Photo: 50th Parallel wine shop (courtesy 50th Parallel)
The six wineries in Lake
(which is between Kelowna Airport
have organized themselves into what is called The Scenic Sip.
The object is to lure wine tourists to the bucolic back
country now that there are enough wineries for a solid day of touring,
including lunch at Gray Monk, the original winery in this region. For those
wanting less than a full meal, most of the other wineries offer picnic areas.
It really is a scenic area (but where in the Okanagan is it
not scenic?). A tour, assuming you drive north from Kelowna,
begins with the baronial tasting room at Ancient Hill Estate Winery, just east
airport. The crowd favourite here (and mine) is the winery’s bold Baco Noir.
From there, one proceeds north on Highway 97 into what
locals still know as Winfield. There are road signs directing travellers to
Arrowleaf Cellars, Ex Nihilo Vineyards and Gray Monk Estate Winery. These three
are clustered close to each other. There is not a wine anywhere that is not
outstanding. Ex Nihilo has a sophisticated Riesling. Arrowleaf does wonders
with Gewürztraminer and Gray Monk has lovely sparkling wines.
At Gray Monk, ask for directions before heading further
north on roads paralleling Okanagan
. Intrigue Wines and
Parallel Estate are the northernmost wineries on The Scenic
Both offer excellent wines in friendly tasting rooms but
that is where the similarities end. Intrigue is owned by two couples with day
jobs: for example, Roger Wong, the winemaker, also is a key member of Gray
Monk’s winemaking team. Intrigue is a comparatively modest winery, although the
wine shop is well appointed and there is a good picnic area.
The flagship wines here are the Rieslings. Roger has an
affinity for the variety he considers one of the best for the Okanagan.
50th Parallel Estate, near Carr’s Landing, is
turning itself into a grand destination winery. Construction is underway this
year to build a showpiece winery. The current tasting room is already elegant,
with a lovely curved tasting bar crafted from recovered beams that used to hold
up another building on the site.
50th Parallel also is setting out to specialize
in Pinot Noir and aromatic whites. Last year Grant Stanley, the former
winemaker at Quails’ Gate, became a partner at 50th Parallel. His
decision to buy into the winery was driven by his passion for Pinot Noir. He
once told me he spends 80% of his time thinking about Pinot Noirs. It is
obvious that he reserves quality time for his other wines as well.
Here are notes on current releases from two of The Scenic
($16.90 for 365 cases). This is comparatively delicate
Gewürztraminer with a hint of sweetness on the finish. There are aromas and
flavours of lychee and orange blossom with a lightly spicy finish. I think the
wine needs a few more months of bottle development to express its potential.
2013 ($16.90 for 460 cases). It begins with appealing aromas of lemon and
apricot, leading to flavours of lime and green apples. The texture is generous
and juicy and the finish is crisp and fresh. The balance is exquisite: the
wine’s 23.9 grams of residual sugar are offset by racy acidity. It has a
moderate 12.7% alcohol. The wine was awarded “best of varietal” at the spring
wine festival – a good judging call. 92.
Intrigue Pinot Gris
($16.90 for 385 cases). The heavy Burgundy
bottle and the slightly pink blush signal that Roger Wong has raised the
complexity of the wine in this vintage. The wine begins with aromas of pear and
grapefruit. On the palate, the texture is rich, with flavours of ripe peach and
pear. There is a delicate note of spice on the finish. 90.
Intrique Social 2013
($14.90 for 385 cases). This wine is the successor to a series of blended
whites that were named for the vintage year, beginning with 8 (in 2008). Lest
any consumer be superstitious, the wine that would have been 13 is now called
Social – and it comes in a wild and funny bottle. The blend is 74% Riesling,
20% Gewürztraminer and 6% Muscat
Canelli. Flavours of grapefruit and honeydew melon dance on the palate. The
touch of residual sweetness fleshes out the texture and the delicately spicy
finish. The fun personality of the wine fits the bottle. 90.
Intrigue “I Do” 2013
Sparkling Wine ($19.90 for 550 cases). This wine is Riesling with a touch
of Merlot and Rotberger to give it an appealing pink hue. The winery describes
it as “lightly sparkling,” implying that this is made in the popular style of
Proseco, not Champagne. The minimalist packaging – a clear bottle with minimal
etching – showcases the lovely colour. There are delicate flavours of raspberry
and strawberry. The bubbles give the wine a creamy mid-palate but the balance
gives it a crisp and refreshing finish. 89.
Parallel Riesling 2013 ($18). This crisp and refreshing wine delivers
aromas and flavours of lime and green apples around a classic spine of minerals.
A hint of the developing petrol signals that the wine will age to satisfying
Parallel Gewürztraminer 2013 ($18).
There is an echo of Alsace
in this wine, with its 14% alcohol and its big ripe flavours. It begins with
aromas of spice and lychee, going on to flavours of lychee, peach and honeydew
melon. With bottle age, the full texture will develop an Alsace-like richness.
The intensity of the fruit is surprising, considering the wine is from fairly
young vines. 90.
Parallel Pinot Gris 2013 ($19). This winery seems to be carving out a
distinctive style with this varietal. The wine is packed with tropical aromas
and flavours, including pink grapefruit, nectarine, peach and orange. The
texture is juicy but the finish is crisp. 90.
Parallel Pinot Noir Rosé 2013 ($18). This pretty wine begins with aromas of
strawberries and red peaches. Rich on the palate, it delivers flavours of plum
and strawberry. There seems to be a touch of residual sweetness but the wine is
balanced to finish dry. 90.