Sommelier/photographer serves up BC wine industry in coffee-table book

By on October 24, 2015
Okanagan: A Celebration of The Canadian Wine Region was written and self-published by Tarynn Liv Parker, a sommelier/photographer who grew up and lives in Summerland, British Columbia.

Okanagan: A Celebration of The Canadian Wine Region was written, illustrated and self-published by Tarynn Liv Parker, a sommelier/photographer who grew up in the Okanagan Valley and lives in Summerland, British Columbia.

Sommelier/photographer Tarynn Liv Parker’s self-published book, Okanagan: A Celebration of the Canadian Wine Region provides a thoughtful and artful snapshot of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

The Okanagan Wine Festivals Society embraced her book ($39.95 CDN) and presented a copy of the coffee-table book to each of its judges at this year’s BC Wine Awards in Penticton.

Released in June, Okanagan: A Celebration of the Canadian Wine Region can entertain, educate and inspire even those who regularly visit this picturesque and delicious corner of Pacific Northwest wine country. At just 168 pages, it’s easy to devour, and there’s no pretense that it is meant to serve as a definitive or essential reference book. Rather, it’s more of a travel guide in an alluring, albeit large, format.

Timely coverage of JoieFarm’s next step

JoieFarm on the Okanagan Valley's Naramata Bench recently opened a tasting room.

JoieFarm on the Okanagan Valley’s Naramata Bench recently opened a tasting room. (Photo courtesy of JoieFarm)

Much of the attraction within the pages of Okanagan is Parker’s selection of photos and their composition. One of the most imaginative is the team shot at JoieFarm, which depicts members of the crew with a garden implement — including co-founder/winemaker Heidi Noble (pitchfork) — as if they just took a break from winery duties. It’s no glamour shot, just honest, telling and fun. And Parker’s ability to capture the terrier puppy checking out a compost bin adds another touch of personality.

The release of Okanagan at the start of summer wine touring synced up nicely with the launch of JoieFarm’s long-awaited tasting room. Parker operates The Field Guide, a multi-layered publishing company based in the heart of the Okanagan Valley — Summerland — devoted to arguably the BC wine industry’s premier region for food, drink and touring. She launched the company in 2012 and soon developed a following for her Top 100 Map, a listing of the Okanagan’s best spots for dining, wine, lodging and local products.

She’s also got the chops to pull it off. Beyond her background as a photographer, she’s reached advanced levels of the London-based Wine and Spirit Education Trust as a sommelier and traveled beyond Canada for a decade with stops in Asia, Paris and New York. Her career as a designer had her living in New York City during the 9/11 attacks, which she said spurred her move to Asia and immersion in yoga.

The popularity of The Field Guide also led to a line of Okanagan-themed apparel that carries a slogan of “Taste Local Life.” One item is a Nota Bene Harvest designer T-shirt featuring a bin of Merlot from the 2014 vintage that’s headed to Black Hills Estate Winery.

Much of the content for Okanagan seems fresh, generated last year, but Parker brings a perspective of growing up around Okanagan Lake. She continues to reside in a beachfront cottage that’s been in her family for several generations.

Quick summary of BC wine history

Anthony von Mandl is proprietor of VMF Estates in British Columbia, which includes Mission Hill Family Estates in West Kelowna and CederCreek Estate Winery in Kelowna. (Photo courtesy of VMF Estates)

Anthony von Mandl is proprietor of VMF Estates in British Columbia, which includes Mission Hill Family Estates in West Kelowna and CederCreek Estate Winery in Kelowna. (Photo courtesy of VMF Estates)

She succinctly handles the historical background of the Okanagan Valley, beginning with Father Charles Pandosy, following with the legacy of Calona Wines and how the house of Fuddle Duck — Golden Valley Winery — led to the iconic Mission Hill Family Estate under Anthony von Mandl. She touches on the importance of the viticulture research conducted by the Becker Project as well as the BC wine industry’s watershed moment when federal government sponsored the pullout of hybrids to spark the transition to vinifera.

Obviously, this is not presented as a reference book with just 40 of the province’s 305 wineries featured. It’s difficult to argue against those Parker spotlighted, although the omission of Wild Goose Vineyards in the Okanagan Falls chapter will seem curious for those who read over the book’s early disclaimer.

Parker starts at the north end of the Okanagan Valley with Arrowleaf Cellars and ranges south to picturesque and poignant Nk’Mip Cellars, where a visitor can look south across Osoyoos Lake into Oroville, Wash.

In the four-page spread of Sperling Vineyards in Kelowna, Parker spotlights the family’s Old Vines Riesling — and Ann Sperling’s 2012 vintage merited best of class and double gold at the third annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition earlier this month. Sperling and her husband also produce estate Malbec in the Mendoza region of Argentina. (Her great grandfather, Giovanni Casorso, worked for Father Pandosy).

Okanagan ventures beyond with iconic wineries and historical figures. Indeed, the work of Quails’ Gate, Black Hills, the Triggs’ Culmina Family Estate Winery and Harry McWatters’ new TIME project have earned their real estate in any book on Canadian wine. But there also are spotlights on newcomers such as vinPerdu Cellars. The young winery launched by the Coulombe family near The Golden Mile Bench south of Oliver is one of the Okanagan Valley’s most buzzworthy for the wines, small plates and ambiance.

Self-published book relies on pay-to-play model

The British Columbia Wine Institute lists 12 wineries and more than 600 acres of vineyard in the Similkameen Valley.

The British Columbia Wine Institute reports there are 14 wineries and more than 700 acres of vineyards in the Similkameen Valley, west of the Okanagan Valley. (Photo courtesy of BCWI)

Parker also devoted pages to the Similkameen Valley, one of the most exciting and emerging regions in the Pacific Northwest with 700 acres of vineyard planted, and a grape source for many Okanagan Valley wineries, but the inclusion of Lillooet — a 4 1/2-hour drive northwest of Summerland — is out of place for a book titled Okanagan, regardless of the award-winning wines coming out of Fort Berens.

Early on, Parker points out the pay-to-play model of her self-published book. Near the back cover, there’s a two-page spread for her sponsor — a local construction company with a list of its winery projects. It’s advertorial content and disrupts the flow of the book, but Parker does provides full disclosure before the reader even reaches the table of contents.

“Without the financial support of our sponsor and participating wineries, this book would not have been possible,” Parker writes on the page opposite the table of contents.

And while most of the images are Parker’s, she also admits some are well-recognized photos supplied by wineries. Then again, most readers won’t notice. Fewer will care.

One wouldn’t want to mar Okanagan’s sleek white hard cover, and its format makes it cumbersome to take along on as touring guide, yet the book serves as a pleasant primer. And while some books on individual wine regions lead to bucket lists that may require years of planning, for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, it merely takes a day’s drive to begin seeing some of the pages within Parker’s book come to life.

So find a good place in the backseat for Okanagan and try to get some of those depicted by Parker to autograph their photo and a bottle of their wine.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast and contributor to Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, the region's longest-running golf publication.

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