The Okanagan Grape Cheat Sheet
Or how to separate your pinots and sound like a somm on your next winery visit.
Acres Planted 1,564 Best Area Oliver and Osoyoos.
Characteristics Okanagan merlot is the biggest, baddest merlot around with loads of structure, powerful fruit and great acid to balance it all out. Even Paul Giamatti would be convinced. Standout Bottle Vanessa Vineyard Right Bank ($40): Ripe Similkameen fruit held in place with some medium firm tannins reminiscent of its homage— Right Bank Bordeaux.
Acres Planted 510 Best Area Kelowna north to Lake Country. Characteristics Either steely with laser-focused acidity or slightly sweet with laser-focused acidity.
Standout Bottles So many, but when it comes right down to it, the Tantalus Old Vines Riesling ($30) may be the consistently best bottle of any varietal made in the Okanagan.
Acres Planted 996
Best Area Black Sage Bench and Naramata Bench are notable, but there are great pockets from Kelowna South.
Characteristics Can go from Chablis-like minerality (Tantalus Juveniles) to California-style butteriness (Time Winery).
Standout Bottle Sperling Chardonnay is fresh but never austere and an absolute steal at $26. Absolutely delicious.
Acres Planted 530 Best Area Naramata Bench (balance) to Osoyoos (power).
Characteristics A bold, spicy wine that generally avoids the rich, lush Aussie-style in favour of a more elegant floral expression on par with syrah from France’s Rhône Valley. Standout Bottles So many, but you could do worse than Laughing Stock’s wonderful sexy and serious syrah ($36).
Acres Planted 1,073 Best Area Kelowna is ground zero, but north to Vernon is good as well.
Characteristics This one’s more in the hands of the winemakers some of whom go for Russian River-style richness (Quails' Gate Stewart Family Reserve) and some for Burgundian restraint and earthiness (anything from Martin’s Lane; see page 76).
Standout Bottles Spearhead Cuvée ($38) is a blend of the above, with layers of cherries but some lovely earthy notes.
Acres Planted 1,114 Best Area Wherever dandelions grow? The truth is that there’s good PG from Oliver to Lake Country—and that’s why it’s our most widely grown white grape.
Characteristics When grown in the Alsatian style: honey, melon, balanced acidity. In the Italian pinot grigio style: quaffability, forgettable-ness.
Standout Bottle Roche Pinot Gris Inox 2016 ($22) straddles the two with zippy, bright fruit but a level of rich complexity beneath that produces a satisfyingly long finish.