Top Reasons to Do a Wine Tasting or Tour in the Fall and Winter
A Vineyard in the fall months is a sight to behold, especially in the Okanagan. As the foliage starts to show its autumn colours, and the grapes burst off the vine, beckoning harvest time, enjoying a wine tasting is a wonderful idea. Fewer crowds and milder temperatures are just a few reasons why you might want to embark on a wine tasting or tour at this time. Here are some more considerations, for those still on the fence.
A Winery in the Fall
For many wineries, visiting after the summer rush may allow you to observe some of the inner workings of the facility, from the harvest, to the winemaking process, to the bottling stage. In addition, you may be one of the first to taste a newly produced wine by sampling new releases that become available at this time!
Veraison, or the change of colour of the grapes on the vine, is a beautiful sight as grapes take on their signature rich and appealing appearance, but once the grapes are ripe enough for harvesting the winemaking magic truly begins. Deciding when to harvest is an important decision, as the ripening process for a grape ends once it is picked. Harvesting a grape later will yield a sweeter taste than a grape of the same crop harvested earlier, as more sugar remains with the later-picked grape. Thus the date a grape is picked can contribute to the sweetness, flavour and alcohol content of the resulting wine.
At Ex Nihilo, wine tastings are available in the fall months and Chaos Bistro is open until October 29th, with special dinners and events throughout the winter season for our guests. Check our website for details, and subscribe to our entertaining and informative e-newsletter to keep on the pulse with what is happening at the winery during this time.
Wait, Wine Touring in the Winter?
No, you are not crazy if you are curious about wine touring in the winter. It is indeed a thing, especially in the Okanagan. Some wine tasters even swear by touring in the winter. Doing a tasting or tour in the winter is smart, as the main harvest is over and winemaking is in full force.
Of course you don’t experience the stunning budding stage of spring, the vibrant colours of fall, or the summer heat, but winter has something special to offer visitors. Staff may be more available to answer your questions in depth and give you their full attention. There are often VIP or special events and experiences to take advantage of as well.
And it is icewine’s time to shine as the temperature falls and grapes are picked frozen off the vine. Canada is one of the countries at the forefront of icewine production, and Ex Nihilo offers a few icewines that you might want to explore.
It is abundantly clear that there is much going on beneath the surface at many wineries in the winter. It is the perfect time to cosy up and enjoy a winter wonderland, with a glass of premium wine as you peer out at the vineyard quietly hibernating, and perhaps lightly covered in snow.
Note - Be sure to check a winery’s website before embarking as not all may operate to the public at this time, or may have reduced hours. At Ex Nihilo tastings appointments are recommended in the winter, but not absolutely necessary.
Wine for Every Season
While the spring and summer put lighter white and rosé wines at the forefront, the fall and winter may bring focus to more full-bodied red wines that can be consumed warmer. Snuggling up with a glass of red wine in the colder months is common, but you can obviously enjoy any wine during any time of the year!
Of course the type of wine we choose does not solely depend on the temperature outside, but many other factors, such as the seasonal foods and meals you are enjoying. Having a hearty beef stew to celebrate a bountiful harvest? Perhaps pair it with a medium to full bodied red like our 2018 Privata Malbec, offering up notes of cherry, blueberry, star anise, and eucalyptus on the nose. Enjoying a rustic roasted chicken and veggies around the dinner table? A rosé may be an appropriate addition, and chardonnay can go well with many savoury seasonal foods of fall and winter. Overall wine sales are quite high in the winter, making it clear that people like their wine year round!
The Okanagan is known as a “four season playground” and the wineries in the region bring no exception. There is a common misconception that a winery’s doors close as the summer ends, but this is just not often the case. In fact some of the excitement is just beginning! For ideas of what to wear and etiquette for a wine tasting, check out our article “Wine Tasting and Touring Etiquette”. Doing a wine tour or tasting in the cooler months can be a very rewarding and fun experience. See you soon!
Raise Your Glass To National Wine Day
Every day is wine day, right? Well maybe not, but May 25th is. It’s National Wine Day! Take this opportunity to learn about all things wine, and grab an idea or two on how to responsibly commemorate this special day.
Just how was wine invented?
Statista defines wine as, “an alcoholic beverage produced by fermenting grapes and sometimes other fruits or plants”. It is really hard to pin down exactly how and when wine came to be, but it is believed by some that wine may have been invented by accident between 6000 and 3000 B.C. or earlier, in the area that is now modern day Iran and Georgia, when stored grapes were fermented by wild yeast.
Christian monks had a role in making France one of the best wine making countries in the world. They took detailed notes on different varieties of grapes, growing methods & practices. In the new world region, i.e the Americas, it is believed that the Indigenous people may have played a part in wine’s emergence. However it came to be, it appears to have been a bit of a group effort and a happy invention, as people all over the world continue to enjoy this staple beverage.
History of the Okanagan Valley Wine Region
Ex Nihilo is located in the Okanagan Valley wine region of B.C., which has an interesting history, starting with Father Pandosy, a Frenchman who recognised the fertility of the land. He grew and produced wine for sacramental uses at the Oblate Mission in Kelowna in 1859. Following this, more wineries emerged until prohibition slowed down the growth somewhat. As time went on however, wine makers in the valley began experimenting with hybrid grape varieties. This resulted in a marked increase in the quality of wine in the area and a vibrant industry and scene began to take hold.
