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Category: Okanagan Page 1 of 6

South Okanagan in the 2019 Honda CR-V

I was heading to the Okanagan for the weekend and thought what better vehicle to get me there than the 2019 “Honda CR-V”, with its best in class fuel economy and its Econ mode to help us “drive towards a greener future”.

I was excited to be able to take in the Okanagan this fall. I have never visited during this season, so found magic in the red, orange, and yellow changing leaves. They were sprinkled amongst ever greens and the rocky mountain range.

We were able to easily take it all in with our no hassle ride. The Honda CR-V’s remote start and walk away auto-lock, saved us time during our pit stops and gas pumps. And it was easy to get in and out of with 90-degree door mobility. There was plenty of cargo room with an easy to fold down back seat and two level modes to meet all our storing and hauling needs.

We paused to take in the river, and stopped to explore the damp soil patches for various mushrooms.

When on the road, the Honda CR-V kept us comfortable and safe. Sitting pretty with perforated leather seats that heated. And well secured with blind spot display, and all wheel drive with intelligent system control. It got us there and back on 8.5L of gas at 100km. 4 hours each way, and driving from city to city in between; an amazing feet for an SUV.

Fall in the Okanagan has fruit stands bringing their pumpkin and gourds out to the roadside for sale. Many of the ones in Keremeos included visual displays for travellers to stop and take photos of and with. I didn’t know the extent of the variety of gourds available, before this trip. Here are some of my favourite photos.

We also stopped to watch cows graze on the mountainside, enjoying the ability to interact with livestock; something that you can’t do in the city.

We eventually made our way to Osoyoos, to our accommodations for the weekend: “Spirit Ridge”. For our time at Canada’s dessert resort and it’s new restaurant, visit the link below.

Our visit specifically coincided with Oliver BC’s “Cask and Keg” festival. An adults only event that hosted local South Okanagan beer, spirits, and ciders; for friendly sampling. For the full review of the participating breweries through tasting, visit the link below.

Cask and Keg, Oliver BC

The following day it was time to celebrate local Okanagan wines through a similar tasting program, at the “Festival of the Grape”. For the highlights of the family friendly event, and a few of the participating wineries, visit the link below.

Festival of the Grape, Oliver BC

During our road trip we also spotted and marvelled at “Spotted Lake”. As per Wikipedia, “Spotted Lake is a saline endorheic alkali lake located northwest of Osoyoos in the eastern Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada, accessed via Highway 3”. The silt at the bottom of the lake is exclusively gathered and utilized by the First Nations people for its healing properties. However, over the years of us visiting, we realized its spots are no longer as bold, and the body water has transformed.

And when in the area, we always seem to find ourselves at “Tickleberry’s”. And despite the cold, the ice cream and gift shop was still a popular spot in fall.

I enjoyed a double scoop in a waffle cone. The seasonally inspired pumpkin spice and “Sunday breakfast”, a vanilla based ice cream made with fruit loops and lucky charms cereal with marshmallow bits.

For dinner on our second night we visited “Convivia Bistro” in Osoyoos. A modern restaurant serving Italian and French cuisine; prepared with local ingredients, and created to be complimented by local wines. Here, we enjoyed some house rosé with our pizza and pasta. For the latter we had lasagna with a tomato meat sauce, cream, Parmesan, and mozzarella. It was all in all pretty standard, it just needed a touch more seasoning. But this comfort serving hit the spot for me, on this night.

Out of preference, my partner ordered the “Goat Cheese And Honey” pizza with the goat cheese on the side. He liked everything else the pizza promised: olive oil, mozzarella, goat cheese, parmesan, sundried tomatoes, bacon, basil, and honey. Truly the pizza needed the pop the goat cheese gave, some interest to contrast with everything else.

CONVIVA
8312 74 Ave, Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V0
(250) 495-2223
conviviabistro.ca

For breakfast on our way back home we had brunch at “Jo Jo’s Cafe”, a popular neighbourhood spot, showcasing local art. Here we enjoyed one of their breakfast sandwiches with bacon bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, and egg in an English muffin. A good start, before making our way home.

JO JO’s
8316 Main St, Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V4
(250) 495-6652
jojoscafe.ca

And with that this proved to be a quick and successful trip to the Okanagan, all made possible by the Honda CR-V. Thank you for the smooth ride and the travel memories Honda Canada.

#HondaCRV
Honda.ca

Festival of the Grape, Oliver BC

I was in Oliver this weekend, here to partake in the “Festival of the Grape”; the fall festival celebrating the fine wineries of South Okanagan. “Crushing it since 1997”. As Canada’s wine capital, Oliver produces more than 50% of all wine grapes in BC, which is reason for celebration. The festival welcomes over 50 wineries from BC to sample their local wines and fruit in wine.

Similar to the “Cask and Keg” festival (the day before), guests roam around the park visiting vendors for wine tasters, and food trucks for small bites in between. Except today’s event was double the size. Held during the day, this is a family friendly celebration, with plenty to see and do to keep any one engaged, at any age.

We came in 30 minutes earlier with our VIP access, grabbing our glass by the entrance. Every one drinks out of their own miniature wine glass, a great keepsake with the event’s logo etched on.

A new feature this year is the VIP pass. It gave guests the opportunity to enjoy an elevated VIP area. A lounge with a large charcuterie board to nibble from, specialty wines to try, and seminars from winery owners and local and regional contributors to listen to. And while general admission ticket holders had to wait until 1pm to start drinking, VIPs entered at 11:30am and could start tasting from the 4 wine producers stationed in the VIP area. All while enjoying the first seminar of the morning.

This was with Moss, the wine educator of “The Vinstitute” at “Intersection Estate winery”. He has us learning about BC wines in an approachable and fun way. We tried 3 pours, including a Riesling; and two very different tasting reds. With the latter two, the grapes used in both were similar to one another, minus the soil they grew it; and it made all the difference.

The seminars to follow included “learning about BC’s very first Sub Appellation, The Golden Mile Bench; which is home to several notable Oliver Osoyoos wineries”. And the ins and outs of proper stemware, featuring Riedel Glassware. I especially enjoyed the class on pairing the right wine with the perfect cheese with plenty of tasting opportunities.

With the VIP area, you can come and go as you please and explore the festival grounds at your leisure. Under tents were wineries pouring a selection of their collection. This was a great opportunity to learn about a new winery, or try a wine you might not want to commit a whole glass too. All while engaging the very producers of it, with any questions you might have.

The day began with the opening ceremony and parade. Drummers set the tone and pace, and this year’s grape stomp competitors were introduced.

One of “Festival of the Grape’s” main attractions is the grape stomp. In teams of 3, contestants sign up and dress up to compete in the tradition of grape stomping. An old practice that was once the only way grapes for wine were macerated. Now, it is more of a novelty and makes for a great exhibition; especially here as most of them dress up in costumes for the occasion. After 5 heats the team that produced the most juice in the allotted time won.

Also on location were local artists selling their artisan wares. Wine barrel wood work, hand painted wine glasses, locally roasted coffee, and hand made jewelry. There was also the fall art show and sale, set up to showcase various works across varying mediums. You could appreciate them here or take home to own.

For the younger kids, there was a playground for toddlers to climb around in; with face painting and inflatable bouncing. And for those who need a break, there was seating areas available to grab a drink and rest at. Hay bales, picnic tables, wine barrels converted into standalone tables, and floral arrangements featuring recycled wine bottles. And throughout the day, “Jack and Jill” performed live on stage, regaling the crowd with their music.

Though the wine is the real reason why you are here. And with over 50 wineries offering 3-4 different tasters for a ticket each ($1 = 1 ticket), there are far too many to try. Below, are a few of the wineries I did visited. But truth be told it got difficult to try any more after the 5th taster. With no place to spit or pour out excess wine, you find yourself having to drink it all. And a $1 per 2oz pour, you definitely aim to try as many as you can. That price is the best deal I have ever had at any similarly structured event.

