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Category: Okanagan Page 1 of 5

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

Liquidity Wines & Bistro

Tonight we were at “Liquidity” for dinner, here to celebrate my latest birthday. It came recommend from local food and lifestyle writer @myvancityca, so I was excited for the meal to come.

Located in Okanagan Falls, this is a smaller winery, with its bistro and patio larger than their tasting room and wine assortment. They serve Pacific Northwest cuisine proudly highlighting their use of organic and local ingredients. Something that they printed on the menu and speak to in person as you sit down to order. All meats are ethically sourced from small local farms, all seafood is purchased through BC fisherman; and all vegetables come from their organic farming partners, or are grown on site. And then all of it is assembled together in house.

When we entered we were left waiting at the threshold, separating their tasting room for dining room, kept behind the sign asking for us to “wait to be seated”. Here, three different employees acknowledged us, but only one could seat us. We watched and waited as plates coming to past got prioritized, by the three employees delivering them to a seated table.

I remembered having a similar interaction when I had to make the reservation for my own birthday dinner. Over the phone the host was abrupt, she didn’t even acknowledge my request for a nice table, specifying the occasion. Although on the actual day, I did get some well wishes while waiting, and they would more than make up for it with the warm birthday reception below.

We were able to wait for a table that cleared by the edge of the patio, closest to the vineyard below. But the best seats were the ones that weren’t shielded by glass. These had an unstructured view of their infinity water feature, over looking their grape vines, with the blue of the lake in the far distance.

We began our evening with some of their wine. The “Liquidity Rosé 2018” was sold out at their tasting room, and during the time of our visit, the only way to try was at their bistro. A sweeter pink wine with strawberries on the nose. I preferred the “Liquidity Pinot Noir Estate 2017” I had, a rich berry wine that was easy to sip and savour.

To start we nibbled on some warm bread. A one year old sourdough made using flour from Summerland’s “True Grain”. Served with house cured and churned butter, topped with malted salt. I am a fan of sourdough, so enjoyed its natural, acidic tang. A smaller bun with more crunchy crust to gnaw on, and best enjoyed with the creamy butter, minus any of the coarse salt. Little did we know, over salting would be a common thread in our meal.

I ordered the “Sourdough fried oyster mushroom” with a black garlic dip, not realizing its batter was made from the same sourdough dough as above. It had a similar flavour coating the meaty mushroom from Summerland’s “What the Fungus”, but the dip was what flavoured it. It was dense and salty spread, where I wanted more garlic flavour. In the end I found myself painstakingly removing batter from the crispy mushrooms to gently dab it into the dip.

I fully enjoyed the “Cured scallop” appetizer and would have been happy with just it for dinner. Silken scallop with juicy cucumbers, a creamy buttermilk sauce, and fragrant dill. This was a refreshing dish, and a lovely aperitif.

My partner had the “Lamb sirloin” with green onions, mushrooms, miso and lamb bacon. I tried a bite and found it far too salty to want more. He insisted it was ok and found himself sifting through the mix for curated bites, paired with plenty of water. He declared that it was better than it looks, but was disappointed that there were more vegetables than the lamb he ordered it for. I didn’t like the visual of the wilted pea shoots and chunky sauce that pooled at the bottom of the plate. The lamb bacon was a nice addition, but it only made things saltier. It ate more like jerky than bacon, missing the same chew or crispiness as good old fashion pork bacon.

If given the option I would have ordered their tasting menu, but my entire table would have to commit to it as well. However it was sold out, and we weren’t able to order it after 8pm, given their 9pm closing time and the necessity to craft the 8 courses with 4 wine pairings.

As a nice complementary palette refresher between dinner and dessert, we were presented with the “Nootka rose granita” made with fresh shiso and a shiso curd. It was frozen ice and ate like you had a snow cone or slurpee for dessert. The texture was light and icy, and it had an elegant flavour combination, with plenty of beautiful rose flavour. I couldn’t taste the shiso, but I am not complaining as I usually find it too strong of a flavour. My only critique is that it got too sweet at the end, and I had to put down my spoon. I would have liked this more made in to a Bellini-like cocktail with vodka. Overall, a great transitional treat.

With dessert the restaurant offered up two glasses of their “Liquidity bubbly” to mark the occasion. This was their Prosecco-style sparkling, a non-vintage from this season that is only available by the glass.

My partner arranged a dessert to be brought out in surprise for my birthday, but sadly they didn’t have candles for me to blow out. “Miso caramel sticky toffee pudding” with caramel and charcoal tuile, and a black barley smoked ice cream. The crispy caramel cookie shards were the best part, it ate Iike a thin cookie. With the black charcoal ones being more thinner and smokier. The cake was like a warm airy sponge, but incredibly salty from the miso, where I wanted more caramel. The neutral-ness of the ice cream leant its creaminess and offered balance, and the buttery short bread crumble gave the dessert the sweetness you were looking for.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I liked the location, the creative offerings and their mantra of local and organic ingredients. It’s just a shame that we would found everything either too salty or too sweet. I would for a wine tasting and the view. Don’t deny your cravings.

