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In Search of Different: 4 Unique Okanagan Wines

Watermark sits in the heart of one of the world’s best wine regions.

Osoyoos vineyard and mountainsThere is so much buzz about the exceptional glacial terroir, distinctive sub-appellations, and unusual fruit that our Okanagan winemakers are cultivating.

Lying in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains, we benefit from four picture-perfect seasons and long, hot summer days. These create ideal growing conditions for classic wine grapes, but also allow for our winegrowers to experiment with more uncommon (and incredibly delicious) varietals.

Watermark’s concierge team is well-versed in the styles and flavours of our neighbouring vineyards. We know where to point our guests who are looking for the most awe-inspiring wineries, and those who want to explore the region’s best hidden gems.

Ready to learn about the Okanagan’s best lesser-known wines?

Here are 5 unique local pours worth tasting:

Le Vieux PinAva

Tucked in an enviable spot on Oliver’s Black Sage Road, Le Vieux Pin has made sought-after wines since 2005. The rich flavours of the Black Sage Bench are imbued with an old-world elegance, here. Under the direction of celebrated winemaker, Severine Pinte, Le Vieux Pin produces award-winning Syrahs, along with a selection of other reds and crisp, French-style whites.

The French influence is recognizable in their exclusive white blend, Ava. A splendid combination of Rousanne, Viognier, and Marsanne, this wine showcases summery aromatics, soft pear notes, and a mild toastiness. It is aged, most unusually, in a concrete vat, concentrating each grapes’ own unique flavourings, and creating a balanced white that will bring flavour to every season.

River Stone Estate WinerySparkling White Merlot

Bottle of River Stone Sparkling White Merlot

As the name implies, River Stone sits along the banks of the Okanagan River, just north of Tuc-el-nuit Lake. Owner and winemaker, Ted Kane, has cultivated a lifelong passion for wine and winemaking. A true family-run operation, the River Stone tasting room is on the vineyard level of the family home, with exceptional views and a welcoming atmosphere, especially on the bring-your-own-picnic patio. Like many vineyards in the region, River Stone’s estate property grows traditional Bordeaux-style varietals, which thrive in our distinct climate.

But if you’re on the lookout for something different, their Sparkling White Merlot offers plenty of reason to celebrate! “White” might be a relative term, as this bright and effervescent rosé really has more of an inviting coral tint. Tastes of fragrant, sweet citrus and bursting summer berries mingle with pleasant savoury hints in this tasty sparkler.

Lariana CellarsSixteen

Lariana Cellars is just about as far south as you can go in the Interior, resting just this side of the US border. The most recent project of a longstanding valley grape-growing family, it’s no surprise that Lariana’s crop produces excellent fruit and, therefore, beautiful flavours in the wine. Bold red wine grapes thrive in Lariana’s hot soils. As a result, their big reds are fantastic. A small producer, Lariana is a member of the Okanagan’s impressive “garagiste” winery movement.

In a quirky twist, Lariana’s red blends are named by vintage year. The blend changes slightly from year to year (based on the quality and quantity of the fruit), so if you like a particular version, it’s easy to remember which vintage was your favourite! The Sixteen was created in a year with plenty of heat, but also a lot of cloudy skies from that summer’s constant wildfires. It had an interesting effect on the flavour profile of the wine, making it a truly excellent blend. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Carménère (a Chilean grape similar to Merlot) come together in velvety, rich harmony, expressing dark, jammy fruits and fall spices.

Moon Curser VineyardsTouriga Nacional

There’s no contraband here at Osoyoos’ Moon Curser, but this charming winery does have a sinister backstory. The name comes from the midnight gold-smuggling route that ran through the region once upon a time (business was always better when the skies were cloudy!). Thankfully, you can visit Canada’s Best Performing Small Winery (Wine Align, 2019) by the light of the beautiful South Okanagan day.

Trained in rebellious cold-climate winemaking in New Zealand, Moon Curser’s talented husband-and-wife team are renowned for growing unusual grapes. It’s hard to choose which off-beat award winner to try, here! Sigh. This is a difficult job, readers. For the purposes of this blog, we’ve selected their creative interpretation of Portugal’s Toruiga Nacional.

Traditionally a dessert wine varietal, Moon Curser has developed an absolutely delicious dry red worthy of its BC Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards Platinum medal. Powerful and flavour-forward dark fruits are contrasted with surprising floral notes of violet and orange blossom. Having won numerous awards, this one’s not such a hidden gem, but, as Moon Curser is among very few BC producers of Touriga Nacional, it definitely shines brightly among the South Okanagan’s “different” wines.

Desert Hills Estate WineryAmbassador Port

The Toor family has long been known throughout the valley for growing excellent fruit. With a strong belief that great wines start in the vineyard, they decided to make the leap into producing equally excellent wines, too. Winemaker Anthony Buchanan is also a celebrity in the BC winemaking industry (he also helms his own award-winning “garagiste” brand, Anthony Buchanan Wines). Together, these guys are decidedly an Okanagan dream team.

Desert Hills wins awards for many of their dry wines, but they also produce a fortified tawny port-style blend that makes a singularly worthy after-dinner sipper. Made from their estate-grown Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the Ambassador Port is deep and smooth. Intense flavours of toffee and blackberry are balanced with bittersweet chocolate.

Here at Watermark, we know there’s nothing better than enjoying a beautiful bottle of wine on the shores of a breathtaking beach. We’re always ready to raise a glass in celebration of our incredible South Okanagan paradise!

Visit us to create your own one-of-a-kind wine flight.

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