Playing Winery Roulette in West Kelowna, British Columbia

The Okanagan Valley has always held a special place in our hearts as we’ve been coming down to southern BC since we moved to Calgary back in 2007. Its a shortish drive from Alberta to British Columbia and in the twenty-plus road trips to this gorgeous valley we have spent less than five percent of our time in, around or near Kelowna. More than likely our choice to surpass the Kelowna area is to escape the larger population and get down to the grass routes within the local people. Ninety-five percent of our time is spent in and around Penticton down to Osooyoos.

This afternoon all of the above was going to change as we were about to play Winery Roulette and pick wineries based only on their name and no other information.

Wineries in West Kelowna, BC

Turning right onto Westlake Drive we spotted a sign listing five nearby wineries within a three kilometre drive of our location. “Ladies choice which winery name do you like best?” I said as we slowed to read the names out loud, “Volcanic Hills, Beaumont Estate, Mt Boucherie, Grizzli, and Black Swift,” she says followed by, “I can’t decide this quickly, you do it!”

I drove a loop around the roundabout and decided to go with Grizzli Winery as it was closest to our current position and she’d now have to choose the next one. Also it made life easier because she would be the only one of us tasting today, since I still had 900+ kilometres to drive home.

We parked in the very large and very empty parking lot. Jokingly saying that might be a bad sign with no one around, but then again, they had such a spectacular view who cares how many cars were in their parking lot.

Stepping inside Grizzli Winery we felt our tallness get erased.

The entrance was that of a cathedral church. Sixty foot wood cut i-beams with the longest largest cut of marble either of us had ever seen. “Its sooo BIG you could play football inside here! This is a poor use of space! What do you think the ECHO would be like in here!” I laughed then started making bird noises to see if an echo would actually happen. She pinched my arm, blushed and nearly ran for the other side of the room when I yelled out FORE! Not one person looked over at my antics.

We strolled up to the counter and informed the bar keep the wife wanted to taste some of their wines. The normal routine ensued. You can taste up to 5-wines and if you purchase a bottle than they cover the tasting fee. If not you owe them $10.00

  • Wines Tasted
    • 2018 Bridge
    • 2017 Merlot
    • 2018 Riesling
    • 2017 Siegerrebe
    • 2018 Gewurztraminer

After five minutes of listening to the bar keep explain in accented Spanish-English the wines she was tasting my wife side-eye glanced me then gave a long eye-roll with her unimpressed conversation at the tasting counter. With this signal I approached the counter to lead the commentary between the bar banter.

Within three more sips, she finally landed her taste buds on the Gewurztraminer and said, “Yup, that’s the one.” She pointed at the bottle and followed it with, “two please!” As we strolled away from the largest interior winery we’d ever been to, I said as the glass doors closed behind us, “how was your wine tasting?”

A smug smile came across her face as I carried the new wine box to our awaiting Tacoma. “We are not winning at winery Roulette!

Into the Tacoma we swung out of the parking lot heading down the hill towards Volcanic Hills with hopes that it would be better than the Cathedral known as Grizzli Winery.

Moments down the descent we spotted a sign Organic Winery with an arrow pointing left at a driveway. Yanking on the steering wheel she gasped and said, “what wait, that’s not Volcanic Hills!” and I continued pulling into the next driveway.

Pulling up to the small shack beside another empty parking lot.

“Seriously? This is the next one? I thought I was choosing where we are going,” she asked in dismay as I powered down the Tacoma and stepped out into the sunny afternoon. “Guess you’ll have to pick the next one or two,” I replied followed by, “why wouldn’t you want to choose Beaumont Estate Winery? They are Organic after all. And we both love that other Organic winery in the Similkameen Valley.” Flashing my best winning smile in her direction. She shrugged her shoulders and says, “lead the way.”

A tasting of Your Long Weekend

Entering into the wine tasting shop we immediately took a liking to the small intimate tasting room. I perused the shop, the instruments leaning in the corner and snooped around the merchandise and boutique like atmosphere. The wine keeper introduced herself as Shelly and welcomed us to Beaumont Family Estate Winery.

She asked where we were from and Shauna informed Edmonton. She laughed and said the proprietors were originally from the town of Beaumont, hence the name of the winery and they purchased 36 acres of land.

She informed how they have been stewards of Organic farming practices since the beginning. That they spent months researching the best kinds of grapes to grow and began the evolution of what has become a family generational run winery.

We had hit the jackpot, I thought to myself, finding another organic winery! Hopefully its as good as the Forbidden one.

Soon enough she was swishing and sipping. Sipping and swishing. Followed by long draws of the fresh grapes rising out of the glass before her. “Aaron, you have to try this one. Just a small sip,” she says holding what looks to be a Zinfandel in her hand. Full knowing that I really dislike them.

I stepped around the corner from where the instruments were set aside for playing latter by others. Handing the glass over, I took a long smell of the fragrance. Then swirled the glass and took another shorter smell of the contents. It had a bouquet of liquid joy rising out of the chilled glass in my very large hand. A short sip of the wine, I continued to swirl the contents. Swishing the liquid back and forth than spitting it out into the tin before us. I smiled. Then another short pull on the glasses content, swirling it over my tongue and nearly gargling it in the back of my throat. It’s fine hint of honey, a sweet touch of grapefruit and a touch of mint, then spit it out again. Smiling I looked at the two of them and said, “this is simply gorgeous and we should take a couple bottles of this one.” They both nodded and in unison, “he approves.”

Then the back door opened and in walked two men.

They were idly chatting amongst themselves and sat down next the the awaiting instruments. One picking up a guitar sat down and pulled on the strings. As the other sat down on the Cajone. They began playing a familiar tune which I could not identify. Low slung bass with an easy sway. The man with the guitar began to sing the opening lines to Sweet Caroline.

The three of us watched them for a moment.

Then another sipping glass of wine was poured and another round of chatter between the two women like they were old friends enjoying a charcuterie board and a glass of rose on the porch. They chatted whilst the men sang. It was a surreal environment and short lived as my wife pointed at another possible tasting then said, “where would you recommend us checking out next?”

The woman looked at us and says, “you two can avoid the Grizzli but I’d bet you’d really enjoy Black Swift Vineyards. They also own The Hatching Post which is a brewery and pub as well as The Hatch another winery down the road.”

We thanked her for her hospitality and bought a bottle each of the Melody Gamay Rose, Your Long Weekend, and Serende Sparkling. Then informed the next time we came through the Valley we would make a point of stopping in again because I suspected if we were on one of our “normal winery road trips” that we would have left with a case rather than a few bottles.

~ Aaron JacksonCrabb