Drink Canada Dry ... Dry Red, That Is; Soak Up Beautiful British Columbia on a Wine Tour

Daily Mail (London), May 27, 2017 | Go to article overview

Drink Canada Dry ... Dry Red, That Is; Soak Up Beautiful British Columbia on a Wine Tour


Byline: PAT McGOLDRICK

THE last thing you expect when you plan to visit your oldest friends in Vancouver is to find yourself in desert country drinking superb local wines and wondering how the hell you've spent a long lifetime never having heard of the place or its most famous product.

But that was our experience when my wife Frances and I were taken to Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley, just an easy threehour drive east of Vancouver. 'We're going where to do what?' was my initial reaction when our friends Tommy and Mary announced that they had booked a condo in Kelowna for three days to get a bit of desert heat into our damp Irish bones and to do a bit of a wine tour. 'A wine tour? Canadian wines from a Canadian desert? Are you having a laugh?' I snorted. It had to be a joke, right? Who had ever heard of Canadian wine? Well, as a matter of fact, quite a few people actually, most of them experts in the field. Indeed, Okanagan wines have won first prizes at wine festivals worldwide I was quickly told by my Scottish friends, now more Canadian than the Canadians themselves. Apparently there are more than 60 wineries in the Okanagan. Truly, every day's a school day.

We set off from their home in Port Moody, on the eastern side of Metro Vancouver, along Highway 1 to the town of Hope and onto the Coquihalla Highway, fine roads with spectacular views of British Columbia, Canada's most beautiful province. But I was unprepared for the stunning beauty of Lake Okanagan itself. Magnificent barely does it justice. It owes nothing to any of Italy's great lakes other than lushness.

Now, having said that, the Okanagan, which straddles the US border into Washington state, is not quite a desert in the Death Valley sense; it's more desert country, an area of micro-climate which is much sunnier, warmer and drier than the rest of British Columbia - perfect for growing fruit, especially grapes - and not too cold in the winter, by Canadian standards anyway.

Then we arrived in Kelowna, the largest town in the Okanagan and a Mecca for the arty types and retirees drawn to live there by this excellent climate and the laidback lifestyle it affords. It's also a handy resort for golfers, bikers, walkers and water sports enthusiasts from Vancouver in summer and for skiers in winter. I was assured there was excellent skiing just a short drive into the surrounding mountains at the Big White and Silver Star resorts.

Tommy and Mary had booked us all into a development called the Waterscapes Resort. We were staying in the 26-floor Skye Tower and had spectacular views over - you've guessed it - the water.

Our apartment, which slept five and cost us CAD$180-a-night - about [euro]145 - was lavishly furnished and the development itself a few minutes' walk from some very fine restaurants and coffee shops. A ten-minute walk took us into downtown Kelowna and it became immediately apparent why it has grown so rapidly in the past 30 years or so. In fact, it claims to be the fastest growing city in Canada. …

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