Tag Archives: Okanagan

13th Annual Okanagan Wine Shopping 2022

We rented a house in Penticton this year and enjoyed the well equipped and comfortable space while testing some of our purchases around the fire pit. We argued about the best wines and meals and came up with our top picks at the end of 3 busy days eating and drinking our way through Peachland, Summerland, Penticton and Naramata.

It was a beautiful drive and our first stop was Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards in Peachland. A tasting by Brenda on the patio with an expansive view of the lake ended with my first purchases, a delicious Brut and a Pinot Blanc. Tasting $7.50.

Lunch on their patio at 19 Bistro Fitz was good. It was their final day of the season so a few things weren’t available, but all 6 of us liked our meals. I had the tuna on crispy rice. Delicious rice made a crispy bed for avocado, tuna, greens, red curry aioli & cilantro vinaigrette. Fries replaced the potato wedges on the menu and they were perfect and the saffron sauce was a great topper.

Togarashi Tuna at 19 Bistro at Fritz

Next stop Lightning Rock Winery. Tasting was $10pp but they didn’t have many wines left to taste so a bit disappointing. Beautiful location. Maybe worth keeping an eye on.

Lightning Rock Summerland

Our final winery of the day was Time Winery in Penticton. There was lots to taste and we left with McWatters Collection Meritage and Time Syrah. Fees waived for Visa Infinite cardholders. Great atmosphere.

So many wines at Time.
Fancy cooler at Time.

Dinner saw us returning to Play Winery. We’d had a bad dinner experience there a few years ago but Sonetta at Play was a complete turn around. From the warm welcome to the delicious food we were impressed. The chef was away due to a family emergency so there were a few delays but the food, service and clear team effort made up for it. The Humboldt squid steak was pronounced the best ever tasted. Don’t miss the bread.

Day 2 and we had 5 wineries booked on the Naramata Bench. Starting at Wesbert, a South African family owned winery. We hoped for an opportunity to add local pinotage to our cellar and weren’t disappointed. I’m going to try and give them a little time to age.

Wesbert Patio
Wine flights make service more efficient when it’s busy and mean a glass for each wine but I’m not a fan.

We were the only people there at 10:30am and Marianne did her best to organize us within the rules of the tasting plan, served as a flight for the table. 6 of us have some strong opinions so it wasn’t easy. Wesbert has a nice covered patio, serves pizza in high season and has suites to rent. $10pp tasting fee.

Next up another new one for us, Moraine Estate Winery. Simon graciously hosted us on the covered patio overlooking the vineyard and lake. The wines were everything we wanted and we came home with a mixed case of Cab Franc, Malbec and Syrah. The Malbec another chance to add a rare local varietal to our stock. The bathroom with the « special » mirror is not to be missed either. $15 tasting fee waived with purchase.

Magic Mirror on the Wall
Fancy bathroom. Push the blue light on the mirror and you’ll be the fairest of all.

We’d never been to Therapy Winery either and wanted to check out the deluxe suites. The outside patio tasting is luxurious and so are the suites. I was on the fence about the wines and feel this is a winery in transition and maybe worth checking again in the future.

I can hardly believe we pulled off a forth tasting before lunch. Darrell at Lake Breeze is one efficient dude, keeping the info and wine flowing. I love this place, the wine, the food and the physical space make for an exceptional experience.

Lunch on the patio was excellent as usual.

Smoked Trout with mascarpone, dill and Northern Divine Caviar on Charred onion petals

I was sad to be sharing the trout.

Capellini with harrisa & cream, pine nut crumble and prawns at The Patio at Lake Breeze

Our final winery was Hillside, another favourite, but the wines were poured as a flight and the heavy reds were hot in the sun by the time we got to them. Our host David was knowledgeable and friendly.

A break back at our rental and we tried to work up an appetite for dinner playing bacci and shooting hoops.

Time Winery & Kitchen lighting is in every glass.

Dinner at Time Winery & Kitchen was a hit. The service exceptional. Starting with a complimentary glass of Chronos Brut was a lovely way to set the mood. There’s something for everyone on the menu. The fries were great with several options. I loved the Parmesan topping with black garlic mayo. Deep fried confit duck wings are a must, even for this vegaquarian.

Duck wings in hot sauce and buttermilk scallion dip.

Day 3 and our pallets were tired. We had a plan to taste only the varietals on our shopping list. Good luck.

First stop Lock & Worth, a collaboration with Poplar Grove Creamery. The tasting in the garden pairs 3 cheeses with 3 wines and we loved it. Left with 2 excellent Sauvignon Blancs and 3 cheeses.

Lock & Worth
Beautiful setting for cheese & wine tasting at Lock & Worth

Next stop La Frenz, we finally gave in and joined the club. The wines are so good but always sold out. Another tasting served as a flight though. I hope this is a trend that goes away.

Lunch was booked at Poplar Grove’s restaurant Vanilla Pod, but first an exclusive club member tasting in the private room. Our host Laura really knew her stuff and had our compete attention.

And we merrily moved to the dining room. I’d go just for the Parker Rolls but fried oysters and Tom Kha were great too. This was our all around favourite meal last year. Was it going to be a repeat winner ?

