We set off on a sunny Monday morning with high spirits excited for our trip to Black Sage Road, Oliver in the Okanagan Valley. The Black Sage Bench, laid down by a glacier-era lake, curves around the city of Oliver and is a lovely drive. Our trip spanned 12 wineries over three days, and three winery experiences really stood out: Montakarn, Quinta Ferreira, and Le Vieux Pin.
Montakarn is a brand new winery owned by Gary Misson and his wife Montakarn — the namesake of the winery. Before Gary decided to purchase land in the Okanagan, he worked in the Pacific Ocean for 25 years on ice breakers, dredges, and tug boats. We asked how he went from ice on the ocean to sunshine in the interior, and he told us it all started with a trip to Thailand.
He was on diving trip when he spotted Montakarn and when he initially asked her out she gave him an emphatic no. Gary persisted, and with five hours before his flight out, Montakarn agreed to have dinner with him. Over the next little while they stayed in contact and visited each other when they could. Montakarn took a shine to the Okanagan and they decided to purchase property. After a few years of growing fruit, they replaced the orchard with vines and started growing and selling grapes. Eventually they decided to make and sell wine for themselves, and Montakarn Estate Winery was born.
Gary’s tasting room was a large, cavernous building with stone floors and 15 foot ceilings. But for all its size, it still felt cozy with its large, thick oriental style rug, wooden posts, and expansive maple wood tasting counter. The patio door was open and we could see a beautiful view of the valley from McIntyre Bluff to the Okanagan River. We chatted for a while in the tasting room and tried Gary’s white blend — named Tippy Toe after a wild pony who was born on his property — and his Rosé named after his sister, Georgina Rose. With the sun going down Gary invited us to sit outside, enjoy the view, and have some more wine. We happily accepted.
Read our full conversation with Gary at bit.ly/1peijLo
2. Quinta Ferreira
The next day we made our way back to Black Sage Road to Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery. It is owned and run by John and Maria Ferreira who bought it in 1979 after immigrating from Portugal. We arrived in the tasting room near the end of the day and the pourer, Cassie, was as bright and bubbly as if her day had just begun. She recognized us from a previous trip and informed us that while she couldn’t remember names, she almost never forgot a face.
The tasting room is a Mediterranean style house with a cheerful yellow and red exterior and a cool interior covered in grey flagstones. A good tasting is a combination of a friendly pourer and good wines, and Quinta Ferreira had plenty in spades. One that stood out was their white blend, Mistura Branca, which is a sweet yet crisp wine with apple and vanilla flavours. It is a perfect wine to enjoy after a summer meal.
As we sipped our wine Cassie told us about her life as a wine pourer and how she couldn’t ask for a better summer job. On her days off she goes wine tasting or hikes the nearby hills that overlook the vineyards. The muted greens of the trees and sage and the brown earth contrast sharply with the vibrant green vines making for a striking image. We remarked upon her enthusiasm for the job and she laughed and told us we had come in at the best possible time as she is at her best right before the end of the day. Cassie evidently enjoys chatting with people and is fond of the wines, and by being so engaging she made the Quinta Ferreira tasting experience stand out.
Read our conversation with Cassie at bit.ly/1jWSa7n
3. Le Vieux Pin
Our next stop was Le Vieux Pin, named after a magnificent old pine tree which stands on the property. Our experience at Le Vieux Pin was fantastic thanks to Alex Russo, the Business Developer. Along with having passion and charm, Alex’s product knowledge as well as his wine industry knowledge in general was absolutely phenomenal.
For each wine we learned the weather conditions in which the grapes grew, the year, the soil type, and how the wine was made — steel tanks, oak barrels, pressed…etc. The extensive amount of information enhanced our appreciation of the wine and heightened our ability to taste different notes.
When tasting one of Le Vieux Pin’s three Syrah’s, Alex informed us that 2011 had been considered a bad growing year as the weather had been cool and wet, and that many vineyards had written off a lot of that year’s crops. Not Le Vieux Pin. Instead, their winemaker used the longer growing season (seven weeks) and lower sugar content to make a beautiful black peppercorn flavoured Syrah.
When all the wines had been tasted, Alex had one more thing to show us. He took us outside to look at the vines so that we could see where the varietals grew and so that he could further explain the soil content. His desire to share information made a lasting impression.
Much like the Naramata Bench and Bottleneck Drive, Black Sage Road is an easy and pleasant way to visit numerous fantastic wineries. For many, a wine tasting is mainly about the wine, but when you combine great wines with a passionate, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic pourer, you get a wonderful, lasting experience.
New District — we travel around British Columbia visiting craft wineries and learning their stories. We document our trips and interview winery owners to bring you not only the best of BC wine, but also the experience of seeing the vines on which the grapes grow and reading about how the wineries came to be.
Let us know what places in BC you would like us to cover next.