At 50th Parallel Estate, Curtis Krouzel and Sheri-Lee Turner-Krouzel welcome us at the entrance with a chilled bottle of 2015 Pinot Gris and more than enough enthusiasm to convince me that I need to spend a few days drinking wine in the region. The couple’s passion for winemaking and the Okanagan region is contagious. By the time I leave 50th Parallel winery, I’m dreaming about buying a property by the lake and joining the ranks of new winemakers in the Okanagan Valley. Meet Curtis and Sheri-Lee….
50th Parallel Winery
Located in Lake Country, between Kelowna and Vernon, 50th Parallel winery has an enviable position with big views of a scenic section of the 135km-long Okanagan Lake. Vineyards stretching down to the lake and up towards the mountain are a picturesque backdrop to the uber-contemporary angular grey concrete, metal and glass building.
The Krouzels chose the location of the property well. Not only is 50th Parallel located in a fast-growing wine region suitable for pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay and riesling, this patch of heaven beside Okanagan Lake is in a great spot to enjoy the activities the lake provides.
In summer, boating, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding and wake surfing are popular pastimes. The mountains are perfect for hiking, biking and skiing in winter.
Glamour Farming in the Okanagan
Curtis and Sheri-Lee are part of a new breed of farmers and winemakers that are changing the landscape. Sheri-Lee calls it “glamour farming”.
“We farm in our glasses and our sparkly nails and sometimes our heels,” she says showing off her stylish stilettos.
Running a successful winery is not all about glamour. The couple spent 10 years looking for the right property and, in the process, they learnt a lot about the many different soil profiles in the Okanagan Valley.
Grape to Glass Tour
Unlike the post glaciated soil of the south, this part of the valley has a pink decomposing granite perfect for pinot noir. The vineyards have a unique terroir that allows the roots of the vines to wrap themselves around decomposing granite.
Our tour takes us from the winery’s long front wall up the access ramp, where fruit arriving from lower vineyards are transported to the covered crush pad above. A lot of planning went into the construction of the winery to make it efficient to operate.
The design of 50th Parallel connects the front to the back of the building, where the gravity flow system is capable of producing 30,000 cases a season. The entire facility is designed to operate with three people and one forklift at harvest.
What’s unique about the Okanagan?
Okanagan Lake is a huge body of water that forms part of the terroir and provides an advantage to growers in several ways.
“We have terroir in the soil format but also a huge body of water in the form of the lake,” says Curtis Krouzel.
Firstly, the lake produces heat that allows plants to survive the cold winters.
Also, the reflectivity of the lake makes this spot a great place to grow pinot noir, which is a variety that ripens by light and not by heat.
Pinot noir also burns easily and can get sunburned at the peak of a sunny day in this environment. 50th Parallel’s vineyards are planted at an angle of 30 degrees to the south-west to shade the pinot noir during the hottest part of the day.
Another unique thing about the region is the Okanagan Valley receives over 17 hours of daylight at Solstice and has a shorter growing season with longer days, making it quite unique in the world.
Discover British Columbia
The main regional centres in the Thompson Okanagan region are Oliver, Naramata, Kelowna and Vernon. Attractions near Vernon worth visiting are Planet Bee (for the honey mead) and popular family farm attraction Davison Orchards.
Looking for somewhere luxurious to stay? Read this review of Sparkling Hill Resort, which is a passion project of Austrian billionaire Gernot Langes-Swarovski. Throughout British Columbia, there are many First Nations resorts to choose from too.