There was also a lot more food vendors today and we got to try a few more. Like the honey garlic wings and fries from the “Wings” food truck.

And a gourmet, certified organic hotdog from the “Wienery” trailer. A unique creamy peanut butter, bacon, and dill pickle combo; with crispy onion and spicy mayo, all over their juicy beef wiener.

With an afternoon worth of activities, I can see why the festival attracts more than 4,500 attendees annually. Myself included, who came to “sample a variety of local and regional wines, dance to live music, and cheer on the fun and chaotic grape stomp”. Not to mention the new to 2019 “On-site Liquor Store, where a variety the wines on offer were available for purchase as you departed the festival.”

In short this was a great way to get to know BC’s wine country a little more intimately, and taste your way thought the Okanagan without have to drive from winery to winery. For more on the “Festival of the Grape” and why you need to attend next year for yourself, visit the link below.

FESTIVAL OF THE GRAPE
http://www.oliverfestivalofthegrape.ca/

Cask and Keg, Oliver BC

I was invited down to Oliver to attend this year’s “Cask and Keg”, an outdoor event focused on highlighting South Okanagan breweries, distilleries and cideries. This evening it was adults-only (19 plus), held at the Oliver Community Park. With plenty of free parking, and food and drink vendors on site, there is plenty to see and do for the duration of the 4 hour event.

The premise is you bounce from vendor to vendor, sipping on samples served in commemorative miniature snifter glass. The glasses are a nice keepsake with the event’s branding etched on to it. Your entry includes it and three tickets. The latter comes in handy, given you exchange 1-2 tickets for a taster.

The park is converted into an adult playground with stations set up under tents, lit with lamps. Themed for fall, settings included harvest apples and pumpkins, dry hay, and pressed blossoms. And centre pieces decorated seating areas and elevated the scene. It was all like a farmhouse fairytale.

There are several spots to perch on, and plenty of stopping moments to take in. Including a floral back drop to take photos in front of; and bottles of wine recycled as vases, strung up as an entry way. I especially liked the clothes line of different colour ribbons that wafted in the breeze.

Then when day light turned to night, the scene changed with the romantic glow of generator lights. And the added heat lamps and fire pits were helpful in keeping guest warm.

The whole experience is a free for all, you decide which vendor to start with, which of their offerings to taste (or all 3-4); and where to go for your next, to repeat steps 1 and 2. With over 15 different labels to try and the ability to talk up the owners and producers, there is so much to take away from this festival. And on the flip side, it is just as enjoyable as an occasion to gather your friends at and drink with.

The following is my account of the night, highlighting a few noteworthy points. Please excuse the photos, I was working against the setting sun, but wanted to do my best to capture the joyousness of this event.

There are a handful of local food trucks offering snacks and full serving portions to balance out your drinks with. It is best to make sure you start with a full stomach, and snack in between if staying the entire length of the event.

The following is what we had to share between 3 people. The Nashville hot chicken from “Vagabond Kitchen”, was well recommend by locals. Unfortunately we ordered it without the spice and it came bland, without seasoning. We should have been more specific and asked for it to be mild in heat level. The chicken had a good crunch none-the-less. But without a creamy sauce it was dry and hard to pull together with the cheese, lettuce, and brioche bun. It normally also comes with jalapeño and pickles, both of which would have added some zip to it.

Their poutine was solid, made with real cheese curds and plenty to boot. Just wished the gravy was richer and the fries crispier. But considering how much traffic they saw, and how busy they were, this was great.

From the “Thai on the Fly” truck we had two of their “Thai tacos”. Available in your choice of protein from Thai BBQ chicken, shrimp, or veggie. We has one of the chicken and one with shrimp; folded into a warm tortilla with sweet chilli, Thai basil, bean sprouts, green onion, peanuts, and cilantro. I liked the collection of texture and the unique-ness and freshness the bean sprouts brought to a taco.

We had the “smokie and perogy platter” from the stand with the exploratory name. This was declared their “number 1” dish. Six cheese and potato stuffed perogies, a smokie sliced in half, and plenty of sour cream and bacon bits over both. We ended our night of drinking with this and it was just what I wanted. Tasty and satisfying in all the right ways.

And for our night’s end dessert, we walked out with a bucket of mini doughnuts from “Our little donut factory”, a cinnamon and sugar staple at any out door event. Their warmth melted in your mouth, and you got to lick its sugar off your fingers afterwards.

As for drinks I went out of my way to taste from breweries I have never heard of, or take sips from beers and ciders I would not otherwise order.

The most original was from from “Detonate Brewing Co.” from Summerland BC. They were serving three options from their wooden box tap. I had to try the “Don’t wanna taco bout it”, as it’s name suggests, this is a beer flavoured like a savoury taco. In hit the ground beef spice notes perfectly. A spicy, salty flavour that grew in intensity the more you took in. You almost needed a drink to pair with it.

“Highway 97 Brewing Co.” was here presenting Penticton, offering up their “Okanagan fresh fruit hefe” and/or their “provincial park pale ale”.

“Firehall brewery” in Oliver is located in a repurposed fire hall and the names of their beers speak to their brand. Today it was their “Backdraft blonde” or “Holy Smoke Stout” on tap.

For something stronger, “Noteworthy Gin” delivered on their name; with the owner dawning a noteworthy orange suit to dole out samples of their gin. This is first product released by “The Dubh Glas Distillery”, a new distillery in BC’s agriculturally-rich Okanagan Valley.

For something sweeter, “Hawkers Organic, Rustic Roots Winery and Cidery Ltd.” was here representing Cawston BC; also known as the “Organic Farm Capital of Canada!” Here they offered popular orchard fruits as cider, including peaches and pears.

“Creek and Gully Cider” from Penticton gathered their fruit from the orchards of Naramata. I had their most popular option, a refreshing apple cider with a little “sparkle”.

I liked the theatrics of “Howling Moon Cider House” in Oliver. Their look was steampunk and their display included goggles that you couldn’t see out of, but were fun to wear if you wanted to do a literal blind taste test.

With all this drinking, you can take in a performance in front of the centre stage, in between. Knacker’s Yard, from Victoria, British Columbia (Coast Salish Territories), performed their traditional Irish, Scottish, English, Australian, and original music; doing so since 2013.

In short, if you are in the area, or thinking of a trip to South Okanagan during fall, I definitely suggest revolving your visit around this weekend and “Cask and Keg”; as well as “Festival of the Grape” the day after, like I did. What a way to taste what Okanagan has to offer. For more on the festival, and how you can get your tickets and accommodations for next year, visit the link below.

CASK AND KEG
http://www.olivercaskandkeg.ca/

Spirit Ridge Resort, Osoyoos BC

I was invited down to Oliver BC, to cover fall’s largest spirit and wine festival: “Cask and Keg” and “Festival of the Grape”. A day of celebration for each the weekend of October 5th and 6th. And for my two day over night stay, I was treated to the fine accommodations of “Spirit Ridge”, one town over in Osoyoos. I have explored the property at its exterior, so was delighted to be able to get a more fulsome experience through this weekend stay.

However, time was limited and the weather was cold, so I missed out on enjoying the full amenities of the property. Like the warmth of their heated pools, especially the one dedicated to adults only. If we had more time we would l have explored the “Nk’Mip” dessert and cultural centre through a hike, and a visit to their museum for some education. Or maybe fully relaxed with a massage at the resort’s spa, followed by a tasting and tour at the on site winery: “Nk’Mip Cellars”.

Although, even though I missed majority of the above, I was still able to enjoy plenty of “Nk’Mip” wine during a visit to their bistro, and again with a welcome bottle in our suite.

