November 18, 2011

Winter In Wine Country

For the first time this year, South Okanagan wineries are putting on a fun, festive, activity-filled weekend that’s a great opportunity to visit the area.

BY TONY WHITNEY

Somehow, Christmas and wine go rather well together.  It’s a time of year when we might just break out something special to entertain family and friends – to open a bottle that’s perhaps a little better than the modest table wine we usually enjoy with dinner. For many savvy sippers, it might just be a wine from the southern end of the Okanagan Valley.  This season, wine-lovers will get a special treat in the south Okanagan. Winter in Wine Country is being staged by members of the Oliver Osoyoos Wineries Association and it involves an activity-filled weekend (Dec. 2-4) of tastings, entertainment and gift-buying opportunities.

Winter vines.

The Oliver-Osoyoos area has become increasingly respected by oenophiles and many will tell you that the finest wines in the valley are produced in the terroir that lies along Highway 97 and Black Sage Road to the east. Black Hills, famed for its Nota Bene, is part of the association, as are Burrowing Owl, Gehringer Brothers, Jackson Triggs, Road 13, Tinhorn Creek, Nk’Mip – and many other major names that grace the wine lists of fine restaurants everywhere in the coastal region. Gaining increasing recognition are wineries like Oliver Twist, Stoneboat, Rustico, and others.

Winter in Wine Country involves shuttling visitors from one winery to another to taste wines and enjoy specially planned festivities. It’s a great opportunity to visit the area and enjoy one of the fine resorts located in the valley. Prominent among these is Spirit Ridge, near Osoyoos, with its striking Pueblo-style architecture and Sonoran desert environment –­ Canada’s only true desert is on the property, owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band. It’s also a chance to visit the impressive tasting room operated by Nk’Mip Cellars.

Another outstanding hotel in Osoyoos is Watermark Beach Resort, a luxurious property sited on sandy beaches along Osoyoos Lake. A full Christmas program is planned and like Spirit Ridge, this is a great base from which to take in the winery tours. There’s also first class accommodation at Burrowing Owl Winery, with some of the best views in the Okanagan and a restaurant that’s won very high praise for its gastronomic excellence.

Most Winter in Wine Country participants are offering seasonal wine and food pairing advice and Burrowing Owl adds live jazz, along with unique Christmas gifts. Castoro De Oro is celebrating with a 10-per-cent price reduction and the release of a new wine, while Hester Creek has live entertainment and a gift-wrapping demonstration.

Over at Hidden Chapel they’re offering a gift pack that includes the winery’s St. Nick rosé. At Inniskillin, ice wine is on the free tasting menu and Jackson Triggs is offering similar delights. Nk’Mip is hosting its annual “festival of trees” with more than 30 beautifully decorated conifers. Nk’Mip also has lots of great gift ideas – including local native art.

A tasting at Road 13 Winery.

Oliver Twist has a draw for a Christmas basket along with gift giveaways for case purchases, and Quinta Ferreira will serve free appetizers at their tastings plus a new wine release. A resident artist will be on hand and wines will be discounted. Look for free mulled wine at River Stone – perfect for a chilly day – plus gifts for wine lovers, some of them hard-to-get items. In addition to their usual program, the folks at Road 13 will have ceramic artist Katie Foster in attendance to demonstrate her work. Mulled wine will also be there for the trying at Tinhorn Creek and the tasting room will feature Ingrid Schellenberg on harp to entertain visitors.

Rustico Farm and Cellars is the only winery in the Okanagan with a permanent art gallery displaying (and selling) the work of talented local artists like Leza Macdonald and Ken Hale and it is opening a gallery extension above the tasting room during the weekend event. Also there for purchase at Rustico’s Cowboy Christmas around the winery’s chuck wagon are gift baskets, custom greetings cards and other goodies. Saturday’s packed schedule includes a benefit concert in aid of the Desert Valley Hospital Hospice Society.

Winter in Wine Country is a new event, but its popularity is assured. And if the weather turns chilly, there’ll be plenty of mulled wine around to invigorate anyone suffering from the cold!

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