Not only is British Columbia undeniably beautiful, it is a bountiful region teeming with abundance. A lush paradise with almost everything you could desire, it boasts friendly family farms, fruitful orchards, vineyards, & more. Coupling all this with passionate artisans who take great pride in their one of a kind treasures, supporting local is not hard to do in the Okanagan.
Why Support Local?: Creating Vibrant Communities
Supporting local establishments helps to build communities and the local environment. Not only does it stimulate the local economy, keeping money in the community, it employs locals. What's more, local businesses have a vested interest in the communities that they are a part of, and when we support local, we tend to enjoy more variety and diversity. What is not to like about that?
The environment fares better too when we support businesses in and around our neighbourhoods, as products do not need to be transported as far, reducing fossil fuel usage significantly. Plus smaller businesses tend to have a reduced carbon footprint compared to big corporations. Supporting small local businesses not only gives them the boost they need, it benefits Mother Earth as well.
As a small local vineyard, the owners of Ex Nihilo know firsthand the importance of giving back to local businesses. When you visit the restaurant, tasting room, and online store, you will be supporting many individuals within the community.
Local at CHAOS
Taste the region within a farm to table framework at CHAOS Bistro with these local suppliers:
Tanto Latte Cheese - Salmon Arm
This family-owned business produces artisanal Italian cheese using Okanagan sourced whole milk. Their most popular product is their fresh bocconcini mozzarella, commonly enjoyed as a topping for pizza or on a gourmet sandwich!
Image Credit | Tanto Latte Cheese
Dueck Falkland Farms - Falkland
Started in 2011, Dueck Falkland Farms strives to ethically raise happy chickens, and they only partner with local family farmers (within 90 mins) when stocking their store. Their high standards are reflected in the meat they sell, from free-run chickens, to award winning sausage, and grass-fed beef.
Image Credit | Dueck Falkland Farms
Mycro Greens - Kelowna
Offering organic and non-gmo microgreens, this small business was founded by a group of friends. Coming to the business from a sustainable and environmentally conscious standpoint, they wanted to explore a way of offering a nutritionally dense superfood, as not only do microgreens look great on the plate, they pack a nutritional punch as well.
Image Credit | Mycro Greens
Lake Country Gourmet Mushroom Farm
Offering fresh and dried mushrooms, as well as tinctures and mushroom grow kits, this unique Lake Country mushroom grower also advertises a weekly chef mix. Their Facebook page is picturesque with oyster and lion’s mane mushrooms galore!
Two Rivers Specialty Meats - Vancouver/Abbotsford
Couple Margot and Jason Pleym proceeded to dream up Two Rivers while living in a yellow school bus in Golden, BC. They meticulously choose small farmers, mostly in BC to collaborate with to ensure the quality of their meat.
Image Credit | Two Rivers Specialty Meats
Local in the Tasting Room
Encounter unique items from these local gems while visiting the Tasting Room:
KARAT Chocolate Boutique & Cafe - Kelowna
KARAT found its start in the basement kitchen of West Kelowna’s Mission Hill Winery. Founder Julian has since grown the company with the help of her team and much support. Using local high quality and ethically sourced ingredients, & the best single origin and beans and couverture chocolate possible, it is no surprise that KARAT has won various prestigious awards and is often featured in notable publications, such as Chatelaine & WestJet Magazine.
Image Credit | KARAT Chocolate
Hairbrained Schemes Greeting Cards - Kelowna
Hairbrained Schemes Greeting Cards came to fruition when a stay at home mom combined her passion for design and her desire to work from home. Her clever cards are blank inside so you can add your own special message. Some of the cards are available as prints as well!
Image Credit | Hairbrained Schemes Greeting Cards
Vancouver Candle Company - Vancouver
A Vancouver-based “corporate couple” took their fascination with the power of scent and started Vancouver Candle Company after experimenting with premium natural waxes. Their goal was to create a quality luxury candle with truly unique fragrance blends. The business has since grown and they enjoy a cult-like following.
