Okanagan Getaway Guide
March 29, 2012
Michelle Bouffard (co-owner of House Wine)
"If you’re driving to the Okanagan, I highly recommend taking Highway 3, going through Osoyoos, then the Similkameen Valley, Oliver, and Naramata, and on to Kelowna. The route is unfailingly scenic. When you get hungry, stop at Dolci Artisan Fare (8710 Main St., Osoyoos, 250-495-6807. Dolcideli.com). They have delicious sandwiches, all the baking is done in house, and their hidden back patio is a treat. In the Similkameen, stop at the off-the-beaten-track Orofino Winery (2152 Barcello Rd., Cawston, 250-499-0068. Orofinovineyards.com). It has a charming tasting room, and the people are so friendly. On a hot day their Riesling is refreshing, and you’ll want to pack up some Red Bridge Merlot for later sipping. For memorable photos, there’s no better backdrop than Okanagan Falls. Drive behind Blue Mountain Vineyard (2385 Allendale Rd., 250-497-8244. Bluemountainwinery.com)—you can’t help but feel awe. Be sure to stop in for some of the best sparkling wines in the region. When you reach Kelowna, visit Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan (170 Timberline Rd., 250-764-9033. Carmelisgoatcheese.com). They have an amazing selection of cheeses, and you can visit the goats as well. The fresh yogurt cheese is a must—delicious on baguette. Make sure to try the goat yogurt gelato. Trust me!
At Waterfront (1180 Sunset Dr., Kelowna, 250-979-1222. Waterfrontrestaurant.ca) Mark Filatow has a rich background in both food and wine. He brings a lot of Germanic influences, and his wife adds Indian elements, so you end up with really interesting flavours. Also in Kelowna, Okanagan Street Food (812 Crowley Ave.,778-478-0807. Okanaganstreetfood.com) is great. Neil Schroeter used to be the chef at Sumac Ridge; he now has his own catering company and restaurant. It’s quite casual: you order from one of the cooks, and you get dishes—like fish tacos or southern barbecue—that are finer than the industrial surroundings might lead you to expect. I also like RauDZ (1560 Water St., 250-868-8805. Raudz.com). It used to be Fresco, a fine dining room, but three years ago they relaunched as more casual and approachable. You can get things as simple as a terrific burger and beer, or the classic three-course meals from Fresco days. I should also mention an off-the-radar spot in Keremeos—Benja Thai (516 Seventh Ave, 250-499-2561. Benjathairestaurant.com). The owners wanted a change, so they moved their family from Vancouver and serve truly excellent Thai dishes. By the way, accommodation in the Okanagan can be an issue—some of the wineries have lovely lodgings, but after that you’re mostly into hotel chains. Another option: bring a tent! There are beautiful campsites along the Similkameen River. It’s only 30 minutes from Kelowna, but it’s lovely and completely unplugged—your cellphone won’t work. I especially like Stemwinder Provincial Park (35 kilometres east of Princeton on Hwy 3, near Hedley. Env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/stemwinder) and the campground at Bromley Rock (21 kilometres east of Princeton on Hwy 3. Env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/bromley_rock).
Jennifer Cockrall-King (author of Food and the City:Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution and food blogger.)
One of my go-to restaurants is Bogners (302 W. Eckhardt Ave. 250-493-2711. Bogners.ca) in downtown Penticton. They serve beautifully presented dishes that make good use of the kitchen garden and farm-to-table philosophy. I’m a sucker for the duck spring rolls and the heirloom potato/smoked sea salt chips. The Penticton farmers' market (100 block of Main St. Pentictonfarmersmarket.org) is excellent—it’s been called “the best outside France”—with tons of local produce, scores of purveyors, and thousands of visitors. It’s a great Saturday morning activity. The fruit stand at Matheson Creek (29 Eastside Rd., 250-497-8989) gets my vote as tops in the valley. I also love going to the Naramata Inn (3625 First St., 250-496-6808. Naramatainn.com) for wine on tap—the Nichol Pinot Gris is just about the best thing ever on a hot summer day. Oh, and I should mention that Kelowna has released the Wine Trails app for iPhone/iPad/Android. It’s awesome for people—like me—who tend to get lost.
On the wine front, the tasting room at Kettle Valley Winery (2988 Hayman Rd., Naramata, 250-496-5898. Kettlevalleywinery.com) is a must—you have to try their Gewürztraminer slushy! Nichol Vineyard’s tasting room, also in Naramata (1285 Smethurst Rd., 250-496-5962. Nicholvineyard.com), features excellent Syrah made from Canada’s oldest Syrah vines. I also highly recommend Van Westen Winery (2800A Aikins Loop, 250-496-0067. Vanwestenvineyards.com), where you might meet Rob Van Westen, a third-generation Naramata farmer and a great winemaker. As for food, in Penticton you’ll find incredible deli sandwiches at Il Vecchio (315 Robinson St., 250-492-7610). In the Oliver area, check out Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek (32830 Tinhorn Creek Rd., 250-498-3743. Tinhorn.com) for killer views and Jeff Van Geest’s amazing cooking. And finally, if you want to Zen out, there’s something wonderful about picking wild asparagus as you wander the grounds of Pentâge Winery at Skaha Lake (4400 Lakeside Rd., 250-493-4008. Pentage.com).
Mark Filatow (Chef/sommelier of Kelowna's Waterfront Restaurant)
Most people know about summer dining on the terrace at Mission Hill in Kelowna (1730 Mission Hill Rd., 250-768-6448. Missionhillwinery.com), and I love taking people there; the food is very good and you can’t beat the view. But don’t overlook Quail’s Gate (3303 Boucherie Rd., 250-769-4451. Quailsgate.com), which is nearby and also stunning. Its Old Vines restaurant has really come into its own. If if I want Japanese, I go to Wasabi in downtown Kelowna (1623 Pandosy St., 250-762-7788. Wasabi-izakaya.com). Local Lounge.Grille in Summerland (12817 Lakeshore Dr. S., 250-494-8855. Thelocalgroup.ca) has a great patio, and in the south there’s The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl (100 Burrowing Owl Pl., 250-498-0620. Bovwine.ca). As for things to do, hit the Kelowna farmers’ market on Saturday morning (Kelownafarmersandcraftersmarket.com), grab provisions, and head to Bertram Creek Park (15 kilometres south of Kelowna on Lakeshore Rd.) for a picnic. When I want to chill, I love hanging out in Naramata and the Similkameen; it’s like stepping back in time. I also love going mushroom hunting and berry picking, and there are some challenging hikes in Monashee Provincial Park (111 kilometres north of Vernon. Env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/monashee). It’s also fun to grab a bike and ride the Mission Park Greenway (Greenway.kelowna.bc.ca) or The Trestles (Myratrestles.com), a restored section of the Kettle Valley Railway. If you’ve got a good mountain bike, you’ll find thousands of great trails up and down the valley to burn off your trip’s excesses.