Iconic Wineries to Visit in Okanagan Valley

Mission Hill WineryHailed as the Napa of the North, Okanagan Valley boasts with a great number of wineries fit for wine lovers as well as adventurers. Its climate is the same as that of other wine-producing places, so it makes sense to have a large number of great wineries here. Most of the wineries here are family-run operations that harvest grapes such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

If you are going to visit Okanagan Valley for their famous wineries, the best time would be late spring to early fall, as wine festivals are rapidly on-going and the owners expects more visitors during this time. There are more than 150 wineries currently active at Okanagan Valley and visiting them all in one season can be a pain, therefore, we compiled some of the best wineries that you can visit this coming fall.

Summerhill Pyramid

Owned by Stephen Cipes and his family, Summerhill pyramid started back in 1986 and has been steadily growing ever since. It is one of the most visited winery in Okanagan and it’s also the largest certified organic winery in Canada. Their dedication in keeping the lake and grapes free from chemical has certainly paid-off. They have an extensive range of wine and visitors come from near and far to try their sparkling bubblys.

http://www.summerhill.bc.ca/

Cedar Creek Estate Winery

Owned by an Okanagan native provincial senator Ross Fitzpatrick, Cedar Creek Estate Winery is a Mediterranean-style winery which provides a spectacular view of lakes. It has its own restaurant which serves seasonal dishes made from local ingredients. By the way, Ross Fitzpatrick has taken an active role in shaping and preserving the future of the region. It is now owned and operated by his son, and has a motto “Respect the land, honour tradition, pursue perfection”.

http://www.cedarcreek.bc.ca/

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery

This work of art cannot be hard to spot because of their monument overlooking Kelowna. There are reports that it costs $40 million to be built. They have a wonderful lush on their on-site vineyards, underground cellars blasted from volcanic rocks. They even have an exquisite line-up of musical performers at the Amphitheater.

Tantalus

Featuring a state of the art facility completed in March 2010 and originally known as Pioneer Vineyards, Tantalus was founded in 2004 by Eric Savics. Dating back as far as 1927, it was originally used for table grapes. The facility was the first recipient of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

http://tantalus.ca/

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery

The tour in Quail’s Gate Estate Winery includes visiting the former tasting room which was housed in a restored stone and wood home built in 1873 by John and Susan Alison, the first European who settled in the west side with wine making in mind. The winery has a 4,500 square-foot hospitality center has a tasting bar with self-rinsing spittoon. They have Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and unique Zinfandel-like Maréchal Foch, made by Grant Stanley, formerly of New Zealand’s Ata Rangi.

http://www.quailsgate.com/

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Iconic Wineries You Need to Visit in Napa Valley

Napa WineryNapa Valley, California, home of the world’s famous wineries. Spanning about thirty miles but containing hundreds of wineries (around 400 plus I guess), it can be an overwhelming feat for someone to visit the place for visiting wineries and take a sip of their wonderful wines.

What makes a good winery? There are other factors aside from the taste. From warm hospitality, scenic locations and the great wine they produce. Within these criteria, it can be easier to find out the best winery that you will visit. However, due to the overwhelming number of wineries that can be found in Napa, this task is still tedious. Therefore, we have compiled here for you some of the best of the best to help you in touring for the best wineries in Napa.

Castello di Amorosa

Located at 4045 North Saint Helena Highway, Calistoga, California it was styled as a 13th century Tuscan castle which took 15 years to be built. This castle does have real dungeons and torture chambers which could captivate you even more.

They have an award winning wine hand crafted in Italian style which is available only in the winery. They are open daily for general admissions and tours. They even offer exclusive vineyard tools as well other special tours like Royal Food. They are open daily for guests from 9:30am to 6:00pm from March through October, and 9:30am to 5:00pm from November through February. You can visit them on their website at www.castellodiamorosa.com for more information.

