Part 1 of 3
Breathtaking views, delicious food and delectable wines. The Okanagan is the top wine destination in the world, according to the Huffington Post, and I had to find out if they were right. My boyfriend Ryan and I took a long weekend to fly down with Air North to Kelowna, where we rented a car to access the wide regions of wineries.
Day 1 – Naramata Bench
Naramata Bench is the top spot for most who venture to the Okanagan valley, so we drove to Naramata Village and worked back down the main strip, with its winding roads and breathtaking views, hitting the numerous wineries.
Our first stop was Therapy Vineyards, where we were welcomed by a cut-out of Dr. Freud overlooking stretches of vineyards. The introduction to Canadian wine-tasting was a little bit different from my usual practices around the world. Here in Canada, unlike my previous experiences, the wineries ask for a tasting fee. They range $5 to $8 per tasting, with each tasting offering about five small sips of different wines. If you end up purchasing a bottle, the tasting fee is subtracted from the bottle price. But if this is how North American wineries work we tried it. We bought a bottle of red, took some photos with Dr. Freud and drove to the next winery.
Elephant Island winery has a delightful location. Their wines were definitely different. They had both regular wines from grapes, but also fruit wines. I had never tried a fruit wine before and was pleasantly surprised. Most of their fruit was locally grown in their orchard that we had parked in. We bought another bottle and slowly started to wonder how we would get all the wine back to the Yukon, considering we only had three days in B.C. to drink it. However, our grumbling bellies distracted us and the winery advised us a good feed could be located up the hill at the Legend Distillery.
There, we ordered lunch and a flight of tasting liquors. I knew immediately what I wanted, but was somehow convinced to get shots … three of them. I was already quite tipsy, it was a warm but breezy day and I wondered how I was going to stay awake, but I persevered, drinking plenty of water and not thinking about my bank balance. After a tasty lunch, we went to Lake Breeze Winery. It was extremely busy, with lots of tour buses. Inside the tasting room, there was nowhere to taste. We weren’t in any rush, so we lingered until someone noticed us. Eventually they did and I started the tasting session. The wines were quite nice, very commercial but tasty. Eventually the room cleared and we were the only ones in there and the servers forgot about us. We were thinking about buying a bottle, but decided not to as we were now standing in an empty room just trying to pay for our tasting.
The experience was underwhelming, so we decided on one more winery, MOCOJO, because I liked its name. It was a cute little winery and their tasting room felt like being home. That’s because we were in someone’s home. The owner and winemaker was there to greet and talk with us about his wine and his family. The name comes from the names of his children, who grew up on the vineyard. The wines were delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the wines and telling him about the Yukon, a place he hopes to visit.
Reinvigorated, we carried on. My designated driver took us to Bench 1775. The wines were quite delicious, but unfortunately there was a rowdy wine tour there at the same time. Here, I was lucky enough to try my first ice wine. This is a risky wine for a grower, considering the various temperature requirements, as well as the availability of a labour force able to pick the whole crop within a few hours. Ontario produces 75 per cent of the world’s ice wine. It is a very sweet dessert wine, but the price tag from the fruits of the labour is quite high. We queried Bench 1775 staff about wineries that may do tours about the process of winemaking. They suggested La Frenz and off we went.
We entered the quaint tasting room and I splurged and enjoyed the more expensive reserve collection tasting. By this point we had four bottles and a box that we would figure out later would come back to Whitehorse. La Frenz told us it’s difficult to get tours last minute, many things book out for months. So perhaps we could try other places or the larger ones. The wines were delicious, but it was time to go get dinner.
Remembering we were in a large cosmopolitan city, we decided to splurge and find the highest recommended steak restaurant. RaudZ Regional Table popped up and we went downtown Kelowna to see if we could simply show up and eat. Luckily we got a spot at the bar and ordered a steak and a spring ravioli with a bottle of wine, which I mostly consumed, being that I was the designated drinker.
The food was delicious. The last time I had a meal this good was when I was living in France. It was so sad to finish, but I thought I might explode from the meal, so we walked along the marina and park to get some exercise and sunset before heading back to the hotel to sleep it off, wake up and do it all over again the next day.