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 4 of 10

"In a sense, Napa Valley is a victim of its own success. It’s crowded, it’s commercialized, with guided tours ever hour on the hour. We have to make sure we still keep the dream. It’s nice to go to wineries, and still be able to wander around and maybe bump into the winemakers. Hopefully we don’t lose that."

Although the estate has a rustic feel to it, the design of the actual winemaking operations is a mix of traditional techniques and state-of-the-art technologies. The result is a process that is efficient, conserves power and water, and is careful, ensuring that the grapes are processed in such a way that the wine doesn’t lose flavour or character.

"Our wines are very fruit-forward," says Fitzpatrick. "There is naturally a lot of acidity in our wines, which makes for great pairings with food. We shouldn’t fight that."

After touring the facility, including a massive new room stacked with French oak barrels where the wine is aged, Fitzpatrick took us back to the wine shop, where we tasted a few of his wines.

We sampled a 2002 Dry Riesling, a 2001 Pinot Blanc, a State Select 2000 Chardonnay that won a Governor General’s award, a 1999 Pinot Noir, and a unique 2000 Meritage – a blend of Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc grapes.

My favourite was the Pinot Blanc, which Foran credited as being "an explosion of ripe rounded fruit, a balanced acidity, with a solid, lingering finish." If you were pairing it with dinner, Foran said, it would go best with cream sauce pasta and any dish made with salmon.

Although Cedar Creek has won dozens of awards and much acclaim in the past four years, Fitzpatrick is far from complacent. He says he will continue to look for ways to increase the quality of his wines.

He also likes to have fun with his profession. "This business requires a lot of patience, but I always want to be experimenting, trying things, trying to come up with something different than the usual things we do."

The 2000 Meritage, and a special Madeira the winery created a few years ago that was modelled after a 19 th century wine – and that quickly sold out in the wine shop – are just a few examples of Fitzpatricks’ desire to experiment.

Overall, Fitzpatrick likes where the Okanagan is heading.

"Let’s face it, back in the ’80s, we made swill. Then came Free Trade, and we had to get serious about wine. Now we’re seeing the wine industry merge with the tourism industry, and things are just taking off. Wine is never about grapes, it’s really about people, places, properties – it’s the whole experience."

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