Guide shines on Okanagan – Nov. 8, 2104


By Anthony Gismondi

North Vancouver wine writer John Schreiner has released his latest book on British Columbia wine and the 5th Edition John Schreinera��s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide at $19.95 is easily his best yet. Schreiner has been covering the Okanagan wine scene for almost 40 years and if you were around in those days, you might remember the half dozen or so wineries making wine at the time, although I use that term loosely.

Schreiner counts 196 wineries and vineyards producing wine in his latest book and the vast majority are barely a decade old. Ironically, the easy to use A to Z format starts in the town of Osoyoos at Adega on 45th Estate Winery and finishes in Osoyoos at Young & Wyse Collection Wines, literally chronicling the breadth and width of the wine country that has been growing in leaps and bounds since 1990.

With so much talk about appellations and sub-divisions within the Okanagan Valley, it would behoove the powers that be to pay attention to the opening of this book and the chapter entitled Geography for Wine Tourists. Wine writers are constantly berated for failing to make wine more approachable but we could turn the tables on producers and their winery associations for failing to simplify the entire business by drawing a few lines that make sense to wine drinkers and that would divide wine country into some digestible sips.

Most everyone has a personal address their life revolves around and wineries are no different. When you visit any winery, you need to know where to go, and if the grapes come from one of those areas, that would surely simplify the business of tagging a wine to a place and producer, and cover some of the key questions regarding provenance and authenticity.

Schreiner does the sensible thing by identifying well0-known sub geographical regions/benches, then latches on all the winery names that fall within the geography. The Similkameen Valley (already a recognized region) boasts 17 producers; Osoyoos Lake Bench counts eight wineries, The Golden Mile Bench (recently recognised as the first sub-GI) counts 18 producers, although not all lie within the new boundaries. Schreiner uses Black Sage Road to point you to 20 wineries on the east side of the valley; Okanagan Falls counts 10 producers; while tiny Skaha Bench counts eight wineries. He goes on to a busy Naramata Bench at 37 proprietors, Summerland Peachland with 19, the Slopes of Mt. Boucherie has 10, while Kelowna/Lake County counts 26. Outlying Vernon, Salmon Arm and The Kootenays have their own regions.

Fourteen sub-regions may seem like many but when you are driving hundreds of kilometers and consulting a road map or GPS, these names are meaningful to consumers and consumers are the people who buy wine.

But enough of appellations; the Okanagan Wine Tour Guide is so much more because it personalizes the lives of those trying to make the best wine they can. If I have learned anything in my 35 years of visiting wineries it is, the more you know going in, the more likely you are to have a meaningful visit and find what it is you are looking for.

Schreiner has an effortless way of launching you into the story of each winery and the people behind the label before he gives you some recommendations on which wines to look for. Hillside Winery Estate is a perfect example. Current winemaker Kathy Malone is making some incredibly delicious gamay wine but did you know those vines were planted by founder Vera Klokocka in 1984? Klokocka sold the winery by 1998 to a group of 95 Albertan shareholders who were bought out in 2011 by one of the original, and most passionate shareholders, Calgary geologist and oil man Duncan McCowan. Schreiner goes on to mention the winery was the first of many designed by Penticton architect Robert Mackenzie who went on to design Painted Rock, Nka��Mip, Hester Creek, Maverick Estate, Maverick Estate, Arrowleaf and more.

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