1) on the Crowsnest Highway heading back to YVR from Osoyoos
If you drive, oh, four hours east of Vancouver up over the Coquihalla Pass, through the horror that is Merritt (the Country Music Capital of Canada; reason alone to avoid this place) and onwards over the over the Cascade mountain range, you will end up in one of Canada’s fruit and wine baskets – the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan is also home of Canada’s only desert, a pocket desert as it’s called, just outside the town of Osoyoos where sagebrush and catcai grow and the weather is dry and warm and sunny. Strange huh? But wonderfully so.
As Blee has been visiting this past week we spent time wandering this area and partaking of (far too) many winery tours and tastings. The Okanagan has over 100 wineries spread out over some 4,000 hectares. Wine-making here dates back to the 1850s but large-scale wineries only took hold in 1975 when the Ooysoos Indian Band opened Inkameep (now Nk’Mip Cellars). On this trip we visited:
- Mission Hill (home of the stunningly gorgeous and delicious Terrace Restaurant which was voted one of the Top Five Winery Restaurants in the World by Travel & Leisure Magazine). We would agree – dinner here was fabulous with unparalleled service, and, considering the prices we’re used to paying for good meals, insanely affordable. Dinner for 3 including 3 courses, 2 glasses of wine each, coffee, tax and tip will run you CAD$100/person. Go visit if you can! The actual estate is also breath-taking. Mission Hill is also noted for its wine-maker, John Simes, and specifically for winning the prestigious Averys Trophy for Best Chardonnay in the World. Go figure.
- Nk’Mip Cellars and the must visit Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre. The estate has a great patio restaurant to boot.
- Painted Rock (their Red Icon is well-worth stocking up on and cellaring)
- Burrowing Owl
- Hester Creek
- Blasted Church (their Hatsfield’s Fuse [white] continues to be one of our favourites and you must go visit their website as – hands down – they have the best marketing team going)
- Church & State (their 2009 Syrah won Wine Access’ Wine of the Year)
If you get the chance to pick up any of these in your travels, you’ll be happy you did.
2) Mission Hill Winery in Kelowna
3) mmmm Pinot Noir; 4) the entrance to the winery and restaurant
5) the view from the Terrace down to Kelowna … isn’t that gorgeous
6) here’s the restaurant; 7) the entrance into the tour room
8) the place setting; 9) I tried their white wine flight
10) amuse from the chef for us, goose liver pate; 11) Blee is enjoying the dinner
12) G had foie gras to start; 13) I had asparagus salad with dungeness crab and quail egg
14) Blee had BC spot prawns; 15) G had duck on quinoa
16) I had lamb shank and breaded sweetbreads, also on a quinoa; 17) we had several cheeses before dessert
18) the restaurant at night; 19) the wine groves as twilight settles in
20) a paddle wheeler in Kelowna; 21) we had laksa at Mad Mango in Kelowna
22) the laksa was delicious though not quite as good as what we had in Langkawi; 23) onward to Painted Rock
24) Painted Rock had the most non-descript tasting room (and probably the best informed and best tasting we had!); 25) in Okanagan Falls we stopped for ice cream in the infamous Tickleberry’s
26) which has all sorts of ice cream; 27) heading into Blasted Church
28) the pool at Blasted Church is solely for the use of its owners and has; 29) Ogopogo (the famous sea monster that hides within Lake Okanagan
30 & 31) arriving in Osoyoos
32) the view from the ismus that separates the two parts of the town
33 & 34) the sun sets on the hills outside out hotel in Osoyoos
35) the next morning we’re off to Nk’Mip Desert Culture Centre; 36) a welcome from the coyote
37) we start hiking; 38) a burrowing owl at the centre
39) G and Blee head out; 40) and stop to view …..
41) an ospray nest and 42) one in flight!
43) Ponderosa pines!; 44) … and yes, they have rattlesnakes here!
45) a birdie in the pines; 46) the wee flowers along the trail
47) the view from the Cheiftan’s lookout looking west to Lake Okanagan
48) Okanagans have lived here for thousands of years and drew pictographs on the rocks; 49) how is your Interior Salish (aka Okanagan)?
50) Saskatoon berries!; 51) we see our destination … the reconstructed Okanagan village
52 & 53) we’re arrived
54 & 55) wandering the Nk’Mip winery
56 & 57) more of the Nk’Mip winery
58) here is the winery and resort taken with my telephoto lens from the ismus in Osoyoos
59 & 60) Burrowing Owl Winery Estate
61 & 62) Blee wanders the vines at Burrowing Owl
63) the vines spread out as far as the eye can see; 64) onwards to Church and State Wine
65) Blee returns with her choice at Church and State; 66) inside Church and State the wine settles in french oak
67 & 68) wandering the waterfront promenade in Osoyoos
69) it’s 27C and folks are out water-skiing; 70) cactus right downtown
71 & 72) the famous – and scared – Spotted Lake on the road to Richter Pass … its waters are special and healing
73) Spotted Lake, which during the summer becomes truly spotted … google it and you’ll see what I mean … it’s actually unbelievable
74) just over Richter Passa
75) driving up from Osoyoos to Richter Pass
76) OMG, we’re home and we better start drinking!
Last week to celebrate Blee’s visit, we donned our executive chef wear and cooked a lovely meal.
77) Blee and I prepare to cook; 78) we serve up G’s famous tortellini with brown butter sauce and carrot foam
78) we make a sous vide NY strip served with new potatoes and asparagus with green olive salsa and Parmesan cream; 79) Blee prepares dessert using our new torch
80) a caramelized pineapple with crispy bacon and homemade vanilla bean ice cream
In other news, I’m back from a week in Saskatchewan visiting Regina, Saskatoon and Lloyd, where, yes, there was snow. We’ve added a professional waffle maker; an induction cooktop and a welder’s torch to our kitchen gadgets … all of which are being well used. I never thunk in a million years I’d be such a fan of waffles. Blee and I made Belgium Liege-style last night. These are actually a yeast-risen waffle more like a bread dough than what North Americans usually think of – a batter – and they are filled with Belgium pearl sugar. I’ve also got to visiting the new Revolver coffee house by our place in Vancouver. Why? Good coffee brewed fresh, always, with a price point (nearing CAD$5/coffee) that limits the hordes of students that frequent Bean Around the World or JJ Bean. This is a coffee connoisseur’s place that I’m sure even Voltaire would approve of. It is unique in that it provides you the opportunity to try a “Brew Flight” (one coffee brewed three different ways) or a “Coffee Flight” (three different coffees brewed one way). Do visit!
And (yeah?!) cruise ship season has begun!
81 & 82) our wonderful waffles
83) flying over a still frozen North Saskatchewan River; 84) and back over the Rockies to Vancouver
85) the new torch … it flames things at about 5000 degrees F; 86) the new induction cooktop
85) Revolver; 86) the map on their wall of coffee regions
87) they have about 20 different methods to brew your coffee; 88) we tried a brew flight this morning – same coffee prepared 3 different ways
89) in come the ships (and the tourists), taken from our condo here