“Spirit Ridge” is a lakeside resort and a winery, located on sacred land. With Osoyoos Lake and the Okanagan mountain range as its backdrop, this luxury resort is in Canada’s only desert, a place sacred to the Osoyoos Indian Band. If you are looking for a room, majority of them are full suites, so you are basically choosing your view and how many beds you want; and they even have pet friendly accommodations, so the whole family can visit.

Our suite was 337 in the “Lavender” building, 1 floor out of 4, and 1 building out 10 to stay in. The adobe-style structures gives you desert aesthetics, and the home furnishings within, help to settle you in right away. We had two bedrooms, two baths, a fully furnished kitchen and living room. Basically, our accommodations had everything you needed to live on site.

The threshold leads you directly to the kitchen, where a dining room table sits at the centre of stocked cupboards and a collection small kitchen appliances. A two slot toaster, full sized oven, microwave, and compact dishwasher; with enough cleaning pods for 3 loads. There wasn’t a hotel room bar to snack from, but the coffee maker included filters and beans. Or it served as a vessel to boil water for tea bags. Tea that would be sweetened with packets of sugar on the counter, and milk and cream in the full sized fridge. There was even a pantry, should you decide go stock up on some non perishables during your stay. As a whole there was a lot more closet and cupboard space than expected. 3 doors in the master bed room alone, one with an ironing board and the other with robes.

There were two bed rooms, the master with a king sized bed and a washroom with individual toilet room, a bath tub, and single-person shower.

The second was double the size with space for two queen beds. Its washroom only had a shower stall, but it was double the size of the other. Something we only learned of on our last day, after spending two days awkwardly cleaning ourselves in a shower stall that had us staring at its wall.

Both bedrooms had their own flatscreen televisions, but the one in the living room is the largest. It even pulled out and extended for a closer view from off the couch or lounger. A comfy setting with an office desk and a fireplace to boot.

From here you can exit out on to the patio. Our perch had us overlooking the outdoor pool and fire pit. If the weather was only warmer, we could have fully utilize the patio table and barbecue available.

We didn’t have time to cook, and just as well, because what we did enjoy on the resort was even better. As a welcome reception we sipped and snacked on the patio of “The Bear, The Fish, The Root, & The Berry”. Taking in the warm summer-like weather and looking out over their adults only patio and pool.

There, we got to connect with their new Executive Chef, Murray McDonald who educated us on the inspiration for the name of their new signature restaurant and the food it served. “Spirit Ridge proudly sits on the traditional land of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation.” The name “comes from a chaptik story passed down through the generations of the First Nations people of the Okanagan.” “The Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation approach to food is based on the creation stories of their culture… based on their story of the Four Food Chiefs.” “Skimxist the Black Bear (chief of animals, representing self-sacrifice, leadership, giving), Ntytikxw Chinook Salmon (water creatures, perseverance, hard work), Speetlum Bitterroot (plants below the round, relationships to the land) and Seeya Saskatoon Berry (plants above the ground, growth, strength, community) are legendary.” (As taken for their website)

The menu strives to bring in as much local produce as possible, with much of it being forage by Chef Murray himself. The following are small portions and variations of dishes from off their regular menu.

I especially enjoyed “Chef Ian’s world famous in east Osoyoos vegan almond cheese thing” (and yes, that is its actual name, coined after the dish was described as such.) It was such a vibrant plate, beautiful in appearance, taste, and textures. Whipped almond ricotta, maple squash, raw root vegetables, toasted farro, charred scallions; and a juniper and hibiscus salt that made all the difference. Thin slices of root vegetables used to scoop up dry clumps of the cheese product, that ate like a stiff hummus. So delicious that I wish I had another serving while I was there, and will live in regret because I didn’t.

The “Askawa” tartare of the land” was made before our eyes. A mix of bison and egg yolk emulsion over wild rice, served with pickles and mustard. It was very dark and refined, tangy and earthy. Given the crumbly texture of the firm rice against the soften meat, I would have liked more crostini served with it instead.

The “Rabbit pasta” was a pride point for our Chef-host. It featured hand cut chestnut noodles with braised rabbit, walnut, kale, lemon, chard chutney, and a berry pan sauce. The pasta is what made the difference, thin and chewy sheets with some texture to chew through. He declared that he doesn’t make any money off of this dish, given the $26 a kg for the chestnut flour used, with barely any white flour added. Chef Murray is looking into making this into a rabbit meat stuffed ravioli in months to come. This was a beautiful, well defined dish. Tender pulled rabbit meat with refreshing tomatoes and peppery greens.

I also really enjoyed the “Pow wow taco”, an exclusive at this event, with talks of it eventually hitting the menu. Crispy and spongy bannock topped with duck confit, white bean sumac spread, squash, and a mint dressing. I didn’t get the duck and didn’t miss it. There was so much flavour in the spread and vegetables, and it all well complimented the doughy base. Its freshness helped cut into some of the bannock’s slight greasiness.

To drink we had our choice of white and red, between “Nk’Nip Cellar’s” light white “Dreamcatcher”, and full bodied red, “Talon.

And followed it with liquid dessert. A tasty cocktail that drank like an apple pie with a cinnamon and sugar rim with actual apple spices for garnish.

But for those who want a quicker meal, “Spirit Ridge” also has a market place/cafe serving up premade sandwiches and pastries, pairing it with hot beverages.

In short, this all-suite resort, with its natural landscapes and delicious food and wine makes “Spirit Ridge a true wellness-centred oasis”; one worth experiencing for yourself. However, if you can’t stay the night, at least visit for a great meal at “The Bear, The Fish, The Root, & The Berry”. Or their soon to come, steakhouse!

SPIRIT RIDGE
1200 Rancher Creek Road Osoyoos, BC, V0H 1V6
(250) 495-4660
https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/canada/spirit-ridge/

Lake Country Wineries

My girl friend and I were in Vernon, enjoying the hospitality of “Sparkling Hill Resort”. And after a two day and two night stay, we were ready to head home to Vancouver. However our morning check out and evening flight meant we had some hours to kill in between.

We decided to use this time hitting up as many wineries in Lake Country as possible. First, the largest: “Gray Monk”, where we tasted and lunched. For the comprehensive review, visit the link below.

Gray Monk Winery

Now with only 3 hours left, we did a lightening round of tastings; attempting to stop at as many smaller wineries as possible, on our way to the airport.

We solicited the help of a cab driver, willing to chauffeur us to the wineries he knew, and keeping the meter running while we tasted at each one. The cost did rack up, but no more than what you would pay for one pass with any professional wine tour bus. Plus we didn’t have to share the space with anyone else, and were able to go at our own pace, and leave when we wanted to.

First was “Arrowleaf Winery”, where we were told their cream puffs were a must try. But unfortunately due to the influx of people trying to keep entertained on this rainy day, they soon sold out. In fact, their in winery cafe sold through of their entire showcase of baked goods. The owner has two daughters, both of which are pastry chefs, who bakes these desserts fresh daily.

As for the wine tasting, they aren’t a large winery, so you get a flight of 4 specific wines for $5, a fee waved if it leads to the purchase of a bottle. But sadly, we flew here with only carry on luggage, and were flying back with no way to bring a bottle of that much liquor with us.

The tasting began with their “2018 Pinot Gris”. A white with notes of ripe apple, pear, peach, and delicate floral aromas. It’s fermentation is done mostly in stainless steel tanks with added yeast. Although 10% of the wine is allowed to ferment in neutral barrels, with no yeast added. For their efforts, it won gold at the 2019 “National Wine awards of Canada”.

The “Field Collection 2018” is a blend of Germanic and Alsatian grapes that thrive in the cooler parts of the Okanagan. Floral freshness and lemony acidity is what you get here.

“Archive Pinot Noir 2016” is a full bodied red with dark cherry, raspberry, hints of spice, and rose petals. It is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, resulting in an distinct oakiness. It is best paired with richer dishes.