St. Clement Vineyards

Styled as a 19th century Victorian mansion, St. Clement Vineyards offers an intimate tasting bar from where you can try samples of new releases and purchase wines as well. They produce outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. They have a charming stone winery filled with wine making equipment. They have a guided tour which will allow you to know about the historical overview of the winery along with barrel samples and tasting. They have an online presence located at www.stclement.com.

Chateau Montelena

If you saw the movie Bottle Shock in 2008, you probably know Chateau Montelena. Visiting this winery will enliven the moments in the movie. It has the impressive stone chateau, Chinese lake, lush landscape and the elegant tasting room. They have an exclusive for Wine Members picnic grounds but non-members can still walk around and sightsee. You can surely enjoy a glass of their famous chardonnay while talking about the movie and the winery. They have a site at www.montelena.com

Schramsberg Vineyards

The history of this winery dates back in the 60s when a young couple purchased a deserted winery. At that time, Napa already had 22 wineries and they thought that it’s already saturated, therefore, they made sparkling wine in the French tradition.

Schramsberg makes their sparkling wine in the old way. The bottles are lined up in the caves which are manually turned without the help of any kind of machinery. The tour is amazing as it will take you deep into the caves which are opened up to a candlelit tasting area. http://www.schramsberg.com/index.html

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Protecting the Grapes!

Protect the Winery       Winemaking or vinification is the process of producing quality, opulent and refined wine which starts with the selection of grapes. Grapes are the primary ingredient in the production of wine as such it is important  to make sure that grapes in the vineyard are allowed to grow and be harvested without any untoward issues. One of the most common issues plaguing vineyard owners is pests. Pests problems have been steadily increasing particularly with the recent expansions in the grape and wine industry.  Various species of birds and rabbits may create conflict with production by significantly reducing profitability.

 

They can tend to decimate an entire harvest impeding the process of wine production on the onset. With the reduction of grape harvest little to no wine can be produced. While the loss of wine production due to bird or pest damage in the vineyards from a national and worldwide point of view may be insignificant compared to losses due to other factors such as weather, market fluctuations and poor land management, the cost of bird or vermin damage may be the difference between profit and loss to individual growers.

 

The primary reason why vineyard owners adopt various ways to eradicate the problem of pests is to maintain the resource base of the vineyard for future grape production.  Pest control methods have been put in place in order to maintain a stable grape production and harvest. Most vineyard owners adhere to ways to improve economic viability of the business.  This includes non lethal techniques such as scaring devices, chemical repellents, habitat manipulation, use of decoy food sources and exclusion netting. While some adhere to lethal methods and control such as shooting, trapping, and poisoning. In many instances lethal methods have little effect on reducing the problem.

 

Many vineyard managers are not willing to take any chances and instead they engage in the most extreme and somewhat viscous method of protection of their fruit, which it to use air rifles. The use of air rifles to protect grapes at a winery is either to directly reduce numbers of birds and rabbits through killing or more commonly as a scaring or dispersal strategy. Although shooting may have short – term advantages and the technique is often labor intensive, opportunistic and may have limited value in pest control.

 

Shooting with air rifles can directly reduce the number of pests, birds, rabbits or vermin through scaring strategy. The sound of an air rifle going off at a time specified by vine owners is set to scare off these pests which can act as a scare crow on the vineyard. This method helps to train these species to associate the sharp, sudden noise with real danger and subsequently, a fear of humans and human activities. These animals can be frightened away without attempt to kill them although some are killed to enhance the scaring effect. This was proven to be a more effective means of protecting grape harvest and ensure a steady and stable wine production.

 

Use of air rifles is potentially hazardous; all people should stand well behind the shooter when shooting an animal to prevent accidents or injury from stray bullets or ricochets. Adequate hearing protection should be worn in the vicinity and must observe safety guidelines relating to firearm ownership. Using rifles to protect in a grapes winery may have advantages and disadvantages. In controlling or eradicating these pests it is important to consider the pros and con. Using rifles may have its short term advantage but it is more essential to consider the long term effects. Good or bad.

