Wine Tour @ Van Westen Vineyards

One of the things I love most about living in wine country and Penticton, is the variety of new wineries popping up every year. One day I decided to visit a winery I had never been to before. As we were driving along the Naramata Bench I saw a sandwich board on the highway that said Van Westen Vineyards Winery. So we took the next left and found our way to this…new to me winery! The Van Westen family were fruit farmers here since 1954. However Rob Van Westen decided to try his hand at growing grapes about 12 years ago.  This will be the third year that the winery will be open in the summer. Previously it was hit and miss or by appointment.


As we pulled in to the driveway we were greeted by the winery dog named Brew. Don’t be alarmed by his size he truly has a gentle soul!

Brew the wine dog

Brew the wine dog

The tasting room is inside this large warehouse, garage style building. It’s not  flashy, but then again, I’m here for the wine, not the décor! It does however have a wonderful Okanagan Lake view.

We gathered around a wine barrel converted to hold a bucket of wine bottles, with a table area for your glasses and tasting notes.  A very clever idea indeed.

Wine Bar

Wine Bar

The tasting began with the 2013 Pinot Grigio, a wonderful summer patio wine.  A nice clean crisp refreshing wine with hints of pear and apple.  The second wine we tasted was the Vivacious! I love that name. It’s a 40%Pinot Blanc & 60% Pinot Gris blend. It had a stronger flavour than the first wine, and she said this would pair nicely with white meats like chicken or fish. It has a nice sweet aftertaste. The third wine was the Viognier. A percentage of it is oaked so the wine has more body. However there is no oaky taste because the barrels are 6 – 10 years old. She said this pairs nicely with seafoods like crab etc.

While I was tasting the white wines, my BF and DD was taking interest in the unique things found around the winery.  The first thing he noticed was a bladder press. You put the fruit/grapes inside and the rubber bladder expands and squishes the juice out.  (The days of purple feet are over my friends) 🙂

Then he looked up and saw a giant moose head.  I mean this thing was huge. This photo doesn’t do it justice.  As the story goes, in 1904, (yes 101 years ago) this moose kept coming in to the town of Naramata and he was becoming a nuisance. They kept chasing him out of town and he kept coming back. So I guess you can say his days were numbered.  But his legacy lives on, and story continues to be told at Van Westen Vineyards and Winery!


Barrel Room

Barrel Room

Now we entered the barrel room to taste the red wines. The temperature is controlled to around 16 degrees in here. There were three wines to taste.  The 2010 Voluptuous is 77% Merlot and 33%  Cab Franc. I senced the flavours of plum in this wine. We followed the first wine with a tasting of the same wine from 2011.  Same vines but a totally different taste.  She described how even the wind and weather can have an impact on the taste of the wine, which is why year to year the wines differ.  I preferred the 2010. The last one was a 2010 V…roman numeral five. It’s their Bordeaux style blend. Merlot, and Cab Franc, with a bit of Malbec, Cab Sav, Petit Verdot! It’s a really full bodied, full flavoured wine. It pairs nicely with gamier meats like duck or lamb.

Red Wines

Red Wines

The wines at Van Westen are also vegan. They don’t add any artificial softeners, so the tannins are bolder than some other wines that use them. This also enables you to cellar the red wines probably up to 10 years.  They will soften over time. So no fish protein and no egg whites! This is important if you have an egg allergy!

As we were leaving the winery we bumped in to the winemaker Rob Van Westen. He told us the story of the Lapin Cherry. Apparently it was created through crossbreeding by Dr. Lapin at the research station in Trout Creek. His dad took the first risk at planting them over 40 years ago, and now they are grown all over the world.  So it’s safe to say the oldest Lapin cherries in the world are grown on this property.

I had a lot of fun on this wine tour and heard some wonderful stories. I would highly suggest you plan a visit to this winery. They are open Friday and Saturday and long weekend Sundays until July 1st, then they will probably be open daily over the summer. You can also call for a tasting appointment.

Please note: I am no wine expert. I just like to drink it!



The View

The View

The Winery

The Winery


Hurricane Odile hits Cabo San Lucas.

This September Hurricane Odile, was the largest hurricane to ever hit Los Cabos. And it was a direct hit. It decimated the southern Baja. Just ripped it up. While some hotels, restaurants and houses sustained minor damage, others were completely wiped out.

The news coverage of this disaster was ridiculous. What news coverage? I think the Weather Channel had the best, or so I’m told, our Canadian Weather Network, was absolutely lame.

Entire neighbourhoods are gone. People are left homeless. Animals were abandoned by evacuees. It’s crazy the mayhem and destruction that followed this monster created by mother nature.

Now, a week and a half later, hotel workers that lost their homes have now showed up at work, to help get the hotels back up and running. Many restaurants have reopened. And the brooms and shovels are out as the clean up has begun.  The Mexican government is hiring thousands of workers to help with the clean up as well.

Cabo will bounce back faster and stronger than anyone could have imagined.

That being said, so much help is needed.

I have friends down there right now who have witnessed the devastation. Talked to families who have lost everything. Fed stray dogs and cats that were once family pets, now left to wander the streets.  I am told one person actually has 19 dogs in her house.  Wow!

The firefighters are not really funded down there, they are mostly a volunteer organization. And while their homes have been destroyed, they are out there helping with the clean up, first aid and the restoration of Cabo.

All of these areas need help. They need money to buy food, medicine, building supplies, cleaning supplies and more.

I am asking you…if you are reading this right now, please donate. I’m not asking for a hundred dollars, although that would be nice.   5 bucks will go a long way! Please give what you can give. Every penny will help…feed a dog, buy diapers, rebuild the fire hall, support a family, etc.


To view some of the destruction, watch this video.


TO DONATE Click here!


keep calm cabo

Please donate!!!

I will arrive October 24, 2014. More updates then!

Thank You.