June 27, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

A tour of Canada’s wine region 

After a decade of hard work, Okanagan wineries are going for it

Page 3 of 10

When it comes to wines, I was probably the biggest cretin in the bunch. I took a one-hour introduction to wine tasting at Cornucopia, Whistler’s food and wine celebration, a couple of years ago, but still buy most of my wine using the "Eeny Meany, Miney, Moe" process.

We were picked up by Dan O’Brien, the chief pilot and owner of Coastal Mountain Air, which will be doing most the flying for the David Mitchel Wine Group.

At Pemberton Airport, we boarded a six-seat Cessna 207, and took off north.

The flight from Pemberton to the Okanagan Valley can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the cloud cover’s impact on visibility. With the clouds hovering anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 feet, we followed the Duffey Lake Road route, staying below the ceiling.

"If we can’t see the mountains, we don’t fly over them," explains O’Brien.

The view was still spectacular, with views of deep gorges, glaciers, forests, and Lake Okanagan.

We made a perfect three-point landing at Kelowna International Airport, and took off layers while Foran booked a rental van. It was about 15 degrees warmer in Kelowna than Whistler was that morning, which is just part of the reason why the area can grow such fine wine-producing grapes.

* * *

Our first stop was Cedar Creek Estate Winery, Winner of Wine Access Magazine’s 2002 Canadian Winery of the Year award.

The property, which includes 47 of Cedar Creek’s 92 acres of vineyards, was recently upgraded with a $2 million renovation. It has an incredible view of Lake Okanagan, with a southern aspect that collects heat and light.

Workers were just putting the finishing touches on a garden and a copper-roofed gazebo that could be used for weddings and receptions. One of the events planned for the area was a festival featuring the Mozart Philharmonic Society – a summer evening of sitting on the grass, listening to classical music, and sipping on one of Cedar Creek’s award-winning wines.

We were greeted at the gate by winery president and owner Gordon Fitzpatrick, whose family has worked the Okanagan valley for three generations.

"We’re getting more and more international visitors all the time," he says. "Outside of the region, I would say about a third of our visitors are from Alberta, and the rest are from the coast, Vancouver and Seattle.

"It’s amazing when people do get here, the way they become enamoured with the place. We have to keep that feeling here. We have to develop it in a very responsible way.

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