La Dolce Vita: A feather in Township 7’s Stetson

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The Calgary Stampede Centennial Selection Merlot and Chardonnay.

The Calgary Stampede Centennial Selection Merlot and Chardonnay.

Township 7 has been a favourite stop since 2003 when it constructed a winery and tasting room near what I always think of as the entrance to the Naramata Bench. Consistently good wines, especially reds, at very reasonable prices are always an appeal and I don’t ever remember being disappointed.

The winery has two locations — the other, and original, is in Langley. And it has more than its fair share of medals and awards to its credit, with winemaker Brad Cooper working his magic with the grapes. But the pride and excitement in owner Mike Raffin’s voice when I talked to him on the phone last week was obvious when he discussed the winery’s selection as the official wine provider for the centenary of the Calgary Stampede.

“We are truly honoured to participate in this one in a lifetime experience,” he said. That is a somewhat understated comment considering that the stampede is one of the world’s best known annual events, drawing visitors from around the globe. And the 100th year as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”? Well, that really is something special.

As the Calgary Stampede’s centenary winery, Township 7 will provide specially labelled bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot, available at the Stampede and several Alberta retailers, but in B.C. only at the winery’s Naramata and Langley sites. Raffin describes the Centennial Selection Chardonnay as “lush and elegant, crafted from premium South Okanagan grapes. It has aromas of tropical citrus and hints of creamy butterscotch and vanilla on palate.”

The Centennial Selection Merlot, he says, not surprisingly is a perfect accompaniment to grilled meats. “Full-bodied and supply, it was barrel-fermented for 22 months and has raspberry flavours with hints of caramel and chocolate on the nose,” Raffin says.

Not everyone can get to the Calgary Stampede, so Township 7 is bringing a touch of the event to both wineries in July. A weeklong western-themed party is planned, with plenty of activities for kids so the entire family can get in the on the celebrations. Cooper will be conducting wine-blending seminars and Raffin, with his wife, Lori, will be firing up the barbecue to grill meat for guests. Of course live Western music will be central to the festivities.

Drawing visitors to their wineries is a major theme for members of the Naramata Bench Winery Association and Township 7 is participating in other ways this summer, too. For the second year, the winery is partnering with Twisted Tree Productions to present Wilde at the Winery. On several evenings this summer, the theatre group will present Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, which Raffin says is “eerily relevant” more than a century after the play was written.

On July 1, an event that has been a success in the Langley location will come to the Naramata site. Art in the Vines is an artisan fair that will feature established and emerging artists who produce crafts, jewelry, glass work, pottery, paintings, recycled art and more. An interactive art and music fun zone will be set up to delight the kids.

It’s shaping up to be a great summer at Township 7. I’m planning my visit now.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.