Vacay.ca is publishing a series of articles by Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi focused on the wine region of British Columbia. The following article is the fourth in the series. Click here to read the most recent entry that covered winery dinners this summer.
You will have two questions once you finish your experience at Great Estates in Penticton: Why did it take so long for this place to come along and why aren’t there more like it?
Opened in October 2018, Great Estates provides a joyful and educational urban wine-tasting experience featuring fine wines from five producers in the Okanagan Valley. The operation is located on the ground floor of a new wing of the Lakeside Resort in downtown Penticton, and includes options such as a wine-and-cheese pairing and a chocolate pairing, for prices as low as $20 per person. Each tasting features multiple wines from the likes of NK’Mip Cellars, See Ya Later Ranch, and others.
Manager Stephen Ward says the business owners, which include Arterra Wines of Canada, had a grandfathered licence to serve alcohol in a setting without a full kitchen, which is a rarity in British Columbia. The advantages Great Estates provides for consumers are many.
For one, you don’t need to venture in your car on a wine-tasting tour. You can sip four or five glasses and enjoy food pairings in an airy tasting room flooded with light streaming in through its windows. If you’re visiting the central or northern parts of the Okanagan Valley, Great Estates also brings the wonderful wines of the southern region to you. As Ward notes, the area around Oliver and Osoyoos, which is Canada’s largest sub-Arctic desert, produces about 65 per cent of the wine grapes in the province. Many of the wines in the Naramata Bench around Penticton and from the Kelowna area originate in Oliver, Osoyoos, and the Similkameen Valley.
“It’s a one-stop shop,” Ward points out. “If you want to visit our properties but don’t have means to travel there then you come here and we can show you what those wineries offer, and explain to you what makes that part of the valley so unique.”
Ward is a brilliant educator. His session includes humour, interactivity, knowledge sharing, and a desire to make wine accessible, not intimidating. He talks about showing his clients how to pair Riesling with Doritos or Sauvignon Blanc with caramel popcorn. It’s part of the goal to demystify wine for consumers, many of whom are still unsure of what they like, let alone how to decipher the vocabulary around the subject.
“The aim is to have them leave with a level of confidence that they can replicate what they experience here at home. We get them to be a part of the tasting and that makes them have a better experience they can then take away,” he says.
When you’re done at Great Estates and you still want more wine, you just need to walk seven minutes up the road to another first for the Okanagan Valley, an urban winery. Time Winery, owned by Canadian wine-industry pioneer Harry McWatters, has opened in a converted movie theatre. It features a long bar serving samples of Time’s award-winning wines and a full restaurant with some outstanding food. Be sure to order the harissa carrots and pair that dish with Time’s White Meritage, featuring 70 per cent semillon.
When you do want to be amid the vines and enjoying views of the mountains and Lake Okanagan, venture on a 10-minute drive from downtown to Poplar Grove Winery. A family-run operation that has grown from 3,000 cases to more than 30,000. The Holler family now owns 140 acres of vineyards and their excellence has turned Poplar Grove into one of the most beloved wineries in the Okanagan Valley. Along with the exceptional wines, guests enjoy jaw-dropping scenery and the terrific on-site restaurant, the Vanilla Pod.
If you find yourself loving the wine as many others do you’ll be tempted to join Poplar Grove’s wine club, which includes an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink once-a-year summer barbecue that costs the winery thousands and thousands of dollars to host.
The delightful aspect of Penticton is a visitor can go from knowing little about wine at all and through experiences at Great Estates, Time, and wineries such as Poplar Grove turn into a case-buying club member — benefits included — within a couple of days of intense and fun viticulture education.