One of the things for which the Okanagan is known is wines. Most BC wines are unavailable in Ontario, sadly, so I got to try various new things. Here are the ones I tried in restaurants:
Burrowing Owl's Pinot Gris (zesty and refreshing) and Merlot (more substantial than most Merlots, and a good pairing with the tasty pork steak I had).
Navratan's (an Indian restaurant in Penticton) special spiced wine, which I believe is a Pinot Gris spiced with (among other things?) cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and spearmint. Odd by itself, but it pairs very well with fairly hot Indian food (which is very hard to do with wine!). Originally, the Okanagan was farmed mostly by Portugese immigrants; as the younger generation is moving away from the business, Sikh immigrants are taking up an increasing proportion of the farming there, and so there is a surprising cultural mix. This wine seems to be one of its results!
See Ya Later Ranch's Gewurtztraminer, whose spiciness played very nicely with the baby calamari.
Jackson Triggs' Syrah; JT has vineyards in Ontario too, as does Inniskillin. Most Okanagan wineries are much, much smaller than these two big guys, with outputs of only a few thousand cases per year. This worked well with the Greek-style ribs with herbs and olive oil.
Also, I visited a few wineries on the Naramata Bench, and brought home a bottle from each, arranged in the picture from North on the left to South on the right:
(Click the picture for a larger version!)
The two big bottles are reds, and the smaller three are dessert wines. I tried more than I bought, of course. I'd have brought back more, but I didn't want to risk breakage in the checked luggage!
Nichol's Cabernet Franc Syrah is a full, tasty wine that will go well with hearty meats someday. The Syrah vines are hard to get started there because they're cold-sensitive when young, but once established, they seem to do well. Nichol is the oldest vineyard on the Naramata Bench, so they've had time to get the plants up and running pretty well. This wine is reasonably close to ready to drink, so it'll likely come out next year.
Kettle Valley's Starboard is a Port-style fortified wine, reputed to be the best one in the Okanagan. It's a red, not a tawny, but the grapes are selected from various years so it can't properly be called a vintage. I think it's not bad at all, and look forward to sharing it for more people's opinions.
Van Westen's Voluptuous is a Cabernet Franc Merlot blend with lots of body; I expect it to age well for a few years, so I'll likely hang on to this one until about 2014. Van Westen is a really small, casual operation; I tasted the wines there in the garage where he was doing some chromatography and such. Learned a bit, too!
Elephant Island's Stellaport is a Port-style wine made from Stella cherries, of all things, using the Solera method. This one has content from 2001 through 2008 vintages. The Summerland Research Station where this variety of cherry was developed is just on the other side of Lake Okanagan from the vineyard. It is remarkably Port-like, to such an extent that I would not have guessed that it was not made from grapes had I not known. It claims that the wine will hold for several months after being opened, which is unusual; also quite handy as an after-dinner sipper.
La Frenz's Liqueur Muscat is another Solera method fortified wine, with the Solera started in 1999. This one has beautiful and delicate complexities, and is very dessert-like indeed. If I'd had room for it, I would also have gotten a bottle of their Grand Total Reserve, which is a really big, powerful Bordeaux-style red that would be worth keeping for a special occasion around 2018.
Cabernet Franc grapes do well there, unlike Ontario, but Cabernet Sauvignon may not ripen enough to lose the "greenness" in its taste, although it can develop more body than it can in Ontario.
Most of these folks are willing to ship cases out our way, so I may be looking for "help" in that, as people taste what's on offer. I might well be interested in sharing cases with a few people.