By Anthony Gismondi
For many people in the Lower Mainland, summer will likely include a trip to the Okanagan Valley. The valley has received some terrific press over the last year from visiting writers, and rightly so. The travel infrastructure so sorely needed is being put into place a�� in many ways pulled along by the over 250 wineries, most of which opened up in the last 20 years. Restaurants are finally beginning to catch up with fast-moving, demanding winery visitors, who spend more money and time than almost any other demographic. Experienced chefs are setting up shop, and making the most of some of the finest ingredients growing there. Hotels remain a soft spot, trying to balance a high number of summer and fall visitors with tiny winter and early spring crowds. It has never been a better time to visit B.C. wine country, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on cool things to do the next time you find yourself in the valley. Ita��s a highly personal list but after 25 years of watching the valley grow up Ia��m excited about some of the options available to visitors that did not exist a decade or two ago.
THE GOLDEN MILE BENCH a�� Oliver The Golden Mile Bench became the first sub-geographical indication or (GI) of the Okanagan Valley earlier this year. The appellation stretches along the western side of the valley just south and west of the town of Oliver. It would be fun to stop by any or all of the wineries there, and wrap those visits around lunch or dinner at either Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek or Terrafina at Hester Creek. The best way to explore the appellationa��s wines is to visit any of the 10 wineries open to the public: Rustico Farm & Cellars, CC Jentsch Cellars, Culmina Family Estate, Fairview Cellars, Gehringer Brothers, Hester Creek, Inniskillin Okanagan, Road 13, Tinhorn Creek and Willow Hill.
LIQUIDITY WINERY BISTRO GALLERY Okanagan Falls Liquidity Bistro bills itself as a modern urban take on classic Canadian wine country cuisine. The menu is local and seasonal. What I love is the setting. The view is worth the price of admission, especially if you happen to catch the light in the late afternoon or at sunset. Grab a table and take in a panorama that spreads from Blue Mountain and McIntyre Bluff west across the valley. And if the food and wine are not enough, the art is an equally big draw. Installations in the vineyard grounds and paintings and photographs in the bistro and tasting room are inspired. There is no place quite like it in the Okanagan. The bistro is open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., for tapas 4 to 5 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. For more info check out liquiditywines.com.
TERRAVISTA VINEYARDS a�� Naramata Bench Terravista Vineyards is a tiny, perfect winery focused on the production of two white wines: Figaro and Fandago. Owners Bob and Senka Tennant grow two Spanish grapes albariA�o and verdejo (for Fandango) on their rocky, sandy southwestern slope overlooking the lake known as Lone Hand Ranch, and buy some roussanne, Viognier and marsanne for Figaro. Drop by the tiny concrete winery buried into the hillside just above the vineyard daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to taste and buy some wine. You will be glad you did.
TERRACE RESTAURANT a�� West Kelowna The Terrace at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery is a singular experience among winery dining and it is hard to think of a better one worldwide. The setting and the view are breathtaking and the food is even better. The culinary team is large and committed, and executive chef Chris Stewart has everyone working to their fullest. From homemade charcuterie to the finest in local and seasonal ingredients, dining on The Terrace is an experience you will never forget. Prices are in line with top city restaurants but the ambience is olde world country. Open daily for lunch and dinner. For reservations call (250) 768- 6467 or email email@example.com.
OKANAGAN BACK ROADS a�� Okanagan Valley Some of the best drives in the Okanagan are far from Highway 97, the main thoroughfare that traverses the valley from north to south. From Penticton to Okanagan Falls take Eastside Road and ramble along the lake in front of Painted Rock, Blasted Church and famed Matheson Creek Farm. Further south follow Mclean Creek Drive in a big semicircle, passing Synchromesh Wines and Meyer Family Vineyards before heading back to Highway 97. From here head west across the northern end of the town Okanagan Falls and take a left on Green Lake Road. Follow this winding back road past See Ya Later Ranch, Green Lake and Mahoney Lake, farms and homesteads until you get to Willowbrook Road. Turn left and follow the road to the old Fairview town site. From here wind your way along Old Golf Course Road to Fairview Cellars and Tinhorn Creek. Fewer cars, more wildlife, better views.
OKANAGAN CRUSH PADa�� Summerland The A?ber-cool, graffiti covered concrete crush pad sits high above the lake just north of the Summerland beachfront. You can wander into the 10-acre biodynamic vineyard among the Babydoll sheep and chickens and explore the biodynamic experience. The first purpose-built custom winemaking facility in the Okanagan, Crush Pad provides a visitor experience that is built into the heart of the winery. During the summer the tasting lounge and wine shop is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. After your tasting, you can picnic and relax on the patio.
THE SIMILKAMEEN a�� Similkameen Valley The pre-eminent route into the Okanagan Valley is through the stunning Similkameen Valley named in 2014 by Enroute Magazine as a�?one of the best five regions you never heard of.a�? Well, not all of us. Choose the southern route along Highway 3 at Hope and head for the Similkameen Valley via Princeton. With more than 40 per cent of all crops grown organically in Canada, the valley is the undisputed organic capital of the country. Like the Okanagan, the Similkameen Valleya��s desertlike climate is perfect for growing grapes, orchard fruits, vegetables, honey and more. Cerelia, Clos Du Soleil, Eau Vivre, Forbidden Fruit, Orofino, Robin Ridge, Rustic Roots, and Seven Stones are all open to visitors. If you are in the neighbourhood on July 11 consider attending the 6th Annual Similkameen BBQ King event at the historic Grist Mill & Gardens in Keremeos, that offers a unique Similkameen wine and food experience. The fruit stands are a must-stop on the way back to Vancouver.
CHEFa��S TABLE BACKYARD FARM a�� South Oliver Backyard Farm and its chefa��s table can host up to 20 guests for a multi-course, wine-paired cooking demonstration. The project, run by chef Chris Van Hooydonk and his wife Mikkel, is located on a two-acre hobby orchard site on the Golden Mile. Surrounded by vineyards, old growth heritage fruit trees and garden beds, the menu and culinary workshop is all about seasonal bounty. The Backyard Farm kitchen sits a few steps above the 20-seat dining room; cooking has become a significant part of each tailored event. Once you book the room for up to 20 guests you can work out the menu details with the chef then sit back, relax and get ready to have the time of your life. Oh, and the best part is you can bring your own wine. Yes, BYOB and there is no corkage. For additional information and pricing details, contact Van Hooydonk at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A CASE TO LOOK FOR a�� Okanagan Valley If you are going to make the trip and you have a car you might as well pick up some hardto-find wines. Quailsa�� Gate winemaker Nikki Callaway is making some hot wines, none better than the Quailsa�� Gate 2013 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay ($40). If you find yourself on the Black Sage Bench near Oliver you can grab a bottle of Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Syrah 2011 ($80) or the Le Vieux Pin Ava Viognier a�� Roussanne a�� Marsanne 2013 ($35). Farther south down the road pick up a bottle of Church & State Wines TreBella Roussanne a�� Marsanne a�� Viognier 2012 ($20). In Okanagan Falls grab a bottle of Staga��s Hollow Grenache 2013 ($30), some tasty Wild Goose Botrytis Affected Riesling 2013 ($40) or Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 ($40). In Osoyoos, check out LaStella Fortissimo ($35) and on the Golden Mile Road 13 Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2011 ($40). If you are in Kelowna, the CedarCreek Platinum Block 4 Pinot Noir 2012 ($40) or the SpierHead Pinot Noir CuvA�e 2013 ($33) or Summerhill Pyramid Riesling Organic 2013 ($20) are all great bets.
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