The “Field Collection 2016” is a medium to full bodied red with dark cherry, plum, vanilla, and hints of black pepper and sage. It too is aged in barrels, but here, both American and French barrels; thus giving it a different oak finish.

With no food for purchasing, we only stayed a little while longer. We enjoyed a drink on their patio, overlooking their sloped vineyard. My girlfriend a glass of their Pinot Gris, and me a cup of tea to stay warm with.

Next, we stopped at “Ex Nihilo Winery”. They serve food under their covered area, but our limited time meant we couldn’t try any of it. It is a fairly large winery with various areas inside to sit and enjoy a glass of their wine, and the company of your loved ones.

“Ex Nihilo” means “out of nothing” in Latin. It is named after a famous sculpture. Here, tastings are $7 for five wines of your choice. The following is what we tried between us two.

The “2018 sX Imagine” is a refreshing processco fermented in stainless steel vats. It is fragranced with plenty of fruit flavours like lychee, melon, clementine, and lime.

The “2018 CHAOS Vampata” is their favourite rose. Its name means “blush” in Italian, a name given for its colour, earned through the leaving on of the skins for 16 hours. 100% pinot noir grape with flavours of ruby grapefruit, strawberry, citrus peel, and rose petals.

The “2017 Pants Down Riesling” is fun for its name that serves as an inside joke. In 2017 there was an early and sudden snow fall. Their grapes had not been picked yet, so they were left scrambling to collect the crop. The result, a white with more concentrated flavours of orange peel and floral, lemons and limes, and honeydew to finish.

The “2018 Pinot Gris” boasts the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. D’anjou pear, green apple, and orange; wrapped around notes of ginger, and white nectarine.

The “2017 Privata Chardonnay” is exclusively from “Ex Nihilo’s” estate vineyard. It is described as having intense tropical flavours of pineapple and mango, complimented by a creaminess of butterscotch and honey.

The “2016 Merlot” contains grapes from “Black Sage Bench Vineyard” in Oliver. Aged in French and American oak barrels this wine is dark with fruit, reminding you of a Black Forest cake.

The “2016 Night” is their priciest bottle of their tasting menu, listed at $50. This is a Bordeaux style wine and their best selling red. It is balanced with aromas of blackberry and red plum; with notes of white pepper, all spice and chocolate on the tongue.

Winery number three was “Intrigue”, a smaller winery stocked well with plenty of white wine, due to their location well up North.

Here, tastings are $3 for 5. The best deal yet! And like with all the other wineries, it is waived if you purchase a bottle for them. Once again, we weren’t able to bring a bottle of wine back with us to Vancouver via plane. So we spent the money we saved from their inexpensive tasting on their giftshop. They boasted a great collection of wine themed odds and ends, including wine flavoured popcorn.

“Intrigue’s” tasting menu lists 7 whites, 3 reds, 1 rose, and 2 sparkling wines. But a chalk board at the back of their tasting bar mentions the only 5 that were actually available for trying today. No quirky names here, just the grapes that went into them.

The “Chardonnay” was lightly oaked with a nice minerality, and buttery fruit. Pineapple, peach, almond, and apricots. Crisp citrus and a touch of nutty caramel. Oddly enough, it smelled like durian to me, but in a good way.

The “Reisling” is their flagship varietal. It starts with aromas of nectarine and dried apricot; and finishes with high acidity in green apple and pineapple. So good that it was awarded double gold at the “Cascadia Wine Competition”.

The “Pinot Gris” comes with a little bit of colour, from 16 hours of skin contact. From it you get passion fruit, strawberry and lychee; for a clean finish. Its sweetness is best paired with seafood.

The “2018 Gewurztraminer” is fresh on the tasting block, having been opened and released a mere 1 hour before our arrival. It has a lower acidity, and is softer on palate with tropical notes. Lychee, nectarine, elderflower, orange, blossom, and soft white pepper. It is recommended as an accompaniment to spicy food like curry and/or chilli prawns. For me it was a little too sweet, giving me a soreness in the back of my throat.

The “Social Red” was the only red available today, and the lightest that they can make. Described as a sipping red; rich with vanilla, blackberry, and black cherry. Perfect with pizza or their charcuterie made with locally grown blackberry and sourdough. Shame, we were in a rush and couldn’t enjoy some of the latter.

 

Because it was on to the last winery. With 10 minutes before they closed, the staff out front were still encouraging us in.

Right across the street was “O’Rourke’s”. Where as “Intrigue” looked like a cozy chapel for intimate weddings, “O’Rourke’s” looked like an sterile government-run clinic. At the entrance your choice is left to the stainless steel vats and their fermentation operation, or right to their tasting room. With the latter a handsome wall greets you. Bottles against a stone wall, and more housed on shelves under it.

Across the way is their bar that mimicked a barrel with its oak and steel build, not to mention its round shape. $5 gave us a tasting of 4 out of their 10 wines made available. The following was what we choose based on how unique they read.

The “2017 Pinot Gris” is kept in French oak barrels for 3 months. It is easy to drink, beginning with citrus and pear, leading into apple and peach.

The “2018 Gruner Veltiner” was a new one for both of us. Only half of the wineries in the Okanagan produce it, making it pretty rare. If wine has volume, you can taste it here. Pineapple, thyme, and peach skin.

The “2018 Fielding Block” is a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. All the above juices intermingle during the fermentation process. It has notes of lime zest, Mandarin, green apple and pear. With a palate full of lemon, lime, peach, apricot, baking spice, and a hint of fresh ginger.

The “2018 Pinot Noir Rose” was fruit forward. Light and dry with lots of berry: strawberry, raspberry, and red liquorice. The palate is long and tasty with more strawberry, and raspberry; coupled with pomegranate and blood orange.

And with that last sip, our Lake County wine tasting, speed trial ended. Then it was a mad dash to the airport. Having drank around 2-3 glasses through tastings, we were ready for an easy 40 minute airplane ride home. Half the fun of the Okanagan is being able to visit all these wineries, learn where your wine comes from, and to taste as many as you want, to learn what you like. And as West Coast Canadians, we are so luckily to have it all here in our backyard, for an easy getaway.

Gray Monk Winery

We were in Vernon, enjoying a weekend at “Sparkling Hill”. Our check out was 11am, but our flight not until 7pm. So we filled our time with wineries, visiting as many as we could on our way to the airport. But sadly it was raining today so all the other tourists had the same idea, and we joined the roaming crowd.

Our first stop was “Grey Monk”, the largest of all the wineries in Lake Country. It was a beautiful property, two levels, with tall steeples and separated off sections. It gave you the impression of a monastery, befitting of their name.

We began with a wine tasting, 4 tastes for $5, a fee waved if you purchase a bottle of their wine. We flew and only had carry on luggage, so the option of taking any bottles back with us, was off the table. You had your choice between 4 of their whites, 1 rose, 3 reds, and 1 sparkling.

The following is what my girl friend and I tasted between us. They are most known for their Pinot Gris, as the first growers of it in Canada, back in 1972; so started with that. The winery would actually open 10 years later, in 1982.

The 2017 Gewürztraminer wasn’t as sweet as I expected.

The 2017 Rose was produced with a little pinot gris in it.

The 2016 Odyssey pinot noir was a medium red.

The 2015 Estate Cabernet Merlot contained a blend of cab sav and merlot together.

From there it was a stone’s throw to their gift shop. They had all sorts of knick knacks to tempt you with. The type you get at most wineries, like drinking accessories and glasses, plus plenty of fun souvenirs. We picked up a beaded bracelet of good intentions, a bag of merlot flavoured chips, and a couple of sun hats with wine related saying. I got “rose si vous plait” and my girl friend “Prosecco Princess”. And the latter two quickly became rain hats as we navigated the open property, to our next stop: their on property restaurant.

