Because life can sometimes be pretty sweet, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a fair bit of time in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley as of late, drinking wine and eating a whole lot of food. For those not in the know, the Okanagan is kind of like the Napa Valley of Canada — well over 200 wineries (and countless acres of vineyards) are packed into an unusually warm lake valley that takes about two and half hours to drive from top to bottom. When I was a kid the area was best known as a recreation paradise (they had a killer Flintstones-themed theme park) with the lake and an abundance of tree fruit, but once people figured out that that growing conditions were ideal for grapes, it’s exploded as a culinary and wine destination.
Most of the wineries along the Okanagan have public tasting rooms (often the wines are only available for retail directly from the wineries, so a lot of people visit them directly) and the bigger ones have restaurants, which are often staffed with world-class chefs. The really big ones have entertainment events going on throughout the summer season as well — last year Julie wrote about the concert series at Mission Hill Winery. That series is happening again this year, with shows from Chris Botti, Martina McBride, and the Wallflowers, but is long sold out.
My last couple of trips to the Okanagan focused on the southern part of the region, and I was lucky to pay a couple of visits to one of my favourite wineries, Tinhorn Creek, located on the Golden Mile between Osoyoos and Oliver, BC. Tinhorn Creek is fantastic for a couple of reasons: run by the lovely and hilarious Sandra Oldfield, their wines are delicious, and the winery is also home to Miradoro Restaurant, a top-notch eatery with one of the best views of the Okanagan. Miradoro’s Executive Chef Jeff Van Geest is a creative chef with a love of family-style meals. Check out the plate of Tomohawk-style pork chops with ramps, pickled onions, and gnocchi that I got to experience last week:
And yes, there is a musical link. Like Mission Hill, Tinhorn Creek also has a concert series, with shows performed in a grassy amphitheatre just outside the restaurant (so, sharing that same outstanding view). A little less flashy than the Tinhorn Creek series, this year’s summer line-up includes shows by Yukon Blonde, The Trews, John Welsh Band, and Reuben and the Dark. Because they know that audiences are going to want to drink a load of their tasty wine, shuttles are available to the bigger resorts in both Osoyoos and Penticton.
Of course, there’s loads more music going on in the Okanagan Valley — Kelowna and Penticton both have music venues and other wineries like Cedar Creek near Kelowna have concert series (this year’s features Emerson Drive and Tom Cochrane). Plus, bands like The Grapes of Wrath and The Head Pins come from the Okanagan and other musicians like Paul Rodgers (of Bad Company!) have moved out there, so you never know what musical experiences you’ll find among the vines.
Big thanks to the Okanagan Wine Festival, Watermark Resort, Tinhorn Creek and Miradoro Restaurant, Thompson Okanagan Tourism, Destination BC and their partners for hosting me in the Okanagan last month.