I will start by saying that I've never tried an Okanagan Vineyards (OKV) wine. It's probably because it has never interested me knowing that it is a mass produced and possibly heartless marketing attempt that capitalizes on the Okanagan Valley reputation at a low price point. With that said I am always open to new things and to the idea that I may have had my head wedged somewhere between here and the dark ages.
Recently a friend of mine happened onto a bottle or two of the Mr. Mike's branded table wine "Little Doe Smooth Red" which happens to be produced by Vincor/OKV for the family dining restaurant chain. He graciously gave me a bottle as I was strangely enthusiastic to know what it tasted like.
Unsure of what is in this wine, or what to do with it, I decided to bring it to a fellow wine friend's place to see what her and her mate would think of it. To make this more interesting I brown paper bagged it.
My reputation preceded me like I hoped it would and they seem to think that I have brought them something amazing.
We blindly sniff and swirl and dissect this wine for about 5 minutes and decide that this is probably some kind of Merlot blend. I find it kind of plummy like a Malbec, but it likely isn't given the price point and region, of course only I know this.
After arriving at the conclusion that this is a pretty decent wine I pull the blinders off.
My friends are shocked, but probably not as much as I because I actually like it too, and I was fully aware what was in the bag.
We decide to decant the rest of it and see what happens. Next up on the tasting is a premium Okanagan reserve wine from a tier 1 winery. I won't mention the specifics but let's just say this is supposed to be one of the best in the valley and it retails for $50 at the winery.
The big shock is that nobody can decide which one they like better -- the likely $14 Mr. Mike's or the $50 premium blend.
I can honestly say that between the two I wouldn't know which one I would have picked as a favourite had they both been brown bagged.
I don't think this would hold true for the other wines from this winery but I will say that this particular reserve has never been my favourite.
Value is something that we're all concerned with, and this particular OKV wine is something that can provide that, but wine for me is not just about price but also about where and who it comes from.
While the OKV may be the product of the giant Constellation Wines conglomerate, it is a VQA wine, which means that the grapes and the labour come from BC. If the actual product is not particularly boutique or heartfelt I can take some consolation in knowing that buying this wine helps put food on the table for some local workers and their families.
As much as I want to turn my nose up at this wine it is a decent product and certainly a good value for the price. You can't really argue with that especially in these economically lean times.
Chris Stenberg is a creative director, photographer, filmmaker, and traveller. In his spare time you can find him biking and boarding in the mountains of British Columbia.