Wikipedia defines sensate focusing as “a set of specific sexual exercises…with an emphasis on mindful touching…that lead to a whole new set of sensual possibilities.”[OMG she’s talking about sex again. Relax, it’s okay, I know what I’m doing.] Mindful touching – without thinking about goals – expands what’s possible in the sense experience. Masters & Johnson said so.
This leg of the trip is sexy as hell. I didn’t hold back or think too much or let goals cloud my senses. This definition of sensate focusing is perfect for anything we do with our mouths, eyes, noses and fingers. If I think I know what a muscat wine is going to taste like, I will absolutely miss something. No predetermination. Beginner mind. Buddhists make good wine-tasters. Except we’re not really supposed to take alcohol. Whatever.[Speaking of which, the Muscat Ottonel at Summer Gate Winery is off the hook.]
Starting in Naramata, there was a bit of a noisy surprise: wild peacocks and peahens (I never heard the word peahens before, have you?). They are just kind of hangin’ out about the town. This one was scratching up a flower box and cared not at all about my approach. Historically, there has been a community battle about getting rid of them vs. leaving them alone. Occasionally, you can see vehicles with massive stuffed animals attached to the hood or roof. This, apparently, keeps the birds from landing on the vehicles scratching the holy hell out of them.
Sweet Cheesus! What awesome Cheeses!
So much of tasting food is a tactile experience. The cheeses at Poplar Grove were a delight in textures as much as flavours. My favourite was Harvest Moon with its rich, round flavour that improved with every silky smoosh of cheese against the roof of my mouth.
At Upper Bench Winery and Creamery, there is no way to do a full tasting, sadly, without buying all the cheeses. The standout was King Cole; a charming, gentle blue. It had all the charisma of a good blue, but none of the yelling. This was the only winery I came across that did food pairings with every wine tasting.
Terroir Cheese is located in a different part of the valley, but easily found in the markets. It’s a raw milk cheese and damn
delicious. Poutine freaks can get their curd on with these guys.
Speaking of cheese – Joie Farm Winery has a fantastic wood-fired pizza oven outside their door. You can have a slosh of one of the best Pinot Blancs ever, an awesome pizza and a divine view across Okanagan Lake.
Wining my way into Penticton
From Naramata to Penticton is, for the most part, downhillish. The road is windy and the shoulder is narrow. Use caution! Especially if you are stopping at every winery. There are 32 listed on my map. It’s a nice, easy-but-full day (uh, depending on how many wineries you expect to visit). There is a truly delightful bike path that will safely deposit you in Penticton, but I opted for the road to hit more wineries. If you do take the trail, be sure to visit this guy at The Trail Store and buy a slushy made from fresh-pressed apple cider! So freakin’ delicious on a hot day.
In the book Winetaster’s Secrets, Andrew Sharp says “wine is one of the most complex biological liquids known to man”. There are countless factors that go into how a particular wine will acquaint itself with yourself. Sharp says “The average consumer rarely perceives the differences in wine quality”.
But who cares? Doesn’t it just matter that you like it? Here’s the thing: the more you develop your perception of a subject, the bigger your pleasure playground gets for that subject. Bonus: you understand better what you like (and why) and so can spend less to please yourself more. I used to think I didn’t like white wine. Because I thought it, it was true. Now I know what kind of sweetness, tannins, scents, bodies, temperatures and more will delight my particular senses.
The staggering array of wineries can be interesting for more than their wine – you put 32 wineries in a thimble and you’ll start to see some interesting marketing. Therapy was started, it’s rumoured, *bad journalism apology* by a couple of psychiatrists. I confess to not tasting the wine, but being amused by the marketing. Wines had names like Freudian Sip and Fizziotherapy.
Hey! Did you know that orchard fruit wines can be as good as grape wines? I always thought they were all too sweet and, I don’t know, kind of the painted floozies of the wine world. At Elephant Island Orchard Wines, I tried wine made from pears, cherries, black currants, blackberries, apples or apricots. They were fresh and interesting.
Red Rooster was one of the last wineries I stopped at – they have a notoriously delicious bistro that features local farms. Today I savoured (I apologize in advance for the new wave of jealousy you are about to feel.) a duck sausage sloppy joe with white cheddar and a farm-fresh egg. The pinky stuff is their own lightly fermented sauerkraut, and the salads are fresh greens & flowers and a light potato salad. Good god it was good.
Too soon, I ran out of time. I will have to wind my way back up for the missed gems. In particular, I’d love to visit Forest Green Man lavender farm, Ruby Blues Winery and Bella Wines. Bella is British Columbia’s only winery dedicated solely to traditional champagne-method wines and they make the honourable effort of growing their grapes organically. Ever wonder how humans learned to make sparkly beverages before carbonation?
The origins of sparkling wine are a bit murky but the story goes as such: in the 15th century some monks believing their still wine had fully fermented bottled the juice and laid it down. When spring came, and the temperatures warmed up, bottles started exploding everywhere! Those that didn’t explode under the pressure of a continued fermentation tasted fantastic and sparkling wine was created. Ancestrale wine making is extremely high risk and must be carefully controlled in order to produce the desired results. (Bella Wines)
Arrived in Penticton…hot, sweaty…Oh look, a beach!
Penticton is flanked by hills and beaches. When arriving from the KVR bike trail and Naramata, you will find Okanagan Beach waiting to bring you sweet, refreshing relief. This is where I sit to write to you today.
Take a look at my office…
And then as the sun sets…
The richness of travel through this area is so much more than views and wines and delicious food. The mild climate creates an explosion of beautiful plants and productive orchards. I sign off with a gallery of pretty sights from the day. Adieu!