LIQUIDITY
4720 Allendale Rd, Okanagan Falls, BC V0H 1R2
(778) 515-5500
liquiditywines.com

Smoke & Oak Bistro, at Wild Goose Winery

Craving BBQ on this hot summer’s day we found ourselves in Okanagan Falls for lunch. Specifically “Wild Goose winery” and their bistro, “Smoke and Oak”. I have yet to visit this winery so it would a double treat to see it and eat at it.

We were able to call ahead and grab a table on their patio, overlooking their winery. A covered sun deck kept cool with the whirl of fan blades and shade. It was just a shame that our table was in front of their outdoor stage, set up for their concert series. Between the metal scaffolding we got a glimpse of the rows of green grape vines ripening by the unobstructed sun.

Each table was laid with a yellow and white gingham cloth and plastic, to further the outdoor, picnic feel. And classic rock played overhead, taking you back. I kept the vibe going with their “Wild Goose Rose”. A refreshing glass with berry notes and a very pink hue.

To eat we shared their “Smoked and oak BBQ platter”, a customizable plate of meat, where you pay based on how many of the 4 types of meat you wanted. Half an order of pork ribs, angus beef brisket, apple maple pulled pork, and/or shredded chicken leg. Each platter comes with their lemon dill corn bread and sweet pickles, but you get a choice of two sides. Either their mixed greens with blueberry balsamic dressing, tater tots, Mac and cheese, a caramelized apple and tarragon coleslaw, maple roasted garlic baked beans, and/or a grainy mustard potato salad.

We went with the ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket and to it added the tater tots and Mac and cheese. It was feast for the eyes with all its fulsome glory.

The Mac and cheese was garlicky, with a great soft and chewy mouth-feel. But then you would get bits of crispiness from the Panko topping. It helped to balance out all the meat with its creamy texture. This was both my and my partner’s favourite side.

The tots on the other hand were crispy, but bland. I wanted ketchup, but didn’t ask. As a side, it didn’t help to rejuvenate the taste of everything else, but the dish of halved gherkins did.

The cornbread was airy, with a subtle sweetness from the whole corn kernels, coupled with the strong flavour of dill.

As for the meat, the brisket was perfectly tender but far too fatty, there was more fat that we discarded than meat we ate.

The pulled pork had a familiar sweet and tangy flavour, but was over cooked. At least my partner liked it just fine

The ribs were meaty and smokey, but it lacked its own flavour. Thankfully the trio of table barbecue sauces helped, it added life to the platter and gave much of it some needed kick.

The “rosemary chipotle bbq” was new, the herbaceous of the rosemary added a unique addition to a familiar flavour profile. The sweet and sour “signature bbq” was another tried and true bbq sauce. And the “jalapeño peach” was something completely different. You didn’t get much peach flavour, and I only noted a slight lingering heat from the jalapeño.

And to round out your meal, there is also charred pineapple spheres for a palette refresher.

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.
I do enjoy checking out wineries when in the Okanagan, and I enjoy them all the more when they have a bistro on premise. The wine was great, the food was average, but the experience and the view is why you visit anyways. Don’t deny your cravings.

SMOKE & OAK
2145 Sun Valley Way, Okanagan Falls, BC V0H 1R2
(250) 497-8919
wildgoosewinery.com

Bad Tattoo Brewing

Looking for a place for dinner in Penticton we followed the crowds and found ourselves at “Bad tattoo brewing company”. A doubly great choice consider there was free meter parking after 6pm and no wait for a table of two indoors.

With their garage door/wall raised, and the cool air circling, it all felt like we were outdoors anyhow. The brewery’s raised ceiling gave an extended spaciousness to the place. Above their bar, a poster of each of their flagship brew’s logos, done up like classic sailor tattoos. They really nailed their branding. Which included a great collection of merchandise like back packs, tanks, caps, and patches; on top of all their beers in cans to go.

The place was lively with mainstream rock music and the steady chatter of conversing tables. We were seated by the pizza oven, where the young men were busy behind the counter tossing rounds of dough in the air and topping it with a variety of unique ingredients, thanks to a creative menu. No margherita or Hawaiian pizza here.

It is hard order, there were so many different creative pizza options to tempt you. I was really considering the crocodile bbq pizza with crocodile filet or the fully loaded nacho pizza with olives, or even the cheeseburger pizza with pickles. The table next to us got the former and latter and enjoyed both fully, declaring the cheese burger true to taste and the crocodile more like a bbq chicken pizza.

