The Okanagan Valley Wine Region is My First Love (sorry, family)

The BC wine scene has flourished since the 1970’s when fruit orchards were swapped out for vineyards en masse, and it’s really been in the last 10 years that it has become a powerhouse producer in the New World. From huge producers like Mission Hill, to boutique wineries like Liquidity (a favourite of mine!), the Okanagan Valley is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the quality, variety, and price of it’s wines.

BC Wine Map Okanagan Valley Wine Region on AshleyFisher.ca

It’s, like, really important to the Canadian wine industry.

The Okanagan Valley contains 84% of the vineyards in British Columbia, and is the second largest wine growing region in Canada (after the Niagara Peninsula). The entire valley stretches over 250 kilometers, from 50th Parallel Estate in Lake Country in the north, to Lariana Cellars in Osoyoos to the south (where you can literally see across the Canada-US border), the valley contains over 182 wineries—and new ones are opening every year.

Summerland Wineries in Okanagan Valley Wine Region on AshleyFisher.ca

Sub-regions

There are seven sub-regions within the Okanagan Valley wine growing region, and each one has a distinct micro-climate that influences the flavours of the grapes grown. These regions are informal, and not officially recognized as sub-appellations, but the divisions are used by the industry nonetheless. From north to south, the regions are:

  • Kelowna/Lake Country

  • Peachland/Summerland

  • Naramata Bench/Penticton

  • Okanagan Falls

  • Oliver

  • Golden Mile Bench

  • Osoyoos

In January and February, we’ll explore the individual sub-regions in depth, so stay tuned!

Burrowing Owl winery in Okanagan Valley wine region on ashleyfisher.ca

Varietals and Availability

Like many wine growing regions in the New World, the Okanagan Valley almost exclusively grows noble grapes. The difference between many New World regions and the Okanagan Valley are that less than 40% of the wines made here are available outside of Canada, and even then the international exporters pretty much begin and end with the powerhouse Mission Hill Estates brands. With most wineries you are able to order their wines by the case online, although international shipping will vary from winery to winery.

White Varietals

  • Pinot Gris

  • Chardonnay

  • Gewürztraminer

  • Riesling

  • Sauvignon Blanc

  • Pinot Blanc

  • Ortega

  • Ehrenfelser

Red Varietals

  • Merlot

  • Pinot Noir

  • Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Cabernet Franc

  • Syrah

  • Gamay Noir

  • Maréchal Foch

  • Petit Verdot

There are smaller wineries that are playing around with some of the less-common grapes, and Viognier is fast becoming a popular varietal to grow, especially south from OK Falls to Osoyoos because the heat helps develop the flavours beautifully. (I blogged about my love of Viognier here).

Okanagan Falls Winery in the Okanagan Valley wine region on Ashleyfisher.ca

Climate

Although micro-climates exist throughout the Okanagan Valley, officially the climate is categorized as a continental climate. This is tempered by the deep Okanagan Lake, as well as the surrounding lakes found throughout the region. Thanks to the Cascade and Coast Mountains, a rain shadow effect shields the Okanagan Valley from the abundance of rain experienced on the coast. Because of the lowered annual rain yield, irrigation throughout the region is a must—in most cases, vineyards choose to tap into local water sources (such as glacial water) rather than utilizing the surrounding cities’ drinking water sources.

The winters are moderate and short in length, while the growing season is quite long. In the height of the growing season, temperatures are hot—often hitting highs of 30 degrees Celsius and higher. This is the main reason that Okanagan Valley white wines are often described as “sunshine in a bottle”; the high temperatures produce sweeter, fruitier grapes, resulting in bright, flavourful wines.

Conclusion

I can’t recommend the Okanagan Valley enough to wine lovers, wine explorers, or people that just want a visually stunning vacation. My husband has family in Oliver, so we are spoiled by choice when it comes to visiting the wineries in person, and we’ve thoroughly explored the Naramata Bench, Oliver, and Osoyoos sub-regions. I’m entirely biased, but I challenge you to find a wine region that I will love more than the OKV!


A big thanks to Wine BC for the photos in this post, and for the reference material. If you’re planning a trip to British Columbia to experience the wine regions, I highly recommend using their trip planning resources.

Ashley Fisher

About Wonderland Media

Wonderland Media was created to provide startups, businesses, and bloggers with a resource to help them meet their goals. We are digital storytellers, using your unique story to connect potential customers with your brand. After diving deep into your business, we will craft a unique multi-platform marketing campaign that will best meet your short- and long-term business goals. Best of all, we will use quantifiable data gathered throughout the campaign so that you can see exactly how we are positively influencing your business.

We specialize in: social media marketing & community management, event planning & publicity, digital marketing (including Pay-Per-Click & ethical SEO), content generation, and graphic design.

