Wine quality, winery setting, marketing, tasting room experience. Sometimes these qualities roll into one nice tight package, becoming what I often think of as the Real Deal. Kraze Legz Winery is everything we look for in wine tourism.
Owners Gerry and Sue Thygesen are genuinely good hosts in their Kaleden (just south of Penticton) winery, where they do pretty much everything, from tending the vines to making the wine to pouring samples in a lovely and intimate wine shop.
Impressive, too, is the fact that their canny marketing scheme, a funky Roaring ’20s style that includes dancing couple whose costumes vary on the painted bottle labels, was designed in-house. And you just know by the names of the wines that Kraze Legz is good times in a bottle. Among them are the Bee’s Knees Pinot Blanc, the Lindy Hop white blend, the Cakewalk Merlot, Speakeasy rosé and All That Jazz. And how about the Black Bottom Stomp?
On my most recent visit in March, I stood outside on the deck and took in the view. Kaleden is a largely unknown tiny farming community that also has its share of seasonal residents, not such a bad idea considering its proximity to Okanagan Lake and some of B.C.’s best wineries. Looking northward from the deck my breath was taken away by the landscape. Penticton and Skaha Lake are included in the vista and I couldn’t help but think that it is no accident that included in the town’s name is “Eden”.
The Thygesens only produce about 2,000 cases of wine annually. With a lot of hard work, it is a production level that allows them total control of the operation, something they clearly enjoy.
“Gerry and I do everything,” Sue says. “And with most of our wines sold here at the winery, it’s paramount that we give people a pos-i-tive-ly memorable Okanagan experience.”
We first had one of those “pos-i-tive-ly memorable” experiences two years ago. We entered the winery, vaguely familiar with the name but completely unprepared for what we were walking into. The tasting room buzzed with activity and laughter, with Gerry and Sue both regaling visitors with stories behind each wine name. The tasting was superb.
I walked away from my visit in March with a bottle of Pinot Blanc, which is Kraze Legz’s bestseller. Pinot Blanc, often tasting primarily of apple juice and very acidic, has never been our favourite varietal but I had to find out what made the Bee’s Knees, well, the bee’s knees with customers. One night on the following week we opened the bottle. It didn’t take long to appreciate why it has become so popular. I sent Gerry and Sue the following message: “Last night my wife and I had the bottle of Pinot Blanc you sent home with me when I visited. We paired it with curried chicken potpie and a salad, and it was fantastic. We have never been huge fans of Pinot Blanc, which so often is highly acidic and very apple-y. But yours is so creamy and delicious that we are certainly now huge fans of yours. It certainly is the Bee’s Knees!”
The simple fact is that we haven’t had a bottle of Kraze Legz wine that we didn’t enjoy, and we are looking forward to a visit next month when the tasting room is again open for the season.
As an aside, on that last visit, Gerry and Sue tipped me off about some changes coming to the winery, the result of an unexpected bit of news from their bottle supplier. I’ll share that story after our next visit. It’s a tale of optimism, creativity and going with the flow. And it’s just a little bit Kraze.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. His website, www.lorneeckersley.com, features a collection of columns, stories and photographs about wine, beer and spirits, food, travel and arts.