Easily Drunk on Cycle-Touring in Wine Regions

Blasted Church Winery.Okanagan Valley.  Near Oliver, BC. 2005. Tasting room is housed in an old church that was carefully dynamited in the 1920's in order to relocate it at that time. Photo by J. Chong
Blasted Church Winery.Okanagan Valley. Near Oliver, BC. 2005. Tasting room is housed in an old church that was carefully dynamited in the 1920’s in order to relocate it at that time. Photo by J. Chong

It’s annoying to have my  health problem whenever we go cycle-touring in the wine regions of Canada, U.S. and Europe: I get easily drunk on alcohol.

You could say I am afflicted by a common problem that isn’t just confined to some Asians (although there is that stereotyping). My ears become quite red: fast like a supremely over-exerted cyclist after  less than 6-8 sips of wine.

Either Red Ears or Tone Down Wine Sips
By drinking more wine, just to “harden” my sensitivities to the fermented grape, is not a solution. Not when already, I’m into my fifth decade in life.  I still want a liver and control over calorie intake. Drinking wine often means drinking in more calories too.

My seafood salad lunch. Muse Winery Bistro, Saanich. Vancouver Island, BC 2011. Photo by J. Chong. Local fresh seafood is common on an island winery bistro menu.
My seafood salad lunch. Muse Winery Bistro, Saanich. Vancouver Island, BC 2011. Photo by J. Chong. Local fresh seafood is common on an island winery bistro menu. Food sometimes is just as good as the wine from their barrels.

Nevertheless, we have sallied forth by bike into the wine regions of  Niagara-on-the-Lake region, Ontario; Okanagan Valley in interior British Columbia and on Vancouver Island.  We have yet to taste the recent wines from eastern Ontario in Prince Edward County or south on Pelee Island. These areas developed their vineyards after we moved to British Columbia.

Spring time vineyards  at Saltspring Wines. Saltspring Island, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong
Spring time at Saltspring Winery. Saltspring Island, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

 Wine Regions- A Heady Bouquet of Memories
We have touched down on some great routes and wineries with  creative tasting rooms, good wines, restaurants and ambience that sometimes tie together the local experience into a lovely bouquet of memories.

At a winery in Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island 2003.
At a winery in Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island 2003.

My jumpstart into wineries, was over 16 years ago with our 120 km. cycling day trip from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region.  Since then, we’ve done this trip several times different ways which included  a ferry across Lake Ontario that ran only a scant 2 summers.  We have also biked around the lake, as a hot humid bike trip in summer from downtown Toronto. Now, wine-thirsty cyclists can choose to roll on their bikes onto the popular  summer weekend Bike Train service passengers from Toronto.

The 50 km. 1-way bike route from Port Dalhousie to Fort Erie, past the roaring Niagara Falls and Butterfly Gardens, is easy, if not also crazy-busy during peak tourist season.  A more pleasant visit is early fall, with the blaze of autumn-kissed trees along the bike path.

Local art work is featured at various tastiing rooms or outdoors at the site. Nk'Mip Cellars, an aboriginal winery run by the Osoyoos Indian Band. Near Oliver, B.C.2005. Photo by J. Chong
Local art work may be featured at various tasting rooms or outdoors at the site. Nk’Mip Cellars, an aboriginal winery run by the Osoyoos Indian Band. Near Oliver, B.C.2005. Photo by J. Chong. Not typically European in artistry but wine-making is embedded in European techniques.

During various different trips across Canada, we’ve stopped to pull out our bikes and puff away on short steep hills in the Okanagan Valley, Canada’s near desert-like wine region in British Columbia.

Favourite Wineries Blend Spirits, Scenery, Food and Artistry
One of my favourite wineries for wine, great food and valley views, is Quail’s Gate in West Kelowna which overlooks gentle grapevine slopes dipping down to Okanagan Lake.   The winery’s location shows off the area’s sparkling waters, bright clear skies, undulating hills and winding roads.

View overlooking vineyards from Quail's Gate Wines' restaurant patio. West Kelowna, BC 2008. Photo by J. Chong
View overlooking vineyards, mountains to Okanagan Lake, from Quail’s Gate Wines’ restaurant patio. West Kelowna, BC 2008. Photo by J. Chong

At Summerhill Wines, past its signature upended wine bottle sculpture, is a restaurant that offers relaxation for a lovely meal and shade from the sunny dry heat  –that is, if you can avoid the crowds during peak seasons. They once produced a white wine packaged in a blue glass violin shaped bottle which I’ve kept, after savouring its contents.

