With every big life change I always have the inkling to get out of town; an adventure before a new chapter begins, if you will. I started a new job this past Monday and I knew my vacation needed to be doable in two days: not too much travel time and ideally somewhere to soak up some sun. The end result ended up being right in my "backyard" of BC - Kelowna! The last time I was there was as a kid driving from Edmonton, so I was so excited to return and, this time, to enjoy the grapes (and by grapes I mean all of the wines the valley had to offer!)
I went with a friend I've known since my high school days in Edmonton - and our vacation chemistry was spot on. It's so important to find the people you can travel with, because said people can make or break a vacation.
We stayed at the Okanagan Lakeview Bed & Breakfast; it was our first B&B experience and we were beyond impressed. Michelle and Ralf had a gorgeous lodge-like-home overlooking the lake. The house boasted high ceilings, exposed log beam; everything cabin-y you want in a B&B by the lake. The room was more like a hotel with all the amenities you could want, plus it displayed a view of the lake and our own private terrace! A big bonus was the delicious breakfast served to us the next morning; I think B&Bs are the way to go! I highly recommend this B&B if you find yourself in Kelowna.
We booked the "Afternooner" wine tour with Discover Okanagan Tours, and it was nothing short of fantastic - they even made an exception to pick us up from the B&B! Rocco, our awesome driver, had the pleasure of driving around 6 ladies for the afternoon, but the pleasure was all ours. From learning our names to http://quailsgate.com/ special requests and capturing photo ops, this man had it covered. And he knew his wine too! We went to 6 wineries and came back with more than 6 bottles... always just a wine enjoyer, I did learn a thing or two as well! Obviously less information was absorbed the more the wine flowed. Check out our wine facts and highlights we learned from the wineries we visited!
- Known for its Pyramid (aka "fire in the middle") and their sparkling wine! The unique component of this pyramid versus other wineries is that it follows the french tradition of putting sparkling wines in dark, cool places for 30 days so the "cuvee & dosage marry".
- I took home a Riesling, which I thought would be great to have on hand for summer! Not the biggest white wine drinker but the Reisling was the perfect blend of dry and sweet and went down too easily... will be adding this to the rotation for girls night on the patio!
- Marechal Foch: I am not a fan of this berry: it's a hybrid french wine grape. I enjoy sitting by a campfire but don't enjoy drinking them. But, as we learned, every palate is different. Could this be the cilantro of wine?!
- What we bought: Brut and Riesling
- Cherry Port: I usually only endure a port with my grandparents after a meal, but this cherry port was so nice! The cherries naturally make it sweeter and had a very nice finish! Who knew??
- Did you know the grapes aren't picked until Halloween? The wineries have been happy with the hotter weather this year: longer growing season = more sugars = sweeter wine and higher alcohol = winning!
- This winery is Organic Certified which means no sulphites are added to the barrels. So it's basically just fruit, which is good for you, so drink up.
- There were two SUPER sweet wines that were able to win over the NON drinker in our group! Impressive.
- What we bought: Tumbleweed
- Cuvee: a type of wine that is dependent on the season, the weather, the blend and cannot be replicated! If you find one you like, best to stock up or you'll miss out.
- When trying so many wines the tastes started to blend together, so we were told to always take a second sip as the first one is not an accurate representaiton of the wine. Good to know.
- Chef Trevor is the talented in house chef who offered a tapas menu at the winery. These tapas were on a different level! Wine soaked apples with homemade boursin with honey and chives was a stand out winner! All paired well with an incredible rhubarb rosé - YUM!
- What we bought: Tapestry
- BC has so many great white wines and bubbles to offer, I wasn't as impressed with the reds until this winery. We found the Syrah that had been opened this year - it was by far the best red of the tour!
- This winery gave a great view so we snapped a photo with the bridal party on our tour - a sweet punch of girls that let us join their celebrations!
- What we bought: Syrah
- First of all, I'd be completely find with getting married here. It's so beautiful with a terrace overlooking the vineyard and lake! A stunning property.
- We learned that rosé should be enjoyed the same year it was made! (I may have a few bottles to get rid of...) In fact, the colour of the wine actually turns after the season! So, Rosé Okay within the year.
- What we bought: Chassele (the trifecta of wines - the varietals).
- Alexandre owns the Beaumont winery and he has FUN doing it. We walked into live music and even Rocco our driver was invited to drum along. He serendaded the group with a lovely rendition of 'Can't Help Falling in Love with You' to my friend Sabirah - it was coincidently her wedding song! He sung just to her, but his toothy grin had us all swooning...
- What we bought: The sparkling "Serenade"
What's wine without a little cheese? Less enjoyable, obviously! We visited Carmeli's Goat Farm on the way out of town; the goats were so cute and not a fan of the rain! Our favourites we went home with were the chevary cheese (Provence, Lavender and Thyme & the Dill and Onion), gouda and the blue cheese. We paired with chevary cheese with a peach and bourbon compote - to die for! This place also offers a free cheese tasting with purchase, I'm pretty sure we tried 15 cheeses! What a delicious end to the weekend.
I apologize in advance if I've butchered the language or descriptors of wine. It became harder as the tour went on to retain much (for obvious reasons) but I enjoyed the experience so much! Kelowna is a beautiful place to visit with over 200 wineries - a repeat visit is required. I am happy to have broadened by understanding of wine even in the slightest... I'm pretty stocked up for summer too!
I'm always first to think outside the country for vacations but sometimes I need to remind myself how beautiful BC is and all the gems it has to offer.
Here's a little tip from me to you: before heading on the Crow's Nest (by accident...), be sure to fill up your tank of gas. We managed to reach East Gate gas station with 20km to empty to find that NO ONE was there. Needless to say we happily found out that 0km on a Ford Fusion will take you an extra 30 km's ...
Cheers to weekend adventures and visits to wine country!