Newest Grape Discoveries of the Okanagan

Growing up with half my family living in the Okanagan, I have become quite familiar with many of the Kelowna wineries. Either escaping for a quick glass of wine to take the edge off dinner or a dedicated day for exploring the wineries, I have never been left disappointed. Over the course of last summer, I had the chance to hit the road and head to K-Town for a few weekends where I discovered a few wineries I had never been to including Mt Boucherie, Ex Nihilo, Black Swift and Ricco Bambino.

Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery is a two story winery, with a tasting room on the first floor and their restaurant, Modest Butcher, on the second, which serves up a mean charcuterie. Located on the former volcano Mount Boucherie in West Kelowna, the winery’s grapes thrive on the sandy loam, clay and lime soils rich with mineral deposits and volcanic rock. In 2019, Brett Theissen, the Mt. Boucherier Viticulture Manager, says they removed all synthetic chemicals from their vineyards to build a sustainable relationship with their soil and vines. With a patio view of the vineyards, the lake and rural roads, it’s the ideal spot to sit and have a glass of wine and a taste of what Modest Butcher has to offer. Their mission is to express the amazing land by crafting distinct wines that draw on low yields, honest winemaking and patient aging. Their winemaker, Jeff Hundertmark’s winemaking philosophy is something he takes very seriously which is “there is a place for wines to be cherished for years; as big age-worthy collectables, but also as important, there is a place for fresh wines ready for early consumption.” I had the opportunity to go a few times last summer. I did the tasting once and then went back for lunch and a glass of wine a few times on their patio looking over their picture-postcard view. Every time I left, I was wanting more of what Mt. Boucherie has to offer.

Instagram / @mtboucheriewine

The next winery is Ex Nihilo, located in Lake Country and was the first stop on my last trip to K-Town in August. During a trip to San Francisco in 1999, Decoa and Jeff Harder, fell in love with a replica sculpture display of Ex Nihilo and immediately after leaving, Jeff said that one day they would build a winery called “Ex Nihilo” and they did just that. In 2003, Decoa took Jeff up North to scout out terrain that supports farms with vineyards along the Lake Okanagan. On Camp Road, the duo saw a “for sale” sign on a 10 acre slopped hillside that became Ex Nihilo Vineyards. Ex Nihilo is Latin for “Out of Nothing. Ex Nihilo is “more than vineyards and wine, it is about a sense of place and the people who are involved in creating and perfecting their craft.”

The third stop on my list is Black Swift Vineyards and if you know me, then you know I really only went because I’m the ultimate “Swiftie” and had to get a picture of their sign. It was a bonus when it turned out that I actually enjoyed the wine as well. Black Swift is the sister winery to Screaming Frenzy and in the same family as the hatch. Throwing around bird names, Black Swift got its name as Black Swift birds only lay their eggs one at a time and it went along perfectly with their single-vineyard focused releases. Their “high flying and aspirational wines designed to express the most exceptional vineyard, reflect the eccentricities of each vintage.” For my tasting, I sat out on the patio at a picnic table with a view of the vineyard. I ended up taking home a bottle of Chardonnay and a Cabernet franc. And of course, I got my picture out front of the “Swift” sign.

I discovered a new winery that recently opened in the downtown core of Kelowna located just off Pandosey Street, Ricco Bambino. It’s a micro urban boutique winery that produces small lot, natural wines. One of my friends showed me their Instagram before I headed up and I knew I had to check it out. Their Instagram aesthetic was what caught my eye. It’s filled with ladies drinking wine, having a great time, sitting in a modern interior pink room. It’s crazy to me how companies can market themselves so well on Instagram. With their beautiful photos, all they need is one person to see and send to the rest of their friends which is exactly what happened with me. Their tasting room was inspired by when a bar was a bar and was not also a restaurant or bistro.

Ricco Bambino offers an “unadultered” pure expression of their unique terror driven wines. They use sustainability farmed and organic grapes from the Okanagan and Similkameen Valley. The wines are unfined (vegan), unfiltered, spontaneous wild ferment (no commercial GMO) and aged in their unlined concrete and stainless steel tanks. They are one of very few in Kelowna who use unlined concrete tanks to age the majority of the wines. That process plays an important role in crafting their natural wine which allowed for the wines to breathe and develop a rounder mouth, textural feel without any unwanted flavours from oak or additives.

When I went for my first tasting, I was by myself and the guy behind the bar was very friendly and full of information. When I first tried the wine, I was shocked by how unfiltered their wine was especially the Sauvignon Blanc. Through my multiple tastings, because yes, I did go back multiple times with different friends, I enjoyed their rosé sparkling Very Troubled Child. Not only does it have a fantastic name, it tastes just as good.

I’m excited for the Summer when hopefully (finger crossed we can travel in BC again) I can get the chance to head to K-Town and go back to some of my favourite wineries and also explore some new ones.


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