March 2023

Matt Steeves

The diversity of the growing conditions is remarkable throughout the Okanagan Valley. You see it, feel it, and taste it when travelling from one end to the other. The steep hilly lakeside vineyards lined by evergreens throughout Lake Country in the north to the sandy and alluvial lake valley with cacti and tumble weeds in the far south and a multitude of unique terroirs in between, the Okanagan Valley is as diverse as it is vast, and the wines they’re producing throughout are also diverse both technically and stylistically.

Lake Country Sub GI (geographical indication) is a newly established Sub GI in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. A brief half hour drive north of Kelowna, Lake Country offers unique terroir for the Okanagan Valley with its northerly latitude and high altitude vineyards influenced by Lake Okanagan.

Lake Country is producing predominately Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling, and those varietals are showing very well in there. Although one can find some off dry wines if you look for them, producers such as 50th Parallel (their winery/vineyards are literally on the 50th parallel) and O’Rourke Family Vineyards, where Nikki Callaway is producing their small production premium wines, showcase the super fresh, elegant, and complex style of wines I expected from this northern Okanagan Sub GI.

When I toured the Okanagan Valley in fall 2022 I had the opportunity to visit Lake Country’s newest winery (and I’m quite sure it’s also the largest mixed-use winery facility and event space in all of the Okanagan). Although it was still under construction it was an impressive glimpse into what they have planned and it’s exciting. Its called O’Rourke Family Estate winery, which also includes several dining and bar facilities, event spaces, and even luxury lodging/suites. Situated high up in Lake Country it features 300 acres of breathtaking views of the vineyards, Okanagan Lake, and hilly lakeside mountains. The estate features ~110 acres of vines, 300 metres of winding tunnels and 12,000 square feet of caves that provide optimal conditions for storing and bottle aging their wines. The facilities were designed by renowned California-based architecture firm Backen & Backen and inspired by O’Rourke’s owner, Dennis O’Rourke, who clearly has big plans for this world-class facility.

A glimpse of O’Rourke’s massive new facilities under construction in 2022. Integrated into the lakeside slope, it’s an absolutely beautiful architectural achievement and is certain to bring great events, dining, and entertainment to this impressive northerly wine region. A must visit in 2023 and beyond as they open more of their facilities within this complex.

One of the stand out wines I tasted at O’Rourke Family Estate was their Twisted Pine Chardonnay 2020. I had the pleasure of tasting it when I toured the facilities in fall 2022 with winemaker Nikki Callaway and Sarah Marsh, MW as part of a tour of the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys where we visited close to 40 wineries and tasted ~400 wines, starting at O’Rourke Family Estate.

Matt’s review of the O’Rourke Twisted Pine Chardonnay 2020 14% abv – $80 – Sourced from Block 4, by the Estate’s ‘twisted Pine tree’, where four clones of Chardonnay form this block. The nose shows honey, nutty characteristics, hay, and some tropical fruit. Medium-full bodied with great texture, its elegant and layered, showing impressive complexity for such a youthful vineyard. Keep your eyes on this one over the next decade, it’s destined to become a Lake Country icon. Tasted Fall 2022. 93+ points. Matt Steeves –

Photo credit: @deeperimagephotog

For such a young winery I can say they’re on a great path to producing premium wines with great elegance and freshness. I’m looking forward to following their journey and seeing what winemaker Nikki Callaway delivers with the unique terroir and seemingly unlimited resources the team has at their disposal to make world-class wines showing the greatness possible in Lake Country, Okanagan Valley, BC.

Tasting an impressive flight of O’Rourke Family Estate wines from one of their many tasting areas overlooking the vineyards, lake, and mountains that make Lake Country such a picturesque region and great place to craft fine cool climate wines.

Here are a few photos from my brief tour and tasting at O’Rourke Family Estate.