Grape Growing in the Okanagan
By grape-growing standards, the Okanagan has a relatively short season but this does not translate into grapes with shortcomings. The sun shines long here in the summer, rising before 5:00 am and setting well past 9:00 pm in the peak of the season. The hot, dry climate combined with sandy, mineral-rich soils all create premium conditions for vineyards to thrive.
There are well over 60 varietals successfully grown and many Okanagan vineyard owners are not shy to explore the new grape territory. There are several microclimates throughout the long, narrow 150 km stretch of the Okanagan Valley that allows for diverse varieties of vines. This means whether you are thirsting for a crisp white, an elegant red, or anything in between, you are almost certain to ﬁnd it here. Many of the wineries either own or partner with vineyards throughout the valley to make wines that make the most of what the Valley has to offer.
10 Popular Okanagan Wines and Food Favourites
Once you have found your favourite bottle or two (or dozen), it is time to consider the pairing that will take your amazing ﬁnd out of the tasting room and to the next level. One of the best ways to bring out all a wine has to offer is to share it and pair it. So invite your friends over for appies or a meal and discover the joy of Okanagan wines together.
You can ﬁnd Merlot in the Okanagan as a stand-alone wine or in many Bordeaux-style blends with ﬂavours of cherry, black currant, tobacco and cocoa. A versatile option that is great to try with a number of dishes and plays nicely with roasted meats, peppercorn sauces and earthy meals.
The heartbreak grape does well here and provides a light, low tannin red option that bursts with hints of raspberries, cranberries and red fruit. It is one of few reds that can pair with a salmon ﬁllet and is also lovely with earthy stews, duck and lamb entrées laden with herbs.
The Okanagan really heats up as you head south and many wine enthusiasts are pleasantly surprised to discover elegant Syrahs in this region. In the hands of a great wine-maker, Okanagan Syrah will delight with notes of dark berries, cherry and pepper. The hints of sage will deﬁnitely remind you when you are along the Black Sage Bench. Explore an Okanagan Syrah with roasted vegetables and grilled game meats or go international with curry and garam masala spiced mains.
This may not be your patio sipper but oaky, smoky Cabernet Franc with black fruit, cherry, bell pepper and tobacco notes make this wine a food favourite. You will also ﬁnd it an essential in many Bordeaux-style blends throughout the valley. Try it with smokey mountain meatballs, BBQ baby back ribs or a vegan bean and lentil stew. Whatever you make, don’t be shy to add herbs to your pot; paired with a Cab Franc, your mouth and your guests will thank you!
You will ﬁnd a lot of Gamay and Pinot Noir based Rosé throughout the Valley. Another very versatile food and cheese wine. Sip on an Okanagan Rosé and you will be reminded of the orchards and ﬁelds you are surrounded with. Tantalise your tastebuds with melons, crisp apples, stone fruit, strawberries and ﬂoral notes. Appies and charcuterie anyone?
Discover delightful aromatic whites, such as Pinot Gris, in the wineries along Naramata Bench. The ﬂavours of pear, peach and honey in this sweet to semi-sweet wine are a great match with spicy and fruity dishes. Mango curry shrimp or sweet and sour chicken would let this wine shine. In a snacking mood? Salt and cracked-pepper water crackers and a sunset would also pair perfectly.
If you are in the mood for something a little more off-dry, you will ﬁnd some gorgeous Gewürzt here in the Valley. Lychee, orchard and citrus fruit and ginger are common notes. A refreshing wine to enjoy with almost anything asian-inspired, a creamy pasta dish or roasted vegetables and pork tenderloin.
This highly aromatic, tropical forward wine may not be well known but is a popular choice in the Okanagan. This non-temperamental grape also plays well with others bringing delightful qualities to white blends. You will also ﬁnd a number of late harvest wines made from Kerner here. Chill well and take along in your picnic basket or bust out for brunch with a quiche lorraine.
What would a white wine world be without a classic Chardonnay! In the Okanagan, you will ﬁnd many options for both buttery oaked or zesty unoaked Chardonnay to suit your preferences. North to south, Okanagan Chardonnay are unique to the many microclimates and soils they are grown in – you are sure to ﬁnd a favourite along the way. Skip the spice and opt for seafood or white ﬁsh pan-fried in butter; chicken in cream sauce or baked brie with fruit and crackers.
This white is tangy and bright with hints of kiwi, apple and lime. The Valley produces Riesling to rave about with many dry to off-dry choices for this highly acidic wine. Riesling can tango with many dishes and Mahi Mahi Tacos, crab cakes or duck ceviche would be heavenly dinner options.
Don’t Be Shy. Just Ask!
You don’t need to just take our word for it though; at Vines & Views Wine Tours we are all about helping you experience the Okanagan’s award-winning wines for yourself in comfort and style. Ultimately, you are the best judge of what wines are perfect for your palate. Our guides and the Kelowna vineyards we tour are passionate and knowledgeable and delighted to answer all your questions. We are happy to give recommendations on food and wine pairings and give you the local lowdown on where to enjoy the best wining and dining experiences the Okanagan has to offer.
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