Monday, October 29, 2012

4th Annual Wine Buying trip to the Okanagan is sadly over and 2013 is in the planning.

We've just returned from our annual wine buying trip to the Okanagan.  Last year it was very hot in September and I was concerned about how the heat was affecting the wine in our car so this year we decided to try October.  It was a bit late.  Many wines were sold out. We probably won’t go as late again. We visited 16 wineries, some old favourites and a couple we hadn’t seen before.  The tasting rooms weren't busy and it was interesting seeing grapes being picked and crushed. I’m always impressed with the wine tasting experience in the Okanagan.  The wine rooms are beautiful and you often get to talk to the owner or winemaker.   A couple of wineries stood out.  At Herder Winery in Keremeos, Lawrence Herder took us down into his lab and out into his vineyard.  Lawrence is a bit of a mad wine scientist and we hung on his every word.  If you have a chance try the Josephine, it is an exceptionally beautiful meritage, and if you drive up the Crowsnest Highway you won’t regret stopping at Herder.  We also really enjoyed our visit to Quinta Ferreira. They won Best Red at the Okanagan Wine Festival for the 2009 Syrah, a joy to drink.  Carmen, the resident artist was working the tasting bar and she is a lot of fun.  Black Hills new “Wine Experience Centre” was pretty great too.  We paid for the Portfolio Tasting Experience and we were glad we did.  Black Hills is home to the famous Nota Bene wine and my favourite BC white wine Alibi. 

We stayed at The Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos in a 2 bedroom waterfront suite.  The suite was spacious with a nicely equipped kitchen, a large dining area with seating for 6 and a deck with table and chairs for 6.  I’m sure we’ll stay there again.  We were disappointed in the Wine and Patio Bar.  Executive Chef Jonas Stadtlander has the experience that should make for a fantastic dining experience but something was wrong the night we were there.  Service was slow and food arrived cold. 

Dining is getting better every year in the South Okanagan and we had several very good meal.  One of the great things about eating at a winery restaurant is access to some of their library wines and I’m a believer in taking advantage of those opportunities. 

The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl is excellent.  The room is beautiful and comfortable and the service is perfect.  I started with the Vanilla Bean Cured Salmon, with Fennel Pollen Crème Fraiche, Brioche Crouton and Baby Greens.  I loved the texture and flavour of the salmon, cut and served on the plate like a carpaccio.  It was incredible with a glass of the recommended Chardonnay.  I also had the Vegetarian Cabbage Roll.  It was very good but the glass of the ’08 Athene was a blow your mind delicious blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Eight of us had lunch and there wasn’t a single complaint. 

We ate a lunch and a dinner at Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek.  We’ve eaten there 4 times now and I love this happy little restaurant.  Food is good to exceptional and the service keeps pace.  For dinner I had a Seafood Cioppino that was a generous serving of perfect fish, prawns and scallops in an aromatic, full flavoured tomato broth.  For lunch I had the smoked trout pizza.  It wasn’t on the lunch menu but a request was happily accommodated. We shared a potato pizza for the table and it was also pretty great.  They are serving thin crust pizzas, just a little weightier than a proper Neopolitan pizza.   As a group we ate 14 meals in 2 days at Terrafina and each and every one of them was a success.  They even had the ‘07 Cabernet France available from their library.  It’s the wine that really turned me into a Cab Franc lover and it is every bit as good as I remember.