We were patience for a table by the rainy patio view. If you are going to dine in the Okanagan, you want to take in as much of the view as possible. But what we got was cloudy skies, faint mountains, and pools of rippling water. But I still preferred it over any table by the door.

Here, we enjoyed more wine in our cocktails. My guest had the “Grey Monk 75”. An Earl grey infused gin and their Odyssey Brut. I didn’t get any gin, it tasted more like a mimosa with enough orange flavouring that I asked if this was the right drink. It was.

I had the “Iced slush” in Riesling apricot, but it also comes in a rose berry. The former just seemed more unique. It was a tart slush, more juice than spirit. Sadly they only had a paper straw to drink with, so the slush wouldn’t travel up it, or got caught along the softened sides. I eventually gave up and finished the rest of my cocktail like a soup.

For a starter we had the “Crispy spiced calamari” with black garlic mayo, tzatziki cream, and a spicy pepper slaw. You could taste the quality in this, a good amount of breading to get the crunch, but not so much that you can’t taste the actual squid. I just wished that there was more of it. The dish was more dipping sauces than the squid you dip into it with. The slaw offered more substance and it balanced out the grease with its tangy flavour, and the red peppers packed more punch than I thought they would.

I had ordered the “Lake country mushrooms with local baby zucchini, soft poached egg, grassroot Gouda, shaved radish, and cured yolk”; expecting a sautéed mushroom medley. Instead what I got was a salad featuring mushrooms. I informed our server that I didn’t expect a salad and that the menu didn’t read like it would be. She told us that the dish has transitioned and that they just haven’t gotten around to correcting it on the menu. That in reality many of their customers asked for more greens with the dish, and here I was feeling like I got tricked into ordering an expensive salad. She offered to give me a bowl of mushrooms on the side, to which I declined. But did end up taking it to off the bill, due to my disappointment of it and my cocktail above. As for flavour, the greens were bitter, the mushrooms too salty, this seasoning would have been better served as a risotto. My girl friend ended up finishing this for me, as I enjoyed the entree below more.

“Sterling springs chicken paprikash” with fresh tagliatelle pasta, candied chillis, smoked mushrooms, cherry tomato, and sour cream. It was a comforting pasta dish. Familiar mild spices and seasonings, with the slippery texture of the cream over firm noodles. The tomatoes offered nice pops of freshness and I could have done without the dry chicken.

Having eaten our fill, and growing tired of the rain, we retreated into a cab to travel the rest of Lake Country one winery at a time.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A nice winery to visit when in Lake Country. A great view on a sunny day, decent food, plenty of drinks, and one of the best gift shops in the area to pick up souvenirs from. Don’t deny your cravings.

GRAY MONK
1055 Camp Rd, Lake Country, BC V4V 2H4
(250) 766-3168
graymonk.com

Sparkling Hill, restaurant & room service

We were at “Sparkling Hill” for the weekend. A girl’s getaway, arranged by my girl friend, in celebration of my birthday day.

For the review of our penthouse suite, the amenities that all guests can enjoy with an overnight stay, and all the spa treatments available, check out part one of my “Sparkling Hill” coverage in the link below.

Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa

This post will be focused solely on the food and dining options at the resort. For the vlog account of our trip, click the link below.

 

Visiting without a vehicle, we were left with the food options offered up by the resort. Breakfast for all guests is complimentary. An European style buffet available from 7am to 11am daily. You are seated by a host and servers offer your coffee and/or tea, but the food and drinks you help yourself too. Although you do get a bill at the end, itemizing what you had and how much you would have had to pay for it, if not made complementary to everyone; all so that you could tip the server accordingly.

Between the two days that we visited, the buffet varied little. Though with plenty of options to choose from, it will take a while to go through it all for longer stays. Platters of meats, cheeses, and pickled vegetables. Bowls of whole fruit piled high. Devilled eggs one day and hard boiled the next. Bread, bagels, and buns you toast and spread with jam, jellies, marmalade, and/or butter. Oatmeal kept warm in a pot, served with your choice of seasonings. Hot food included scrambled egg, breakfast sausage, and a curried potato. On our first day there was pork belly, which was an interesting choice. On the second day, an egg Benedict with ham and Hollandaise. For something sweet you can pick up a scone or a chocolate croissant, or maybe a mini loaf of muffin, these do vary day to day.

Your lunch options are either in room dining or a snack from the cafe “Barrique and Java”. The later included baked goods and desserts on displays. We only visited during happy hour for cheaper drinks and smaller shared bites. Each time avoiding the darkened alcove and trying to claim the tables that gave us the best view. The patio was ideal, however too warm during high noon.

On one visit it was 9oz wine for $10 and a charcuterie and cheese board. Peller Estates Sauvignon Blanc and Two Oceans pinot Grigio. Artisan cheese and meats with house made pickles, preserves, crackers and bread.

The next visit it was another $10 glass of wine for my girl friend and sparkling sangria for me. Well paired with crispy chips and dip. Hand cut Kennebec potatoes tossed with sea salt and toasted black pepper, served with lemon and confit garlic aioli.

Our girl’s weekend package that my girl friend signed up for gave us two complimentary cocktails here. So after happy hour time elapsed, we redeemed it in for two martinis. The “caramel apple martini” with its dusting of cinnamon reminded me of pie. Okanagan spirits vodka, butter ripple schnapps, apple sour puss, and apple juice. A dessert-like cocktail great for those who like their drinks a little sweet. The “Cassis royal” on the other hand was a lot more tart. Okanagan spirits blank current liqueur, Okanagan spirits vodka, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice.

And when that was done, to keep the party going we got a bottle of wine to share. The “Mission Hill” limited edition viognier. We didn’t end up finishing it, but were allowed to take what we couldn’t enjoy here back up to our hotel for later, glasses included.

For room service we ordered off of both their lunch and dinner menu. For the former it was two entrees, a cocktail, and bottle of sparkling. For the latter a sandwich, a pasta, a side of risotto and two bottles.

The “Pan fried hill farm chicken schnitzel” was delicious. A grown up chicken tender with parsley buttered potatoes, summer vegetables, lingonberry compote, and fresh lemon. You have a choice of their jager sauce or creamy mustard for $3 more. We got the former which offered a very mild mushroom based dipping sauce, with actual slices of mushrooms within.

The “Bison burger with Okanagan blueberries” was a hand formed bison burger with fresh thyme, confit garlic, Dijon mustard, Okanagan blueberry, aioli, arugula, black pepper caciotta cheese, crispy onions, and fresh tomato; all on a brioche bun. I found the patty over cooked and a little flat. It could have used some tang to brighten up the serving. I ended up adding more mayo and ketchup to it from the miniature bottles that were brought up as well. The side of fries on the other hand were nice, especially after drinking.

Their Caesar was a mix of tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, tobasco, and vodka; all in all pretty standard. Although with all the wine I have been having, I found it tasty and a nice change. But the bottle of “Prosecco gold Brut” got us right back on track.

For our late night dinner we had the “Beef dip sandwich” that came highly recommend by our hotel suite server. It was fatty meat and chewy bread, dipping into a fragrant gravy. To change the taste, the side of hand cut fries and roasted garlic aioli was a nice break.

Their risotto varies day to day, with the option to have it as an appetizer or entree serving size. This is the former, the chef’s daily seasonal inspired risotto, a chicken tinga with a tomato chipotle. It was comforting in its soften texture and familiar tomatoes base. The goat cheese and pickled onion offered some interest in taste, heightening the flavour of the rice in contrast.

The “Spicy prawn linguine aglio e olio” was a nice dish. A clean pasta prepared with sustainable farmed prawns, sautéed garlic, pepperoncini, rapini, grape tomatoes, Thai basil, and a lemon crumb. It was light and refreshing with the thick prawns and juicy tomatoes. The greens lent a wasabi-like flavour with garlic notes.

