My friends and I have taken wine tours to some of the wonderful wineries here on Vancouver Island in the past, and we will do that again some day. But we recently decided to try the Okanagan, specifically Oliver B.C., for a change.
After some months of planning, we headed out in late September for a 5 day trip to the interior. We initially had some concerns about ongoing forest fires on our route, especially around Hope and Manning Park.
As we travelled though these areas, it was quite sobering to watch the helicopters fly back and forth with their buckets of water suspended below. And the smell of smoke was definitely in the air when we got out to stretch our legs a couple of times along the way.
I remember at one point looking far up on the side of a mountain from the car window and actually being able to see flames. Yikes.
Once we got past the smoke and fires, the drive through the southern interior was beautiful as always. The slow change in geography between the dark, green forests of the coast, and the dry grass and blue/grey sagebrush of the Okanagan, is something I always enjoy.
We stayed at a guest house on the outskirts of the town of Oliver, run by an elderly couple . It used to be a bed and breakfast until, as the woman told us, she decided she was tired of making breakfast all the time.
As they gave us an initial tour of the unit, which was more or less stuck in the 1980s décor-wise, they pointed out a couple of things:
You had to hold the toilet handle down until it completely flushed. Because otherwise, it wouldn’t.
The temperature was kept low at night because the lady of the house liked it cool. Her husband suggested we might need blankets in the evenings.
Then he looked us over and decided only one of us was skinny enough to require a blanket.
Only one of us was skinny enough. We’re still laughing about that one…
But in spite of a few other idiosyncrasies in the place, it was perfect for us.
The large property had chickens and grape vines, lots of fruit trees and a huge vegetable garden. We were given fresh eggs and invited to pick our own grapes and plums, as much as we wanted.
The morning sun came up behind a ridge of mountains behind the unit, and we could watch it rise as we sat with our morning coffee on a little deck. For the entire time we were there, the weather was perfect.
We booked two winery tours; the first one on a private mini bus, and the second one was something a little different: an e-bike tour.
On the mini bus tour, we had a wonderful driver and tour guide who was originally from Portugal, and who knew everything about wineries and wine making. It was an ideal introduction to the area, and definitely an education.
We travelled to four wineries that day and later decided that four was too much. The first couple of places gave us at least 6 or 7 wines to taste. Even if you only take one sip of each, you begin to lose your ability to distinguish them after awhile.
Well, that’s the story I’m sticking to anyway.
When it came to the e-bike tour, I have to admit I was pretty nervous in anticipation of it. I got on my old bike at home a few times before the trip, just so I could remember what it felt like.
You know the expression “it’s just like riding a bike”? We might have to reassess that simile.
Our e-bike tour guides for the day were another couple, probably in their 50’s. They were careful to get our measurements beforehand so the bikes were a good fit, and gave us lots of instruction as to how to use them.
We practiced riding in the parking lot before we started off in earnest our our wine tour. The husband took the lead while his wife took up the rear.
Shifting gears and e-gears took some getting used to, but I quickly decided the “e” part helped a lot.
We went a little faster than my liking and worked hard at keeping up with each other. But we took plenty of breaks and, of course, spent considerable time wine tasting at 3 different wineries this time.
It was another perfect day and a wonderful trip.
Wineries everywhere around the world are facing a changing climate these days, and the Okanagan is no exception. Rainfall patterns are different, and grapes are very susceptible to temperature changes. We heard plenty of stories along the way.
In light of these changes, wineries are learning to adapt. As am I.
So if you see a wobbly older woman on her new (used) e-bike, making her way home from the grocery store, watch out for me, eh?
I’m trying to get skinnier.