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Lake Country

Often lumped with the wineries of Kelowna, the expansive district to the north is carving out a niche as a wine region in its own right. While only four wineries — Gray Monk, Arrowleaf, Ex Nihilo and Ancient Hill — currently dot Lake Country’s Scenic Sip wine route, two more — Intrigue and 50th Parallel — are set to open soon.

To locate the heart of Lake Country winemaking, the trail leads to Gray Monk Estate Winery on Camp Road in Okanagan Centre. Once a commercial hub and major port for sternwheelers, the town had lost much of its hustle and bustle by the time Gray Monk founders, George and Trudy Heiss, first visited the area in the 1960s. “It was sleepy hollow,” Trudy says.

Pushing for a new estate winery license, they were among the first out of the starting gate when Gray Monk launched in 1982. Detractors insisted that it would never work out as they were too far from the highway and no one could pronounce the names of the grapes. Thirty years on, Gray Monk boasts an expanded Rhine castle-style facility with a splendid wine country restaurant, Grapevine, home of Chef Willi Franz, 2011 Canadian Chef of the Year.

Gray Monk now has company. Arrowleaf Cellars opened its doors in 2003. Owner Joe Zuppiger, a grower since 1997,  extols the moderating influence of the lake on the Okanagan Centre bench where his Suncrest Vineyard is situated. “The airflow on the westerly slope protects the vines from frost,” he says. “It is a great location for white grapes and early maturing reds like Pinot Noir and Zweigelt. Also, conditions are good for slightly lighter-style Merlot with excellent fruit flavours.”

Contrasting the old-world charm of Arrowleaf and Gray Monk, neighbouring Ex Nihilo Vineyards exudes a stylish, ultra modern, art gallery look. Owner Jeff Harder describes Ex Nihilo as “more Napa than Napa.” He says, “The Okanagan Centre bench offers great terroir, more hang time for grapes and breathtaking 180-degree views. It’s the most romantic spot in the Okanagan.”

Adding to the growing numbers, Intrigue Wines is set to open this spring at the Davis Vineyard on Oceola Road. Only five minutes away from the others, Intrigue focuses on fabulous Riesling.

2 Responses to “Lake Country”

  1. Anne says:

    Michael is right, Lake Country deserves more attention. Some great things happening at wineries there and you can’t beat the patio at Gray Monk for spectacular winery dining – both food and views.

  2. admin says:

    I agree. thank-you

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