We anticipated an evening of learning what’s new and taste bud temptations from the participating wineries of the Naramata Bench Wineries Association (NBWA) as well as some tapas from the Gunbarrel Saloon and Restaurant. Based on the scrumptious selection of appetizers its gourmet kitchen had presented just a few weeks back at Apex’s inaugural Brewski we were salivating just thinking of the food. Of course, we knew there’d be a fine selection of wines to sample from our neighbours at the NBWA. We’d heard rave reviews from last year’s Vertical & Vintages and we were keen to experience it for ourselves.
The surprise was to be invited to a scavenger hunt on the mountain the Saturday morning of the event. James Shalman, Apex general manager, assisted by Hugh McClelland, NBWA, gave us the scoop on the process. We were to navigate our way to various runs on the slope to pick up the next clue. He walked us through the first clue sheet, which offered a riddle to get us to ski pole one. Yes, appropriately the subsequent clues were to be found in a plastic baggie hanging from a ski pole planted in the snow. The object was to solve all the riddles to navigate through the 11 stations. As a bonus, each clue sheet contained a couple of wine trivia questions to test our knowledge and fortify the team with extra points.
We divided into teams and let’s just say that for my group, the Chinese proverb that “the journey is the reward” was reinforced. We were quite hopeless and even with an insider’s tip, we didn’t manage to complete the hunt. We had a lot of fun trying though and discovered a few runs at Apex we hadn’t previously experienced. Mission accomplished! Oh yes, and we worked up quite an appetite for the main event.
The team to beat at next year’s scavenger hunt was the winning group of Therapy Vineyards. Look out gang, next Vertical and Vintages we’re coming after you!
When I think of it now, the scavenger hunt was actually good practice to track down each of the 16 participating wineries split between two floors and the tasty tapas prepared with wine in mind. What a reward to track down the Yukon Arctic Char on Dungeness Crab farro risotto done with melted leeks, citrus yogurt, beetroot emulsion and soya bean pesto! Or how about Double R Ranch Hanger Steak along side potato fondant, slow cooked short rib, radish, carrots and Upper Bench King Cole blue cheese beurre rouge? I’m licking my lips just recalling it! Before I quit this food sensory trail, consider Steamed Chocolate Almond Pudding with Cider goat’s milk custard sauce and maple braised pears and squash.
And the wines, too, were outstanding. This year, wineries included: Bench 1775, D’Angelo Estate Winery, Elephant Island, Hillside Estate Winery & Bistro, La Frenz Winery, Lake Breeze Vineyards, Laughing Stock Vineyards, Lang Vineyards, Misconduct Wine Co, Monster Vineyards, Perseus Winery, Poplar Grove Winery, Serendipity Winery, Therapy Vineyards, Upper Bench Estate Winery, and Van Westen Vineyards.
Following the tasting, there was live music and dancing with Naramata’s own favourite party band “Uncorked” where rumour is that many danced into the wee hours. After racing about the mountain all afternoon and scouting all the food and wine, we were ready to settle into our lovely suite.
If you go next year, which I highly recommend, check out all the packages that built around the event. For example, if you already have a place to stay up at Apex or plan to take the Coconut Express shuttle back down to Penticton, you can opt for a one or two-day Vertical Bonus Ski Package. Apex Mountain Inn also offers a Vertical & Vintage Special or check into the variety of options through Apex Accommodations.
We stayed in a private suite in the development just across the parking lot and were delighted with the well-appointed and attractive setting. For details see: (Note: We actually stayed in the ground floor suite usually reserved for the owners’ use. At times its use can also be negotiated.)
By the way, for the second year in a row, Vertical and Vintages sold out and had a waiting list, so if you hope to attend watch the events’ section on Apex Mountain Resort early next season. Snap up tickets and accommodation quickly to get in on the fun!
In discussing the success of the event, Tina Baird, NBWA executive director, said, “Even though we expanded due to demand from last year with both the number of wineries participating and number of tickets available, we still had a big wait list. The event is so enjoyable for both consumers and wineries as it is deliciously après ski casual.”
She added, “The food pairings from the Gunbarrel Restaurant once again were excellent and the dancing with Naramata’s own band “Uncorked” made for a great night. Looking forward to the 3rd Annual Vertical & Vintages, we will be adding more activities to the weekend.”
Check out the NBWA website for all the information on its events and wineries. And remember, with the Spring Okanagan Wine “Bud Break” Festival just around the corner, May 1 to 11, 2014, there is plenty of wine-related fun in store all year.
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