In the end we shared a pizza, paying $2 more for to have it with two different flavours. My guest choose the “Comfort zone” made with honey ham and local apples, topped cheddar cheese. This was one of the more familiar and “safe” pizzas. The comforts of ham and cheese balanced by the sweetness of ripe apple; hence the name.

I went for one of their pizzas listed under their “weird pizza” section. The “Black and blue” with penticton’s upper bench blue cheese, blackberry compote, roasted local apples and roasted malt. Interesting combo with the salty crust and sharp blue cheese. With the oats it ate like a breakfast pizza. But with the jam it tasted like a dessert pizza, but gritty with the berry seeds.

Our split topping pizza took over 50 minutes to arrive. We waited so long that I sought our server to cancel the order due to our limited time constraints. But it was already in the oven by this time, so he kindly removed it from off our bill.

For drinks I got a “Flight of 5” for $10. Having never tried their beer before I decided to get a taster of one of each of their flagship brew. The row of them came on a metal holder with a laminated label marking its corresponding beer. The labels were the same art that crowned the top of the bar.

The “Vagabond Pilsner” is a traditional Czech Pilsner with a mellow grassy flavour. This was an easy drinking, crisp lager at 4.5%

The “Los Muertos cerveza negra” is a dark lager made from a mix of pilsner, crystals and Munich malts; giving this beer some of it maltiness.

The “Full sleeve” was a strong stout, mixed mostly of English specialty malts. Most notably a chocolate and roasted barley.

The “Tramp stamp pale ale” is a crisp fruit forward, American style pale ale hopped with Australian hops. This had flavours of peach, melon, and tropical fruits.

The “West coast ipa” had even more hops, giving it a bouquet of citrus, grapefruit, and tropical fruit, with a hint of pine.

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 great local brewery with a great vibe. Beers and pizzas are always a good idea. Don’t deny your cravings.

BAD TATTOO
169 Estabrook Ave, Penticton, BC V2A 1G2
(250) 493-8686
badtattoobrewing.com

Tidal Tacos

We were passing by Osoyoos, enroute to our air bnb in Naramata, and decided to stop for gas and lunch. And at “Tidal Tacos” its was a two in one. It came as a recommendation from a friend who lives in the area, and has found himself frequenting this kitchen since its opening. If not for him and his high praise, I don’t think we would consider lunching at a Petrol Canada gas station. But here we were and we weren’t alone, we placed our order and many more came after us.

The menu is a list of taco fillings above the window/counter. Pretty straight forward with a kids menu as well. We ordered four different tacos, not realizing the size of each. We expected 4 inch rounds as is commonplace in Vancouver. Instead these were two 7 inch tortillas stacked, and buried by vegetables.

It would have been nice of the lone employee: clerk and cook to warn us that we were ordering far too much food for two people. One taco stacked high in its basket was plenty. Though with all the shredded lettuce and sauce it ate more like a salad.

Each was also impossible to hold, without the filling toppling out at either ends. We ended up digging in with our fork, and digging out more than half of the lettuce. It is only then can you tell which taco has your chosen protein.

The “Beef, Blackbean, and Corn” was ground beef, sautéed black bean and corn, topped with crispy shredded lettuce, sharp aged cheddar, and a cilantro sour cream. This was my favourite of our four. It had a familiar, comforting flavour with the ground beef.

I enjoyed the “Sweet Thai Chicken” for the different combination it brought to the taco, with its sweet chilli sauce dressing. Fresh baked chicken, shredded lettuce, housemade pico de Gallo; all drizzled over with a chipotle aioli and spicy sirarcha. There was plenty of chicken meat too, and all of it prepared well and dressed fully.

I found that the “Pork Carnitas” taco overwhelmed with its tangy and salty bbq sauce. You couldn’t taste the cooked pork, shredded cabbage, housemade pico de Gallo, or chipotle aioli over it.

The “Baja Fish” taco was mild by comparison. I should have started with this and worked my way to the bbq pork one. Fresh Pacific cod that is panko crusted and flash fried, then topped much like the other tacos: shredded cabbage, housemade pico de Gallo, and chipotle aioli. The fish had a great texture, but it was the sauces that flavoured it.

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? – No.
These weren’t your traditional tacos, they weren’t authentic to anything, just great for what they were. Better than any other gas station offering for sure. Amazing value, plenty of food for $5.50-7.50 for a 3lb taco. I can see why the person who recommended this to us, drives out of his way here for lunch. A great meal solution that is tasty and on the healthier side for a price that doesn’t break the bank. Don’t deny your cravings.

TIDAL TACOS
Petro-Canada gas station
6201 45 St, Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V6

Getting Outdoors with the Honda Civic Sport Coupe

Every year for my birthday, my partner takes me for a weekend to the Okanagan, an easy drive eastward to escape the city and our every day lives. And this year we would made our getaway in the Honda Civic Sport Coupe.

