For many visitors to the Okanagan, and even for residents, when we think of heading out to tour wineries we often overlook the Similkameen Valley.
Approximately 80 kilometres or 60 minutes away from Kelowna, Highway 3A veers off and takes you to the heart of a very relaxed and picturesque wine region.
I would like to call it a new and emerging wine region but feel that would be unfair, as vines have been planted here as long as they have been in other areas of the Okanagan.
Instead, maybe I will just say that the quiet and reserved nature of the winemaking community here is more like a long established wine region such as Burgundy or The Rhone. Once you get a chance to experience it, they will always be in your mind and you will make the choice to visit as often as you can because you know the wines are just that good.
It’s the simplicity of the Similkameen that makes them unique. You will not find any flashy restaurants here, just casual patios offering charcuterie and cheese. You can stop by a fruit stand and pick up some local produce or pack yourself a picnic.
One of the things I find so great about the Similkameen is their ability to produce wine as naturally and organically as possible. This is due to the climate and valley it is located in.
Days are long and hot – often reaching over 40 C, but evenings are generally quite cool, sometimes below 10 C. The soils of sand and loam give an equal balance of drainage and water holding capacity, allowing for less irrigation. And the steady breeze that blows through the valley ensures dry conditions for the vineyards, which means lower incidence of pests and disease with little or no pesticides or herbicides needed.
The list of wineries is a short one, and with a palate-cleansing stop at Twisted Hill Cidery to finish, this is an area you can see in a day. I assure you that you will back though; the laid-back nature is contagious!
What I am loving this week: Two Similkameen wines, as there were too many to only pick one, but arguably I could have picked 10!
This very light and juicy style Pinot Noir is achieved by less skin contact and just a touch of sweetness. It has ripe strawberries and cream on the nose and fresh rhubarb minerality on the palate. This is seriously a great summer Pinot.
Clos du Soleil Fume Blanc
This is a Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon blend that is boldly refreshing. It has yellow grapefruit, lemon and fresh green apple flavors. It would pair perfectly with summer cuisine with fresh Okanagan produce.
-Shanyn Ward is a WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Diploma graduate and Okanagan sommelier.