Image Credit | Vancouver Candle Company
Okanagan Candle Company
Okanagan Candle Company creates custom clean burning candles. They utilise beautiful essential oils for fragrance, and 100% soy wax. Not to mention they are hand poured and packaged with love in the Okanagan.
Image Credit | Okanagan Candle Company
Só Luxury Bath & Body
Close friends Amanda & Shylah run Só Luxury Bath & Body together, providing you with what you need to pamper yourself and your loved ones. Só actually means luxury in irish. They are not only dedicated to providing gentle and effective products but to giving back to the community as well.
Image Credit | Só Luxury Bath & Body
Karen Wentzel Jewellery - Kelowna
Hailing from Westside Road in Kelowna, Karen’s handcrafted stunning one of a kind jewellery features such premium materials as sterling silver, 14K gold fill, semi-precious gemstones and freshwater pearls. Her pieces are often inspired by the changing seasons.
Image Credit | Karen Wentzel Jewellery
Everybody wins when we give back to the community!
So be sure to take it all in while visiting Ex Nihilo. Simultaneously sip, shop, & explore what the region has to offer; and leave knowing that not only have you delighted your senses with a plethora of unique one of a kind offerings, you have done your part to support the local hard working small businesses that help make the community just a bit more vibrant!
With the wine touring season beginning to ramp up in the Okanagan (April is BC Wine Month), it is important to understand the ins and outs of tasting and touring. Wine touring and tastings can be a joyous way to connect with others, explore the region, and learn about the wines in the area. There are not a ton of hard rules to enjoying a tour or tasting, but here we offer some etiquette, along with general tips that will help you get the most out of the experience.
When and how many wineries to visit?
When planning out your day, this can vary by region and how close the wineries are together, as well as how intimately you want to explore each winery. In the Okanagan, most full day packages offered by tour companies include 4-6 wineries. If you can, you may want to start with the furthest winery from where you are staying and work your way back, so you are closer to home at the end of the day.
In terms of the seasons of the year, this can depend on the region you are in. In the Okanagan, many wineries are open year-round, and each season has something unique to offer the wine tasting experience, such as hot weather and picturesque views in the summer & milder temperatures, coupled with the beauty of budding vines in the spring.
The Tasting Experience - Sight, Smell, Taste: Savour, Don't Rush
Whenever you decide to go, try to give yourself time to enjoy what each winery has to offer. If you can, dine at the restaurant; explore the vineyard; and discover the special offerings unique to each winery, (such as Ex Nihilo’s Creatio art exhibit!).
Be ready to ask questions at each winery, and go with an open mind. In terms of consumption, don't overdo it, and make a bit of a plan of what wines you want to explore. You can also use the practice of spitting.
Some General Tasting Tips
It is recommended to work from light to heavy wines and to cleanse your palate in between. Make sure to sample wines that you may not usually try to open your mind, not just your trusted favourites, and be sure to enjoy some food throughout the day with your wine as well.
When tasting, ask yourself a series of questions. For example, is this wine sweet? Is it heavy? Are the flavours somewhat balanced? Reference the tasting tips below for further questions to explore.
The Tasting Process
There is a myriad of advice out there on the tasting process, but here is a good starting point from Tour DeVine and the Wine Atlas of Canada:
- Look: Tilt your glass ever so slightly to observe the colour, clarity, and appearance. Young wines hold their colour to the rim and older wines begin to fade at the edge. White wines also gain a bit of a more golden colour with age. Red wines lose some of their deep colour over time.
- Swirl: Swirling helps the esters in the wine to rise to deliver the wine's aromatics. Swirling also helps you observe the wine’s viscosity. More droplets sticking to the side indicates higher alcohol content.
- Smell: Focus on the aromas as you bring the glass to your nose. Ask yourself what you pick up on & do not pick up in terms of smell. Imagine what the wine might taste like before-hand just based on the smell.
