Just outside of the Okanagan wine region, an hour or so drive from Kelowna, rests the Similkameen wine valley. A truly picturesque landscape with volcanic rock mountains and hoodoos (clay pillar anomalies perched upon hillsides) and green flat valleys with a river snaking through farm lands – I was stunned as I stood like an ant in this scene not far from Keremeos at the Seven Stones Winery during an excursion with the Wine Bloggers’ Conference. The excursion locations are a mystery – more like a guessing game for locals – where the attendees can only choose their experience by theme rather than location. Themes that were offered were Paddle-Boarding to Wine, Hiking to Wine, Wine & Geology, A Rustic Experience with a cooper and a farm, etc.
Living within this region for about 7 years now I joined the Wine Bloggers’ Conference to learn more about my acquired home right down to the last rock – so naturally I chose Wine & Geology not knowing I would end up in a completely different valley with a different geological makeup.
The Similkameen is further south than Kelowna, next door to the hottest part of Canada’s only desert and is very near to the Washington border. Its mountains are higher, its valleys have more green flat surface area – where Kelowna has Okanagan Lake and farmland running up the mountains and hills, the Similkameen has a river and tons of farmland, wineries and orchards throughout the valley at the base of the mountains.
We stopped at the Seven Stones Winery where we tasted the wines of the Similkameen Valley, an area that has been voted one of the top 6 underrated wine valleys in the world by Vines Magazine and EnRoute Magazine voted it one of the top 5 wine regions you’ve never heard of. With such high praise I was eager to see how the wines differed from the Central Okanagan’s.
The Seven Stones Winery is named after the seven large boulders within the area that all have a First-Nations significance to them wether it be mythological or cultural.
One of the best pieces of advice I received at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference was from a local wine maker of Tinhorn Creek, Sandra Oldfield, who said “Close your eyes when you taste wine and travel there.” When you close your eyes you are more easily transported to the place where the grapes are grown and can taste how the soil, heat and wind effected the grapes through their growing process. Since the soil of the Similkameen Valley varies so greatly I will focus on our host winery, Seven Stones Winery, which is on an area of land that is sandy loam but with rocks for the first 4 or so feet, below that is limestone which is thought to give their wines a mineral quality – an oyster like finish.
Each Similkameen winery brought a soil sample in a jar to show us how different each parcel of land and block of soil differ yet they all plant similar grapes but get a very different result.
The Seven Stones winemaker and owner, George Hanson, took us for a quick tour around his vineyard and explained the plans for a new patio and what his underground cellar will look like when completed with a handmade spiral stair case. Seven months previous to our visit Hanson had began the cave-like cellar where he stores and ages his wine but also host dinners and events. In fact, his cellar was so close to being completed during our visit we dinned there that evening in the cool underground cave with unreal wines and delicious tapas food.
Not only did I discover another new wine region so close to my home but I also found a new wine that is a perfect patio sipper for the summer – Sage Bush’s Vin Gris – which actually looks like a rosé but is very light similar to a sparkling.
It’s amazing what happens when you travel locally and re-discover your home state, province, valley etc. Who knows what’s waiting for you just around the bend?