The Okanagan is one of my favourite places to visit and no wonder, it’s #BCWine Country. I was lucky enough to fit in two days for visiting, tasting, dining and exploring on my way to Calgary. Taking the lower route (Hope-Princeton) on a magnificently sunny day with an early start. Turned out not to be early enough as we were waylaid by a rollover accident on the highway necessitating a u-turn back to the junction and ended up eventually in Oliver via the Kelowna connector. A bit of a round about journey but we did get to see more of the countryside. It is an interested way to travel because it did give us a chance to take in the differences in the geography and as “terrior” is the latest buzz word in the BC wine world it was worth the extra time we spent to get an extended view of the valley.
This is a mid week, early May excursion which I highly recommend. If you can get away mid week it is ideal, quieter, fewer people and easier travelling. I definitely suggest making an appointment for the wineries you want to visit. This not only saves you time but it means the winery isn’t rushed or too busy to give you the best tasting experience. Also expect to pay for your experience at most wineries. Many will waive the fee if you purchase their wine and I think that is fair. The BC wine country has almost become a victim of it’s own success and particularly in the summer months it is a matter of just too many people wanting to visit their winery.
So what was on my itinerary? After a day of more driving than we had in mind we were looking for lunch. There are numerous places to try so here are just a few: newly opened Sunny’s Modern Diner is definitely worth a stop if you love upscale diner food, and who doesn’t? Open mornings at 7:30 for all day breakfast and Happy Hour until 8:30 with coffee only a buck, and lunch starting at 11:00. A sublime lineup of desserts and Power Hour 2:30 – 3:30 with Caesars $2 off.
Another Kelowna institution is The Table at Codfather’s Market a small restaurant with 100% sustainable seafood policy. Not too big but there is a large patio and the restaurant is fully licensed (yay wine!) and is open 11:30 – 7:30 pm daily. Simple and delicious and you know it has to be fresh because they work with Codfather’s Seafood Market known for their exquisite seafood and famous for their fresh oysters.
In West Kelowna the place to dine has to be Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate. Truly the ultimate food and wine experience set in a beautiful vineyard. Outdoor on the patio you take in the vistas and views of the vineyard and lake beyond. One of the “100 Best Restaurants in Canada” and open all year round. Open for lunch and dinner from 11:00 am daily with Sunday Brunch 10:00 to 2:30. Not only do they have a diverse and spectacular menu this upscale, locally sourced ingredient restaurant is actually kid friendly and boasts a child’s menu. Actually the entire winery is kid friendly with a playground and picnic area so bring the whole family to Old Vines. For something different Old Vines now offers High Tea with two seatings on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm and 3:30 pm, reservations required for High Tea and highly recommended for lunch and dinner. Both indoor and patio seating available. I suggest the Quails’ Gate flight of wines to accompany your meal.
Another of RauDZ’s success stories: Terrafina at Hester Creek is always a must stop. Either for lunch (open everyday at 11:30) now that we’re past May 1, Sunday Brunch or dinner nightly. Chef Jenna Pillon brings a terrific menu including the innovative make your own Terrafina Board, a charcuterie plate you design yourself with 18 choices, everything from artisan breads to grilled sausage, yum one of my favourite things! You’ll find me on the patio but it is equally pleasing inside on a hot day. An excellent selection of BC and Italian wines available. Reservations highly recommended.
Right next door is Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek. A spacious dining room both inside or on their covered deck. Hint: the views from the deck are spectacular and seating there is very popular. It can be a little breezy at times but there are heat lamps overhead so it is always very comfortable. A “white tablecloth” style restaurant without the white tablecloths and no pretentious servers here. The food is a delight to the eye and innovative in its presentation. One of my favourites here is the Arctic Char which is served with fresh pea and clam ragu, gnudi and mushrooms. Always perfect. Each menu item has a suggested Tinhorn Creek wine pairing which I would recommend as it gives you the opportunity to try more than one wine during your meal, or you can choose a flight of three white or red wines. Open 10 months of the year, seven days a week, Lunch – 11:30am to 3pm Tapas – 3pm to 5:30pm Dinner – 5:30pm to 9pm. Reservations highly recommended.
There you have it some of the places I enjoy and return to every time I’m in the Okanagan. Not mentioned here only because I was focusing on places that serve lunch as well as dinner, would be RauDZ in Kelowna which opens at 5:00 pm till midnight daily. I always say a trip to Kelowna without dining at RauDZ is like a day without wine! I seriously love the food at RauDZ and I always, without fail, order the Crab Cappucino it is beyond delicious! Although RauDZ has a “no reservations” policy groups of 6 – 20 are encouraged to reserve in advance. Don’t let the no reservations dissuade you, they handle things in a very civilized manner. Just show up at 5:00 and they will do their best to estimate the best time to return later should 5:00 not be your preferred time. Trust me waiting a little is a small price to pay for the experience of a dinner at RauDZ.
On my next visit “to try” list: Micro Bar Bites and Waterfront Wines Restaurant both located in Kelowna.
Bon appetit from the sunny Okanagan!
Featured image: courtesy of Quails’ Gate Winery