- Sip: As you sip, roll the wine around slightly in your mouth for a short amount of time, savouring it. First, you will notice the sweetness as it washes over your palette and the tip of your tongue -where sweetness is registered. The back of the tong picks up the acidity or the bitter aspects of the wine (tannins). Tannins soften with age. The weight of the wine in your mouth also tells us something. Heavier wines contain more alcohol than a lighter wine.
Random Tips & Winery Etiquette
- Hold your glass by the stem to avoid affecting the temperature of the wine and smudging the glass, which will affect your ability to judge the wine’s appearance.
- Bring a small notebook to take notes.
- Check the weather ahead of time and dress appropriately. Wear dark clothing to avoid stains and check the dress code at the wineries you plan on visiting before leaving. Avoid wearing dangly sleeves that may knock over a wine glass, and wear comfortable shoes for getting around. Also consider bringing a small purse or bag to stash your guide, notebook, water bottle, sunglasses, and other essentials.
- Avoid wearing fragrance as it competes with the aroma of the wine.
- Feel free to tip the pourer.
- Call ahead if you are with a big group.
- Come to sample, not just to party.
- Don’t talk over the guide, and take turns with others on the tour for questions.
- Pick out a bottle or two on your way out to help support the winery and enjoy your favourites at home, but consider bringing a cooler and don't leave it in a hot car.
- Call to check ahead if planning on bringing a pet.
- Do not drink and drive! Invest in a tour experience or have a designated driver.
- Take a few pictures to remember your experience.
Lake Country’s Scenic Sip Trail
The Lake Country region has much to offer those interested in wine touring and the Scenic Sip Trail is one such gem in the area. Experience it by hiring a Okanagan wine tour company, or on your own, responsibly. Enjoy world class award-winning wines and views along stunning Okanagan, Wood, and Kalamalka Lakes. This charming trail consists of 8 wineries:
50th Parallel, Ex Nihilo, Gray Monk, Peak Cellars, Ancient Hill, Intrigue Wines, Arrowleaf Cellars, Blind Tiger, O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars
With vineyards, orchards, rolling countryside, and remarkable wines, this is a great way to spend a day. Check the website for activities and events on the trail.
Celebrating Stars and Stripes | Artist - Debra Martin
What goes together as well as wine and an inspired charcuterie board? Why that would be wine and art actually, and you can find both at one of the Okanagan’s most charming vineyards, Ex Nihilo. Savour a glass of your favourite Okanagan wine while pondering an inspiring painting or sculpture at this unique destination overlooking Okanagan Lake in Lake Country, B.C.
Unwind II | Artist - Shannon Cross
The winery’s name was inspired by the Ex Nihilo, an original sculpture by Frederick Hart that adorns the west façade entrance of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC. On a trip to Napa Valley, founders Decoa and Jeff Harder came across a working model replica of the sculpture and were very taken with it. Ex Nihilo, Latin for ‘Out of Nothing’, is a message that very much embodies how the winery came to be, as it took some time for the dream to come to fruition.
Ex Nihilo | Artist - Frederick Hart
This foundation has grown into an ongoing dedication to supporting the local arts, and creativity permeates Ex Nihilo’s ambiance via an ongoing exhibit, CREATIO Ex Nihilo (“Created out of Nothing”). The gallery features works from across Canada, always including local artists. These artists, themselves, face the task every day of creating works that start “Out of Nothing”; from a thought, or inspiration, to an imagined piece on the canvas or other medium, as this is a fundamental element of creation.
Complimenting Ex Nihilo’s creative feast for the eyes, and tantalising wine profiles are the delightful culinary offerings of CHAOS Bistro, where visitors enjoy fresh and local ingredients with a farm-to-table concept. Here you can inspire your taste buds while surrounded by the exhibit that extends all the way from the tasting room and throughout the dining area.
Lady of the Lake | Artist - Reg Parsons
The exhibit operates in partnership with Gallery 421, and fresh content is added throughout the year. The focus is on professional and creative contemporary figurative and conceptual abstract art. Artists who would like to take part in the exhibit can check the website for submission guidelines, and a list of requirements.