OKANOGAN Estate is located in Oroville, Washington very close to the Canadian Border. The winery was opened in 2000 and was the first winery to open on the United States side of the valley. Surprisingly, we discovered even though it is so far north, the OKANOGAN valley has ideal growing conditions due to its hot, desert-like climate and sandy soil.

The Vineyards are planted on the southeast facing slopes at the very edge of Lake Osoyoos. We were really surprised that this valley has such a special climate that allows a series of lakes to entrap warmer temperatures in the winter and spring and provide cooler night time temperatures in the summer and fall.

Scott from VINO LAS VEGAS had a chance to sit down with wine maker Mike Buckmiller and learn about his background and the estate itself. Mike has been in the farming business since 1975 and has been a consultant since 1996. He was born and raised in the Okanogan Valley and knows the area and its micro climates well. Once he became involved with OKANOGAN Estates Mike furthered his knowledge of viticulture by attending University of California , Davis and has been involved from the very first plantings and crush.

We had the opportunity to taste through most of their wines and found them to be very different than what we expected. They currently produce four white wines , five red wines and two desert wines and have a total production of approximately 6000 cases annually.

Their signature wines are their Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. The Okanogan Pinot Noir Barrel Select 2005 was a real stand out for us. The hand selected barrels produce cigar box aromas with hints of smoke on the nose. The classic Pinot Noir signature taste of Cherry combined with earth on the palate and a sliky smooth finish made this a favorite

The Estate also produces a “bourdeax blend”. Okanogan Bench Rock -Red Wine 2005 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot , Cabernet Franc and Syrah. With over 20 months in American Oak barrels vanilla and spice are predominate on the nose with flavors of vanilla and dark fruit coming through on the palate with a lingering spicy finish. In addition to these two standouts , Okanogan Estate also produces a Pinot Noir 2006 and a Syrah 2005.

Okanogan’s white varietals did not disappoint us as well. Their Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and their stand out Pinot Grigio 2007 were excellent. However , we could not leave without tasting the Chardonnay Ice Wine 2006 which was a real treat. With a residual sugar of 20 % and flavors of tropical fruit and honey how could we not want more.

Even though the winery itself is relatively young, you can enjoy the passion and dedication that is put into every one of the Estate’s wines. This winery that tasting room in Oroville and Leavenworth is worth a visit when you are heading north of the border. For more information about Okanogan Estates please visit www. Okanoganwine.com