Though we have not yet travelled by bike to the following two Okanagan Valley wineries mentioned below, I can’t resist just mentioning them because of their unusual ambiance and effective marketing.

Antique wooden grape press by a French vineyard. Provence, France 2012. Photo by J. Becker
Antique wooden grape press by a French vineyard. Provence, France 2012. Photo by J. Becker

Blasted Church Wines are arresting just for its wine labels and its story of a carefully dynamited church in 1929 that was moved from Okanagan Falls to its present location that now houses the tasting room.

For innovative surroundings and something unEuropean, but deeply embedded in British Columbian identity, is Nk’Mip Wine Cellars which features aboriginal iconography and artwork in its restaurant, tasting room and grounds. The winery has been developed by savvy local aboriginal entrepreneurs from the Osoyoos Indian Band.

Mermaid in rubber boots is logo for Saltspring Island Wines. Saltspring Island, BC 2005. Photo by J. Chong
Mermaid in rubber boots is logo for Saltspring Island Wines. Saltspring Island, BC 2005. Photo by J. Chong. Winery as well as Cherrypoint Wines each produces blackberry wine.

Can’t Resist Local Seafood  and Blackberry Wine
What distinguishes British Columbia in vineyard visits and tastings, are also  local salmon and other fresh large local seafood featured on winery restaurant menus at reasonable prices for high quality.

Whenever I visit Vancouver Island wineries, like Cherry Point Wines, I savour the seafood entrees just as much as the accompanying wine from their barrels nearby.  Large scallops, spotted shrimp (unique to Pacific Northwest coast), various clam varieties and mussels, are often drawn from the Pacific waters.  This level of freshness and quality most definitely, is not featured much in Germany at winery restaurants.

Cycle-touring by Rhine River along the "Wine Route in his birthplace area with vineyards and castle ruins. Black Forest Region, southern Germany, 2008.
Cycle-touring by Rhine River along the “Wine Route” in his birthplace area with vineyards, picturesque old towns and castle ruins. Black Forest Region, southern Germany, 2008.

Ideal frost-snow conditions in British Columbia and Niagara-on-the-Lake wine regions, also allow pressing of ice wine more easily than Spain, Italy or France.

For locals or visitors,  I cannot stop reminding people that Vancouver Island, is home of port-like blackberry wine varietals. Blackberry bushes bust out all over the land, if left unpruned, since they thrive in Pacific Northwest coastal balmy weather and rain –much to the curse of dedicated gardeners.

Wandering and Wine-Tasting Overseas
Further abroad, we have cycle-ventured  into the Napa-Sonoma wine region in California (though more him, than me), bike-touched the wine regions in Washington and Oregon.

Since Jack’s family roots are based in the Black Forest region in the famed wine region by the Rhine River in southern Germany, we have cycled there for wine, food, and

Chatting with farming couple at a farmers' market who grew cherries plus make and sell their own krischwasseur, "cherry wine". Freiburg, Germany 2010. Photo by J. Chong
Chatting with farming couple at farmers’ market who grew cherries plus make and sell their own kirschausseur, “cherry wine”. Freiburg, Germany 2010. Photo by J. Chong. Wines were sold 4-5 euros per bottle. It is common that some German farmers in the wine-growing regions will make small batches of their own wine for sale. Not far from this market, was a retail store, showcasing and selling local, lesser known wines in this region.

picturesque villages while on our way to visit relatives.  His extended family still has a vineyard and hotel inn with restaurant since the 1700’s.  It is a region that other Europeans flock, whose home country lack wineries due to inadequate climatic conditions for grape-growing –ie. from Scandanavia, United Kingdom, etc.

Cycling by vineyards and winery in Aix-le-Provence, France 2012. Photo by J. Becker
Cycling by vineyards and winery in Aix-le-Provence, France 2012. Photo by J. Becker

I haven’t yet cycled France enough, to visit its wine regions.  However, last spring Jack rolled through the Burgundy wine region but was unable to stock up on wine due to his heavy packed bike panniers. He really wondered if he would be able to meet his 80-100 km. daily cycling goals if he stopped for a swig of red wine glory. So, he blissfully spun unaware through some French winery areas that produced famed red wines that cost over $120.00 per bottle in North America.

