Loren Christie: Touring one of Canada's top wine spots
Loren Christie, Canada AM travel expert
Published Friday, September 13, 2013 6:46AM EDT
Canada is home to all sorts of amazing vineyards. Two of the largest wine-producing regions are, of course, British Columbia's Okanagan Valley and the Niagara Peninsula. Last year I checked out The Vibrant Vine, one of the Okanagan's quirkier wineries.
Tony Lewis, along with his father, and his brother Phil, opened The Vibrant Vine winery in 2009. Located in the heart of the Okanagan, they knew they had much more to offer than good grapes - and their unique approach to winemaking has already made them a "Red Giraffe" in their industry.
Tony got started by reaching out through social media to learn the tricks of the trade from other wine makers. He equates wine making with video games and mixing music. He says it's all about the giving and taking and finding that right balance. His brother Phil did all the 3D art for the winery including the bottles. They give away roughly 4,000 pairs of 3D goggles every couple of weeks.
One of the other wineries I visited is better known, the iconic Mission Hill Family Estate. It offers culinary experiences, tying in with the local Farm to Table culture and some signature events including a Fall Epicurean Dinner featuring Mission Hill Culinary Alumni and a Fall Winemaker's Dinner featuring Mission Hill's Chief Winemaker John Simes. In the summer they have a concert series in the most spectacular outdoor auditorium I have ever seen. The 2013 series included LeAnn Rimes, Pink Martini, Chris Botti and the Gipsy Kings.
Kelowna is a great place to get your wine on. It is recognized as the birthplace of the B.C. wine industry and is home to some of the oldest and most established wineries in the province. Kelowna's five wine trails are the flagship of a Kelowna imbibing tour. A critical mass of over 25 wineries to visit, each with their own identity ("Scenic Sip", "Fab Five of Kelowna", "Grapes & Grains Trail", "Lakeshore Wine Route", and "Westside Wine Trail") as well as two microbreweries, two cideries, and two distilleries www.KelownaWineTrails.com.
The Fall Wine Festival is now in its 33rd year and features over 120 events. This year's ten day festival takes place Oct. 4 - 14 during fall harvest www.thewinefestivals.com.
If you can't make it to B.C., there are other wine producing places popping up all over the country. Nova Scotia is one of them. In the Wolfville area, about 40 minutes drive from Halifax, longer established wineries like Grand Pre and Gaspereau are coming into their own. And a short drive from there wine-maker Ben Swetnam is getting rave reviews as the up and coming winemaker at Avondale Sky Winery. It's a charming place with a retail store fashioned out of a reconstructed old church that was floated down river from its original home before it was demolished. You can do free tastings and tours 7 days a week.
Don't forget that wineries tend to be great places to eat. Whether it's at a fantastic restaurant on site or a picnic, the scenery and the wine go best with some great food.