Civics have continue to be the best selling car in Canada for a reason; and many of us have owned one, one time or another. For my partner and I, our first car was a Civic, in one of its past reincarnations. So the shared four hour drive up and down, also served as a ride down memory lane.

The Honda Civic is known for its reliability, a necessity when driving great distances, in areas with no cell phone reception. And it boasts a great fuel economy, thanks to its small engine displacement; ideal when fill ups can cost you an arm and a leg with Vancouver’s gas prices. It is also agile because of its size, making winding roads and the need to change lanes more fun, than a challenge. And a two door coupe spoke to our personal family dynamic, no children, nothing but storage space needed in the back seat. Thus, giving us the look of a sports car without the premium.

So off we went with our adventure-mobile! Our first day out we decided to go camping, and joked that the sporty coupe was more a street vehicle, then one you take when venturing out doors. But during the ride to and from on the highway, having a sports mode made the drive more enjoyable. The winds, the curves, the loops, and the turns tested the handling, and the Civic Sport Coupe rose to the occasion.

I was especially surprised to see how much we could pack into the truck and back seat. We were able to fit all that we needed for a comfortable camping excursion, as well as the supplies needed for a beach filled getaway, the days after.

Two hours breezed by and we were at Manning Park Resort, heading towards Lightening Lake’s campsite. We were limited in choices thanks to the long weekend, but were more than happy with our lot. It was a short walk to either the out house; or the facilities with running water, hot showers, and flushable toilets. We were only at lot 107 for the night. Many more families booked for the entire BC Day long weekend.

I must preface this by saying I don’t take to the wilderness well. But my partner pushes me out of my comfort zone, so that I can grow. We don’t camp often: one day, once a year and that is plenty. Therefore we haven’t found the need to spend much on our equipment. A cheap tent with 3 rod installation, an air mattress that you can manually pump with your foot or hands, and foldable chairs to sit by the fire pit with. All easy to set up and take down, but not necessarily the most comfortable or spacious.

Our tent was cramped and cold with very little room for more than our queen-sized air mattress. There was barely a boarder between us and the wilderness in our flimsy tent, and our mattress loss air steadily. My partner woke up several times during the night, uncomfortable from the lack of support. He found himself needing to pump with vigour in to re-inflate. I managed to sleep through this. He was also kind enough to borrow a sleeping bag so that I could be warm and cozy, to get a good night’s sleep. So I couldn’t really complain as he slept directly on the air mattress with a comforter wrapped around him like a burrito.

I also get bitten easily and often from mosquitoes and bugs alike. But this year I came equipped with a bug repellent lotion, an aerosol spray, and coiled incense that is proven to ward off mosquitoes with its unique smell. I ended up lighting them and surrounding myself with three of them. And for the most part they worked, I walked away the next morning with only 2 bites. But I am sure the smoke from the fire we huddled around helped too.

Thankfully, our BC summer has been wetter than usual and there aren’t the same fire bands as they were in summers past. So we were able to take advantage of the fire pit, stationed at our camp site. This also doubled as the heat source we needed to cook our dinner and breakfast over next day.

We grilled buffalo and sweet garlic chicken wings and a beef and souvlaki chicken skewer for dinner. And followed it with a toasted marshmallow for dessert.

And for breakfast my partner had miniature boxed cereal and hot buttered toast. And I had a grilled hot dog with our choice of condiments in mayonnaise, ketchup, and/or relish.

Camping just wouldn’t be the same without a campfire. We purchased wood at the local gas station and supplemented what else we needed by foraging. We then parked ourselves in front of our crackling fire for the night, stoking it, watching wood burn to ash. It kept us warm as we drank and talked, pausing to look up at the dark sky and the stars sprinkled throughout it.

The next day we woke with the rustling of nylon from our neighbours, who decided to get an early start. It is hard to sleep in with the light and heat of the sun transforming your tent into a sauna.

Lightening Lake was a 5 minute walk from our campsite so we decided to take a morning stroll to it. It was a nice body of water to take a dip in, paddle a boat across, or simply catch some sun by.

Check out was at 11am, and after a rough morning we headed out. There was only one sink running in the women’s washroom. So I made do by brushing my teeth and spitting the excess tooth paste over a bush. I passed on lining up for the one shower altogether. I figured it was only 2 hours to our air bnb in Naramata, and I could just clean myself there.

Our next 3 nights would be spent in a more luxurious setting, comparatively. This was newly refurbished studio that gave us the privacy of an individual home, with the adjacency to the city and its social life, that we as tourists were looking for.

It has a new kitchen and washroom. The former was furnished with a coil-less stove and all the equipment you need to make a meal, and the dishwasher to clean it all afterwards. Coffee maker, toaster, microwave, and kettle. The only thing we would have liked in addition was a barbecue.

