Oliver and the Warm South
Just north of Oliver (which calls itself the Wine Capital of Canada), the Jackson-Triggs Vintners tasting room is a great place to get started. The western outpost of one of Canada’s largest wine companies, the locally produced wines include a wide array of varieties and labels. Of particular note are the Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Shiraz and White Meritage, as well as their SunRock Vineyard single varieties.
In the valley south of Oliver, some of the most distinctive vineyards in the Okanagan Valley are to be found. The area is deeply arid and very warm during the growing season, resulting in big, concentrated wines.
Along the benches on the west side of the Okanagan River Canal that divides the valley floor is the Golden Mile subregion. Let’s start on a hillside off Road #7 from Highway 97 at Tinhorn Creek.
Canada’s first carbon neutral winery, Tinhorn Creek farms 150 acres of vineyard on both sides of the valley. General manager Kenn Oldfield and winemaker Sandra Oldfield give the beautiful winery and vineyards a distinctly personal, family feel, which follows through in their supple, accessible, generous wines‚ especially their signature Oldfield Series of single-varietal wines and 2Bench blends. A leader in sustainability and the survivability of wildlife, including participating in an endangered snake protection program, Tinhorn Creek takes stewardship as seriously as its winemaking.
At the end of the next road (Road #8, of course), Hester Creek farms some of the oldest vines in the Okanagan Valley and sports one of the newest winery buildings, including a spacious tasting room. Winemaker Robert Summers is only beginning to exploit the fruits of new investment and tools, but already the Hester Creek unoaked white wines (especially Pinot Gris) and Reserve Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are top-notch showcases of Golden Mile terroir.
A little further south, Road 13 Winery & Vineyard is fast becoming a force in Okanagan wine. Pam and Mick Luckhurst purchased the former Golden Mile Cellars, complete with its castle-like winery building and tasting room, in 2003 without significant wine experience of their own. They were fast learners. They hired winemaker Michael Bartier, changed the winery’s name to Road 13, and are growing some of the best wines in the region. Try their Jackpot Pinot Noir and Old Vines Chenin Blanc to see what quality is all about, or their series of excellent Honest John’s blends.
The opposite, east, side of the valley is known as the Black Sage Road bench, and roughly parallels the Golden Mile. Vines here get stronger afternoon sun and are planted on deep sand and gravel benches, yielding particularly rich wines.
Le Vieux Pin is a relatively new boutique winery that produces expressive wines from sustainable and dry-farmed vines (unusual for the area). The attractive French-style winery is intimate and fun, while the wines are full and rich. Their Périgée Pinot Noir is succulent and dense, and the Apogée Merlot is lush and fruity. And though they don’t make much of either, their Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer are impressive and always in demand.
Nearby, one of British Columbia’s first cult wineries is worth a pre-arranged visit. Black Hills Estate Winery requires reservations for its tasting room, but the sleekly designed building combined with the undeniable power of their signature Nota Bene red blend makes the winery a worthy destination. Also be sure to try the Alibi white blend and the most unusual Carmenere.
For a more informal tasting, Desert Hills Estate Winery is a good choice. The affable Randy Toor and his brother Jesse manage the family wine business with an infectious enthusiasm. Their wines are cleanly made with focused flavors. The Syrah in particular is a robust wine with jammy fruit and spicy edges. The Gamay is an unusual variety for the area and is a pleasurable find for its sweet, bright, blackberry flavor.
At the south end of Black Sage Road, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery looms over the land as a beacon for wine-seeking travelers. Jim Wyse opened Burrowing Owl in 1998 and has added amenities continually. The 60-seat Sonora Room fine dining restaurant is a local standout, as is the luxurious 11-room guesthouse with 25-meter swimming pool. Plus, Burrowing Owl makes superb wine. The Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are marvelous, as are the complex, intense Syrah, a dense and deliciously age-worthy Meritage blend, and a spicy Cabernet Franc, among other very good wines.
Oliver area wineries
Black Hills Estate Winery
30880 Black Sage Road, Oliver, B.C.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
100 Burrowing Owl Place, RR#1 Site 52, Comp 20, Oliver, B.C.
Desert Hills Estate Winery
30480-71 St – Black Sage Road, RR#1 Site 52 – Comp 11, Oliver, B.C.
13163-326th Ave., Box 1605, Oliver, B.C.
38691-Hwy 97 N., Oliver, B.C.
Road 13 Winery & Vineyard
13140 316A Ave, Road 13 RR1 S-28A C10, Oliver, B.C.
Box 2010, Oliver, B.C.
Le Vieux Pin
34070 73rd and Black Sage Road, Oliver, B.C.