For a more traditional and formal dinner experience their main restaurant, (located in the same space as the buffet) is open nightly. Here, our girl’s weekend package also included a 3 course meal at “Peakfine” for both of us. Our choice from anything off the menu: appetizer, entree, and dessert.

With the live music and the roar of the fireplace, the atmosphere of the room shifted. From breakfast buffet in robes to dinner courses in heels. A formal dinner with white table cloths and cloth napkins, starting with complimentary bread and butter with herb and garlic.

I wish I liked the seared diver scallop with green pea purée, chilli, citrus, and hazelnuts; a little more. It was a sweet dish, whereas I wanted something more rich and salty, or at least salty and sweet to start. You don’t get much of the scallop flavour already, and I didn’t want to over whelm it with the more dominate pea purée. Not to mention the sharpness of the lemon and the crunchiness of the peanuts helped to mask things. I would have liked the scallops to shine through more with a lighter sauce, and to have the peas as more of a side.

The “Ahi tuna tartar with avocado mousse” was also a little strong. You expect and want a lighter dish, to be able to taste the fish, but once again the sauce masks it all. Especially the punchy lemon grass teriyaki; fully coating the fish and pickled ginger carrots, sesame cucumbers, and puffed Canadian wood rice. It was a nice enough dish, but it felt incomplete without a base, too saucy to not have something to scoop it up with, and help sop up some of that excess salty and sweet teriyaki.

For entrees I had their special of the day, a “9oz prime rib special” with mashed potatoes, beets, and lettuce. A classic meat and potatoes dish. A thinner, fattier cut with a minty accent from the greens, and a punch of tang from the horseradish. The potatoes were my favourite part of the dish, whipped smooth and absorbent of all that meaty jus that run off the slab of beef, over it. This was both comforting and filling.

My girl friend got the “Lamb backstrap and texture of carrots”. Aromatic lamb, burnt honey carrot purée, confit heirloom carrots, carrot sponge, and mint chimmichurri. You have to think about it to fully enjoy it, the creativity of presenting carrots three ways. It didn’t necessarily help to highlight the lamb. And although interesting, I would have preferred more complimentary sides to my main protein.

There was a lot going on with the plate, so I was surprised to see her add a lobster tail to it. It came as a side with butter you pour over, naturally sweet with a little bit of salt. The tail was a little on the smaller side, but still delicious, despite it being tough.

At this point we were full and couldn’t finish our entrees. However our package included dessert, so we got it go. Wrapped in Saran for us to enjoy as an indulgent breakfast, the day after.

The “Cheese board” was a selection of artisan cheeses, served with house made pickles, preserves and crackers. Who doesn’t like cheese and crackers; and this platter offers a variety of both. Crispy and chewy paired with sweet and sour elements, a choose your own adventure in eating to cater to your tastes. Champagne cheddar, a truffle cheese, and blue cheese.

The “Chocolate board” was a selection of house made, hand dipped chocolate truffles that are seasonally inspired. This too was fun to pick at. A hands on experience between the chocolate crumbs, the fresh fruit, and the dollop of gelee. There was also a macaron and a square of gummy, along with a piece of chocolate that had the bubbly texture of an areo bar. And amongst all of that were 4 house made chocolate truffles. One was a white chocolate raspberry, another white chocolate with a cocoa filling, there was a dark chocolate cherry, and a milk chocolate with chocolate mousse filling.

This would be the last meal we had in our dreamy weekend penthouse, and thus ends our “Sparkling Hill adventure. We followed this up with a handful of winery tours, those posts to come.

SPARKLING HILL
888 Sparkling Pl, Vernon, BC V1H 2K7
+1 877-275-1556
sparklinghill.com

Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa

My girlfriend and I have been trying to top each other for our birthdays, for years now. And this year she raised the bar again with a weekend getaway to Vernon’s “Sparkling Hill”.

Naturally we were planning on drinking, so decided to bypass the 4 hour car ride and take a plane instead. 30 minutes on the plane waiting and another 30 actually flying over the mountains, brought us to Kelowna; and the down side to our flight plan. The $90 cab ride from airport to resort.

Worth noting is, if we did drive, valet parking is complimentary, one car per room. And $20 a night for anything additional. The resort also offers complimentary shuttle rides from the resort to “Predator Ridge” and its golf course.

”Sparkling Hill” serves as an escape for wellness and relaxation, but is better known for its Swarovski crystal elements. Crystals that adorn the back of chairs and the banisters to the stairs. Sparkling detail on the mirrors, and built into the art work and lighting fixtures. Eye catching crystals in every corner. But my favourite ones were the one used in the men and women’s washroom signs, what a way to upgrade and every day experience.

For a more visual account of this trip, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Given that the resort is in the middle of no where, we spent all our time within it. Luckily my girlfriend got us the “Edelweiss Penthouse” suite. This corner suite on the 2nd floor (out of 3) gave us ample sprawling room.

A living area with couch and recliners, facing a flat screen television. A table for dining on and a full sized refrigerator, you don’t really use due to the fact that groceries are far away and there is no kitchen to cook any of it in. Nor is there a microwave to help heat up any of our leftovers. So it simply kept our bottles of wine cool.

Around the corner is the first of two washrooms. A closeted space with a simple toilet, facing a mirrored encrusted with a wave of Swarovski crystals.

On the other wing of this expansive suite was the bed room and full washroom. The former had a king size bed facing a secondary flat screen and fireplace. Adjacent to it was a floor to ceiling window and a cow hide lounger facing the view.

The washroom was the most impressive of the accommodation with several ways to keep keep yourself clean. A dual head shower with 2 facets, a free standing tub, and two sinks. Perfect for couples who want to do things together, but not have to wait for their turn with the hot or running water.

Here, the secondary toilet was a special one: heated and with a built in bidget. You can choose the force and the direction in which the stream shoots at your parts. You can then follow up your cleaning with some in-toilet drying, as a gust of heated air blows everything dry.

And for even more luxury, we had our own private, wood furnished, sauna with heated coals. Allowing us to enjoy our own sauna, instead of the similar one down at the spa.

Each “Sparkling Hills” stay includes access to “Kuspa” and many of its amenities, with many more services you can add on.

The spa has a no cellphone policy. This is to ensure that all guests have their privacy, and that you as a guest can disconnect. However so many disregard this. During my time at the spa I heard the ding-ing of phone messages, and saw groups of girls taking photos amongst everyone else in the pool. And only after I saw this, and noted all the photos of the spa being geotagged on Instagram, that I dared to take my own. However, I made sure no one was in the vicinity, coming early and avoiding the crowds, and that we didn’t disrupt anyone in doing so.

We ventured into the sauna well before it opened for the day. Before majority of the guests woke up and before the steam was turned on. There are seven aromatherapy steam rooms and saunas built around the European spa philosophy. Where the cycle of healing and holistic rejuvenation is one of heat, cold, rest, and invigorating repetition. You can move through the different saunas and steam rooms by alternating between hot, cold and rest with rehydration to receive the maximum health benefits. Each room had a plaque telling you how long you should stay inside it and if it is best done with or without a towel.

The Aqua Meditation steam room is the first, it has the sound of water gently dripping into a Swarovski Crystal basin. You listen to the drips as you lounge on cushioned seats. Gentle calming music plays in the background, and you breathe in the scent of orange. It is suggested that you start here with some meditation before or after your steam or sauna.

The steam rooms are basically arranged in the order of which you would want to visit them. They transition from warm to hot, varying by 2 degrees between rooms. The second door is the Rose Steam Room set at 38°C. As you can guess, it is fragranced with the sweet scent of rose, and decorated with pink lights and single rose pedals in a frame.

Where the first two rooms were blue and pink, the Salt Steam room is red. It is set at 40°C and plenty of Himalayan salt. Brine-infused water droplets fill the air, simulating a natural salt cave. It is believed that being in this salt here will “enhance concentration, stop aging, and smooth wrinkles”.

