area.
As we entered into the Okanagan, I was surprised by two things we saw along the side of the road. Firstly, we saw several hitchhikers– cardboard signs in their hands, stating the name of their destination– waiting by the road side. The sight was a bit of a novelty to me as it is illegal to hitchhike in my home state of Victoria. Also, if you’ve seen the movie Wolf Creek, you would know better than to hitch a ride in a rural area!
Secondly, further into the valley, small fruit and vegetable stands could be frequently seen set up along the side of the roads. Local farmers would sell their freshly picked produce from their own farms here. Some stores looked like co- operatives and would actually be a free standing building. These stores also sold locally made olive oils, apple cider, chocolate and other regional produce– a lot of potential souvenir items! Since it was summer, we had a wide range of stone fruits to choose from. Maybe, that means other fruits like grapes can be grown after all!
By the time we left the Okanagan, we had bought a large box of peaches and cartons of apricots, cherries and raspberries, some of which we used to make a delicious peach cobbler when we got home. 🙂
Before checking into the motel, we made a quick stop at Burrowing Owl Estate winery. As we drove towards to wine shop, we passed rows and rows of grapevines. This was already more than what I expected to see in Canada!
The name of the Burrowing Owl winery comes an owl which nests and roosts in the ground (as their name suggests) which makes them very unique. Unfortunately, these cute little owls are an endangered specie in Canada. However, thanks to the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia (BOCS) the population is growing. To help these owls out, the winery charges $3 per person for a wine tasting– all of which goes to the BOCS. Now, you definitely don’t need another reason to taste some delicious wine! 🙂
After helping out some of the burrowing owls, we climbed up the restaurant tower to enjoy the view. It was beautiful Hectares of vivid green grapevines could be seen in all directions from the wine shop, with the dirt road cutting through the greenery. The dusty brown mountain range also provided a very dramatic background against the bright blue sky. We soaked in the view for a long time.
About an hour later, we arrived at our motel in Osoyoos in the late afternoon. Osoyoos is one of the smaller towns in the valley, with approximately a population of 5k people. Tired from all the strenuous wine tasting earlier, we decided to relax that afternoon and visit Osoyoos Lake. Luckily, for us we didn’t have far to go as one of the beaches were conveniently located behind the motel. Having driven along the lake on the highway, I already knew the lake was very large, but to actually see it from the beach shore, I realized it was a very, very, VERY large lake (10.55km/ 6.5 miles long to be exact!) 😆
As I surveyed at the scene in front of me, nothing seemed out of place from a beach seaside. People sun-bathing, children making sandcastles, jet skis tied up along the edge…it was unbelievable! However, it was the mountain backdrop and the warm water temperature which gave away the fact that this body of water was actually not the sea.
Has the Okanagan been what you expected? asked Andrew.
I thought about everything I had seen during the day: the bountiful natural produce, the lush greenery, and finally the huge lake…
No…because it has shown me that Canada has much more than just maple syrup!
June 18, 2017