The washroom was very modern, a smaller space that was well designed. The only downside was the door that hesitated to close and lock and the fact that if you didn’t, a window aligned with its door way, meant the neighbours could get an unobstructed view of you on the toilet.

The suite had an air conditioning unit that was quick to cool the smaller space. And best of all, when it got to cold or noisy at night, you could simply straighten up and turn it off from the bed in its alcove, overlooking the living room.

But hands down the reason to rent this lake side studio is for it patio. A step out of the living room gave you an elevated and unobstructed view of the farm land and fruit orchards below, and the lake in the distance. We would spend most of our time here eating meals, playing the available board games, and simply enjoying the scenery from sunrise to sunset. You can see the water by day and all the stars at night.

Our air bnb hosts also let us borrow their kayaks and their pick up truck to transport them and us down to the Okanagan Lake, which we had been admiring above. Our kayaks allowed us to enjoy the water in a different way. We kept dry as we sat slightly reclined, cutting through the water with our paddles. We were also invited to borrow their bicycles and helmets, although we ran out of time during this visit.

Instead, we would spend most of our time at Skaha Lake, the other lake that feeds the Okanagan Valley, and sandwiches the nearby town of Pentiction. Here, its smooth orange sands, ample parking, and plenty of convenient concessions make it out favourite beach in the Okanagan.

During this year’s trip we also visit several restaurants and wineries, but those will be covered in their own posts. For all those reviews, check out the “Travel” section of the blog, under “Okanagan”.

In short, another great annual trip to the Okanagan, all made possible by the Honda Civic Sport Coupe that got us there safely and back.

#HondaCivic
Honda.ca

Summerhill Pyramid Winery

We were at “Summerhill Winery”, one of Kelowna’s largest wineries, well known for their pyramid. And today we were lucky enough to have gotten a personal tour of the property with Ezra Cipes, the CEO of Summerhill himself. It was such a treat to be able to experience the winery and his father’s legacy through his eyes. The following are the authentic highlights I captured.

“Summerhill” is an organic winery, priding themselves on their sustainable methods, disrupting as little of the land as possible while operating on it. They have 80 acres, yielding grapes on 42 of them. The property includes a large gully that serves as a wildlife preserve, and wetlands that empties out in to a creek. All waste water from their wine processing gets funnelled under ground to the wetlands, giving it nutrients to flourish. They also make their own compost, utilizing biodynamic farming techniques; which allows them to grow enough in their green house to serve garden fresh fruits and vegetables at their restaurant. (More on the restaurant later.)

The vineyard has been in place since 1940. The Cipes family took over in 1987. Back then it only grew table grapes and hybrid grapes, more suited to the old wine industry with “jug wine”. When they took over, Stephen Cipes introduced Riesling grapes, to prove that European grapes would grow in Canada. And when he was successful, they began replanting and rebooting the winery, specializing in sparkling wine, that the land was so well suited for.

And we would get a taste of this sparkling as our tour started at their indoor tasting room, where we sampled their “Cipes brut”. This is Canada’s most awarded wine, year after year it has won gold medals internationally. They use the same methods to make their sparkling as they do in France to make champagne, but with non traditional European grapes. At “Summerhill” their grape blend is Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The result, a sparkling with a natural vibrancy, and an acidic freshness. Truthfully I am not a fan of sparkling wines for their fizziness, but the “Cipes Brut” is an exception. It was delicious and light, easy to drink without that soda feel.

With our glass in hand and its taste still on your lips, we explored the property, starting at the cellar. Normal tour groups get a look at these large vats behind a glass window, but we were able to walk amongst them. And here, our crash course on wine making began. (So excuse the abbreviated explanation).

Yeast eats sugar, and converts in to carbon dioxide with heat and alcohol. This juice will then become our wine. The crushed grape yeast that lives on the grape skins turns into wine or vinegar.

The equipment necessary for this process requires a lot of cleaning and sanitizing. It is very important that no bacteria exists to spoil the wine. And being an organic winery means they don’t use any harsh cleaners, instead they use steam to clean: ozone, which is an anti microbial. They are also constantly cleaning, as the wine process creates an environment for bacteria to naturally grow.

All reds are fermented in the large barrels. Whites spend their time in stainless steel, with a dimpled cooling jacket. This allows them to temperature control their environment.

And as for sparkling wine, making it is like doing things twice. You add more yeast and more sugars. It is then bottled and allowed to age in crates before it is clarified and they work to get all the solids out. The “Cipes Brut” we tried earlier is their youngest sparkling.

Once bottled all the sparkling wine gets slotted into a gyro-pallets. It rocks the bottles back and forth, shifting its axis steadily. It moves every three hours, until after 4 days it is turned fully upside down. This is so all the yeast and sediment settles in the cap.