Vineyards surround centuries old town, Winegarten Germany 2010. Area near where Jack was born and family members are still there. Photo by J. Chong
Vineyards surround centuries old town, Weingarten, Germany 2010. Area near where Jack was born and family members are still there. Photo by J. Chong. Approximately 15 km. southwest of the French border. Weingarten translates from German as “Wein” for wine and “agarten” for garden.

So touring wine regions by bike offers many gorgeous vistas, an outdoor Nature experience married with cultural refinement –even if you can’t pack in much wine in your tummy or in your bike panniers, from your favourite winery stops.

Cycling through picturesque old French towns in Champagne, France 2009. Photo by J. Becker
Cycling through picturesque old French towns in Champagne, France 2009. Photo by J. Becker. The region that certifies only certain vineyards for producing the real champagne.

 Reading to Entice You:
Tourism British Columbia. Includes information on its wine regions, map and winery links.

Chong, J. Cycling for Spargel, Kirsch and Blue Painted Bikes in Black Forest Region, Germany.  In Cycle Write Blog. Jun. 3, 2010.

Chong, J. Freiburg, Germany: Cycling Among Medieval and Renaissance Restoration. In Cycle Write Blog. Jul. 10, 2010.

Chong, J. An Idyllic Summer Escape to Vancouver Island for Maidei. In Cycle Write Blog. Jul. 3, 2011.

Homemade focaccia-pizza with bottle of merlot wine from a Okanagan Valley winery in B.C. Photo by J. Chong
Homemade focaccia-pizza with a Okanagan Valley merlot from Stag’s Hollow winery in B.C. Photo by J. Chong
Summerhill Wines' patio wne bottle scultpure. Overlooking Okanagan Lake, Kelowna B.C. Photo by J. Chong
Summerhill Wines’ patio wine bottle sculpture. Overlooking Okanagan Lake, Kelowna B.C. Photo by J. Chong
Advertisements

26 Comments Add yours

  1. Sounds like a great way to visit an area, especially when it includes seafood !

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Yes, I loved seafood, some larger, fresh seafood which is possible in British Columbia. I haven’t featured Dunguness crab yet. With wine, that’s my version of a special meal. Not steak. (Right now I am in beef ranch province of Canada. Lots of beef in stores.)

      Like

  2. Ray Colon says:

    Hi Jean,

    I’m not familiar with the stereotype you opened with. Aside from blushing ears, are there any other side affects that get in the way of your enjoyment of the wine?

    That blasted church photo is an attention grabber. Before reading about its origin, I couldn’t imagine what that referred to.

    I enjoy wine on occasion, but I can’t discern one from another. You’ve posted some nice photos. I especially like the last one. Pretty cool.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      And a sunburn look on my face. Oh shall I say, I was cycling lots? 🙂 Alas, in the past few years, I noticed that drinking sweeter white wines, ie. rieslings and gewartzinammer (I’ll get the spelling right) causes me not to feel good, close to a sugar crash. They are my favourite type of white wines. So it’s now chardonnay or pinot blanc. Blackberry wine is ok but again I can never drink an entire glass of wine without feeling I have to cycle much slowly. Alot more slowly. Fortunately this means my partner and I share wine tastings when we visit wineries.

      Like

  3. So beautiful!! I’d love to make this trip! Thanks for posting.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      You would enjoy yourselves. Seafood in the Northwest region is superb in addition to the wine. Unfortunately my photos don’t include the large Dungeness crab. Somehow it would be surprising that you might have visited some parts of Europe already.

      Like

  4. Your beautiful pictures and eloquent writing always take me to a totally different world. It makes me miss North America even more. Reading your post is an enjoyable little getaway from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. Thanks for much for sharing!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Sure, wine culture as manifested in vineyards and on-site tasting rms., would still be a “foreign” experience to China. I can’t imagine the soil even being suitable for lots of grape growing for wine production. Even Tawain would probably be too humid for grapes. (And the typhoons would be damaging).

      Like

  5. Jennifer says:

    Lovely area! Would love to visit someday.

