This was our third trip up to the Okanagan Summer Wine Festival at Silver Star, but first for 3 years. Work commitments meant we had
to do a short, 2 day trip, arriving in Silver Star on the Saturday afternoon,
just in time for a run (me) or stroll (Jan/Kathy) before the tasting started at
4pm. So unfortunately we missed the
accompanying dinners, tutored tastings sessions and mountain biking that had
made previous visits such a memorable experience.
By 4pm the car
park had filled and at least a couple of hundred people began milling around
the various wine stands in the village square. A jazz band and a perfect
mountain summer evening rounded off the ambience nicely.
The wine was a bit patchy overall, especially the reds, but
there were some real highlights. The vibrant pinot gris and blancs were strong
across the board, and several rieslings and chardonnay’s were very attractive wines.
Only a few reds stood out. Many were simply too acidic and aggressive, without
the supporting fruit to provide balance. Excellent red wine is produced in the
Okanagan, but I get the impression that many cabernet and merlot vines are
planted in areas that are too cool to fully ripen the grapes.
Among the highlights was an example of what is possible in
this region with a little bit of experimentation and entrepreneurship. The Arrowleaf Zweigelt could’ve been shipped over straight from Austria.
Alluring, plumy fruit and mocha, with a rounded, velvety mouthfeel, this was a
delicious, consumer friendly wine (i.e. I liked it a lot). Zweigelt is never going to produce the
sophisticated wines that cabernet, merlot and shiraz can, but neither can this
most northern of grape growing regions, at least consistently. Adopting and
promoting grape varieties more suited to the climate and soils, especially in
the northern part of the valley, seems a sensible strategy for many of the
vintners. An analogous movement has happened in Australia in the last decade, with especially Italian red grape varieties emerging from marginal areas for cabernet. It’s had a very positive effect on the wine market there.
Another highlight was Golden Mile Cellars, with quality
whites and a 2004 cabernet sauvignon that stole the show for us in terms of
reds. This is produced from grapes on the Black Sage bench in the southern,
hottest part of the region. It shows how good the reds can be when grown in the
Our favorite pinot blanc was Hester Creek’s 2004, a big
luscious mouthful of apples and pears. The St Hubertus 2005 riesling was generous with citrus flavors, the Mission Hill 2005 sauvignon blanc was all gooseberries and
cried out for seafood, and all the wines from Hillside Estate and Sandhill had
hallmarks of quality.
All in all, another fantastic Silver Star trip. It’s events
like this where you find the treasures like Golden Mile, and get a broad
perspective of the wines from the region. And at this venue, the supporting
events provided by the beauty of the environment create a package that’s hard