Written in the sand of Osoyoos Lake, but written forever on my heart (oh, I am sappy, but it's true).
The Banée weekend was an insane whirlwind. I felt so privileged to be invited to spend the weekend with the wonderful, passionate, eccentric, individualistic folks who make up the South Okanagan Wineries Association. They treated our gang of media guests like gold, and we so pleased to be there.
It's impossible to overstate this: These people have passion for what they do. Full-on, hot blooded, Mediterranean-style, operatic, run-with-the-bulls passion.
Run-with-the-bulls is an appropriate metaphor, actually, because the business of making wine isn't for the faint hearted. It's dangerous. Fortunes are lost and hearts are broken. It takes faith, perseverance, and a hell of a lot of luck. Most of the time winemakers must feel like all the forces are arrayed against them -- rain, wind, hail, frost, wildlife, government regulations -- yet they keep making their wine with dedication, humour, and love.
The land is beautiful, heartbreakingly glorious. But making wine starts with farming, and farming brings no guarantees. Even on a beautiful, perfect grape growing day, the next change in wind can bring a weather change that will turn your crop's potential to ashes.
The northern boundary of the South Okanagan, as viewed from Quinta Ferreira.
The one thing the wine folk can count on is their soil, so it's no surprise that they get all romantic about their dirt. They know it intimately. Road 13's Mick Luckhurst told us that it changes in composition every ten meters. To me it looks the same, but to them, the every rock is individual.
South Okanagan soil at Road 13.
And in a place like the Okanagan, which has only been growing grapes for a few generations, the right techniques for the climate are still being discovered. Bill Eggert from Fairview Cellars told us a story that illustrates this. When he first planted his vinifera vines, he ruined his back training them low to the ground. He did this because it had been the right technique to use with the native North American labrusca varietals -- the low training was a technique for controlling acidity, which is a problem with labrusca. Now he has a problem with low acidity in his grapes (though it doesn't seem to keep him from making stunning Cabernet Sauvignon), so now he's beginning to train new cordons upward.
Fairview Cellars vines, showing new cordons being trained upward.
I got to taste at least 80 different wines on the weekend. It was a heck of a lot of spitting, so I really got to practice my pucker. Here are some of my favourites from the weekend. This is not a comprehensive list, because sometimes the wines were just going by so fast that I didn't get the chance to take notes.
I don't want to be mealy-mouthed about this: Yes, some wineries are more accomplished and produce better wines than others. I have my own personal favourites. But the fact is, each one of these wineries has their own following, and each produces unique and highly individual wines.