    Like

  6. timethief says:

    What an amazing photographic collection. You two bikers sure get around. 🙂 That antique wooden grape press is interesting. I wonder what has replaced it. Though my ears don’t redden I don’t tolerate alcohol well either. A single glass of wine is enough for me but that said I sure would love tour BC’s wineries. As I can’t ride a bicycle, it would be a car trip for me, but I’m sure I’d be able to work in lots of outdoor time along the way.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Well, at least visit a winery or 2 in your neck of the woods with a restaurant meal overlooking vineyards. Something to consider to make a special occasion perhaps. You will enjoy it.

      It’s great to blog and show photographic highlights. We have many to show. Now it’s just weaving a good narrative on the experience. Glad you’re enjoying photo-tripping with me. We can runaway together like kids gathering berries and flowers for our buckets in blog visits. 🙂

      Like

  7. Lovely post, Jean, it has almost a lyrical quality. Just a pleasure to read, almost like being there. Wonderful mix of photos. The mermaid with the rubber boots made me laugh, and I enjoyed the story behind the name “Blasted Church Winery”– I’d never have guessed! Of course, I’m disappointed you didn’t post a photo of you with bright red ears… : P

    Just teasing– well written, beautifully structured. : )

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Such a photo of self would be an embarrassment…literally. 🙂 It never occurred to me that as an illustrator, you would find some of animated brand logos interesting. Hey, designing a wine or beer logo for an upstart firm. 🙂 Blasted Church wines aren’t that widespread in their distribution since they aren’t a real huge producer.

      Like

  8. Grace says:

    You’ve really captured some beautiful scenery there! Nice to know a little more about Canada’s wineries. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Probably U.S.’s California wine region might be more known to those abroad. My partner was just down there with his son-chef who was “researching” fine dining and some wines there. We’ve always enjoyed the wine regions. Winter can be interesting too and makes for a lovely holiday outing. Just make sure the wineries one wishes to visit are open.

      Like

  9. ava says:

    Drooling on your seafood salad! When I visit here, it is like opening a travel magazine. I am transported to these beautiful places you so beautifully captured too!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      It’s been awhile ava since you visited. Yes, those chunks of seafood are huge and freshly prepared. I was abit stunned when they brought the food plate out. I’ve never had such a wonderful large seafood and healthy salad before. The salmon from British Columbia is the best and fresh. Same for smoked salmon also. Not sure if you are a wine drinker since it’s probably not much part of a Filipino cuisine. But then perhaps you can speak on fine dining in the Philippines..

      Like

  10. pahari.s says:

    I have nominated your blog for the new Reality Blog Award! Congratulations! This is a “no rules Award”, you can find the details here: http://paharidotme.wordpress.com

    Like

  11. Great post, Jean. I think your right on track. Wine regions can be some the best places for bike travel, even beyond the great wine 🙂 We cycled trough the Slovenian Wine Country last summer which was a beautiful experience. (http://twowheeltravelblog.com/2012/09/05/so-you-want-to-bike-tour-slovenia/ )
    I wasn’t aware of Canada’s wineries before this.. thanks for sharing

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Slovenia sounds like an interesting place to amble around. Could you tell us what are the best type of wines there? Or is the industry still evolving?

      Like

      1. Not being a real connoisseur I can’t say with exact certainty. We drank several whites and only one or two reds, but I know there were some nice Pinot Gris types and a white sparkling wine (don’t remember the name, our host at a camp just poured some of his personal supply into my water bottle…) that we liked.
        All in all Slovenia is affordable, the people are lovely and the countryside is beautiful. As for what we could tell about the industry, it is mature in the fact that there are multitudes of wineries; although most seems to be made for regional and domestic consumption.
        ~Tyler

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          It would require financial investment to market and export out –unless one had a relative in North America to help out.

          Like

  12. HapaMama says:

    The bright side is.. you can drink fewer, but BETTER glasses of wine, right? Enjoyed your adventures.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      😀 Yup, I savour every sip slowly.

      Like

  13. Fabulous! I have cycled in two French wine regions – solution is to cut back on the day’s allocated kms, and make sure it’s summer so packs can be light! 😀

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Um, yes: As a cyclist, there’s only so many wine bottles one can safely pack and ride around without falling drunkenly. 🙂 My partner made a conscious decision not to trial taste some wines. In some cases, he just barrelled along the road and didn’t stop! As you can appreciate he was passing by some wineries that would be selling over $100.00CAN per bottle.

      Like

Chime in with your thoughts here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s