British Columbia: Okanagan!

Canada: 31 July – 10 August 2010

A certain winter sounding wine has been captivating the attention of the World Wine Tour. As we crossed the border continuing north after Oregon and Washington, we began our journey into Canada’s Okanagan wine region to find out how such a ‘liquid gold’ could be nearly worth its weight in that precious metal it is nicknamed after. And so we began: the Ice Wine chapter.

While visiting wineries in British Columbia’s Okanagan wine region, we found out just why such value is placed on the limited quantity production ice wine. At a great risk to losing the entire vintage if temperatures don’t get low enough, the ice-wine wineries leave their selected grapes on the vines to dry as the traditional harvest season comes to a close, even past times when traditional late-harvests would be picked. They remain in suspense until the early winter months of December, January, or February bring the temperatures consistently down to below 8 or 10 degrees Celsius. At this moment, the ice cold grapes are harvested, usually in the middle of the night to ensure the coldest temperatures, and are immediately pressed outside. With very high pressure and water no longer liquid but instead in a crystallized state, a syrup of the grape’s sugar and tightly packed fruitful aromas come oozing out, producing some of the most prized and valuable liquids coming from any one specific winemaking technique. And be assured, all members of the winery are helping in the freezing cold, with fingers crossed.

This cold-climate technique of winemaking was brought to Canada from Germany by several winemakers in the Niagara area, which we will explore in greater detail in our next blog, with our visit of the Niagara wine region with Brix Magazine’s chief editor. As for the icy lake-side lands of Okanagan in British Columbia, we visited five of the top wineries, many of them children companies of the original founders in the Niagara region, and are happy to share a collection of ice wines made from a variety of grape varietals:

Inniskillin winery, founded in the Niagara and one of the most important for Canadian Ice wine history and industry, has also acknowledged the promise of the Okanagan for winemaking, establishing it’s a winery here in 1994. Able to make a different range of ice wines, we are happy to announce that the first vintage of Tempranillo ice wine has been donated from the Inniskillin Okanagan winery! Above we are learning the gritty of ice wine making!

NK’MIP is native Okanagan for ‘the Osoyoos Indian Band,’ a Native American group which was formed in 1877. And so the winery holds this name, built on land of these people. The First Nation chiefs hold strong philosophy that economic independence is essential for the people’s survival. Not only just a winery, an entire summer resort exists here, which we might add looks very popular as we saw huge crowds touring the property, winery, and picnic areas, which all were very inviting to tourists. We happened to be there in the summer, but a donation of Riesling ice wine for our auction reminds us that this land has a nickname of the wintery-white north!

Jackson-Trigg’s Okanagan winery is also a recognition of the area, as it is an estate established by the original ‘Jackson-Triggs’ winery from the Niagara region. An important figure in Canadian wine industry, we are happy to share their resounding vision through a Riesling ice wine which has been donated towards our auction!

The ‘See Ya Later’ winery has as a logo a dog heading towards heaven. The See Ya Later Ranch has a small doggy cemetery due to a quirky original inhabitant living on the premises, who loved his many dogs. The See Ya Later winery and team have generously donated a very interesting Ehrenfelser ice wine!

The famous Sumac Ridge was started to be conceived of in 1979 by two locals of the Okanagan region. Starting on a soon-to-be-converted gold course, the winery now is a full-fledged and very well established estate which is pioneering production of British Columbia ice wines. Our auction will feature a very precious Pinot Noir ice wine.

As can be seen, ice wines come in many different sizes of varietal, and we are happy to have assorted a range of these!

Overall, we are very pleased to show that we have had an extremely warm welcome from the cold climate wine country that has staked a name for itself in ice wine production. This can be reflected in the diverse and amazing ice wines which have been donated for our charity auction, and the fact that popularity of this divine delicacy has steadily risen over the years shows great promise in their future and our final results at the auction!

Thanks!

~Anja and Georges

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