HIDDEN GEMS: RECLINE RIDGE

It was half whim, half official assignment that brought Babbling Bottles into the North Okanagan to visit one of Tappen Valley’s incredibly picturesque hidden gems: Recline Ridge Winery. Driving along country roads lined with blooming Chicory, Bluebells and Vetch I felt like I was taking a step out of time, transported a place where one must stop, smell the roses and enjoy the small yet beautiful things in life. Located just North of Salmon Arm, Recline Ridge exists outside of the busy hustle and bustle of the city. Surrounded by rolling mountains and scenic provincial parks such as Harold’s Creek, one of the best camping sites in the area as well as home of the incredible Margaret Falls, the natural amenities in the area are bountiful for adventurous souls.

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The carefree feeling the property embodies is evident from the time you take that first step into Recline Ridge’s world. The tasting room is a striking wooden structure with a surprising worldly history – yes, you read that right! A local Salmon Arm firm that specializes in log homes originally constructed the home as a custom build for a Japanese family. The completed project was then shipped overseas to its owners only to become damaged due to rough weather on the high seas. Due to the superstitions of the family, they rejected the structure and it was sent back to Canada a sad, lonely, unlived home. It sat is storage for years until 1998, when it was bought and erected during the establishment of the winery. Interestingly, the original family had another identical home commissioned, where it still stands today on Japanese soil. The sister buildings together share this history, where they continue to exist on opposite sides of the world.

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In 2010, current proprietors Graydon and Maureen Ratzlaff decided to make a BIG lifestyle change. Residing in the Lower Mainland for over 25 years, the husband and wife duo decided to go back to their Okanagan roots in favor of a different pace of life. While life has yet to slow down for the two as they find their days filled with the endless tasks of maintaining a winery, from landscaping to vineyard management to monitoring the production line, it’s all in a hard days work ultimately driven by the passion of these two individuals and their small yet exceptional team.

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Recline Ridge features cool-climate varietals planted in 1994. As the vines have matured over the course of 24 years the Ratzlaff’s have witnessed the development of unique characteristics in the wines produced. Recline Ridge is decidedly focused on rare varietals such as Siegerrebe, Ortega, and Blaufränkisch that originated from the German cultivators revolution of the 1930’s. This agricultural experimental period focused on crossing genetics to achieve optimal ripening in the short summers of cool climate regions. Recline Ridge’s cool-climate terroir perfectly suits these varietals with a north-south exposure that is drenched in Okanagan sunlight during the day, the grapes then experience a dramatic cooling off due to a uniquely drastic diurnal temperature swing in the evening that could be as much as a 15 degree difference. What this mean is that the grapes retain higher acid levels resulting in fresh, crisp wines and lengthier aging capabilities in some cases. 

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An interesting aspect to note is that many of the varietals planted at Recline Ridge are found on Vancouver Island but in wildly different expressions. This is primarily due to the diurnal temperature swings occurring from day to night; in the Tappen Valley where Recline Ridge is found, these swings are much more dramatic resulting in the preservation of acids that add crucial freshness and longevity to the wine while on the island average diurnal temperature extremes are much less notable. While most would never even think about this factor, the evidence is in the sip. Crisp tropical aromatics are primary characteristics of the white wines, while the reds displayed a bright-eyed juicy quality, as if it had been squeezed directly from the vine into my mouth! These wines are F-R-E-S-H. I enjoyed every single one in the portfolio, the only dismay brought on by choosing which special bottles to bring home!

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WINE2GO: a revolution in wine vessels is occurring. It’s wine… in a can! And it’s amazing how much momentum the canned wine movement is gaining in the industry. Once thought of as a non-option, cans are beginning to replace bottles as attractive options for both sparkling and still. Portable, lightweight, and non-breakable, canned wine has appeal for everyone. From the avid hiker looking to enjoy a refreshing drink at the top of a tough climb, to the poolside lounger looking for a non-glass option, the 355mL cans are roughly half a bottle of wine in a convenient ‘to-go’ package. Graydon and Maureen are entering the canned wine territory with smart amount of caution as canning wine can present many other complications – mostly with those darn finicky canning lines! Babbling Bottles has personal experience with how annoying canning lines can be, some days it seems that anything that could possibly go wrong will!

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Many people who have yet to try wine from a can will protest, arguing that the ‘tinny’ taste of aluminum will no doubt spoil the experience. Honestly, I find the argument amusing considering how many other products we enjoy that come from a can – artisan small-batch cideries, breweries and many more craft beverage producers are choosing cans as an affordable option alternative to expensive glass. Dominion Cider comes to mind as one local cidery that started with glass but has expanded to include tall cans. One sip and you’ll be convinced this is a great alternative – especially for those who find themselves struggling to finish a whole bottle before it turns to vinegar!

The decision to go with cool-climate wines in cans is a smart way to go as lighter aromatic varietals lend themselves to being drunk well chilled. Both the red and white are best served this way. My favourite by far was the unoaked red! Served well chilled, it burst forth with fresh red raspberry and tart cherry notes. The Zweigelt/Pinot Noir blend is a phenomenal beverage and a great alternative to rosé in the summertime. I cannot wait to see Wine2Go on Kelowna store shelves, but for the meantime one must journey to the Recline Ridge tasting room or to a few select wine shops in the Salmon Arm area.

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My trip to Recline Ridge was an eye-opening experience as to the great breadth of wines one can experience in the Okanagan. One of my new go-to reds is Just Being Frank, a delightful Blaufränkisch wine that sings with fresh berry aromatics and fills the palate with a full, supple mouthfeel. In all honesty, the entire portfolio blew me away. Not a single wine was disappointing, and each offered an intense, unique aromatic experience not found in the South Okanagan where white varietals such as oaked chardonnays, rieslings and viogniers dominate. It really is amazing what one can do with such unique terroir as the Tappen Valley with cool-climate plantings coupled with an intense passion for crafting high-quality artisanal wines, all in the laidback setting of Tappen Valley.

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That’s the dream right there. Doing what you love, and doing it exceptionally well. And that’s what makes Recline Ridge a perfect fit for the Babbling Bottles Hidden Gems series. For more information on this winery visit the website or simply pop into the tasting room - the Ratzclaff’s would love to welcome you to their exceptional property!


ALL ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHY © AMBER RAE BOUCHARD