Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Advance planning turned 6th annual wine tour into a wine experience in the Okanagan. Painted Rock is my top pick in a tough competition for experience.

On our 6th annual Okanagan wine tour we booked several tastings in advance, using either our wine club memberships or the Visa Infinite card program.  Wineries are going all out with these pre-booked special event tastings and it's well worth the planning involved.

Black Hills offers it's wine club members a guided cabana tasting that is one of the best available.  Seated around the pool under the cabana we were treated to wine stories and some of the best wines made in the Okanagan.  A barrel taste of Carmenere was an unexpected pleasure.

Laughing Stock Vineyards is one of the wineries that only do tastings by appointment and again the planning pays off.  They have a beautiful seating area, under cover and a guided tasting of their outstanding portfolio of wines is fun and informative.  They offer Visa Infinite members a private vineyard tour but they called us the morning to let us know it would have to be an abbreviated tour because harvest had begun.  Being possible the most important day in the wine business we were grateful they still let us in. 
Pinot Gris Harvest
Laughing Stock has one of the nicest wine bottles I've ever seen with ticker tape information about the wine and vintage including the date of harvest and some fun facts. We tried the fresh pinot gris grapes being harvested 3 weeks earlier then 2014 vintage we started our tasting with.
Laughing Stock Patio Tasting
Painted Rock offers Visa Infinite members the opportunity to do a barrel tasting of the components of their flagship Red Icon.  Pretty awesome.  We drank a bottle of the 2007 Red Icon the night before so we were pumped to do the component tasting.  This was such a unique experience that it is my top pick for wine visits this year.
The Wine Thief at Painted Rock
We had lunch and did a tasting at Liquidity Wines.  A good addition to the limited food scene in the area it is worth a visit on many levels.  The art both inside the winery and in the gardens is interesting and the views from the patio bistro are pretty fine.  The flatbread, mussels and soup were all very good.  We'll go back.  
Bistro Patio at Liquidity
We also had lunch at The Patio at Lake Breeze, my favourite lunch place in Naramata.  The portobello carpaccio with dungeness crab and arugula was delicious.  The mushroom bruschetta was equally good and both were a delicious match for the Lake Breeze Pinotage.  One of the great things about eating at winery restaurants is getting to order wines from their library.  The Pinotage was sold out but we were able to get it in the restaurant.  It's a rare varietal that I have a love for.
Lake Breeze Winery

2011 Pinotage a rare and delicious varietal

Portobello Carpaccio
We had dinner at The Vanilla Pod at Poplar Grove.  We'd heard mixed reviews and perhaps our order was particularly easy because 5 out of 7 of us ordered the halibut but we enjoyed our evening there and the food was good.
Halibut with tomato fennel ragu and pomme frites
Fall is a good time to visit wine country but keep in mind that the wineries can be extremely busy with harvest and may not have much time for you.  Go with the flow and there may be some pleasant surprises.  
No stealing the grapes