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 8 of 10

It wasn’t until the Free Trade talks of the late 1980s that winemakers began to think seriously about changing the way they did business.

After the museum, we toured a new gourmet restaurant in Kelowna, Fresco, before checking out the Harvest Golf and Country Club Grounds.

Golf appears to be the activity of choice for the wine tour demographic, and in the north, central and southern Okanagan regions, there are almost two dozen courses. Other activities include sailing and water-skiing on the lake, horseback riding, hiking and cycling.

* * *

The next stop on our trip was Tinhorn Creek Winery in Oliver, less than a two-hour drive south of Kelowna in the Osoyoos Valley. Foran takes tours to both areas, and can fly clients in to a local airport through Coastal Mountain Air.

The Osoyoos Valley, also known as the South Okanagan, has a distinctly different feel than the Kelowna area, as it borders on an area of badlands that is officially Canada’s only desert. The conditions for growing grapes are excellent however, and the area boasts south-facing slopes and more heat and light than any other growing region in Canada. The area only gets about 30 centimetres of rain a year.

We slept the night in the Tinhorn Guest House, and woke up to take a tour of the winery.

Unlike Cedar Creek and Summerhill Pyramid, Tinhorn Creek is committed to producing a short list of wines, rather than experimenting. The goal, says Sandra Oldfield, who bought the winery with her husband Ken in 1993, is to take advantage of the unique growing conditions in the valley, which naturally favour some varieties more than others. Practice makes perfect.

"The oak we use, the yeast we use, they’re all important, but 90 per cent of the quality of our wines comes from the vineyard, and the quality of our grapes," says Oldfield.

"From there we fine-tune it a little, but we generally let the grapes do the talking."

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards has 160 acres planted, and increased sales from 1,000 cases in 1994 to 45,000 cases in 2002. Even so, the demand in B.C. and Canada has kept most of the wine at home, where it is well appreciated.

In 2001, Tinhorn Creek won the Red Wine of the Year honours at the Canadian Wine Awards, for a 1998 Merlot – one of the best growing years on record for the B.C. wine industry.

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