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Love Wine, Hate the Stain

Wine stained teethOne of my favorite things to do is wind-down after a hard day’s work with a nice glass of wine. I never really got into white wine and by default  usually tend to only by the red stuff. Most nights I will pour myself two glasses as I wind down with a good book on the couch. I find it’s the best way to prepare for a good night’s sleep and one routine I don’t think I could give up. However, one thing I hate about wine is the stain it leaves on both my lips and my teeth!

I actually asked my dental professional for some advice in regards to how I could prevent the staining as I was beginning to fear that it would stain my teeth permanently which obviously isn’t a great look. The acids in wine can actually be a lot more detrimental to your teeth hygiene than you might have realized. One thing that acidic wines do is soften the enamel on your teeth. The enamel on your teeth is basically a covering which helps to keep your teeth strong. If you brush immediately following a tall glass of wine, you risk brushing away some of that enamel as well. One way to get around this if you need to get to bed is to rinse your mouth thoroughly, wait a bit and then begin scrubbing those purple teeth.

I also wondered if there was anything I could do while I was enjoying my wine to minimize the amount of stain red wine left in my mouth. One of the recommendations was to drink sparkling water along with the wine as the it prevents your mouth from drying out. Saliva is another protector within your mouth which essentially jumps in front of those stains. The more saliva you can have in your mouth the better.  Furthermore, the carbonation also helps to gently scrub away any stains on the teeth.

Another great recommendation which I appreciated was the idea of brushing your teeth before even having the first glass of wine. Obviously you don’t want to do this right before you tip back an expensive Cabernet Sauvignon but if you can scrub your teeth clean of any plaque, it will go a long way in providing a clean pallet which will make it difficult for the stains to stick to your teeth.

I actually practice all three of the above strategies and it has gone a long way in protecting my teeth and preventing further staining!

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When to Avoid Planning a Wine Trip or Tour

Whenever a friend says they are planning a fun excursion to wine country, you automatically want to go. When could a trip or Wine Tour ever be bad? Well, there are some times in life when taking a Wine Trip (which means drinking quite a bit of wine) might not be the best idea and substituting it for a trip to Amish Country or a weekend at the lake might be a better idea. So what are the times when a Wine Tour is a bad idea?

You would never invite a late-term pregnant woman to ride a roller coaster even though it might be much fun. By the same token, there are certain times and reasons that a person may not be the right candidate to include in your wine tour.

wine trip

Pregnancy & Fertility

Women who are trying to get pregnant and are trying to keep their fertility at its highest levels should probably not head out on a tour of wine country during that season of their lives. Well, the country is fine, but it’s the wine tasting practices that may be a little more troublesome. Studies show that a glass of wine now and then may not be terrible for a pregnant woman, but it really is best to avoid drinking alcohol when pregnant  (or nursing) or trying to get that way. Talking it through with your doctor is the best idea to make sure that you (and your future children) are safe. (more…)

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Storage for my Post-Travel Wine Collection

After touring several wineries in California wine country, I was not too excited about going home to Ohio. But I was, however, excited to receive the several bottles of my favorite wines which I had purchased and then arranged to have shipped to my home. Then I realized when I got home that I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with all of the wine. Honestly, I may have gone a little overboard in the buying process (it’s so hard to say no!) so it was going to take awhile to go through all of it. The good news is that we’ll have a lovely selection of wine for quite some time!

Since I didn’t want to just keep the bottles of wine in the cardboard cases in which it was shipped to me, I decided that I needed to look into providing an appropriate place to store my new collection. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that it is possible to spend a great deal of money purchasing a wine cooler, or having a contractor build one. Some of the estimates would probably cost as much as my entire house! And since I had just spent what felt like a small portion of my life savings on the actual wine, and it will be worth every penny, I certainly didn’t want to throw down another huge pile of money for storing it.

Of course, in order to be served at its best possible flavor, wine needs to be stored properly, at the correct temperatures, and a basement or cellar is often the most convenient and the best way to do this. I discovered that whether you want to store 10 bottles or 100 bottles of wine, they can be safely kept at the right temperature, without risk of breakage, with some fairly simple designs. Plans for making your own wine shelves or wine racks can be found online, or you can custom make them to your own specifications depending on the amount of space you want to devote to the project.

wine shelves

I figured that building a set of wine shelves for my basement would be the most convenient and cost effective way to store the wine. So I looked around at what I like, found some simple plans,  and decided on one with diamond shaped slots into which the bottles simple slide. I was going more for function than fashion, although there are a variety of options to choose from.

