The recently concluded Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia, was my fourth WBC event and was epic in every way. A recent survey of bloggers gave this the highest rating of the six conferences that have taken place – and one of the main reasons is the essence of the Okanagan.
The Okanagan is beautiful. I’ve been to many scenic places, Telluride and Sedona come to mind, but this is the most beautiful area I’ve seen. I would have loved to come here even without wine (wait a minute, let’s not get crazy). The combination of beautiful lakes (including the massive Okanagan), soaring mountains, and sundrenched terrain makes this an outdoorsman’s dream.
Okanagan people are friendly. Douglas “Dino” Dean of Grape Escapes is one example. He transported us from Kelowna Airport to the opening reception at See Ya Later Ranch all the while laying knowledge on us about the local area and wineries. The wine community and the town embraced the bloggers with camaraderie. In a larger metro area, perhaps the WBC would have been a blip on the radar – but in Penticton it was a big deal. From the service staff at the restaurants to the vendors at the farmer’s market – everyone was welcoming and helpful.
Penticton and Kelowna are fit for foodies. The food at the Penticton Lakeside Resort was superb. We ate breakfast two mornings at the Hooded Merganser restaurant overlooking Lake Okanagan and the experience was awesome. This is the first restaurant where the server enquired how I would like the eggs on my Eggs Benedict. (They are poached, of course, but you can specify soft, medium or firm.) The breakfast in the park was of high culinary caliber. No Pentictonite should ever go hungry or have to eat non-organic food. We capped our last day in the area with lunch on a rooftop deck at Earl’s in Kelowna, watching parasails glide over the lake while sipping a Hester Creek Pinot Gris.
The wine scene is vibrant. Although mostly inaccessible in the states, there’s a treasure trove of quality wine in the Okanagan. Wines like Haywire Gamay Noir 201, Black Sage 2010 Merlot and the 2008 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin reflect the rugged and wild terroir with tastes that range from juicy berries to complex Bordeaux character. Wineries such as Tinhorn Creek and Mission Hill are world class wineries that excel in the vineyard and in the kitchen.
The Merlots are complex with a beautiful earthiness and the Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminers are memorable. The range of wines produced is impressive, including some great Pinot Noirs and even surprising varieties like Trebbiano.
There were a few challenges in Penticton for both organizers and attendees – but they were overcome with gusto. Penticton, I shall return – and next time I’ll bring my wife!