Next comes the riddling, where all the bottles are submerged upside down, so that the neck of the bottle is in a solution that has a low freezing point. The result, the neck is frozen and the dead yeast is incased in a block of ice.

A very specific machine gets rid of the ice block, while simultaneously topping the bottle of wine up. The finished bottles go through a washer and quality control. The labels are checked, bottles are turned upside down to ensure there are no leaks; and the wine is inspected for clarity, to make sure all the sediment has been removed.

All completed cases then go to the pyramid to rest, like we would. They are aged for 15-18 months, and as long as 12 years. The first version of the pyramid was built in 1989, the current one is the second rendition, both were created for and used only as their wine cellar. They were built by Stephen Cipes, who studied and experimented with pyramids before embarking on building his own. He even went to Egypt to learn the architecture necessary. His inspiration came from a trip to Europe, when purchasing equipment and grapes for his own winery.

In Europe they age wine underground, traditionally in cellars lit with gas lamps. There, Cipes felt the energy of the space, and immediately recognized that it was an integral part of the wine making process. However, the ground composition of Europe versus Canada varied. And what was in place there, couldn’t be imitated here. So the next best thing was to mimic the limestone available underground in Europe, in his Canadian pyramid. A strong foundation with four pillars and capstone, all continuously fused with concrete and reinforced with fibre glass, using not a single nail. The Pyramid was built to represent the geometry of nature, with angles taken from nature, like the Fibonacci sequence; and set with an alignment to the stars. The sacred geometry of the room saw many using it to celebrate the moon and the stars. The community uses the pyramid as a gathering space to engage in group meditations during full moons and the equinox. These events are an open invitation, with admission being a vegetarian potluck item to share. Attendees eat, meditate, dance, and drum. Similar gatherings happen at their pit house as well. (More on that below.)

At the centre of the pyramid, surrounded by wine racks and palettes of packaged cases of wine, we were invited to disconnect and enjoy the space. To close our eyes, breath deep and take in the silence and harmony. I found the stillness of the space easy to relax in, and melt into.

During this part of the tour we didn’t close the push open doors behind us, and as a result visitors found themselves venturing in to the dark of the pyramid, un-accompanied. And instead of telling them that the space was closed to tourists, Ezra welcomed the family with two young children in, catching them up on what we were discussing prior to their entry. It was here that I was impressed by his customer service and learned how he fully represents and lives according to the principles of the winery. He embodies that welcoming energy. Similarly I witness him picking up trash off the property and pocketing it each time. He stated if he didn’t, who would. He had been speaking to the care he had for the land and here he showed it.

Next our tour took us to the above mentioned pit house. The “Makwala Memorial Kekuli” is a scared space built in respect and reverence for the ancestors of the land. For those who wish to enter they ask that there be no “idle talk”, alcohol or parties, and no ceremonies without permission. It is here the moon celebration potluck is held. Here, Ezra spoke to nature and the need to have a different mentality and relationship with the earth. A way to fill all ecosystems so that there is balance. For example when you use pesticides you dominate and control the environment, and dictate what you want to survive. At “Summerhill” everything coexists and the tent represents them being a part of nature.

I have visited “Summerhill” once before and when I look back at my time there, not only do I associate them with the pyramid, but also all of their unique photo ops and play things for children. See saws, putting practice, a overturn giant bottle of Sparkling pouring into a fountain. A stain glass pyramid, a hand carved door, and the ability to stand on top of the world. This makes them the most family friendly of all the wineries, giving plenty to keep both parents and kids occupied during their visit. This creative direction comes from a place of doing good. They want to welcome everyone, so that no one feels intimated, as you would be at other more stuffy wineries. Given all the kids running around today and all the laughter you hear, I can say that they are doing a great job in this regard.

Next we went back indoors to their tasting hall, to try another one of their sparkling wines. The 2012 “Cipes Blanc de Blanc” is the white of the whites. Its name refers to to traditional grapes of the champagne region that they use in this. Layering on 6 years before uncorking for a more classic bubble. A bone dry sparkling that is highly acidic with a sugar layer added. Ezra described this as having a “Creamier, finer bubble from that of traditional methods. A buttoned up version compared to the everyday Processco.”

Our tour eventually ended at their restaurant, where we fully enjoyed the fruit and labour of the land we were on. We naturally gravitated to their patio, overlooking their vineyard and event space set up with arch and rows of chairs, wedding ready. This was the ideal space to enjoy the freshness of the land and their mostly vegetarian menu. The following were what Ezra recommended, and the perfect wine to go with it.

The “Organic caperese salad” with garden tomatoes, herbed oil, garden basil, local bocconcini, and balsamic pearls. Normally their tomatoes are fresh from their own garden, although due to a smaller crop yield they have had to source their tomatoes locally, from neighbours. This was a beautiful salad, and as refreshing as it looks.

