On our final day as we headed home we stopped at our 2 last wineries; La Stella in Oliver and Corcelette in Cawston.
La Stella’s wines and winery are Italian inspired, beautiful and sophisticated. We’ve visited many times and we never leave empty handed.
Corcelette was our final winery and another regular stop for us. Owned by young local people who have wine flowing in their blood, they represent the best of the wine industry. Buy the Malbec if you get the chance.
With our trip coming to and end I started asking each of my fellow travellers about their favourite wineries and favourite meals.
Of course there was no consensus but some clear winners. Miradoro restaurant at Tinhorn Creek got 6 out of 8 votes with Terrafina at Hester Creek getting the other 2. Special mention to the scallops and the bannock and spreads at The Bear, The Fish, The Root and The Berry and the flatbreads at Black Hills.
Feedback on wineries was even more complicated. Second Chapter in Oliver was the most mentioned for both the quality of the wine and presentation by host Diane.
La Stella was another clear favourite. Our host Sankara, kept us focused on the wine in our glass and was judged the most informative.
Checkmate came up for the opportunity to taste and compare several Chardonnays and Merlots. The wines were fantastic and the chance to see how varietals from different vineyards compared side by side was unique. Our host there was also charming.
We also judged Clos du Soleil’s Celestial red blend to be the best value wine of the trip.
Day 3 started across the valleyin Oliver on the Black Sage Bench at Here’s The Thing Vineyards. Leah and Jamie owned our neighbourhood VQA store for years and I developed my love of BC wine under Leah’s guiding hand. Together with consultant Michael Bartier they are developing a style to express their personal taste. The Gorgeous Gamay is a great summer wine, I have it lightly chilled with almost any summer salad. David grabs the Seriously Syrah for his Sunday afternoon cooking sessions and I’m a fan of Clearly Cabernet Franc. We even got to barrel test a reserve cab franc. Many thanks for the warm welcome.
One of our group is a member at Noble Ridge Winery so off we went to OKanagan Falls.
OK Falls is one of my favourite areas full of small independent wineries but today lunch was back on the Black Sage Bench and the conversation kept turning to food so we turned back south.
I’ve been a member at Black Hills for a long time and they treat members to a special experience in a Cabana by the pool. They added food a few years ago so now we have lunch and it is one of my favourite visits. I like the chance to try wines I’m planning to age and food really makes it better.
We were inspired to try some older Note Bene recently. Nothing like a few days in the Okanagan to get your cellar reorganized.
Lunch was great at our table. The big box of warm olives with sherry and orange were gobbled up with 3 flatbreads. All delicious, the but the Okanagan with peach, prosciutto, arugula, mozzarella and chili honey was the bomb. They are doing interesting things with honey in the Okanagan, that’s for sure.
Our friends at the next table chose the charcuterie platters and were unanimously disappointed. Stick to the flatbreads.
Phantom Creek is the latest hot spot to visit. We’ve watched that spot as development dragged over years knowing that it had to be a great site. It’s going to be beautiful. It’s still unfinished and needs some maturing. I look forward to visiting again.
We’d tried to keep lunch light so we could save ourselves for dinner at Terrafina at Hester Creek. We hadn’t done the tasting their but I was hoping for a Cab Franc with dinner and I wasn’t disappointed. One of the great things about dining at a winery is getting access to their library wines and wines that are perfectly aged. I learned to love the Cab Franc varietal drinking Hester Creek’s ‘07 vintage.
The cioppino was delicious and the chicken with creamed corn and Asiago biscuit won a best meal vote.
A night in the villas at Hester Creek with dinner at Terrafina is one of the most romantic nights you could spend in the Okanagan.
Day Three 4 wineries and 2 meal. Heading home tomorrow.
There’s gold in them there hills, specifically golden Chardonnay and Riesling from Culmina Family Estate Winery, our 1st stop of the day. I haven’t chosen my favourite winery visit this year yet but Culmina is a contender. The wines are spectacular, the presentation excellent. Even the included booklet is above average with food pairing options that had us planning meals as we tasted the wines. Riesling with a curry takeaway and Chardonnay with scallops coming to a kitchen near me soon. A $10 tasting fee is waived with a purchase.
Hester Creek didn’t accept reservations and a quick stop sadly didn’t work out for us so on we went.
Second Chapter is a new winery from the folks that created Church and State and their considerable experience is obvious in creating a great tasting room experience.
Our second stop was perfectly timed for the Second Chapter’s opening at 11 and our little bubble had the deck to ourselves. I couldn’t resist the Cabernet Sauvignon and have tucked it away to give it some time grow. An $8 tasting fee is waived with a purchase.
