EatInEatOut Fall 2014 - Page 69

C anada’s grape growing and winemaking history is certainly not one that rivals any country in Europe or the likes of Australia, South Africa or Chile. We are a young wine producing country, but our wines are beginning (slowly!) to make a splash in international waters. Ontario is the country’s largest region by volume, producing approximately 80% of all wine, but British Columbia’s wine country, more specifically the Okanagan Valley, is starting to emerge as a force to be reckoned with. With over 130 wineries spread across the 250km valley, there is much to see and taste on a visit to this visually breathtaking region. On a visit to the Okanagan last fall, I finally had a chance to see the region first hand and taste A LOT of wines. The region’s more than 8000 acres are spread across a long, narrow valley that is flanked by the Coast Mountains to the west and the Monashee Mountains to the east. This topographic feature contributes to the region’s low average annual rainfall. In fact, the Osoyoos sub-appellation at the very southern point of the Valley is classified as having near desert-like conditions. Although the region’s latitude is at the northern most point of what is considered typical for most wine regions in the northern hemisphere (around 49° to 50° north), it is remarkably warm during the summer months – averaging above 30°C most days. The warm days are contrasted by very cool evenings – usually 15°C or more difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures – which is essential for retaining the grapes’ high acidity. The northern latitude also results in longer sunshine hours during the summer months that are critical for photosynthesis and phenolic ripening. The varied terrain and terroirs have meant that certain varietals excel in some places where others do not. The northern Okanagan Valley, around Kelowna area, is cooler and has a shorter growing season, and the Pinot varietals, as well as Chardonnay and Merlot tend to do well there. As you move south through the Valley to Penticton and the Naramata Bench, where the average temperatures are warmer and the vineyards are sloped closer to the lake, you tend to see more Bordeaux varietals in addition to the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As you reach Oliver and Osoyoos, red grapes are king with late-ripening varietals like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon being favoured. On a visit to the Okanagan Valley, one will undoubtedly find a style of wine to suit their palate. WWW.EATINEATOUT.CA 69