HARD to believe, perhaps, but the summer wine touring season is now firmly upon us.
No doubt the sun will co-operate very soon, luring a lot of us to the Okanagan and beyond, not to mention the Island and the Fraser Valley, and now even Lillooet and Creston.
Even to the seasoned taster, wine touring can be a challenging affair so it really pays to have a plan and, if at all possible, a designated driver. Better still, have somebody else handle the driving (and maybe even the planning for you), such as Okanagan Wine Country Tours, 1866-689-9463 (WINE).
When it comes to getting organized, there's no better resource than the latest from B.C. wine guru and North Vancouver resident John Schreiner, whose incredible volume of work over the years includes the indispensable Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. The latest edition represents the most significant update, as it tracks the fortunes of both longestablished and emerging neophytes with remarkable detail.
We've long said that John's gift to wine enthusiasts (aside from his oldschool penchant for unswerving detail) is his natural ability to bring out the more personal stories in the people behind the wineries. This past week, while judging with him at the Lieutenant Governors Awards of Excellence, barely an hour went by without someone on the panel having a question, no
matter how trivial, that John was able answer.
Even if you're not Okanagan bound and maybe just an armchair taster, this latest labour of love makes for a fascinating read. If you are, it's an indispensable touring companion (Whitecap, $19.95).
I asked Schreiner what's different this time.
"It's almost totally re-written, I've refreshed virtually every profile and added 34 producers who weren't in the book two years ago. And the next book will probably have another 30 producers," he says.
The industry's expanding so fast, notes Schreiner, that's it's a battle to keep up with all the changes.
"If you travel with one of the previous editions there are now numerous wineries that you won't find," he says, noting that this Okanagan Wine Tour Guide is the most up-to-date available on the market.
Two developments stand out: the growth in the number of small wineries; and the emergence of so many small labels coming out of the custom crush facilities (that make small-run wines for growers or others who don't own their own winery.)
"I'm trying to give the consumer as much help as I can in finding a home for these labels," says Schreiner, who admits it's a challenge figuring out where to put the likes of Nagging Doubt, Siren's Call, Bartier Brothers and Syncromesh. Plus, you can be sure there'll be plenty more to come, he says.
Last week, (in addition to welcoming its first flock of vineyard chickens to the valley's most luxurious coop) Okanagan Crush Pad opened its tasting room,
"Which means that you will be able to taste many of these short run labels in one visit," he notes.
Even if you do know the region, planning your route and timing effectively is still important; if you're unfamiliar, even more so. Our recent Okanagan swing found us behind the wheel of an Acura RDX - and grateful for its on board GPS. As it turns out, the Acura's navigation system turned out to be a boon for negotiating the Okanagan's back roads and harder to find wineries.
- Tantalus Riesling 2011. Proving that the LEED-certified winery (with its own colony of bees) is more than just a pretty place, this latest Riesling has it all: upfront apple, lime and mineral notes, with more mouthfeel and texture, vibrant, juicy acidity and a lengthy, clean finish. Another winner, for sure; $22.90, 90 points.