I liked the “bling bling” look of the Crystal Steam room set at 42°C. Here, “Swarovski crystal elements and mirrors create an illusion of infinite time and space; as eucalyptus aromatics energize and uplift”.

The 60°C Herbal Sauna utilizes “traditional beams of imported European wood combined with pine aromatics, to help creation the sensation of being in the great outdoors”. An iron basket filled with stones is heated and maneuvered into a copper basin of water, this creates steam. “The resulting humidity and heat promotes the cleansing of lungs, and provides a surge of moisture for your skin”.

The Panorama Sauna is 80°C offering a panoramic windowed view of green forested hills and the blue lake of the Okanagan. The dry heat calms the body, helping to release tension and stimulates the glandular system.

The Finnish sauna is also known as the classic one, set at 10 degrees more that the last. This style is true to the European spa tradition with walls and benches of gently polished wood. With high temperature and a low 10% humidity, this room is ideal for cleansing your skin and lungs. Most memorable is its hand painted art inspired by Michelangelo.

I really liked the 10°C Igloo. It had the sound of crackling ice and the scents of peppermint and eucalyptus, meant to invigorate. This room is recommended after a sauna or steam, to reduce your body temperature. Here, the floor is glazed with Swarovski crystal lacquer, the silver tiles on either end are chilled with ice. And at thecentre is a fountain that releases crushed ice into a basin. You are meant to rub the ice onto your skin, as an way to stimulate circulation.

The “Experience Showers” come with a array of water falling options, with multiple shower heads to help stimulate the skin from many angles. Some of these showers have options like: “tropical and thunder rain, spray and side massage, side and overhead shower, colour changing lights; and fragranced scents like eucalyptus or orange and mandarin.

We would spend most of our time at the pool. The one that most take a photo in and in-front is the “Outdoor Infinity Pool”. A cool body of water with a panoramic view of Lake Okanagan and the surrounding vistas. Rain or shine visitors can enjoy this tranquil oasis.

For those who like a roof over them, there is a “Indoor Serenity Pool”. Unique with the soft underwater music and Swarovski crystals glittering above as you swim through the warm clear water, treated with salt.

The “Indoor Hot Pool” is adjacent. Your typical hot tub outfitted with bubbling jets.

The “Kneipp Hydrotherapy” is in the space adjacent. It is a shallow maze of water that you walk through. This stepping causes the blood vessels to expand and contract, it stimulates and invigorates the circulatory and lymphatic systems, it helps to relax the nervous system, reduce swelling, increases the body’s defence against varicose veins, and relaxes aching muscles.

At the other wing of the spa is the Fitness Studio. A gym equipped with the newest and most advanced Keiser fitness equipment, using air pressure to increase and decrease resistance.

Their “Movement Studio” hosts a couple of complimentary classes a day, including yoga and stretching classes.

The “Tea Room” offers caffeine-free herbal teas, best enjoyed on one of their loungers, looking out at their Okanagan view.

And for a more calming environment and one to nap in, try the “Serenity Relaxation Room”. A quiet, space to relax in, after or in-between treatments. Here more loungers, with a few behind stringed fringe, looking at the Monashee Mountains and Lake Okanagan.

Other wellness experiences that come at an additional cost include various massages, reiki (the energy technique using light touch), reflexology, customizable facials, body wraps, exfoliating scrubs, and their famous cryo cold chamber treats. The latter is an anti-inflammatory treatment that introduces cold temperatures as low as -110 degrees.

We paid extra to enjoy their “mud and muscle” treatment in their “Fango” section. “Fango” is the Italian word for mud. Pure volcanic dust and water are blended into a warm, buttery composition. It is spread over the skin to help detoxify and reinvigorate muscles. I thought we would be slathered in this mud, but only your backs were coated. Its warmth engulfs you from neck to tail bone, as you are wrapped in plastic and cloth. This allows your skin to absorb the minerals. You sit and relax as you are given either a foot or scalp massage, or both.

And after 30 minutes of stewing you are invited to wash the mud off in the in-suite shower. I felt the warm of the mud, but didn’t get the promise of soothing heat. Once washed and dried we were giving a more traditional massage. One that we customized with a focused on our most troublesome areas. The heat from the mud is meant to penetrate deep into the muscle, preparing your body for the best massage result. A unique experience, but I don’t know if the mud really added anything.

Our time at the spa was limited. We would dip into and take minimum advantage of the above throughout our stay. Because truth be told, if you are paying for a penthouse, you are going to enjoy that space a lot more. Plus, we were more keen on treating the resort itself as a getaway. In fact my my girlfriend booked us the girl’s weekend package. It included a “Sparkling Hills” branded tote bag and water bottle. Gifts placed on our bed, along with our robe, slippers, and towel for the spa. They also placed a couple of chocolates and a card acknowledging my birthday, upon her request.

This package also came with two complimentary drinks at their cafe/bar: “Barrique & Java Dining; and a 3 course dinner for two at the only restaurant, “PeakFine”. The latter also served as the space for the complimentary breakfast buffet, available to all resort guests.

For more about all the food and drink we had, click the link for part 2 of our time at “Sparkling Hill”.

Sparkling Hill, restaurant & room service

 

SPARKLING HILL
888 Sparkling Pl, Vernon, BC V1H 2K7
+1 877-275-1556
sparklinghill.com

Real Things Pizza

When hearing we were staying in Naramata for the weekend, a handful of locals suggested that we visit “Real Things Pizza” for a pie or two. So on our last day, we drove into downtown Naramata to give it a go.

The pizza parlour was already a bustle of orders and pick ups, 15 minutes after they opened. Their sign outside mentions that they open at 4:30pm -ish daily.

Inside there is simply a counter in which you order from. The menu printed out as a take out flyer, on the counter. A television screen scrolled through photos of their other menu items like spring rolls and chicken wings. Past all this you saw a well staffed kitchen with preteens and and young adults working tediously. Necessary, as when we sat and waited for our order, many more bodies could be seen going in and coming out to this little pizza shop. This had us optimistic of the meal to come.

We each ordered our own individual sized pizza which was $4 less than the small, $8 less than the medium, $12 less than their large.

My partner’s was their popular “Nevermatter” pizza with smoked ham, pepperoni, mushroom, pineapple, and bacon on thin crust. (You have the ability to choose the thickness of crust for each pizza, made to order.) It wasn’t your Italian style thin crust, just less dough and more crunch at the base. From the evenly placed toppings, you can tell that they take their time making each round. Therefore it was packed full of salty meats, sweet pineapple, and earthy mushrooms. A classic combination that ate like home cooking. You can tell it was made with fresh ingredients

I had the special, advertised outside on their road side sign and on the chalkboard by the door. A peach and prosciutto pizza with fresh oregano, on my choice of a thick crust. The crust ate like a doughy flat bread with the flavour of herbs. My partner liked it so much that he ate it like bread with butter. It was airy with a crispy chew. The topping combination was mild, nothing dominated, there were just pockets more dense in chewy salted ham or soften fruit that melted into the cheese. It ate like an appetizer with the balance of salty meat and sweet fruit. I liked that the latter was sourced so locally.

Each box comes with a “pizza buck”. A stamped on coupon that gives you a dollar off your next purchase, shame we weren’t from in town to take advantage.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great option for pizza or dinner in Naramata. No more words needed. Don’t deny your cravings.

REAL THINGS PIZZA
961 Robinson Ave, Naramata, BC V0H 1N0
(250) 496-4008
realthingspizza.com

Time Winery: tasting, tour, & bistro

Today we were at “Time Winery” in Penticton. They have just celebrated their one year anniversary, and as happy as that occasion was, it was marred by the passing of their founder and patriarch, Harry McWatters. We would learn more about him and the modern, “Time Winery” through a tour and comprehensive tasting.

