10 September 2018

Northwest Passage — Pt 5: Okanagan Valley: Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee

Here's something you might not know: Canada has one of the best wine-growing regions in North America. Mind. Blown. Before I headed up to British Columbia and Alberta several of my friends told me I had to sample the wines from Okanagan Valley. Sure, I thought. I live in Atlanta and have family in North Carolina, and the wines from here are nothing special. I'd also sampled the wines from Southern Ontario. I'm glad my prejudices did not prevail.

The region around Kelowna, a popular resort town on Okanagan Lake, has hundreds of wineries and a wealth of varieties of wines. Many are excellent. I can vouch for a couple bottle of eminently drinkable Pinot Noir. The climate is ideal and it sits in a rain shadow from the Coastal Mountains. And the soil is rich. Its latitude is roughly the same as the Champagne region of France. The reason you've not heard of it—unless you've been there—is due to strict export laws. They cannot export Okanagan wine to the U.S. nor, I'm told, to other provinces. Too bad. Yet, to Canadians they're legendary.

Also: it's September. If you have a bag of cherries in your fridge now, take a look at where they were grown. The bag in my crisper is from Kelowna, our first stop after renting our camper on the outskirts of Vancouver—a drive of about 400 km.

Once we got inland from the coast, we started encountering smoke from the record-level forest fires. It obscured the skies and dimmed the horizon and mountain tops on many days—with notable exceptions.

The second night we got closed out of a campground in Canada's Glacier National Park, but found a private campground nearby on lovely, massive Kinbasket Lake—a pleasant drive of about 320 km. Twilight brought a bald eagle up the adjacent creek and dawn the call of a lone loon before its song was drowned out by the croaking of omnipresent ravens. The campground was set between the lake and a railroad track, and the trains coming through at night shook the camper. The whole scene put me in mind of Denis Johnson's magnificent novella Train Dreams which is set not far south of Kinbasket Lake.

(Click pics to embiggen.)

Haze and smoke from forest fires obscure the sun.
Hazy twilight at Okanagan Lake. Spo-Dee-O-Dee!
In the U.S., the 'Golden Spike' linking the transcontinental railroad at Pike's Peak is a big deal. Its twin here is a modest roadside attraction. Canada, amirite?
Advice we heard on more than one occasion.
Heading toward Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies: glaciers and smoke from forest fires. Nearby we saw helicopters dipping buckets in the river to dump on the fires. (See next pic)
Mist from the river and smoky haze on the mountain top.
Kinbasket Lake. And yes, the lake is really that color naturally.
Hummingbird feeder at the lodge at Kinbasket Lake.

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