I had to keep reminding myself that we weren’t on a wine tour, but we did have to eat and I had an errand at Black Hills Winery so we headed south. Along the way visited farmers stands to stock up on asparagus, peas, cherries and strawberries. Harvest can differ greatly from farm to farm so stop again if at first.
We couldn’t resist driving up to newly opened and spectacular Phantom Creek Winery and given the opportunity we may have needed one more night away. It is really stunning and since the wine is out beyond my price tolerance, I will gladly spring for tasting fees or lunch when the restaurant starts.
Black Hills was busier than I expected but I had a quick exchange and we were on our way. Their Cabana tasting with lunch is one of the best going but we were still heading south and now were hungry and happy we had a reservation at the new restaurant at Spirit Ridge Resort.
I’d been wanting to visit ever since Chef Murray MacDonald opened The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry. A charming man from Newfoundland he is connecting his indigenous roots and his extensive cooking experience to add new depth to the cuisine at the resort.
I knew we’d be having the Bannock and we had that ordered with our drinks right away. Nk’Mip had just released their rosé so I was happy and David found a local beer he liked.
We were delighted with our lunch and happy to have another great chef in the Okanagan.
And so we started the beautiful drive home through the Similkameen. I have a particular love for this wine region and it was hard to drive past some of my favourite wineries without stopping but we will be back. Cheers!
We finally left the city and ate at restaurants for the 1st time in over 3 months. I felt guilty driving out through the Fraser Valley with the overhead signs asking to avoid non essential travel but we were needed by family in Kelowna. We were curious how we would be welcomed by locals. We had to go so we determined to make the most of it and booked dinner at Home Block at Cedar Creek.
The highway was truly an open road with much less traffic than usual and late spring is a beautiful time in our province. It was exhilarating to be travelling.
We’d arrived early and with family matters done for the day I went in search of the Urban Liquor store where I’d been told I could get my some special wine. Seven Directions makes only single varietal Rosè. I hoped for some to add to my summer goal of trying as many BC rosés as possible. The staff at Urban were welcoming and knowledgeable and I left with the Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc rosès. I’m looking forward to trying those.
This summer you really must call wineries in advance and book tasting or you may be disappointed. Right now things are changing constantly. A web search told me Cedar Creek Winery’s tasting room would be closed well before our dinner reservations so we wouldn’t be able to combine a tasting with dinner. In fact they were open, and empty, but we only had time to quickly buy a couple of rosés. They will only be doing seated tasting this year and it will be even better than before with a glass for each wine. An enhancement I whole heartedly appreciate.
Home Block was a great choice for our first meal out. We had lunch there last year on opening day and were hoping it was as good again. Strict CoVid protocols are much easier to practice in a spacious open air environment and our table on the patio and the excellent staff had us at ease immediately.
The menu offered some great choices and we were happy to see the crispy squid still there. Last year I declared it the best I’d ever had. For appetizers we chose crispy squid and mushrooms on toast.
The squid is both perfectly tender and crisp, Served with house made chilli jam and crème fraîche it must have been made with the Estate Pinot Gris in mind to be that perfectly matched. We had an extra order and glass of wine to avoid a fork fight.
The mushrooms on toast with poached egg and Estate Pinot Noir was another great match.
We both had Rock Cod Ala Plancha for a main course. With dill aioli and Estate Sauvignon Blanc it was a perfect pairing and I will definitely match up dill mayo and Sauvignon Blanc in my kitchen soon.
Shisito peppers were served with one of the entrees and we were able to order a side dish. A summer favourite of ours, they were first of the season and delicious. We have big hopes for the 3 pepper plants we have on our kitchen deck.
Maybe we should have tried 2 different desserts but the sticky toffee pudding was just too tempting.
I’m not sure how you get a chef like Neil Taylor to stay at a summer only restaurant but I’m glad he’s there and hope he enjoys the off time. The dinner menu is currently $80 for 3 courses paired with 2 wines and good value if you aren’t a bit gluttonous like us and double up on this and that. No judgements please.
I had an Aha moment at Hy’s Encore in the 80’s when I tasted my first rack of lamb with a glass of Beringer Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon. In a flash I knew why there was such a fuss about wine and food pairings.
I’d been California dreaming since the 60’s. Summer of ‘76 I drove from Newfoundland to British Columbia via California, loved Vancouver and stayed. California had become a regular holiday getaway so a new love of wine naturally led to Napa. There was great wine, beautiful wineries and an exciting food scene.
Since then we’ve visited many wine regions in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy and loved them all for different reasons. Over the years they’ve changed, become easier to visit, more welcoming. I attribute that to Napa’s influence.
The Okanagan has learned from all of that in a very Canadian way. Our vines are maturing, we’ve attracted wine enthusiasts from all over the world, young farmers are raising families and heirloom veggies for chefs who are choosing life outside big cities.
In the past there have been lots of wineries that you could just stop and explore but this year we need more space so I’d recommend reservations. 3-4 wineries per day is perfect. In my experience tasting fees in BC offer very good value and are often waived based on your purchases. Splurge on 1 deluxe wine experience. In the south Okanagan, Black Hills does one of the best in a Cabana by the pool (no swimming). If they’re serving lunch set that up as well. Reservations are a must.
Hiring A knowledgeable driver guide is a great idea. They will take care of reservations, often have access to exclusive options and add a lot of fun.
I’d recommend at least a 2-3 night stay in either the south, central or north Okanagan. Spend a week and do the whole valley. Staying at a hotel or inn with a winery and a restaurant is best. Adding a kitchen like at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos is even better.
Anyway you do it, if you like wine you will love the Okanagan.