Wine tourism and why BC is so great

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.

Mumm Napa has a great patio, art gallery and gift shop. Notice the biscuits as lids on the glasses.

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.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France is an easy excursion from a Rhône river cruise.

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.

Home Block, the new restaurant at Cedar Creek Winery in Kelowna September 2019.
Best calamari ever. Can’t wait to go back.

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.

Cabana tasting at Black Hills

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.

Dreaming of my favourite places in BC #bcwines

Spirit Ridge Resort, Osoyoos

I love living in Vancouver and love cities but I have to escape regularly and this year, after staying home for months, I need to get out. I’m dreaming of early morning open roads and great restaurants at sunset.

We started visiting Okanagan wineries in 2007. Wine was my new hobby and many winemakers were just starting out. I loved the excitement didn’t feel foolish for my ignorance.

Over the years many young people have grown up in the wineries and are bringing fresh perspective and enthusiasm.

One of my favourite drives is the Hope Princeton to Osoyoos ending at Spirit Ridge.

The resort offers everything for a great vacation: suites with full kitchens, an onsite winery and tasting room, cultural centre, adult and family friendly pools, a 9 hole golf course, gym, a spa and an exciting new restaurant.

Chef Murray MacDonald and the indigenous culinary team launched The Bear, The Fish, The Root and The Berry last year. I’m thrilled to see the resort amp up the food experience and I believe Chef MacDonald and the new culinary team can do the job.

Great wines need great food and things keep getting better outside Vancouver as chefs look for options for a balanced family life and opportunities that come with growth in tourism.

One thing is for sure, the food and wine scene in the Okanagan keeps getting better and better and I have no doubt that the people working there will rise to the challenge of the summer of CoVid and create great experiences. Things will be more exclusive and everyone will put their hearts and souls into it. For sure it will be a bit more expensive but it will also be hard to get. Planning early is a must. Small groups of up to 6 will enjoy guided, sit down tastings and beautiful dining and chefs with more time to create perfect meals.

I have a hotel booked, now for the winery visits.