The last weekend of September was a great time to be in Kelowna! Initially, we had planned to do some hiking or some other activities also, but we quickly gave in to the temptation of discovering and tasting as many wines from the local wineries as we could.
Our first stop was the most visually stunning, by far:
The moment you drive into the premises of the Mission Hill estate, a sense of “wow” grabs you. The architecture is spectacular! A real tour de force…
Among the different kinds of tours available to guests, We decided to try the “Discovery” tour, at 18$ per adult. It included a 10 minute video detailing the origins of the Mission Hill Winery Estate and a short bio of the proprietor, Anthony von Mandl, and the estate’s chief winemaker, John Simes; a visit of the vineyards and their underground, Bordeaux-style barrel cellar; 4 wine tastings with cheese. We enjoyed our tour very much. Not being big wine connoisseurs ourselves, we’re however able to taste wine like seasoned pros — sort of — after learning the proper way. :)
Having each a sweet tooth, we ended up buying a bottle of their Vidal Reserve ice wine (part of the wine tasting portion of the tour). We just fell in love with the rich mango taste and caramel flavor of the wine.
Nobody can compete with the grandeur of Mission Hill, but nevertheless, there are still other wineries worth visiting around — right next door actually. Just a few blocks from our first stop is Quails’ Gate. We went for the general 5$ tour there and found that it was more interesting overall. From a brief history of the origins of the winery, we went through all the steps of wine making in great detail, the tour lasting around an hour. I won’t spoil the show for you, but our guide Isaac had quite a few funny tidbits to tell us about the art of making wine.
The ambiance of this tour was more casual. People were allowed to sample some grapes and we had a little bit more time to take pictures in between stations also. And the view on Lake Okanagan was terrific, the winery being closer to its shores. We didn’t try their restaurant, but apparently, they have excellent — but expensive — food there.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Our other stops were somewhat quick, as we had too many wineries to try and we had to cut some corners here and there during our short weekend stay. On this list was, to my surprise, Canada’s most visited winery and largest certified organic vineyard: Summerhill Pyramid Winery. I’m surprised because with Mission Hill’s massive presence, one would think this would be the easy winner; but I guess size doesn’t matter after all. :p For the short time we were there, it was obvious that this estate was built with “spirituality” in mind (click above link to find out more about the pyramid, etc.).
Little Straw Vineyards
A short stay there. Just long enough to try their “Tapestry” white wine which our B&B hosts had recommended to us. We liked it and bought it. :)
We like the B&B format and so we decided to try the Alexandria House Bed & Breakfast, close to our main attractions. We found our “Lilac Room” to be picture perfect; some treats were waiting for us, as we checked in. Having a private entrance to our room was a nice bonus. Unfortunately, we missed the mention about the hot tub when we booked our room and didn’t bring our bathing suits along. When we came back from our dinner, a couple of glasses of home-made red wine were waiting for us. Breakfast was delicious and filling. When we mentioned our love for ice wines, we got treated to a couple more samples of home-made dessert wines (port and ice wine if I remember correctly). It was a very enjoyable stay and our hosts, Paul and Suzanne, made us feel very welcome.
Dining in the Kelowna region was very good. Our bills hovered around 70$ each time (with an appy or dessert, but no wine — we had our share already during the day), but if the food is great, I say it’s worth it. ;)
On Saturday night, we went on the East side of the Okanagan to the Wild Apple Grill, at the Manteo Resort, for some excellent pork chops and jumbo prawns. Service was excellent too. The only drawback was that we booked our table for 8PM, wishing for a window seat — and we got it. But, the population being much more sparse around Okanagan Lake in general, night-time becomes synonymous with “total darkness” here. We could have sat next to a black wall and it would have made no difference. :s Remember to book your table for before sunset, if you wish to enjoy any kind of view. ;)
On Sunday night, following our gracious B&B hosts’ suggestion, we went for the Gasthaus on the Lake (I hope the “official” link works for you; it wasn’t for me, as of this writing) in Peachland, about 15 minutes South of Westbank, where our B&B and most of the wineries on our tour were. We were very surprised by just how beautiful the area was, Peachland not being part of our plans initially. The promenade caressing the shores of the lake reminded me very much of White Rock, closer to home. As for the food, we found the Gasthaus Pan (a mix of different varieties of pork meats) and the salmon fillet were great and the portions generous.
Two days is too short of a stay to enjoy this area fully. 3-4 days would have been just right, I think. Come and visit that beautiful region, especially since the wine festival has just begun.
P.S.: Oh, and no, we didn’t spot Ogopogo… Maybe next time. ;)