The last few months I’ve been busy with a new project that is very exciting. Along with my friend Martin (east2west.tv) I am making a documentary film on the wines of the Okanagan. So far we’ve had nothing but positive interest in the project and I look at it as a great new opportunity. I’ll give periodic updates on how we’re progressing but today it occurred to me just how diverse the wineries are out here in BC. There’s a real spirit of adventure and newness that you don’t feel so much in France. Kind of normal when you learn that quality wine’s only been made here for less than 20 years. Compare that to over 2,000 years in France.
One encounters just about every type of major grape variety up and down the valley. Growers are experimenting to the max to find the best clones and the best sites for each. Some are pushing the limits truly into orbit by planting mediterranean grapes like Cinsault, Grenache and Tempranillo. Who knows? Maybe global warming will turn this arid valley into a hotbed for southern French grapes but for now the risk is high and a bad freeze like we had in December 2008 can wipe out the less hardy varieties.
I’ve also met many fascinating wine makers on my travels up and down the valley. How about a retired Israeli fighter pilot who makes stunning Viognier and Pinot Noir (http://www.silkw.net/)? Or the Punjabi immigrant who’s making great organic Pinot Gris yet doesn’t drink wine at all (http://www.kalala.ca/wine/index.php).
And then there’s Tilman Hainle. He’s made wine for many firms over the years but today he is back at his small family farm near Peachland. He and partner Sara Norman created the Working Horse Winery as a showcase for organic and bio-dynamic methods. As the name implies, a beautiful pair of Suffolk draught horses supply the muscle at WHW. Talk about a low carbon footprint or should I say hoofprint! http://www.workinghorsewinery.com
As for dirty laundry, I’ve got lots but in the Okanagan everyone knows about the liquid Dirty Laundry. This dynamic little winery in Summerland – gotta love that name – has proved a point that in order to rise above the pack in the new world, the marketing and the look have to be special. A few years back Dirty Laundry had a long, difficult to pronounce German name and was not hugely successful even though the wines were solid. In 2005 the winery changed hands and a new name was chosen from a rather steamy detail of Summerland’s pioneer past. It seems there was a Chinese laundry in the village at one time that not only starched shirts but provided other services that left customers hot under the collar! The locals referred to it as the Dirty Laundry. Since the name change the winery sells out of most of their wines quickly. The latest addition to the portfolio is a red blend called Bordello and I think it is likely the only wine in the world that comes with a magnifying glass attached! http://www.dirtylaundry.ca/