A Long Okanagan Weekend
When the times comes, heed the Okanagan’s siren song.
April 20, 2015
1. South Okanagan
BY CHEF JEFF VAN GEEST OF TINHORN CREEK’S MIRADORO RESTAURANT
Smart locals kick off the day at the Sunshine Café (6070 Main St., Oliver, 250-498-1964), where John Micka is both owner and a prominent figure in town politics. Angle for an invitation to the back room, a former barbershop, to eavesdrop on gossip and lively debate. If small-town bylaws aren’t your thing, take your coffee next door to Baguette & Brioche Viennoiserie (6066 Main St.), where owner Danielle Favreau serves excellent pastries and French baguettes with great Brie, mustard, and lettuce.
If you know your greens and browns, you can try foraging in the area for wild asparagus and mushrooms; if not, pack your rod and try fly-fishing in Sawmill Lake (along Fairfield Rd., then follow the sign for Sawmill Burnell Lake). The lake, in the hills above town, is well stocked with some trophy-sized trout. Or do both and you’ll be set for an amazing shore lunch.
This is wine country, and down here we make like friendly Hatfields and McCoys on each side of the valley. First up is the west side at Fairview Cellars (989 Cellar Rd., 250-498-2211), where owner Bill Eggert has located right by the stellar Fairview Mountain Golf Course (933 Old Golf Course Rd., 250-498-6050) — squeeze in a round after (or, come to think of it, before) tasting. Then hit in rapid fire the famed wineries of Black Sage Road, especially Le Vieux Pin (5496 Black Sage Rd., 250-498-8388), Quinta Ferreira (6094 Black Sage Rd., 250-498-4756), and Black Hills (4190 Black Sage Rd., 250-498-6606). Spend a little more time at that last one, because now-legendary Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen has just opened a seasonal outlet. Owners Cam and Dana (so famous they’re known by their first names all the way to the Shuswaps) are two of the original locavores, so lunch will be whatever is opportune at that moment. (Think hand-tossed pizzas, local salami, and the most perfect tomato imaginable.)
On the other side of the valley (you’ve been spitting, right?) lies the famed Golden Mile, with Road 13 Vineyards (799 Ponderosa Rd., 250-498-8330), Hester Creek Estate Winery (877 Rd. Eight, 250-498-4435), and of course Tinhorn Creek Vineyards (537 Tinhorn Creek Rd., 250-498-3743), my home. I’d recommend you come by Miradoro for dinner and a glass of Sandra Oldfield’s amazing Pinot Gris 2013 on the patio. (You can gaze at all that you spent your morning exploring). On Fridays, I head to local Firehall Brewing (6077 Main St., 250-439-2337) to fill my growler (open to the public 4 to 7 pm) to last me for at least part of the weekend.
2. Central Okanagan
BY JOIEFARM’S HEIDI NOBLE
Begin at the Penticton Farmers Market (100 Main St., pentictonfarmersmarket.org) with a fresh fruit galette from Joy Road Catering’s stall (Joyroadcatering.com) and pair it with a coffee from Summerland’s Backyard Beans Microroastery (Backyardbeanscoffee.com). Fortified, it’s time to start stocking the day’s picnic from the market vendors: artisan sourdough bread from Farmersdotter Organics (Farmersdotter.ca) and sausage from Dietz Meats will be your building blocks. Post-market, head to the Bench Market (368 Vancouver Ave., Penticton, 250-492-2222) for a one-stop selection of local Okanagan cheeses including Carmelis Goat, Upper Bench, and Poplar Grove. While you’re there a few more pastries from the new White Apron Pastry Co. (136 Front St., Penticton; 778-476-4046) and a loaf of raisin brioche for tomorrow’s breakfast won’t kill you. From there it’s only an amble back to Main Street, where The Book Shop (242 Main St., Penticton, 250-492-6661) has over 5,000 square feet of excellent options, including troves of vintage kids’ books.
With provisions in place, it’s time to drive the 18 kilometres north to Summerland to rent a boat from SWR Rentals (13011 Lakeshore Dr. S., Summerland, 250-494-8180) at the Summerland Waterfront Resort docks to explore the banks of Okanagan Lake. The perfect picnic spot lies on Rattlesnake Island, home to a one-time mini-golf outpost reclaimed by nature. Following an afternoon of sun, return the rental and head to the gorgeous patio at adjacent Local Lounge (12817 Lakeshore Dr. S., Summerland, 250-494-8855) for a seasonal ale from Penticton’s Cannery Brewing or Sorrento’s Crannóg Ales. On the way home, pick up some lamb shoulder and rabbit stifado from Theo’s Restaurant (687 Main St., Penticton, 250-492-4019) and head to the beach at Manitou Park in Naramata (20 minutes north) to watch the sun set over Okanagan Lake.
3. North Okanagan
BY THE OKANAGAN GROCERY’S MONIKA WALKER
We start in my ‘hood, Rutland — which people refer to as the Brooklyn of Kelowna thanks to its eclectic mix of ethnic food, secondhand stores, and small retail businesses that create a hip neighbourhood vibe.
First stop is the Rutland Flea Market, Sundays (except long weekends) 8 am to 1 pm (180 Rutland Rd. N., 250-765-6516). Source vintage furniture, glassware, art prints, or a fondue set — just be prepared to dig. Your reward is a $4 (yes, $4!) stack of pancakes inside the hall — let the margarine and Aunt Jemima’s call forth welcome childhood recollections.
That lingering sweetness can be dispatched on the road to Vernon at Lake Country Coffee House (10356 Bottom Wood Lake Rd., 250-766-9006), a cute café and art gallery at the side of the road that serves proper lattes and rustic house-made pastries alongside the work of local artists. Recaffeinated, it’s time to sink your heels into the area’s history at the O’Keefe Ranch (9380 Hwy 97, 250-542-7868). This place captures everything great about the old Okanagan: families, outdoor movies, and a solid dose of cowboy culture — best shown at O’Keefe Cowboy Summer Festival, August 2 to 4, where working ranch hands display their craft.
End at Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park — the area’s most perfect picnic spot. It’s on the outskirts of Vernon, but you can hike, bike, or even ride your horse on its many trails without ever knowing there’s a city close by. Some of the most beautiful scenery in the Okanagan Valley is here.
And if the tank is close to empty, replenish at Sparkling Hill Resort (888 Sparkling Pl., 250-275-1556). Luxuriate in the world-class spa, eat dinner, and end the day with a dip in the outdoor infinity pool overlooking the moonlit lake. Pure Okanagan bliss.