LEXUS NEWS
WHO KNEW?

08/01/2011—If you visit Lexus magazine often enough, then you’ve no doubt noticed that it’s designed to be an inside track for Lexus owners—bringing to life little-known experiences and journeys that exemplify the Lexus philosophy.

So when the embryonic idea for this month’s travel story on British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley first emerged in a discussion with my friend, Lexus contributor and “non-buddy” Crai Bower, I jumped at it. After all, I’d long been a fan of B.C. wines after years of ski trips to Whistler, but I’d never been to their source—the Okanagan Valley.

I mentioned this to several of my colleagues at Lexus magazine, and most of them had never even heard of the Okanagan. Not only that, when I mentioned that there were over 140 wineries up there producing award-winning wines, the universal reaction was: “Who knew?”

Exactly. It’s time Lexus owners knew.

First of all, whether you like wine or not, a trip up there is worth the journey. For me, things only got better when I heard we’d be playing two world-class golf courses and staying at a brand new Austrian-spa-inspired hotel. However, it got worse when I found out we’d be freezing our, ahem, assets off in a “cryosauna” at minus 166 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, that’s right, minus 166, wearing only swim shorts and socks and shoes. It’s not a good look, but more on that in a minute.

So what about the wine, you say? As we cover in the story, the Okanagan is home to two especially worthy wineries, and they’re as different from each other as a Napa Merlot and a French Muscadelle. The wines coming out of Mission Hill Family Estate are exceptional—trust me, just go and taste, or look for them at a wine purveyor near you. Also, Ex Nihilo Vineyards’ are also worth a close look—their style is passionate rock and roll meets meticulous wine making, and they really do have a Rolling Stones wine.

But I must also make a special mention of a winery that we didn’t cover in the story: Vibrant Vine Vineyard. Where Mission Hill is the granddaddy in the valley, Vibrant Vine is the scruffy new kid on the block, the recalcitrant child that questions everything and to whom Status Quo is a rock band and not a way to live your life.

When we stopped by, we were met by winemaker Tony Lewis, a 20-something former drummer from his brother’s rock band and an extremely personable, excitable young man whose mad scientist approach to wine-making is tearing up the rulebooks, much as Wylie Dufresne did with molecular gastronomy.

Lewis runs his Okanagan winery mostly from his iPhone app, recording pH levels, de-constructing centuries-old techniques and accepted wisdom, and so on (he cares less about terroir and more about the temperature at which his wines are fermented and stored).

He was one of the first winemakers to create the straight-from-the-barrel approach to pouring wine at events (why bother with the time and expense of bottles?), and he pairs his wines not only with food but also with music (his Riesling goes with a Cat Stevens track). Not only that, his psychedelic bottle art was designed by his brother and is truly...vibrant!

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the wine establishment, but here’s someone not afraid to reinvent the ways things are done, with great passion and innovation. Hmmm, much like Lexus!

Who knew?

And if all this isn’t enough to spark your interest in this month’s Okanagan getaway story, let me share a word or two more about it. Our author, Crai Bower, is a renowned travel writer, and let’s just say he has a unique sartorial style: part hipster, part professor, part hippy, part scarf. Yep, scarf. He always wears one.

Naturally, the Lexus magazine crew asked me if Crai wore his scarf in that minus-166-degree cryosauna. Sadly for him, it was a scarfless spa. Happily for you, Crai’s the kind of travel writer willing to bring unique experiences like cryotherapy to the world’s Lexus owners. (Cryotherapy, by the way, works wonders on all manner of inflammatory ailments, including arthritis—people in the know swear by it.)

And lastly, I should mention the story’s golf experiences. We played two of the Okanagan’s breathtakingly beautiful courses, and a sartorial highlight for me came early at Predator Ridge Golf Resort, where the spontaneous bet was the loser having to “pop” their collar and play the rest of the round looking like a preppy schoolboy.

To my eternal delight, Crai lost. Ah, schadenfreude is underrated. But he got his revenge at the next hole. As I faced an eagle putt, lo and behold, a majestic bald eagle soared overhead. “That’ll be the only eagle you see on this hole,” Crai quipped, and he was right.

Somehow, he just knew.

—SIMON KELLY