I love exploring different wine countries when I travel. I feel lucky that I live somewhere with an incredible wine region within driving distance. Even luckier still that I was able to wine tour despite Covid-19 restrictions this year.
This is my 1st part of a 2 (or 3) parter on the BC’s Wine Country. Although wine season has mostly winded down for the season, bookmark this post for reference if you’re planning a visit to the area.
A BC wine roadie into the Okanagan with my besties is one of my favorite annual traditions. With no ability to travel outside the country, a wine trip to the Okanagan was on many many people’s list this year and I get asked often for recommendations to the area. The wineries I enjoy visiting are the ones that you won’t find available readily in the liquor stores, most are small and you’ll often be able to have a chat with the winemaker while sipping your tastings. What I’m also excited about that is that in addition to the ever growing excellent wineries in the area, the Okanagan, especially Penticton, has gone from a small boring town to a place I look forward to returning to year after year to explore the new food and drink options that keep popping up.
I had the good fortune of travelling to the Okanagan twice this fall. Once on my annual friends trip and then again with my family in mid-October in the height of harvest season. While Covid rules have restricted tasting protocols, I think they’ve made for better experiences in most of the places I visited.
My favorite way to travel to the south Okanagan is via the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3). Not only is it the more scenic route, there are a few gems worth stopping for along the way.
The wine region in the Similkameen Valley has seen huge growth in the past few years with more than 14 wineries/cideries now in the area. While I’ve always just passed through on my way to/from the Okanagan and stopped at the fruit stands to stock up, I now include a winery stop or 2 while I’m there.
Orofino is one of the originals and my #1 choice for wineries in the Similkameen. Orofino’s wines are a fabulous example of the terroir in the region. I love Orofino’s minimal intervention wines and enjoy their informative tastings where I learn more about the area each time I visit. These wines are not similar to anything you’ll find while you’re in the Okanagan, which makes Orofino an exciting stop on your BC wine roadie.
Robin Ridge is a new find to me. This charming winery has a broad spectrum of certified organic wines that were recommended in 2 of the tasting rooms while visiting the Okanagan recently. I enjoyed the offerings I sampled and have this on my list of “must return to” for future visits.
I haven’t been to Clos Du Soleil in a few years because my visits haven’t timed well with their releases, but I keep them on my list because I’ve enjoyed my past visits there as much as I enjoy their Bordeaux-style wines.
If you have time for a sit down meal, Row 14 at Klippers Organics is a must. Actually, make time for this sit down meal on your journey through Cawston/Keremeos because you won’t be disappointed. I had high expectations going to this farm to table restaurant sitting amongst the rows of their orchards, and they knocked socks off (a great feat in Covid times). I had one of the best tomato salads of my life and their fire-roasted squash was so simply delicious.
Moon Curser winery, just past the town of Osoyoos, up the hill on the east bench is a great first stop in the area. Moon Curser is my first stop in the Okanagan because sipping on their deep rich reds while gazing out at the beautiful view of Lake Osoyoos is the best way to welcome yourself to Okanagan Wine country.
La Stella was one of the first wineries I found in the region over 10 years ago and it’s still a gem. I love La Stella for their complex Italian-style wines, built to age and “created to capture their vision of La Dolce Vida”. La Stella’s winery is charming, especially on the patio, but still delightful in their warm tasting room.
There’s nothing flashy about Bartier Bros, (like so many on my list) but what you’ll taste are some of the best examples of Okanagan-style wine in the southern region. This is the winery I’m most excited about visiting each trip, as their full spectrum line-up from whites to orange, rose all the way to their full-bodied red, The Goal are all to my taste.
Le Vieux Pin is La Stella’s big sister as they share a winemaker, facilities and even vineyards. Where these siblings differ though is in their style of wine. While La Stella feels Italian, Le Vieux Pin whisks you to France with their Rhone-style wines.
To eat? The area isn’t abundant with choices, but I recommend 2 places that need to be timed perfectly and another that’s a classic in the area.
Hammers House of Hog’s bbq trailer is operates limited hours seasonally but if you’re in the area in the sweet spot, it’s my first choice for lunch. I’d aim to be there as he opens to snag some pork rib ends and a pulled pork sandwich smothered in one of his delicious sauces (I’d go for the Alabama white sauce).
Another stop which needs to be timed properly is Platinum Bench for their sourdough epis filled with delightful combinations like brie and pear or Gorgonzola and fig. If you have room on your tasting list, then try out their wine and bread pairing, but if not, get there before noon to ensure their bread hasn’t sold out.
Winery restaurants aren’t usually my thing, but I’ve had 2 great meals at Miradoro ( at Tinhorn Creek winery) over the years. The kale caesar salad coupled with the view are 2 reasons to try it out for lunch or dinner.
As I mentioned in the start, this area is always growing and with that comes change. New wineries and changes of ownership at wineries are reasons to keep visiting year after year and my list will continue to modify. In Part 2 of this series, I’ll move north towards Penticton.