Being located in Kelowna, the central Okanagan, I tend to cover wineries nearest to me. Rarely do I get to venture down south to the Golden Mile Bench in Oliver and Osoyoos. But I had the opportunity this spring and I am finally going to dive into the experience more thoroughly.
I was invited to do a private tour of Road 13 vineyards by Krista at Colley Communications Inc. in exchange for coverage. This I am disclosing to you as I am completely transparent with my readership.
I gladly accepted having been feeling out of the local wine scene loop during maternity leave. I embraced the opportunity and glad I did so.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as it coincided with my sister’s 29th birthday celebration so we took the entire crew, including baby, to the winery. My kid has already visited more wineries than most tourists get to in a planned visit to the Okanagan. He may be a vintner in the making!
But let me first prime you for our visit to Road 13 with a bit of history.
The property and much of the area was cultivated by Premier Honest John Oliver in the 1920s. But from its beginning as a vineyard Road 13 Vineyards has been family owned. First from the Serwo family who, being German and following the tradition of vineyard castles, erected a small castle where tastings are offered. During the ownership of the Serwo family the winery was called Golden Mile Cellars.
In 2003 the property was then purchased by the Luckhurst family and just as the vintners of the area were attempting to establish the region as its own sub-GI (Geographical Indications) as the Golden Mile Wine Bench. But because this was a conflict with the winery name Golden Mile Cellars, the Luckhursts decided to release the name and changed it to Road 13 in 2008.
In doing so the unique terroir that is Oliver and Osoyoos was able to establish itself as the Golden Mile Bench in 2015 as the first sub-GI, or sunb-appellation, created in the Okanagan wine valley. There are now many sub-GIs including Naramata, Okanagan Falls and Skaha Bench.
“As Golden Mile Cellars [we] would never be able to present the region to the world by ourselves. Thus it is important that all of our wineries in this area own the term, to be able to make and market its wines and to be able to tell the story of them. So now ‘Golden Mile’ belongs to the area rather than to one winery.” – Michael Bartier, Road 13’s previous Wine Maker, Straight.com
In the southern Okanagan more red varietals are grown, unlike the central and northern Okanagan where it is substantially cooler in the summer months. The southern Okanagan is considered part of Canada’s only desert and thus provides the necessary temperatures to grow varietals like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage and many more. It is also home to the only 100 pt Chardonnay in the Okanagan, by Checkmate Winery.
Indeed, the southern Okanagan is considered prime land and it feels very different than the rest of the Okanagan in terms of pricing and wine tasting style. Typically, a tasting can run you $15-$30 and could take 45-60 minutes.
Golden Mile vs the rest of the Okanagan
Road 13, however, is a bit more laid back. At $5 per tasting or $15 for premium, it is the more affordable end of tastings in the Golden Mile area.
The Road 13 tasting room, in the faux castle, offers a traditional standing tasting where they go through wines that are open that day. However, we were treated to a premium tasting with none other than the manager, Joe Luckhurst, son of Mick and Pam Luckhurts who purchased the property back in 2002.
Walking us through the history of Road 13 building by building and floor by floor including the bubbly ‘cave’. Sparkling wines are coming soon, we saw them with our own eyes! Although, the website only shows one sparkling wine, the Chenin Blanc 2014 (currently sold out) from vines planted in 1968, considerably old vines for the Okanagan!
Luckhurst is excited for the future, in 2018 Anthony Von Mandl purchased Road 13 vineyards with a view to keep its identity intact while also providing it with state of the art technology. If you are unfamiliar with Von Mandl, he is the owner of many Okanagan wineries and vineyards including Mission Hill, CedarCreek, Martin’s Lane, CheckMate, and now Road 13. All of his wineries get fitted with the latest and greatest. He has made the largest investment within a single wine valley in the world at an estimated $500 million. He undoubtedly helped set the Okanagan on the world stage hosting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Mission Hill in 2016.
After exploring the grounds with a stunning view, and a warning to watch for rattle snakes – hey, we’re in a desert – we were finally able to taste the wines in the Road 13 Lounge.
Book your own premium tasting in the Road 13 lounge here.
The wines were absolutely stellar. Read a few of my brief tasting notes at the bottom of this post. But the winner of the day for me was the Jackpot Syrah 2016 ($44 CAD) and is currently sold out this year! Glad I bought two bottles when I had the chance.
The Jackpot Syrah 2016 ($44), Bronze winner at National Wine Awards of Canada, is a Northern Rhone-style Syrah that generously offers notes of ripe fruits like plum, cherries and the classic pepper and licorice.
VRM 2017 ($26), Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne blend. Peach, apricot, marzipan, and tropical fruits like banana. Absolutely delicious for summertime entertaining during a jerk chicken bbq.
GSM 2017 ($37), Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre blend. Another favourite of ours with notes of red fruits like cherry and pomegranate with meaty notes like peppered salami on the nose. On the palate, however, it is cherry, plum and peppery with vanilla from a mixture of older French oak and new oak barrels.
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Full disclosure: I was invited to do a private tour of Road 13 vineyards and if I enjoy what I experienced I could share it on my Instagram and website. I purchased my own wine after a complimentary tasting.