We were starting to talk about food and next up was Tinhorn Creek with a tasting followed by lunch on the deck at Miradoro. We’ve been members at Tinhorn for years, they have good, well priced wines in environmentally friendly lightweight bottles with screw caps. The seated tasting on the deck was, like all things Tinhorn, well done. The on-site Miradoro restaurant is consistently good and we had an excellent meal.
I had a pizza with wild and cultivated mushrooms with white sauce, caramelized onions and alpindon cheese. I love pizza and mushroom should be my favourite but I’m often disappointed. This was the best I’ve ever had.
David had the salmon puttanesca and I had a hard time getting even a taste. I don’t get much from this kind of plating but perhaps it gives room to mix things up. Doesn’t matter cause this was fantastic.
When the special is a favourite dish, there can be a reluctance to try it but my carbonara loving friend called this the best meal of the trip.
We skipped dessert in favour of our reservation at Checkmate and I was keen. Home of the 100 Point Chardonnay, we have fond memories of an unforgettable visit to Antelope Ridge on our first wine tour 12 years ago. Madame Combret drove up out of the vineyard in a dusty beat up car to open up and let us try her wines. Recently renamed Antelope, they were winning awards. After a stern talking to about how to drink her Chardonnay and what to drink it with she found a case still under the Combret label. We felt lucky she let us buy her wine and drank it as instructed with scallops or prawns in cream sauce. Absolutely no hot sauce. Her vineyards are now part of Checkmate. I hope she’s proud.
The elegant tasting room feels unfinished but is beautiful and the table comfortable. Our host was interesting, informative and fun. Not for the faint of wallet the $35 tasting fee is worth it, even better get 2 for 1 if you have a visa infinite card.
Day 2 – 4 wineries and 1 restaurant and it keeps getting better.
There’s no consensus but some clear winners when 8 people visit up to 15 wineries and 5 restaurants and are asked for their favourites.
We knew this trip would be different due to Co-Vid but how, was the looming question. We’ve booked our tastings in advance for years. The wineries appreciate it and often provide something special. This year reservations are a must and everyone is enjoying better service but perhaps not quite what a small group would have experienced in the past.
Back in the south this year we booked super early at The Spirit Ridge Resort, one of the top options, boasting full suites, an onsite winery, multiple dining options, 2 pools, a gym, 9 hole golf course, spa, cultural centre and so much more.
It’s a beautiful drive from Vancouver. We started out in rain but as we descended into the Similkameen valley we drove into sunshine and perfect weather for a picnic at Clos du Soleil Winery in Keremeos. We enjoyed a guided tasting at our picnic tables where wines were poured by a server in a shield. Maybe not the perfect distancing but we were outside and she backed away to speak. Then we opened our picnic baskets and shared the 1st meal of the trip along with a bottle of Celestial and Capella, in my opinion the best value Bordeaux style red and white in BC.
A short drive on to Cawston we had a reservation at Vanessa Vineyards where a barrels were set with 4 glasses and 12 tiny plastic shot glasses pre poured with the wines we could then dump in the glass as our host described them. Great wines but I didn’t like the plastic glasses. The tasting room has only been there a few years but the vines go back much further and in the hands of legendary Howard Soon they are turning out super star wines.
Across the street at Seven Stones there is a patio with tables and they’re also using their bar with very strict rules about where to stand and quick reminders not to move around. The happy host poured each wine but kept her distance and was wearing a shield. Always one of our favourite stops, the wines just get better and better. Booking a cellar tour is even better. Dinner in the cellar is on my radar.
With one last stop to check out Spotted Lake we headed into Osoyoos and Spirit Ridge. We had plenty of time to settle in before dinner at The Bear, The Fish, The Root and The Berry.
We couldn’t resist the bannock with spicy creamed corn, white bean & sumac spread, beetroot relish, some garlic roasted tomato es and pickles it’s perfect with something for everyone.
Squash, corn and beans, toasted pumpkin seeds and a honey mint dressing is a salad I’d order every time. Nutritious and delicious.
Fresh halibut is always popular and there were several orders at our tables. Mine is sans chorizo. The chestnut pasta was too rich for some and I couldn’t quite finish but with peas and spinach and white onion velouté it was delicious.
I think the picture speaks for itself but I can attest to the potatoes being fantastic and those bones were clean when the left our table.
Vegetarians are well cared for with several choices. The squash was as good as it looks with crispy fried sage, salsa verde, greens and more of the delicious honey, mint dressing.
The Bear, The Fish, The Root and The Berry is truly making the most of local ingredients and helping connect us to the culinary history of the Okanagan and has elevated the dining at Spirit Ridge.
