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Kelowna: A Guide to Recognizing Your Wines

No matter whether you’re an oenophile (that’s a fancy name for “wine lover”), or you just enjoy the occasional glass with a meal, taking a trip to Kelowna, British Columbia is sure to make for a “vintage” vacation. That’s because, within a 90-mile radius of Kelowna, there are more than 100 wineries – many of which offer tours and tastings.

So, in order for you to be able to drink up as much of the atmosphere as you can in the region, here’s a rundown of the various varietals you’re likely to encounter:

  • Cabernet France – A dry red wine with flavors of currant, raspberry, blackberry, plum, cedar, herb and mint. It is similar in style to the better-known Cabernet Sauvignon, although almost always lighter and less tannic, and often with a characteristic “green” or herbaceous edge. The versions found in British Columbia are outstanding food wines, especially for casual outdoor meals.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon – A dry red wine with flavors of black currant, blackberry, plum, black cherry, eucalyptus and green olive. While the classic accompaniment is lamb, Cabernet Sauvignon stands up beautifully to virtually all red meats, whether served simply with “jus” or rich, reduced sauces. Fine, older Cabernets are excellent accompaniments to special occasion meals, while younger ones match simpler fare.
  • Chardonnay – A dry white wine with flavors of apple, pear, pineapple and tropical fruit. Chardonnay’s rich elegance finds its match in foods that are equally stylish. Bolder examples show especially well with strongly herbed dishes, while more restrained versions shine in the company of luxurious cream and butter sauces and mellow, earthy flavors such as mustard and mushrooms.
  • Gewürztraminer – A dry to semi-sweet white wine with flavors of rose, lychee, peach and grapefruit. Its intense, exotic aromas and flavours seem ideally suited to spicy cuisines from China to Thailand to India, and it stands up equally well to the fruitiest salsas and smokiest grilled and barbecued flavors of contemporary North American cuisine.
  • Merlot – A dry red wine with flavors of raspberry, plum, black cherry, licorice, orange, coffee, chocolate and fruitcake. Merlot pairs well with red meats. It has the weight and fruit to match wine-braised stews and roasts, and the structure and polish to pair with rare, grilled prime cuts.
  • Pinot Blanc –A dry white wine with flavors of apple, lemon, pear and grapefruit. Although it is sometimes called the poor man’s Chardonnay, well-made Pinot Blanc can show remarkable strength of character. It is a chameleon of a wine, providing a rich, subtle background for whatever dish it accompanies.
  • Pinot Gris – A dry to off-dry white wine with flavors of peach, pear, dried apricot, vanilla, almond, spice and clover honey. The grape ripens early, producing wines with plenty of flavor. It is very adaptable, with the structure to stand up to bold Asian, Oriental and Latin flavors. A perfect anytime choice.
  • Pinot Noir – A dry red wine with flavors of cherry, strawberry, plum, violet, beetroot, mint and cinnamon. Its greatest strength is its suppleness. Without the hard tannic structure found in many red wines, it pairs effortlessly with a wide range of foods – from fish through game birds to grilled beef and lamb. Don’t overwhelm its gentle fruits and refined complexity with strong or spicy flavors; simply prepared dishes are best.
  • Riesling – A dry to sweet white wine with flavors of lemon, apricot, peach, pear and apple. No matter what the style, Riesling maintains an attractive balance of fruit and acidity, making it an exciting match with dishes incorporating sweet and tart elements. The most fruit-driven examples take well to barbecued or smoked foods and a wide variety of fruity and subtle spicy flavors.
  • Sauvignon Blanc – A dry white wine with flavors of gooseberry, green apple, black currant, melon, green pepper and sometimes jalapeno. It is a crisp, refreshing, high-acid wine for summer sipping, on its own, or as an aperitif. It is excellent with shellfish or light, subtle dishes or, in its oak-aged versions, with richer fare.
  • Syrah – A dry red wine with flavors of spice, pepper, black currant, blackberry and cherry. Syrah (also known as Shiraz) has a unique peppery, spicy quality that makes it perfect to pair with robust meat dishes including peppercorn steak and braised lamb shanks. For the adventurous, try pairing it with a slightly spicy ethnic dish such as Mexican mole or lamb korma.

To learn more about the wine country of Kelowna, or to raise a glass in any of our other 40+ delectable travel destination, drop us a line at

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