Prepare to be amazed. Not only by 50th Parallel’s unique, award-winning wines, but by their newly completed facilities. A 200-metre-long building, constructed of concrete and steel at one end, evolves into glass at the other. A 12-metre, one-of-a-kind cantilevered canopy floats out over indoor and outdoor restaurants and a transparent tasting room.
Curtis Krouzel and Sheri-Lee Turner-Krouzel had a dream to build a wine destination, and they are fulfilling that dream. In 2009, they took possession of 61 acres on Okanagan Lake, which Curtis describes as “probably the brightest vineyard site in the world.” Sixteen hours of daylight in the summer and a second sun effect from reflection off the lake makes the vineyard perfect for growing light-sensitive pinot noir.
In the early days, they worked from a Quonset hut with no flush toilet, no running water and a single light. “It was a full-on farming. We just began with shovels and started digging,” Sheri-Lee said.
Inside the winery, there are reminders of those early days. The tasting bar is clad with metal siding from the hut’s roof, and the bar top is constructed from its wooden beams. In a picture of Curtis’ hands, his fingers are bandaged, and dirt is ground deeply into every crease. What’s missing is a photo of Sheri-Lee’s shoulders, bruised from hauling infinite rows of irrigation lines.
They have come a long way from the Quonset hut.
“We focus on our wines and the experiences around them,” said Sheri-Lee.
Having toured the winery, I’m convinced they’ve thought of everything. There are intimate spaces throughout. There’s the infinity event pad perched atop the vineyard overlooking the lake — a showcase for the wines and culinary delights during weddings, corporate events and education seminars. There’s also a private Green Room — a cosy spot tucked off the outdoor restaurant with its own private bathroom and bar service — where brides can relax before a wedding ceremony or where guests can hold small private dinners, meetings, or special events.
In the new tasting room, visitors can sample and purchase the estates wines: pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling, gewürztraminer, chardonnay and rosé. New releases include the pinot gris — Sheri-Lee’s favourite — which can be enjoyed by itself or with just about any type of food. Curtis calls the riesling “a real flagship for the varietal.” He attributes its crisp, clean taste to the pink granite terroir and whole-bunch pressing.
To achieve the refreshing taste and beautiful aromatics in the rosé, winemaker Matthew Fortuna uses pinot noir grapes grown specifically for rosé. On the vine, the berries are plumped up, giving them a more ripe, red berry profile.
The pinot noir is the winery’s specialty. The current release reflects the heat of the 2015 summer — 30 days over 40 Celsius in some areas. It’s a robust vintage with intense black fruit, which may not be present in typical seasons.
The debut of 50th Parallel Estate’s new restaurant sees chef Kai Koroll preparing dishes that boast vegetables grown by Irish organic gardener extraordinaire, Eric Feehely, in the property’s culinary gardens. The 90-seat, regional-seasonal restaurant showcases its outdoor kitchen with cuisine prepared in the wood-fired oven.
Sheri-Lee and Curtis explained that the restaurant’s name, BLOCK ONE, represents the first vineyard planted in 2009.
“It taught us to be farmers; to be one with the land. There are things we will never experience again. That vineyard block represents the past — the starting point, getting our hands dirty, all the firsts of our business.”
It also represents the future as it now produces some of the estate’s finest fruit for their international award-winning wines.
On May 12, from 11 am to 2 pm, celebrate the Spring Wine Festival with 50th Parallel’s Grape to Glass tour led by Curtis and followed by a private barrel tasting with winemaker Matthew Fortuna. Guests will get a sneak preview of the new menu during lunch with Chef Kai Koroll. The grand opening is scheduled for mid-May. Stay tuned.
This year, 50th Parallel’s proprietors have arranged for private winery shuttles from the Delta Grand in Kelowna. Book lunch or dinner at the winery and the shuttle is free. No need for a designated driver. You can also reach the winery by boat with a drop off point at the Coral Beach boat launch. Unique experiences await; don’t miss your chance to visit this amazing new space.