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It feels like summer has officially kicked off this weekend! It was the first concert of the Canadian Concert Series at Tinhorn Creek on Saturday, featuring The Boom Booms, and it did not disappoint.  The concerts are put on every summer in the outdoor amphitheatre overlooking the valley, and Mount Baldy beyond, and are really great events.  I’ve been enjoying them since 2009 and have volunteered to help out for the past couple years now. The Canadian Concert Series spotlights fabulous upcoming Canadian bands. This past Saturday, May 26th, was The Boom Booms (www.theboombooms.com) and the remaining concerts this year are:

June 23rd Acres of Lions (http://www.acresoflions.com/music/);

July 28th Redeye Empire (http://www.redeyeempire.com/fr_home.cfm );

August 25th Said The Whale (http://www.saidthewhale.com/music );

and the Grand Finale on September 8th with Sloan (http://www.sloanmusic.com/music ).

If you’ve never attended a concert at Tinhorn Creek I highly recommend it! The music is always great, although I do suggest checking out the bands’ websites ahead of time if you are particularly picky with what you like to listen to, just to know what you’ll be in for. Bring a blanket (no chairs allowed), a picnic dinner and your dancing shoes (or dancing bare feet for that matter!) If you don’t feel like hauling food along with you, Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek has a BBQ station set up on the Crush Pad with a couple different options, plus tasty gelato from Osoyoos. Wine is available for sale by the glass or by the bottle as well. Please do not bring your own beer, wine or spirits, as it will be confiscated at the gate during the bag/cooler search. You can order your tickets online or by calling Tinhorn Creek (see Winery Details page). Hope to see you there!

A few of my favourite wines at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards include: 2011 Gewürztraminer, with a hint of sweetness, lovely lychee and floral notes with a touch of spice; 2008 Pinot Noir, with nice structure, cherries and spice; 2009 Cabernet Franc – very tasty, with deep blackberries and cherries and a hint of dill and spice; and my new summer favourite, the 2011 Oldfield Series Rosé. This is made with 100% Cabernet Franc and has lovely strawberries on the nose and palate, refreshing citrus and a hint of spice.

Another great event was happening in Oliver this weekend – the 3rd Annual Half Corked Marathon. The route for this is approximately 18km and passes through 12 wineries. Participants are encouraged to dress up in costume and sample wines at each of the wineries. While there are some serious runners in the group, most people are out for a good time and aren’t concerned with their finishing times, if they finish at all! This was my second year helping out at Rustico Farm & Cellars for the Half Corked Marathon and it is just so much fun! All the people are having a great time (despite a big climb up the hill to the winery) and I love seeing the creativity that goes into the costumes. I am somewhat partial to Rustico as I have become good friends with Bruce, the owner, and worked for him last year and earlier this year helping with Sales and Marketing. These days I help out at the winery when I’m needed for events. It is a great winery with so much character and spectacular views up and down the valley. It’s all about the ranching, mining and farming history of the South Okanagan and the old sod-roofed log house on the site (and featured on the wine labels) used to be a bunkhouse at the Sally Silver Mine near Beaverdell. It was moved over to its current location, log by log, about 50 years ago, when some of the existing vines were planted. Tons of character here!

This year J came along to help out with the Half Corked Marathon and he manned the water station while I handed out wine samples (we had the 2009 Farmer’s Daughter Dry Gewürztraminer and the brand new 2011 Saloon Sally Dry Cabernet Franc Rosé) and helped out with whatever needed doing. The runners were met at the bottom of the driveway by a couple of cowboys on horseback and as they arrived up at the picnic area where we had the wine, food (wieners in a sweet/spicy sauce) and water stations set up, Bruce greeted them all with Deputy Wine Marshall badges. The badges entitle the runners to 15% off selected wines if they come back to the winery at a later date and sign up on the mailing list.

Later in the day we discovered that Katie, the winery’s Golden Retriever was missing. J and I headed out in the golf cart to check out neighbouring properties, with no success, and then headed out in the car to track the marathon route, thinking she may have followed some runners. I was dreading this as it would’ve meant she’d be on the other side of the busy highway. I was dreading the thought of finding her on the side of the road. We went to the next winery on the route, Church & State, and they had last seen Katie a couple hours earlier heading south into their vineyard, away from the race. We searched a bit more with no luck and returned to Rustico. About a half hour later, a truck pulled up with Katie in the back. Apparently she had indeed followed some of the runners (and was keeping a decent pace, which surprised everybody who knows Katie!) to Church & State and finally ended up at Silver Sage Winery, where she collapsed in the shade. Some ladies thankfully recognized her as the winery dog from Rustico, called her over and loaded her into their truck to bring her home. For the rest of the afternoon, as more and more runners came back to the tasting room to sample the Rustico portfolio of wines and to pick up their favourites, Bruce would tell them of Katie’s big adventure. Many of them recalled her running alongside them, or seeing her at Silver Sage and thinking “That looks like the dog from Rustico!” I do believe that Katie was the first dog ever to have participated in the Half-Corked Marathon!

I sampled through all of the wines currently on offer at Rustico. There are two whites, a rosé, and five reds. ’Isabella’s Poke’ is the Pinot Gris. It is light and crisp, with notes of pear, peach and grapefruit. ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ Dry Gewürztraminer has a touch more sweetness than the previous vintage but is still not too sweet. It has a lovely round mouthfeel, with a hint of floral and lots of lychee and spice. The newest addition to the lineup is ‘Saloon Sally’, a dry Cabernet Franc Rosé. This is my summer choice as it is so nice and refreshing on a hot day, with lots of ripe strawberry, citrus and spice. ‘Doc’s Buggy’ Pinot Noir is the lightest of the reds, with strawberry jam and plum on the nose and a bit of smoke on the palate.  ‘Motherlode’ Merlot was barrel-aged in older French oak for 18 months. It has berries, plum, vanilla and smoke on the nose, with cherry, plum and cocoa on the palate. ’Last Chance’ is a unique blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Chancellor, Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt. It is a lovely medium-bodied, easy-drinking red, with cherries and plums on the palate and soft tannins. The new 2009 vintage of the ‘Bonanza’ Zinfandel was released about a month ago. I think it is even more delicious than the 2008 was, with hints of violets, lots of baking spice and jammy blackberries and blueberries. It’s beautifully balanced as well. Finally, ‘Threesome’ rounds out the portfolio. This is Rustico’s Bordeaux-style blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a big red with lots of black fruit and cocoa on the palate, with chewy tannins and a lingering finish. If you haven’t yet visited Bruce at Rustico, please do stop in as it is not an experience you soon forget!