About Ashley Heinaranta

Throughout her decade in various marketing roles, Ashley has guided countless businesses through the muddy waters of creating an “online presence”. With experience in branding, consulting on business and marketing plans, graphic design, and digital marketing, she is a powerhouse of knowledge and experience. Ashley loves to work with start ups, bloggers, and small business owners, as well as established businesses and brands. No project is too small for her, and she loves the unique challenge that every project presents.

Singing the Praises of Viognier

Ashley+Fisher+at+Liquidity+Winery+viognier+grapes

Back in October, I met up with Jill (from That Wine Nerd) to taste the first vintages from City & Country Winery, and during the tasting I mentioned to her that my favourite grape is Viognier. Reader, I was not ready for the shock and horror that she displayed at my proclamation! Instantly she needed to know why, of all grapes, I’d choose Viognier. (For reference, her favourite grape is Cabernet Franc, so we have incredibly different palates.)

To me, Viognier tastes like summertime, and home. Growing up in Victoria, our backyard had grapevines covering one of the fences. It was there when we moved in, and it’s still there—I may have poked my head over the fence a few years ago to see what my beloved childhood yard now looks like. I may have grabbed a bunch of grapes so that I could figure out what they were…minor trespassing and theft aside, it turns out that I had been eating Viognier grapes for years, unbeknownst to any of us. We didn’t tend them, and my friends and I ate them whenever there were enough to eat, so my love for the grape has it’s roots in my childhood. And we all know how strong childhood memories can be!

Viognier is not a simple, laid back grape; it’s a powerhouse of flavour and weight on your palate, and it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a very floral wine, all honeysuckle and white flowers and maybe some rose petals, balanced with fruity tones like tangerine, peach, maybe mango. It’s a creamy wine, owing to the malolactic fermentation that it undergoes before aging and bottling, and it can have a light spice to it from oaking.

Basically, Viognier is the perfumey cousin to Chardonnay that sometimes has a bit of bitterness to ground it. It’s usually lighter in acidity to Chardonnay, and the main calling card of Viognier is the slightly oily sensation that you get on the tongue when you drink it. Like I said—it’s not for everyone.

Although it’s one of the main grapes grown in the Rhone Valley, for the French Condrieu wine, my favourites come from the Okanagan Valley (hi, Liquidity Winery). The hot summers that they get add more fruitiness to the wine, and it usually cuts out the bitterness as well. It’s still perfumey as hell, but a bit more approachable than what you’ll get from France.

It’s a weird choice for a favourite, but I’m a weird lass.

Ashley Fisher

About Wonderland Media

Wonderland Media was created to provide startups, businesses, and bloggers with a resource to help them meet their goals. We are digital storytellers, using your unique story to connect potential customers with your brand. After diving deep into your business, we will craft a unique multi-platform marketing campaign that will best meet your short- and long-term business goals. Best of all, we will use quantifiable data gathered throughout the campaign so that you can see exactly how we are positively influencing your business.

We specialize in: social media marketing & community management, event planning & publicity, digital marketing (including Pay-Per-Click & ethical SEO), content generation, and graphic design.

About Ashley Heinaranta

Throughout her decade in various marketing roles, Ashley has guided countless businesses through the muddy waters of creating an “online presence”. With experience in branding, consulting on business and marketing plans, graphic design, and digital marketing, she is a powerhouse of knowledge and experience. Ashley loves to work with start ups, bloggers, and small business owners, as well as established businesses and brands. No project is too small for her, and she loves the unique challenge that every project presents.

Getting to the Bottom of Cork Taint

Getting+to+the+Bottom+of+Cork+Taint+by+Ashley+Fisher+on+ashleyfisher.jpg

You’ve just painstakingly picked out a bottle of wine to take to Christmas dinner, but when you finally open it…you find that it smells like your basement did that one time when it flooded while you were on vacation for a week and destroyed everything.

Thanks to either 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) or 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA), your wine is trash and you’re sad and sober at a holiday dinner—or stuck drinking what your family brought (sorry, Mom and Dad). Less than 5% of wines are affected by it, and as a consumer there is no way for you to prevent the dreaded cork taint, but it is possible to avoid it.

What is it?

Cork taint is generally caused by the two above-mentioned chemical compounds, TCA or TBA, and can come from the barrels that wine is aged in, or the way that the wine was stored, but it most commonly comes from the cork itself—but only natural cork, not synthetic.

What does it smell like?

The three most common ways to describe a corked wine are:

  • moldy basement/attic smell;

  • wet newspaper; and,

  • wet dog

What does it taste like?

Corked wines are flat, dull, and have almost no fruit flavour to them. Some people will describe it as tasting "astringent”, although this descriptor can also be applied to wines with unruly tannins so it takes an experienced palate to distinguish between the two.

How can I avoid it?

The easiest way to avoid cork taint is to buy wines with synthetic corks or screw caps, which can be easier said than done if you’re looking for uncommon or more expensive wines as these tend to use natural corks in their bottles.

How can I get rid of it?

