With perfect row upon row of leafy vines sweeping towards a shimmering pool and flanked on either side by soft, decadent cabanas, a double take is needed to realize you’re in one of the hottest, driest slices of Canada.
Located on the mineral-rich Black Sage Bench, the Black Hills winery is in the heart of the “Golden Mile” between Osoyoos and Oliver.
Now widely regarded as the “wine capital of Canada,” the region boasts an embarrassing wealth of legendary labels, not least Black Hills, known best for its Nota Bene, which sold out within three hours of being released.
Black Hills was the first stop on our afternoon wine tour, led by experienced Mary Jo O’Keefe of MJO Tours, who picked us up from our hotel in her leather-seated tour bus.
Educating the palate in the capital of Canada’s rich wine country….Richmond News Article
I admit that, although I enjoy and recognize a quality glass of wine, my palate, in education terms, would not have made it out of grade school.
So when we were seated on the Black Hills patio with a small army of empty glasses on our table, I was a little intimidated.
However, Mary Jo had armed us with a cheat sheet of sorts, giving us a nudge in the direction of faking our way through the experience.
To be fair, our sommelier, recognizing connoisseurs we were not, broke down the tastings to a level we could appreciate.
And, honestly, after the third of our fifth taste, we were sinking a little lower into our chairs and basking in the glorious Black Hills vineyard views before us.
The vineyard enjoys deep desert sand, intense heat and cool nights which, apparently, yield “intensely fla-vorful grapes.” After sampling a few of Black Hills best, it’s hard to disagree.
After the tastings, we slid, a little lighter on our feet, through the vineyard store, picking the favourite from the experience and it was back on the bus.
Next up was the Stoneboat winery a few minutes away, which has, wait for it, a stoneboat nestled in the gardens outside.
A more down-to-earth experience than Black Hills, Stoneboat was your garden variety stand-up tasting. Many of their wines are easy on the eye, with crisp, clean colours and also easy on the wallet.
Most of Stoneboat’s offerings cater to a wider palate without sacrificing the quality or character.
After three, or was it four, more tastings, the world was, indeed, a beautiful place with more “prizes” tucked under our arms on departure.
Back on the bus and winding through a seemingly endless array of familiar wineries, we nipped up the hill to another household name, Hester Creek, where we were set up with an appetizer and wine pairing.
Perched on bar stools this time, at a yawning marbletop “kitchen” table, our chef chatted us and another equally “relaxed” couple through the pairing of goats cheese and artichoke dip with a golden, crisp 2011 Pinot Blanc.
The 2011 Character white, however, with a sundried tomato tapenade was a winner for us, as was the unpretentious, homey and sociable ambience created by Hester Creek in its kitchen.
IF YOU GO
MJO Tours: www.mjotours.com;
1 877 726 6548;
Tours can be booked up to 24 hours notice, but best to check ahead of time.