By comparison the “Organic vegan “calamari”” was a lot more denser, with deep fried tempura oysters mushroom and house made organic tzatziki. The crunch was good and the flavour amazing. A great one to share and nibble on as you drank.

Together our two plates were paired with their 2017 Summerhill Organic Vineyard, SV Riesling. It was sweet and bright with fruit, balancing everything out perfectly.

They also have a new secondary kitchen, operating out of a shipping container outside, adjacent to their outdoor tasting room. We missed getting a chance to taste their cuisine here, given it’s shorter operating hours. Here, they served up international fare, giving visitors a quicker meal option that they can pair with a glass of wine outside. It also cost less with snack items most child would like. Fish tacos, hummus and naan, sweet and sour pork, bratwurst and sauerkraut, butter chicken, crispy ribs, and chicken souvlaki to name a few. Everything ranged between $8-9 a plate.

In conclusion, I highly recommend taking the tour at “Summerhill”. You think you know a wine, but there is nothing like learning about the vision behind its winery. Throughout this experience, we grew a new found appreciation for “Summerhill”. And we certainly wouldn’t have felt that way if not for the informative tour, coupled with glasses of their trademark sparkling. What a great afternoon, in a great winery, enjoying an amazing product cultivated through looking at more than just the process and out come of the wine; but also considering the environmental responsibilities and the people behind the product. Creating the right conditions for something natural to happen, not making it happen. The tour and Ezra have made me a brand fan. A humble CEO with approachable staff. I will definitely be recommending and drinking more of their sparkling!

SUMMERHILL
4870 Chute Lake Rd, Kelowna, BC V1W 4M3
(250) 764-8000
summerhill.bc.ca

Raudz Regional Table

I had local food and beverage expert, @myvancityca recommend “Raudz” to me, and several locals verify her recommendation as the place to try in Kelowna. So when looking for dinner downtown I made an effort to make a reservation at this well known local hot spot.

The restaurant was kept dark for ambience. Brick walls, a long wooden share table, high back booths, and line sketches of animals over the kitchen pass. We spent some time at the bar waiting for our table by the window to clear. The two sections were separated by a black fence outfitted with window boxes.

The bar showcased a healthy collection of wine, but we decided to try a couple of their cocktails made by two dapper bartenders with styled moustaches that ended at curled tips, dawning bow ties and vests over their collared shirts.

When it was time to shift from bar to table, we were asked to settle up. We did, only for the host that took us there, to mention that they were going to cover our drinks. When I later inquired about the complimentary drinks again, the same host said she confused us with another couple, and disappointment ensued.

I paid in full for my “Teetotaler tries tequila” with Cazadores anejo, marrow vermouth, odd society mia amata amaro, sarsaparilla syrup, orgeat, and soda. And as promised by our bartender duo, it tasted like a root beer float.

My guest also paid in full for her “Lost her way” cocktail. Maple leaf “lady of the cask” brandy, sons of Vancouver amaretto, apricot shrub, and cedar creek “home block brut”. It was a smokey and rich cocktail, yet still easy to drink with a nice foam head.

My second cocktail I had our dining table. This was the “Cupboard cocktail” with Okanagan spirits aquavitus, Grand Marnier, Summerland sweets blackberry jam, Silk Roas sour cherry tea syrup, and lemon. It was boozy, yet jam forward with a unique crushed nut rim. It left you wanting something with peanut butter notes to balance it out.

But the best thing that we had to drink was their “Crab cappuccino”. I can see why it is so popular. It is so well presented and delicious. Roasted Dungeness crab soup with milk froth. It was so deep and rich, yet light to sip. It drank much like tea, hence the way it is served. But if you use the spoon and stir up you get actual pieces of crab at the bottom. Each spoonful had so much crab flavour that you wanted more of. And you didn’t want any bread or crackers to weigh it down. Best just as it is served, at the right temperature. Our server even obliged us with two of the crabs cut from slices of carrot, one of each of us so we didn’t have to share.

The “RJB” was recommend by a local, although his rendition had lobster and truffle. None-the-less we still ordered this grilled beef tenderloin sandwich with butter poached crab, shaved cured bacon, and onion jam; all on a brioche bun, served with roasted potatoes and a duck fat mayonnaise. This was a board that kept you interested, a choose your own adventure of eating. Rich flavours and a juicy steak, but the bun get soggy fast because of it. Just as well, seeing as the steak was so thick that it was hard to bite into. This was best enjoyed with fork and knife and pieces cut down to manageable bites. My only critique was that the mushrooms were far too salty, which we mentioned it to our server, who did offer to replace it. But the time it takes for them to make it, the rest of the board would be cold. The potato and duck fat on the other hand was amazing. A salty and tasty spin on a classic side.

