During my family’s travels in the British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, we visited Orofino Vineyards, home of Canada’s only straw bale winery. Based in Cawston, the heart of the world’s largest organic growing region, the winery is a magnet for tourists and locals alike. They come not only to taste the winery’s delicious Meritages and Rieslings, but also to learn more about sustainable building and the region’s bounty.
Colorful flowers add to the natural beauty of the straw bale winery. Photo Courtesy Orofino Vineyards.
The winery is a stunning example of straw bale construction. Built by 22 fledgling straw balers during a five-day workshop in 2004, the structure features 21-inch-thick walls that are ideal for keeping barrel room temperatures constant—and keeping visitors cool during the desert region’s hot, hot summers. The temperature was creeping into double digits on the late-July day when we visited; the winery was cool and comfortable.
When we stopped by, owner John Weber was cleaning up from Orofino’s annual 1.6-Mile Dinner (and we thought a 100-mile diet was impressive!). For two nights, local chef Darin Paterson treated guests from Vancouver, the Okanagan and surrounding Similkameen Valley farms to dishes made only with ingredients found within a 1.6-mile radius of the winery. Accompanying the double-hung jersey milk cheese, chicken leg confit and butter-poached breast, spit-roasted rosemary Merlot Cab lamb and grilled peaches were such treats as homemade butter and dressing made with roasted almonds from the Orofino property.
The annual 1.6-Mile Dinner draws tourists and locals to the winery. Photo Courtesy Orofino Vineyards.
My only regret is that we arrived in the Okanagan Valley too late to partake in this feast. You can bet I’ll be checking the dates for next year’s dinner—and I’ll do everything I can to be there for that one!