Parker Rolls at Vanilla Pod
Tom Kha at Vanilla P

The last winery of our trip was Da Silva an elevated tasting experience with 6 Riedel varietal specific glasses at each seat. Allison poured, described and guided us through the excellent selection of wines. One of the best of of the trip.

We returned to The Kitchen @ Da Silva for dinner and although the food was very good the overall experience is not as good. The menu is tapas and paella. All tapas must be ordered at once so if you like something and it’s not quite enough for the table you’re out of luck. The paella didn’t have those crispy rice edges and should probably only be served if it’s for the whole table. They tell you to expect to be there for several hours but the over half the chairs are incredibly uncomfortable. I would say it’s not a good choice for a group and would give it another try if it were just 2 of us.

We also visited the VQA Information Centre in Penticton and picked up some wines that were hard to find. They have an excellent gift shop. Well worth a visit.

I’m conclusion we decided the best Winery visit was Moraine, with Da Silva and Lock & Worth definitely in the discussion. Our favourite restaurant was Sonetta @ Play and The Patio @ Lake Breeze coming in a close second.

Diving Deeper into Kelowna Food

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.

Fritters – House smoked salmon, rice, cheese, lemongrass and herbs. Yummy.
Chili and lemongrass dipping sauce.
Tacos and Fries.
I had to take a bite to show the fish taco. Not being deep fried was a pleasant surprise and the taco was perfectly crisped outside with spicy lime and avocado sauce. I couldn’t nearly finish the fries but there is zero taco left behind.
The blackberry ketchup made me eat a few more fries than I should have.

Take the long way home

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.

Spirit Ridge is an all suite resort that includes a an excellent winery and so much more.

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.

Bannock with corn succotash, pickles, white bean sumac spread, beetroot relish and garlic roasted tomatoes.
A perfect chowder is a wonderful thing and with fresh salmon and halibut this one was so good I’m kicking myself for not getting some to go.
Indigenous Cobb Salad and Arctic Char. Super healthy and delicious with sunflower seed pesto, squash, corn, beans, wilted greens and berry wojape.

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!

Okanagan June 2020

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.

Cedar Creek wine tasting for 2 people. 5 wines 5 glasses, spacious, comfortable and truly top notch.

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.

Crispy squid is the best I’ve ever had.

The mushrooms on toast with poached egg and Estate Pinot Noir was another great match.

Mushrooms, goat cheese, poached egg and red wine. Even more delicious than it looks.

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.

Rock cod, peas, grilled onion with dill aioli.

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.

We love shisito peppers and a side dish was appreciated.

Maybe we should have tried 2 different desserts but the sticky toffee pudding was just too tempting.

Sticky toffee pudding. My spoon was too fast for my camera.

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.

11th Annual Okanagan Wine Tour

For our 11th annual Okanagan wine tour we decided to head north to Kelowna and Lake Country.

It was the worst weather we have ever had.

Our 1st stop was Fitzpatrick Vineyards at Greata Ranch to try the award-winning sparkling wines.  I bought all 3 and look forward to toasting life with them.  The winery is beautiful and they have a restaurant with a fantastic view of the lake.

At Quails’ Gate we did a tasting before lunch.  Their Pinot Noir is a star.  Lunch was a little uneven but the parmesan fries are still delicious, the mussels perfect and a grilled halloumi was outstanding.

The Hatch was our next stop.  It’s a happening place with lots of young people having a good time.

I didn’t like any of the wines, though I think they have some good ones not available to taste.

Our final stop of the day was at Beaumont Estate Winery.  One of our group rightly loves the rose.  We had such a good time there.  They have a set up with drums a stand-up base and a guitar.  The owner played guitar, I got my bongo mojo going and Shirley sang and danced.  A first for a wine tasting experience.  We had a great time.

Our final stop was our 3-bedroom cottage at Falcon Point, Predator Ridge and made dinner at home to enjoy with some of the great wines we had picked up.

Day 2 started at Mission Hills for a Reserve tour and tasting.  The tour and tasting were great and the winery and art collection are fantastic.  Great wines and the best gift shop I’ve ever seen in a winery.

We headed back across the lake and stopped at Tantalus.  Sadly they were sold out of almost everything.  I bought some reisling and pinot noir, both signature grapes.

We did a tasting and lunch at the newly renovated Cedar Creek.  It will be absolutely fantastic when completed.  The new restaurant Home Block had just opened the day before but it was flawless.  The French fries were fantastic and the calamari the best I’ve ever tasted.

Our final stop was Sperling Vineyards.  A nice simple tasting room with some exceptional reislings.

Day 3 we started in Lake Country at Ex Nihilo, pretty fine Pinot Noir, a bit young to be released, in my opinion but I think it will be delicious in a few years.

Next, Intrigue Wines.  Another fantastic gift shop and some of the best value wines in the Okanagan.  I’m drinking a glass of their Riesling right now.  It gulpable.

Then Gray Monk for tasting and lunch.  Terribly slow service at the Lookout Restaurant and OK food.

Final stop Arrowleaf Cellars, they keep winning awards but I’ve never been and still am not a fan.

After a break we took advantage of 50th Parallel’s complimentary shuttle from Predator.  What a beautiful winery and Block One restaurant.  Lots of great art, super tasting.  I didn’t love the pizza but they have a fabulous forno and the warm olives and broccolini, done gomae style was great.

And so another Okanagan wine tour ends.