Let me preface this with: I’ve never tried this, and honestly I don’t suggest it unless you’re down to your very last bottle of wine and cannot obtain an untainted bottle because let’s face it—life is too short for bad wine. But I digress.

Scientists at UC Davis—a well respected university with an outstanding Viticulture & Enology program—have apparently discovered a way to remove the TCA from a wine, virtually eliminating cork taint. I haven’t been able to find any actual research papers on the subject, but apparently you soak the wine in a pitcher with a wadded up ball of plastic wrap for about 15-20 minutes. Then, pour the wine out of the pitcher into a clean glass vessel (not the bottle it came from!), leaving the plastic behind. Apparently, the scientists who discovered this claim that the TCA bonds to the plastic and will remove virtually all of it—but, again, life is too short for bad wine, and there have been no follow-up studies to confirm whether this works, or how much of the TCA remains after the wine is treated.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, roughly 5% of wines throughout the world are estimated to be affected by cork taint, so it isn’t the biggest issue in the wine world—but it is rather irritating to deal with. Screw caps and synthetic corks have made a dramatic impact in the wine world, but they have their own flaws as well.

If you discover a corked bottle for the first time, treat it as a learning experience and teach yourself how to properly identify cork taint by smell and taste. And then throw it out and open a bottle of good, untainted wine because you’ve earned it.

Ashley Fisher

About Wonderland Media

Wonderland Media was created to provide startups, businesses, and bloggers with a resource to help them meet their goals. We are digital storytellers, using your unique story to connect potential customers with your brand. After diving deep into your business, we will craft a unique multi-platform marketing campaign that will best meet your short- and long-term business goals. Best of all, we will use quantifiable data gathered throughout the campaign so that you can see exactly how we are positively influencing your business.

We specialize in: social media marketing & community management, event planning & publicity, digital marketing (including Pay-Per-Click & ethical SEO), content generation, and graphic design.

About Ashley Heinaranta

Throughout her decade in various marketing roles, Ashley has guided countless businesses through the muddy waters of creating an “online presence”. With experience in branding, consulting on business and marketing plans, graphic design, and digital marketing, she is a powerhouse of knowledge and experience. Ashley loves to work with start ups, bloggers, and small business owners, as well as established businesses and brands. No project is too small for her, and she loves the unique challenge that every project presents.

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker (Book Review)

I love receiving books as presents, and I especially love receiving wine books as presents, so I was overjoyed that my husband had put Cork Dork into my stocking! I've been looking forward to reading it since it was published last March, but for some reason I hadn't ended up buying it for myself. As soon as all of the presents were open, and the paper had been hastily cleaned up, I dove right in. 

cork dork by bianca bosker book review on ashleyfisher.ca

From Goodreads:

Like many of us, tech reporter Bianca Bosker saw wine as a way to unwind at the end of a long day, or a nice thing to have with dinner and that was about it. Until she stumbled on an alternate universe where taste reigned supreme, a world in which people could, after a single sip of wine, identify the grape it was made from, in what year, and where it was produced down to the exact location, within acres. Where she tasted wine, these people detected not only complex flavor profiles, but entire histories and geographies. Astounded by their fanatical dedication and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, Bosker abandoned her screen-centric life and set out to discover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a cork dork.
 

I was excited about the premise--a journalist abandoning her comfortable job in order to pursue wine fill time--and for the most part I was with Bianca all the way. It bugged me that she leveraged her connections to weasel her way into competitions and events that normally would have required skill in order to participate because it meant that she was taking a spot away from someone who might have earned it, but other than those few issues I really loved the book. It delved into the science behind olfactory sensing and how the brain reacts to sommelier training without being overwhelming, and experiencing her descent into the wine world, and it's ensuing obsession, was fascinating. 

You don't have to enjoy wine in order to enjoy Bianca's journey, but you'll probably come out the other side with an appreciation for the art of wine making and the industry as a whole. 

5 stars. I'd give more if I could, but that would defeat the purpose of a 5 star rating system, wouldn't it? 

Ashley Fisher

About Wonderland Media

Wonderland Media was created to provide startups, businesses, and bloggers with a resource to help them meet their goals. We are digital storytellers, using your unique story to connect potential customers with your brand. After diving deep into your business, we will craft a unique multi-platform marketing campaign that will best meet your short- and long-term business goals. Best of all, we will use quantifiable data gathered throughout the campaign so that you can see exactly how we are positively influencing your business.

We specialize in: social media marketing & community management, event planning & publicity, digital marketing (including Pay-Per-Click & ethical SEO), content generation, and graphic design.

About Ashley Heinaranta

Throughout her decade in various marketing roles, Ashley has guided countless businesses through the muddy waters of creating an “online presence”. With experience in branding, consulting on business and marketing plans, graphic design, and digital marketing, she is a powerhouse of knowledge and experience. Ashley loves to work with start ups, bloggers, and small business owners, as well as established businesses and brands. No project is too small for her, and she loves the unique challenge that every project presents.