Tag Archives: Wine Tasting

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.

Portugal for Food and Wine Lovers

Portugal is a great place for food and wine lovers.  The food is simple, fresh and well-priced.  The wine’s spectacular.

One of our best days was spent visiting the Duoro wine region.  We hired a private guide from Tours By Locals, Richardo Oliveira.  He picked us up in Porto and drove us to Pinhao, the town at the junction of the Duoro and Pinhao river.  On the 2 hour drive Ricardo entertained us with a history of wine in Portugal.  Sure, Portugal is famous for Port wines but they have many great wines that we rarely get to try in North America.

200 year old vine at Foz
200 Year Old Vine Quinta da Foz

My favourite winery was Quinta da Foz, built at the end of the 18th century. Cristiano, the Director of Wine Tourism took us into the vineyards where the steeply terraced vineyards mean that the vines have to be tended by hand.  It looks like back breaking work.  In the winery there are beautiful tiles that tell the story of their production.  I was amazed to learn that foot stomping the grapes is still the norm in the Duoro.  We finished in the tasting room.  Every wine was delicious but the Grande Reserva, a field blend from 100+ year old vines was a knockout.  I have a couple of bottles in my cellar waiting for a cold winter night to bring some Portuguese sunshine into my life.

Tiles at Quinta da Foz
Wall tiles at Quinta da Foz

Foz tasting
Tasting Room Quinta da Foz

A visit to the Duoro wouldn’t be complete without spending some time on the river where you can really appreciate how steep the terraces are.  We enjoyed it immensely and our captain, Bruno served us a tasty treat of toasts with cheese and pumpkin, walnut jam from his mother’s farm.   The Portuguese are warm and welcoming and somehow keep things very local and personal.  I could definitely spend more time in this fascinating wine district.

Boat trip on Duoro
On the Duoro

Cheese and pumpkin walnut jam
Cheese with Pumkin & Walnut Jam

There are said to be over 1,000 bacalhau recipes in Portugal.  Bacalhau, or salt cod is near and dear to my Newfoundland heart.    I tried it 7 different ways in my first few days in Porto, each one a delight taking me back to childhood Friday fish dinners.


We never had a bad meal but the fresh grilled fish and potatoes, with olive oil, bread and wine are reliably delicious and reasonable priced.

Volta & Meia
Volta & Meia

Our best meal was at Volta & Meia in Figueira da Foz http://voltaemeia.com/Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato combines clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine and cilantro.  Without doubt, the best clams I’ve ever eaten and we loved the restaurant.  There were 7 of us for dinner and every dish was great.  They are part of the Happy Café Network supporting Action for Happiness, a movement creating and promoting happiness and wellbeing in their communities.  Great food, a great wine selection with atmosphere and service that makes you want to linger.  I give it a big 5 Yums Up.

Estrall de Serra
Flor da Serra

My final big food experience was the discovery of Serra da Estrela Cheese.  A cloth bound, sheep milk cheese, it has a soft gooey paste when young and it won our hearts.  We just couldn’t get enough of it.  We liked how it was served with a circle carved from the top to make a lid that could be used if you didn’t finish it, an unlikely occurrence.

Beaulieu Vineyards and Solbar Restaurant are top picks for Napa.

My 1st wine tour was 25 years ago in Napa.   I have a different appreciation for wine these days and tend to put a lot more planning into my wine touring.  I recommend a visit to http://www.visitnapavalley.com to help with planning and for some really great Special Offers.

We stayed at the Silverado Resort again, but next time I’m staying downtown, where there’s lots of fun in walking distance.  The  Napa Valley Welcome Center on Main Street is a good place to start.  Be sure to see if there are any good discount coupons. Oxbow Market is great for breakfast; try Ritual Coffee for seriously good coffee.  I’d love to try it for lunch or dinner too.

Mumm Napa has a great patio tasting experience. We learned that a piccolo is a small wine flute and that a water cracker is an excellent way to cover a piccolo to keep out the elements.  Also worth a visit for the Ansel Adams art collection.

Mumm Napa


My favourite tasting room was Beaulieu Vineyards.  The Cabernet Collectors Tasting was $50, and well worth it.  We tasted 5 Cabernet Sauvignons, 2 different clones in 2 different vintages and then a 2015 BV Private Reserve Georges de Latour that knocked our socks off.   We splurged on a bottle since we had a half price coupon for the tasting fee thanks to http://www.visitnapavalley.com.

Beaulieu Vineyards

Solbar at the beautiful Solage Auberge Resort in Calistoga was my favourite meal of the trip. Great service, a fantastic wine list and raves around our table for the food.  The Wilted Kale salad with pickled grapes, roasted romanesco and candied pistachios was so good I’ve already pickled some grapes and am working on my replica.  Don’t miss the crab cakes, no filler here so you can really taste the sweet crab.

Solbar Repro
Romanesco pickled grapes and candied nuts by Cathy