Day 1 – 3 wineries and 1 restaurant, more to come.
A day of beach combing helped build an appetite so we could try as many dishes as possible at the incredible Wolf In The Fog.
I requested a ginless cocktail to pair with the oysters and was surprised with a cognac version of the French 75, a champagne cocktail that proved the perfect match.
The oysters wrapped in shoestring potatoes have been on the menu since day 1 and is one of the best cooked oysters creations ever. Truly crave worthy. Served with mushy peas and truffle oil. Add an extra oyster or there could be a battle for the 3rd in a regular order.
Humboldt squid was lightly battered and fried to a light crisp finish. Served with cabbage, tomato and poblano mayo it’s a strange and beautiful combination.
Grilled romaine with bagna cauda was a treat. Finger licking good sauce.
I would never order a seaweed salad but the rave table reviews got me into it. Wow! It was great. Seaweed, mushrooms, daikon, puffed rice, sesame mayo and miso Chili oil is a match made in heaven. I need a recipe for sesame mayo. I think it would be incredibly useful.
Chef Nutting and teams time on Mexico shows up in the menu in wonderful ways. The featured vegetarian mushroom croquet with mole, beans and habanero peaches was delicious. The mole and peaches unforgettable. Hot pickled peaches coming to my kitchen soon.
We almost resisted the daily catch of Korean Halibut thinking the fish might be overpowered but I’m updating this to the best halibut dish we’ve had this year.
I need an annual trip to Tofino. The solitude and connection to nature combined with the great food and wonderful people make this a very special place. Don’t tell anyone.
Tofino is my favourite place to relax but we’ve been doing a lot of travelling the last few years and it just didn’t fit in. With this summer’s travel restrictions we’ve returned and even with the worst smoke imaginable I’ve taken a big breath out over the Pacific and am in my happy place. My soul is not only nourished by the ocean and forest, out here at the end of the road is great food. Specifically great seafood.
We had the the essential reservations on the first ferry out of Horseshoe Bat at 6:30am so we could get two meals in our first day.
Coombs Country store is a good 1st stop with everything you could need and a few things more. If the goats aren’t on the roof walk back further behind the buildings and see their home down a ravine.
First meal, lunch at Wildside Grill for fish and chips. The halibut and cod were perfect, panko crusted and as fresh as could be. The fries were okay and the slaw a waste of tummy space. I’ve never tried the fish tacos there but they were popular and looked good. I really have to stay longer next time.
We’re staying at The Long Beach Lodge, one of the best cabin set ups available. We booked months ago specifically for the dog friendly cabins and beach. We sadly no longer needed that option and it’s a bit sad walking to the beach without Topsail but Its still great option with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Check in could be as late as 5 and check out is 10 but they try to get you in early and we were lucky and got settled and out to the beach to work on our appetites for dinner at Sobo.
Sobo has been a family favourite for years. We once ate 3 meals there in 24 hours just to try all of the great choices. The menu hasn’t changed much which made me happy on one hand and a bit disappointed in a way. They sure maintain great standards though. The smoked salmon chowder and corn bread are still delicious and David said the tofu pocket was his favourite thing. I’m sorry I didn’t have it because I still like the Killer Fish Taco but I’ve been spoiled with handmade soft shell corn tortillas so the crispy shell just didn’t do it for me. All that delicious salmon and fruit salsa needs something more flexible to gather it all in.
We had the Cibolo Shrimp and I think the cayenne overpowered the tequila and the shrimp. I didn’t get 100% support on that opinion but I’m sure I’m the better judge.
Another family favourite was the polenta fries. Sobo is the 1st place we’d ever tasted them and never had a meal there after without. They are still delicious but a bit shorter than in the past. Every restaurant has to cover new expenses today so I’m glad it’s portion size rather than quality that’s been adjusted.
I tasted the shrimp pizza and that nicely done with a thin crisp crust, pumpkin seed pesto, cherry tomatoes, basil and cheese.
I was disappointed to find them out of oysters.
Overall I think the Sobo lunch or happy hour menu is best for me because I want the cornmeal crusted and the broiled oysters and I think they are often sold out by dinner.
Sobo is large enough to keep a good distance from others with some outdoor tables. There’s an outdoor fireplace that wasn’t lit but would have made a welcome addition to the tables and waiting area at the entrance.
Back in Kelowna for a couple of days and finally had a chance to try The Table at Codfather’s. Without doubt the best deep fried halibut I’ve had in awhile. Really good coleslaw too. The fries were good but over salted. I’ll go back.
For lunch we tried Okanagan Street Food. Once a food truck now a great place for breakfast and lunch. In a somewhat industrial area we found this gem.
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.