Adega on 45th became the fourth winery in Osoyoos when it opened in 2012.

Adega on 45th became the fourth winery in Osoyoos when it opened in 2012.

La Dolce Vita: In with the new at Osoyoos wineries

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Angela and I have visited many, many wineries in our quarter-century of wine tourism, but we still get a tingle of excitement when we drive up to a winery for the first time. We had that experience three times on one day a few weeks ago.

In all honesty, I don’t think I was aware of Adega on 45th, the newest winery in Osoyoos, until I received a writing assignment from Wine Trails magazine. I had no idea what to expect, other than what I found on the website, because my email request for an appointment had received no response.

Our first impression was that Adega has a great location. It’s a short jaunt off Highway 3 and on the same road that leads to the much larger and very successful Nk’Mip Cellars. Nk’Mip is a development that also includes a restaurant, tourist accommodations, golf course and desert cultural centre.

The Adega on 45th winery is entered via a driveway that runs through the vineyard and the building’s architecture is distinctly Mediterranean, an obvious choice for owners whose roots are in Portugal. We met and chatted with the very likeable Fred Farinha, who co-owns the venture with Alex Nunes and their wives, Pamala and Maria. Fred is a farmer through and through, and his affable personality makes him as comfortable in the tasting room as he is in the vineyards.

Fred’s daughter led us through a tasting, impressive for the consistency that runs through all the wines. We were pleased with everything we sampled and look forward to enjoying our purchases, which included Viognier, Syrah and Malbec wines.

Our next first-time visit was completely unplanned. We were making our way from Burrowing Owl to Church and State when Angela pointed out Platinum Bench. Inside the unpretentious tasting room, a cluster of visitors were at various stages of their tasting and co-owner Fiona Duncan was unflustered as she ran off to grab more bottles or bring out more loaves of her freshly baked bread.

Only four wines are available, but we joined with the others in the room in raving about the Gamay Noir, much rounder and more complex than most versions we have tasted. We left with our purchases, which included a couple loaves of cleverly designed bread. Fiona, also the baker, makes the loaves much like a cluster of small buns, which tear off in tasty chunks, making them ideal for wine tourists to snack on as they make their way from winery to winery. The flavours, one including fig jam and cheese, were wonderful. I think we paid $2.50 for a loaf and we would have happily paid twice that. Think of Platinum Bench as a great stop to get a delicious snack and taste some very good wines, all served by the great-humoured Fiona.

Our last stop of the day began with some confusion. I had printed off a Google map of directions to get from Tinhorn Creek to Fairview Cellars, but didn’t bother to consult it when we left Tinhorn Creek. I knew Fairview was closer to Oliver, so I just drove back to the highway and started looking for the familiar blue sign that indicates MOST wineries. Soon we had driven through Oliver, so I turned back and only then (being a male) did I check my map. It wasn’t very detailed, but I found one road as a starting point and eventually we spied a little sign pointing us toward Fairview Cellars. “You found us!” is a typical greeting to visitors who arrive at the old log cabin tasting room.

Owner Bill Eggert is legendary among B.C. winemakers. He has a brilliant touch with red wines, especially, and most of what he produces, in small batches, is not intended for immediate consumption. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing a wine label with a “best after” date. Many of Eggert’s wines include the advisory.

Eggert, too, is a farmer first and he knows that great wines start in the vineyard. His vineyards, on the south side of Highway 97 and generally sloping down to the north, don’t seem at first glance to be ideal for ripening red wines. But they do. And Eggert makes the grapes into huge, complex and very tannic wines, ones that might easily be associated with Bordeaux. We had a chance to taste many wines, some not even available for sale, and each one had me thinking more about Old World wines than I usually do while in the Okanagan.

Eggert is a larger than life character and our visit with him was one of the highlights of our trip. In our travels, we have enjoyed wineries large and small, but it is the small, often tiny, operations in which the owner might also be the vineyard manager, winemaker and tasting room host that provide some of our fondest memories. On that drive between Osoyoos and Oliver, we found three more to add to our list of favourites.

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.