My wine shelves and wine racks were made with a fairly high quality wood (but not the highest–its in the basement) and the best miter saw I could find after reading several reviews of various saws on the market. Because of the diamond design, using a miter saw to make my wine rack was especially important in order to make sure that the angles are cut to the exact measurements.

Some people like to make wine shelves or racks for their kitchens as well, and they can be as simple as a plant of cedar wood with holes strategically placed to receive the tops of the bottles so that the wine bottles sit upside down. Other people like to have wine racks which hold the bottles horizontally with clips, some wine shelves even have a place to hang stemware so it is conveniently located along with the bottles of wine. This can be nice for storing a few bottles that you might be using in the near future, but for long term storage I have heard that the cool of the basement is probably better. NOT chilled, of course, but simply cool.

As I said, my ultimate purpose was going for function over beauty, so my wine storage shelves are a bit on the “rustic” side. They still look nice, though, and I show every one of my visitors just because it was such an enjoyable project. So, with the help of my miter saw and other fun power tools, the wine storage is certainly sturdy and is doing a fine job of taking care of my lovely wine collection while it waits patiently for me to enjoy it fully.

Image from Flickr via tannaz

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Wine And Your Health

Is Wine Healthy?

Is Actually Healthy?

Many of us are constantly finding excuses to have a glass of wine or a casual ounce of whiskey. This has been happening forever, how many times have you heard the debate about whether coffee is healthy? The same can be said for wine – we desperately want it to be healthy because we enjoy it.

It’s a lot easier to drink half a bottle of delicious imported wine than it is say, to hire a personal trainer. Trust me, I’m a wine lover and I would much rather drink a bottle of ’09 Shiraz from an iconic winery then go on a run. Future me will thank current me if I go for a run, current me will thank current me if I dive into the vino.

So before I continue on any further, from one wine lover to another I must say – no drinking wine is not inherently healthy. My personal trainer in Burnaby knows it’s not health just as I know it’s not healthy. However, this is a site about wine and not about making healthy decisions so let’s talk about the health benefits of wine.

The Health Benefits of Wine

Aside from making you feel delicious and warm and fuzzy inside there actually are some healthy aspects to drinking wine. I mean, after all it’s just grapes, amirite?

Antioxidants

There is no denying that wine is full of antioxidants which are known to fight all types of disease including Cancer. There are a ton of different types of antioxidants and you’re probably not that interested in knowing their names. Sleep easy, cabernet lover that wine you just consumed has some of the same antioxidants found in fruits which can help keep you healthy.

Procyanidins

Say it slowly, PRO-CYAN-I-DINS. That’s not how you pronounce it? Well shoot, what do I know. I do know that they reduce the risk of heart disease. Drinking a bottle from South France? You’re in luck that region’s wines generally have more procyanidins than other wines from other regions. So, grab a bottle from France and enjoy your evening, you deserve it.

Brain Function

Wine has been shown to help reduce brain decline. I think it’s because you have to work so much harder when you’re half a bottle of wine deep (okay or a bottle) then when you’re dead sober. Think about it – it’s somewhat link luminosity, you’re training your brain by having to concentrate that much harder to do the same simple tasks.

Of course, there are a slew of other benefits the goal here was to show that indeed, wine is healthy and therefor I should be allowed to drink it in moderation! My science is sketchy at best, but I’m convinced and if you love your wine as much as I do, you porbably were convinced from “Is Wine Actually Healthy.”

You had me at Vino.

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The Ultimate Date: Wine, Water & Food

PaddleBoardPicnic

You’re probably thinking I’m going to say take your babe to a winery! Yes, wineries always do make terrific dates, but I’m thinking of something a little bit more. Something that has that WOW factor. Either a date that says we’ve been seeing each other for a few months and I really dig you. Or we’ve been seeing each other for ten years and I still really dig you.