The rest is history as, according to Forbes, 85% of B.C.’s wine is produced in this magical area, which resides between the 49th and 50th parallel, the same latitude as Champagne, France and Rheingau, Germany. Consisting of about 9,000 acres of vineyards, it is Canada’s second largest wine region with over 185 wineries.
The Wine Industry in Canada and British Columbia
The wine industry is certainly substantial in Canada. According to Statista, red varieties are most consumed, but of course Canadians’ enjoyment of this diverse drink does not stop there. Retail sales of wine in Canada are forecast to exceed 13.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, showing that Canadians like their wine. According to per capita sales, consumers in Quebec purchase the most wine and those in Saskatchewan purchase the least. What's more, due to its colder climate, Canada is the top producer of Ice Wine in the world.
Below are the Top 10 white and red wines produced in B.C. according to the Wine Growers of BC:
How to Commemorate National Wine Day
It may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but here are some creative ideas to capitalise on the day!:
- First and foremost, come enjoy Happy Hour with us at Ex Nihilo if you are in the area.
- Do a wine tasting or two and discover something new. Use this occasion to try a new wine that you may not normally have considered.
- Visit a winery restaurant and pair tasty culinary bites with premium wine choices.
- Pick up your favourite wine to enjoy it with a friend.
- Plan to host your own wine tasting party.
- Learn more about wine making processes, tasting, pairing, and more. You can start by reading through previous articles in this blog.
- Book yourself a future tour or wine tasting to look forward to.
- Sign up to be part of a wine club, like ours at Ex Nihilo. And while you are at it, sign up for our newsletter below!
- Try a wine and yoga class in your area.
Additional Wine Days
Believe it or not, there are quite a few days throughout the year to celebrate wine, included on the National Day Calendar:
1. National Drink Wine Day – Feb. 18
2. National Mulled Wine Day – March 3
3. National Bubbly Day – First Saturday in June
4. National Moscato Day – May 9
5. National Rosé Day – Second Saturday in June
6. National Strawberry Rhubarb Day – Third Saturday in July
7. National Wine and Cheese Day – July 25
8. National Prosecco Day – August 13
9. National Orange Wine Day – October 6
The Legacy of Wine
Wine is considered by some to be a symbol of transformation, a concept which we can observe throughout all stages of the growing and winemaking process. What’s more, it has influenced cultures throughout time, and connected people from all different walks of life. A much beloved and diverse beverage of choice, the world of wine is one that could take a lifetime to fully explore as there is always something new to learn. So take a moment today to join those around the world and raise your glass!
Wine Tasting and Touring Etiquette: And Exploring Lake Country’s Beautiful Scenic Sip Trail
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.
The Versatile Charm of Rosé: The Saignée Process, & the Release of the Fabulous Vampata Rosé at Ex Nihilo!
There is no wine more charming than a crisp rosé. Not only striking and intriguing in colour, the flavours and aromas offered by a lovely rosé are something to behold. One of the oldest wines, rosé’s popularity has experienced a resurgence. There are entire festivals dedicated to this wine classification, and with such versatility, we can understand why!
Rosé is probably best known for its’ fresh, fruity quality. Best served chilled, it is most popular in the spring to early fall, due to its refreshing essence. The area of the world most known for this wine is the Provence region of France, but there are plenty of great rosé wines throughout the world, especially right here in the Okanagan.
What are the Distinguishing Characteristics of a Rosé?
Rosé wines have a low to medium alcohol level with bright acidity. Various varieties of red wine grapes are used, sometimes in a blend. Some grape varieties used include Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah and more! Rosé can be sparkling, sweet, or dry, and is broken down into many different types such as:
- Provence Rosé
- Pinot Noir Rosé
- Zinfandel Rosé
- Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé
- Syrah Rosé
- Grenache Rosé
- Tavel Rosé
Common Methods of Making Rosé
Some people think that rosé is just a mixture of red and white wine, and sometimes it is, (this is called the blending method). This is most often not the case, however, and except for Rosé Champagne, actually, a practice sometimes frowned upon in the industry.
In the maceration method the grapes are destemmed, sorted, and left to rest/macerate with the juices for up to a few days until the optimum level of pink colour is achieved. The skins are then removed and the wine is made from the remaining juices. Maceration is the most popular method used to produce rosé, but a newer method, the Saignée process has gained popularity and it brings rosé to a different level.
What is the Saignée process?
The saignée (“sohn-yay”) process produces a slightly richer rosé, and involves the removal of a portion of the juice, increasing the proportion of skins in contact. The resulting concentration results in a more vibrant colour and a bit more tannin.
A Rosé Inspired Picnic With Ex Nihilo's Furry Pal Pyper
Rosé Food Pairings
While sipping this versatile wine, there are many great pairings. Look to dishes such as duck, salmon, and lamb. Soft cheeses, such as goat, incorporated into a charcuterie board are also a great option.
Release of the 2021 Vampata Rosé at Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo is excited to release its 2021 Vampata Rosé, a crisp pink delight, produced with the saignée process from pinot noir grapes. Enjoy summer in a glass, with aromas and flavours of strawberry, cranberry, grapefruit, rose hips and gooseberry. Order it from our online store, or venture down to the winery to grab a bottle, or two?