Electric bike is our new favourite way to roll up to a winery.
My wife, Kerry, and I rented e-bkes from Freedom Cycle in downtown Penticton to visit some wineries along the Naramata Bench via the Kettle Valley Rail Trail.
From downtown Penticton the gravel trail is car-free and cuts through orchards and vineyards with a views of Okanagan Lake.
The first winery we hit, which is adjacent to the rail trail and has direct access, was Hillside.
We'd called ahead, as you're recommended to do in these post-COVID times, to do a seated tasting in the shade of a big apricot tree with guest experience manager Shelann Sleegers.
Of course, we arrived fresh and rested because anytime the pedalling became difficult, the electric assist on the bike amped up.
Sleegers led us through an unrushed tasting of winemaker Kathy Malone's newest releases, including the crisp 2019 Unoaked Pinot Gris ($23), the textured 2018 Reserve Pinot Gris ($26), the exotic 2018 Gewurztraminer ($20), the raspberry-and-violet 2016 Syrah ($28) and big, blackberry-and-cocoa Bordeaux-style red blend 2014 Mosaic ($48).
“Because of COVID, this is our new model of tasting,” said Sleegers.
“We have tables out here on the grass, or you can have a seat on the patio or a tasting in the tasting room with a limited amount of people. Reservations are recommended, but we can handle drop ins if there is space.”
Wine tasting builds an appetite, so we cycle to Poplar Grove Winery for lunch at its restaurant's patio with a view.
Lamb dip and halibut tempura are ordered and devoured with glasses of Rose and Viognier.
Dozens of other wineries are accessible by cycling Middle Bench Road or making detours off the Kettle Valley Rail Trail.
Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls has released three wines sure to become summer sipper staples.
Since nothing says summer like Rose, so thestrawberry-and-cream 2019 Pinot Noir Rose ($19.25) is perfect for warm days and patios, barbecues, boats and picnics.
The 2019 Gewurztraminer ($15.75) is a typical lush, lychee-and-peach expression of the varietal.
The elegantly-oaked 2018 Okanagan Valley Chardonnay ($17.50) is reminiscent of a savoury caramel apple and ideal for stand-alone sipping or paired with chicken salad, barbecue salmon or pulled-pork tacos.
Post-COVID, Meyer is doing tastings at its McLean Creek Road location by appointment only.
It's also started wine tastings with paired nibbles in vineyard cabanas by appointment.
You can book online at MFVwines.com.
Okanagan wineries are continuing to promote themselves as the ultimate setting for nuptials, with post-COVID twists, of course.
Sumac Ridge in Summerland, Nk'Mip Cellars in Osoyoos and See Ya Later Ranch in Okanagan Falls, which are all part of Arterra Wines, are offering 'minimony' packages, a play off of matrimony.
The 'mini' is also in reference to weddings having to be smaller because of pandemic-induced restrictions on crowds.
For $2,000 a couple can reserve a two-hour time slot for up to 20 guests to join them at one of the wineries for the ceremony.
The winery will provide the officiant, photographer, cupcakes, charcuterie platter, all set-up and rentals, and, naturally, wine from the estate.
Go to GreatEstatesOkanagan.com for more information and to reserve.
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards in Peachland is planning more elaborate micro weddings for $5,250.
Couples and 20 guests get a 4-6 p.m. time slot for the ceremony and reception on the winery's lawn, complete with the services of a wedding coordinator, photographer, officiant, flowers, makeup and styling for the bride, welcome sign, individual canape plate for each guest and Fitzpatrick sparkling wine.
Check out FitzWine.com to book.
An astounding 234 wineries in B.C. are now open for tastings and sales with new protocols after the novel coronavirus crisis.
To help you navigate the new rules, discover what wineries are offering and where the nearest liquor store is, the Kelowna-based B.C. Wine Institute has launched Local Time, a campaign urging wine lovers from throughout the province to check out local wineries.
The core of the campaign is the Wines of B.C. Explorer app, now ready for free download.
The app can be customized by filling out the taste test to receive personalized, expert recommendations.
“We believe this new app will be a significant benefit to wineries and wine lovers alike, connecting them whether in person or apart,” said institute marketing director Kim Barnes.
Another component of the campaign is the Sip Love Local contest of sharing B.C. wine experiences on social media with the #DiscoverWhatYouLove hashtag to win a $5,000 trip for two to wine country.
Top Chef Canada judge Mijune Pak kicked off the campaign with a B.C. wine road trip using the app and posting to social media.
“The app helped me find the wineries, let me know their opening hours and what kinds of experiences they were offering,” said Pak.
“It also helped me find B.C. wines suited to my personal taste.”
Steve MacNaull is an Okanagan wine lover. Reach him at email@example.com.