So what is that date?

I’ll give you a few hints. It involves an epic bottle of wine (no surprise here). It involves a big solid paddle board. And lastly, a picnic basket. Erm, I guess it may involve two paddle boards.

Keep in mind you run the risk of blowing it all if you don’t know how to paddle board. So if you’re a beginner check out paddlersretreat for some help. Assuming you know how to SUP this is going to be awesome.

Step 1. Find an epic bottle of wine.

You’re out on the water, you want some light, fruity and fun. Something that mixes well with whatever delicious meal you’ve got packed (preferably homemade!). Keep in mind you want to make sure it mixes well with sun as well. After all, it ought to be 90+F out if you’re going to attempt to pull this off.

What do we recommend? Perhaps a good cru Beaujolaiswhich is a French wine. You want something a little bit lighter, you won’t be serving up a gourmet steak dinner so a heavy red is out of the question.

Oh and don’t forget to bring the corkscrew. Seriously make sure you bring that!

Step 2. Rent Two Paddle Boards

Okay this might actually be step one. If you know how to paddle board and you’re competent you’re not going to lose your lunch tasty meal while going for a rip out to where ever your destination is great. If you don’t consider going for a couple of practice spins before your big day.

I would recommend that you don’t go paddling out into the ocean. Try to find a flat calm body of water. If there is an island or secluded beach somewhere in said body of water perfect. If not you can always wine and dine her on the boards in the middle of the lake.

Step 3. Make or Buy Some Delicious Food

Fried chicken is always a classic picnic meal. Whatever you do go for something that can be eaten relatively easily. Think Thai dish in take out containers. Or something you can eat with your hands. Obviously don’t pick something that needs to be piping hot because by the time you get setup paddle out and eat it won’t be hot anymore.

Step 4. Woo Here

Boom. As long as you don’t spill the lunch into the lake or pour wine all over her clothes you’re going to be made in the shade. If this doesn’t knock her socks off find a new girl, that one is too uptight.

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Importing Wine

Wine Importation and Shipping

Importing wine can be a bit of a tricky situation. There are all kinds of requirements particularly if you’re trying to import for a business or re-sale purposes. However, even personal wine imports can be a bit of a problem depending on how many bottles you’re attempting to bring in. Not to mention it can get incredibly expensive if you’re not careful. Duties can really add up quickly.

One of the best ways to make sure you’re not stung with an unexpected bill is to contact a custom brokerage company. They’ll be able to give you an accurate picture of exactly how much you can expect to pay.

But what about if you’re importing wine for re-sale or distribution purposes?

Well the first step is to make sure you’re able to get a license from the Province’s liquor distribution board. Without that you’re not going to be selling (legally) liquor even if you get your ducks in a line. For example, in Alberta you have to go through the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. In Ontario, you’d go through the LCBO and so forth.

Once you’ve gone through the proper steps to do that you can one of two ways – first you can either do it yourself or again, you an contact a quality brokerage firm. I will warn you, door number one is somewhat like foregoing the realtor when you’re going to sell your house. At first you think they don’t do a whole lot, they show a few people the place send you to a lawyer and then boom they’re done. In reality it’s a shit load of paper work and it becomes increasingly complex and annoying when you don’t know what you’re doing. Except unlike a realtor a broker isn’t going to cost you a whole lot more. The reason? They usually have favourable rates with the trucking companies which means you’ll save money shipping and pay a little bit for the paper work. It basically comes out in the wash.

If you’re stubborn and insist on doing it yourself you can expect to fill out a lot of paper work. Once you’ve got your permit from the province you’ll need to acquire documents from the shipping company. You’ll need the invoices from the supplier – usually these aren’t filled out correctly and will need to be re-sent multiple times. At least that was the overall experience that I had. You’ll also need a B3 form.

In the end if you’re importing wine contact a brokerage firm. They’ll save you a ton of time and headaches.

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