The presentation of the “Yarrow valley duck breast” was a feast for the eyes, shame it was so dark by the time we ate, that I wasn’t able to capture it well. Perfectly cooked juicy chunks of duck served with fresh cheese gnudi, Okanagan mushrooms, wilted greens, roasted pepper, and a mushroom cream. All the flavours were complimentary, but we all found things salty as certain patches. The gnudi was also fairly memorable, like cheesy mashed potato rounds.

We didn’t have room for dessert, but our bill came with complimentary lollipos for each of us. Even my third guest who came to join us towards the end of our meal, finishing up what we were too full to, got one. This was very considerate of our server, who didn’t want him feeling left out.

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.
I would definitely like to return to try more of their menu, everything we had was tasty and there is so much more to try on their impressive menu. Don’t deny your cravings.

RAUDZ
1560 Water St, Kelowna, BC V1Y 1J7
(250) 868-8805
raudz.com

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery

I was visiting Kelowna with a friend who was a wine enthusiast, yet has never visited Canada’s wine country. So for her first visit to Okanagan we made sure to hit a few of the largest wineries in the area, starting with “Mission Hill”. And the best way to take in this landmark winery is with one of their guided tours. Not only does it take you to places otherwise sectioned off, but you gain a new found appreciation for the winery in question.

We started our afternoon exploring the compound on our own, arriving early enough to avoid the bulk of the tourists, for people-free scenery photos. We would be forced to linger here and at the gift-shop as their “Terrace restaurant” doesn’t open until 11:30am on the nose.

Its location is unique with a raised view overlooking their grape fields. However, with a sun shade draped over it, you don’t get an unobstructed view. That and if you are a table of two, only one person gets the face the fields. The other stares out at the property, with kids rolling down their lawn, that doubles as a “stadium” for live musical performances.

At “Terrace”, we enjoyed a lunch with two full entrees. Both were delicious, and surprisingly filling, but we had to pace ourselves because we would have a wine and cheese tasting to follow.

The “Fresh made tyner durum wheat orecchiette” was perfectly firm pasta with wild mushrooms, garden herbs, and triple island Parmesan. It and each menu item was listed with a suggested wine paring. But we discarded the option of a Pinot Noir and opted for a glass of their “Mission Hill” Pinot Gris instead.

The “Dry aged brisket burger and triple cooked fries” was a familiar flavour, but elevated with a thick and juicy, medium rare patty. Terrace pickles, aged cheddar, and double smoked bacon; all on a sesame seed bun. It was deliciously messy with plenty of jus and a patty that crumbled apart.

We enjoyed each other’s company and the view before heading indoors for our tour. You check in at their reception desk where you are given a pin designating your participation in the tour. Your guide greets you with a glass of sparkling to start. Then as a group you walk the property pausing at points of interest.

We began at the entrance, sipping amongst the vines, as she gave us the history of their grapes and its European origins. We then walked to the bell tower where we were told the significance of the bells that rang every 30 minutes. Four in the total, each representing the main family members. Visitors aren’t allowed up into the tower as the sound of the bells can be deafening. Instead you can take in a fifth bell that hangs on display below the tower. The intention was for it to join the others, but due to a small imperfection with its circumference it is now a bell you can rap your knuckles on and take photos of.

Next it was a walk down to their wine cellar, a scene that made the whole tour worth it. Here, under cool temperatures sat 800 barrels, each held 310 bottles of wine. We learned how the barrels were topped off and where the practice first began. It dated back to when they made wine and the barrels were transported by horse. However when the barrels got to their destination, half of the wine was always missing. And back then, they didn’t have the science to figure out why, so instead, they contributed it to angel’s drinking the wine. Though the reality was, it was just evaporating.

We took a peek behind the cast iron gate and large padlock that secured their oldest bottles and collection of historic vessels that once served wine. Urns, pots, and decanters. Here, we were told a tale of how they won the “2013 Decanter World Wine Awards” for their “2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir”. A surprise to so many that they had to register and compete twice, and really work for their win. And with both blind taste tests, they won. People just couldn’t believe that wine made from grapes that is not local to Canada could win. And with that “Mission Hill” completed what they set out to do: to show the world that their wines could stand up in the international market.

Our tour ended at one of their salons, past the above mentioned award. Out of the 5 they have, this was my favourite. A glass room surrounded by wine barrels, centred around an extravagant white glass chandler with a majestic black table under it. We each sat at one end, and began grazing as our tour guide spoke to the pairings of local made cheeses and “Mission Hill” wines. A white, red, and dessert wine paired with a sharp, a creamy, and a blue cheese.

 

Then we ended in the gift shop, with her showing where we could find our own bottle to take home.

Truth be told, you can read all the above and more for yourself online, but being able to hear and interact with the space in a different way is a much better way to explore a winery.

Mission Hill Winery
1730 Mission Hill Rd, Okanagan Valley BC, V4T2E4
250-768-6467
missionhillwinery.com

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