So you may be wondering where I came up with the title for my blog and what Napa has to do with wine made in Canada. Well the simple answer to that is more than one writer who has visited the area when trying to describe this wonderful area found it easiest to reference a wine region most people are familiar with and that would be Napa.
Back in 2006, Bonnie Tsui, wrote a travel article for the NY Times where she made called the Okanagan "a Napa of the North". Again in 2006, in trying to describe the region, Bruce Schoenfeld wrote in Travel & Leisure "imagine Lake Tahoe as a backdrop for the Napa Valley."
For these reason I thought the name for this blog from my experiences with the wines and wineries in this area would best be summed up by the same reference of Napa North.
This region has seen a massive growth in the number of wineries over the past couple of decades and has changed immensely from its first humble beginnings of grape growing over 130 years ago. The first commercial winery established in the Okanagan Valley, in all of Bristish Columbia for that matter, was Calona Vineyards which was established in 1932 and is still a major producer wines in the area today.
Things really began to change in the 1980's when some of the first small estate wineries began plantings of vinifera vines and replacing the majority of the labrusca varietals. By moving to these true wine varietal grapes the region began to produce "serious wines" for the first time.
The next major addition to growing the wine industry came with the creation of the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) Standard in 1990. The VQA system is an "Appellation of Origin" system that guarantees authenticity of origin and minimum standards for wine production and certification.
In the early 1990's with 26 wineries in the area, it was still a very small industry, but was starting to get some attention in the wine world. Some of these wineries began seeking out wine makers and consultants from around the world to help develop their products to an even higher level and provide the expertise needed to help get them to this next level.
Then, in 1994, a major achievement for one of the local wineries was about to change things immensely. In that year Mission Hill Family Estate entered some of there wines into the International Wine and Spirits Competition with hopes of winning some medals at this prestigious annual event. One of the wines entered was their 1992 Chardonnay which ended up winning the "Best Chardonnay in the World" and was the first major international award for this relatively young wine region.
Since that time there has been an explosion of wineries popping up in the 160km (100 mi.) valley with over 120 wineries now producing premium wines that continue to get international recognition for quality.
With the vines that were planted over the last couple of decades starting to come into maturity, we are just at the beginning of what should be a very exciting time for both the wineries and wines in this region. And as the industry continues to grow I look forward to seeing the region producing wines that are uniquely Okanagan and sought out by serious oenophiles around the world.
Until next time, if you are fortunate enough to live in an area where you can find a great Okanagan Wine why not grab a bottle, give it a try and let me know what you think.