Harry has seen many years in the wine industry, beginning with “52nd Vintage” winery, and following up with “Sumac Ridge” and “See Ya Later Ranch”. “Anyone who is growing grapes for wine must give a tip of the hat to Harry”, according to our tour guide, and hospitality manager, Kelley. The “god father of BC wine” passed away in his sleep at the age 74 this July. But will be remembered for pioneering the business, where previously the Okanagan only dealt in orchard fruits. Fast forward, Western Canada is on the map as a destination for wine.

He latest legacy was “Time Wines”. Wine is about time, and the experiences that are measured in time and a place; so what better a title than one that has you reflecting on the above. Fun fact, each clock used on the winery’s labels or merchandise has a special time and its own meaning to Harry. For example, the clocks on the employee’s aprons is the time they signed over the building.

Located in the middle of downtown Pentiction, “Time Winery” was converted from an old theatre. They have kept a piece of this history through the curvature of the old wooden roof, the slanted floor Cinemas, the historic seats, and projector room. More on that later.

We started our tour with 2018’s new release, the “Tribute Brut”. This vintage helped to mark and celebrate their one year. Here, we noted that they pour and serve their wine tasters in a full-sized wine glass, this is so that you are able to fit your nose within it. As for the bubbles, it had a richer mouthfeel, thanks to a secondary fermentation. Another fun fact, all of “Time’s” employees get to end their day with a glass of wine, of their choosing; and currently everyone is choosing this Brut.

We followed it up with the (at the time) not yet released 2018 Sauvignon blanc. Lovely and fresh with citrus and vibrant acidic.

Next was the “Time winery meritage white” with white peaches and a blend of two grapes. Their Meritage plays homage to the French wine of Bordeaux. They got idea from a Bordeaux so call it “meritage” as a merger of the words “merit” and “heritage”. A term Harry McWatters brought to the wine lexicon, standardizing the term. The white used a softer grape with a lower acidity, balancing out its richness.

The grapes needed for the “Time winery viognier” is not indigenous to BC. Here they are good eating grapes, but bad grapes for wine. With a viognier you want a rounder, softer acidity. And sadly will never find a low acidic BC wine. Our cooler climate has it so that the fruits grown here will never get so hot that the acid is removed. But growing in sugar, and softening in acid you get apricot and honey flavour with this white.

The “McWatters Collection Chardonnay” Is barrel fermented and aged for 9 months. With regular stirring, a creamy mouthfeel is created. Multiple yeast strains are also used to produce this complex, yet balanced wine.

During our tour we learned more about the grapes they bring to their winery. Located in the city, they don’t have their own vineyard, so they source all their grapes from various farms that surrounds them in Pentiction. Thanks to Harry they have plenty of grower partners that give “Time” the best of their fruit. The result, “the best expression of their fruit to these wines”. This year the map is as shown above, however, this may change as they cherry-pick which grapes and from where, in order to get the best fruit in the valley. Grapes that are site specific, with the soil samples to prove it.

The backroom tour gave us a look at the theatre’s former glory and its beautifully done wood ceilings that they kept and exposed. A theatre Harry remembered visiting as a child, with floors sticky with gum and soda, and admission was but 25 cents.

Each room was a separate theatre, refurbished with seismic upgrades. Theatre one is adjacent to the the crush pad, where all the grapes come in on trucks. This connecting space also doubles as their event space. In fact, every square foot of their property is licensed for a party. Imagine company gatherings and celebrations being held her with wine so readily available. The floors are even heated and they have installed a great sound system to boot.

Theatre two held the multiple barrels needed for the production of red, and the door that once housed the projection room. Here rests 1200 barrels that are topped up regularly. They sit and ferment, the heat from the reaction causes the product to evaporate, thus making it more concentrated. But you don’t want oxygen in contact with wine so you need to top off the barrel regularly.

Here, we learned how to read the coded serial number for each barrel. The toast of the barrel (the level of char that they see to varying degrees), where it was sourced or built, the year, the place, and the location.

And even got a chance to tap one of the barrels for a taste of “teenage” wine, a wine mid way through the fermentation process. Which we would later be able to compare to the finished product. The “teenage” 2017 Time Merlot has a dense quality to it, you can taste vibrant fruit and all its acid. As it ages this colour will fall out.

Moving along with our tour, Theatre three houses their fermentation tanks from Italy. Using temperature control to cool and stabilize their product, wine is moved from tank to tank so that it can be cleaned, while gravity helps to naturally clarify the wine. Clear wine is cleared off the top, so that by the time you get to the last tank you have less sediment.

And Theatre four will soon speak to the building’s heritage. It is a work in progress, but they hope to reupholster the original seats from the theatre and equip them with wine glass holders. So that guests can stop by on special nights, where they will be hosting original vintage cinema and foreign movies, in this historic building. Each one will be hosted by a sommelier that will pair their wines to the picture on the screen. Imagine a dropped ceiling, a dark room, and popcorn with a side of brut.

We then headed back to the main tasting room for some red wines, including the “Time winery Merlot” as an adult. Here it is richer and more toned down. The fruit backs off, and it drinks softer.

“Time has two meritage” wines. One is time Merlot based with 65%. It is the sweeter of the two. The “McWatters signature collection” is a bigger and fuller blend with 50 % cab sav. Its deep colour speaks to the richness of the wine. This would be best paired with a grilled ribeye or lamb.

But our host’s favourite red is the “2014 Syrah” made with grapes from the south end of the valley. He described it as having power, but with finesse. A smokiness that is reminiscent of mushrooms, with hints of black fruit and spice.

And here, I have to mention that the entire tour was made all the more enjoyable thanks to our host Kelley. Our cheeks were not only red from the wine, but from all the laughing. He brought us into the experience through storytelling and his natural relatability. If you ever get a chance to taste and tour with him, you must. After all, he believes, “If you are not having fun you should go home. Don’t waste a minute of it!”

And after all our laughing and drinking, we would take a pause to enjoy their bistro for lunch. Here, everything that comes out from their kitchen is sourced locally.

We grabbed a seat on their spacious patio, with its prime real estate for people watching. And enjoyed a full glass of the “2014 Syrah”, as we too found this our favourite of the reds we tried.

We started with the highly recommended “Time frites”, Triple cooked and tallow fried; seasoned with herbs, Parmesan, cracked pepper. And served with a black garlic mayonnaise. For a more traditional fry taste they have a “Time frites 2.0”, this version comes with a Cabernet Merlot catsup for dipping, instead. This was created in reaction to customers asking for a more more traditional dip. We treated ourselves to both dips, although the fries really already have a flavour all their own. They were cooked crispy, the way I like it, but my partner found them over cooked. The dips just elevated the starter and created more interest. The garlic mayo was decadent and creamy, and the ketchup tangy, but with less bite than regular ketchup.

I followed it with the feature “Quail scotch egg” with blueberry duck sausage, and a bed of peashoots served with hot honey. I like the idea of crispy breadcrumbs coating juicy meat, surrounding a runny egg, and have never had one this creative. So easy to pop into your mouth whole, these little quail eggs were prepared perfectly runny. The duck meat was light, it didn’t take away from the egg. It was complimented by the peppery greens, the earthy mushrooms, and a the sweater sauce. It was a lovely refined plate, making eggs approachable any time of the day.

My partner enjoyed the “Time burger”. Like the scotch egg, this was a pub classic elevated and made timely with their wine. 1/2lb house ground chuck and brisket, Pacific Rock, pickles, crispy onion, bacon jam, pecorino, and a green peppercorn mayo. It was a juicy burger, with a really satisfying patty, all the flavours just came together.

We definitely enjoyed our time with “Time”, leaving far more knowledgeable and happy than when we arrived. For wine, dinner, or a good time in Pentiction, I highly recommend making them a must stop!

TIME WINERY

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