Sunday, June 30, 2013

Final Day of 5th Annual Wine Tour and some general observations.

On our way out of Summerland we stopped at Sumac Ridge.  A nice staff in the wine room.  I thought the Black Sage Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were particularly good.  They are the results of Harry McWatters purchase 30 years ago of some property on the Black Sage Bench.  Back then everyone probably thought Harry was nuts.  He's clearly thinks outside of the box.  No matter.  Harry sold Sumac Ridge several years ago and they are still benefiting from everything he did.  
Don't you love the red wine drip down the bottle?  Some pretty fine wines for the $$.

Our final winery was Greata Ranch.  We always drove right by on our way out of town but this time we were committed to stop.  Greata is not your typical winery.  They are owned by CedarCreek and is really a "concept" winery.  The idea is to develop 500 homes on the property and everyone gets to live at a winery.  All of their wines are exclusively available on location. 

We finished our day with a stop at Vita Bella Ristorante in Chilliwack.  We've missed them since they left Burnaby.  The Gnuddi is as good as ever.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lake Breeze absolute hands down favourite of our 5th Annual Okanagan Wine Buying Trip.

Day 3 and we headed nonstop to Naramata and one of my favourite stops; La Frenz.  They have lots of great wines only available to buy at the winery and a lovely tasting room with an incredible view.  The Montage, big bold red blend is a steal for $22.

We stopped at Red Rooster to taste and check out their new patio restaurant.  The patio has a very simple menu and most of the tables are high with bar stool seats.  Pretty but not my favourite.  They've also cut back on the previously great gift shop selection.  None of us bought wine.  

Our next stop was Hillside Winery with one of the prettiest gardens.  We've had lunch there and it was quite good.  They were sold out of their famous Muscat, an excellent wine for sushi.  You may see it on some restaurant menus.

Our favourite stop of the day was Lake Breeze.  

The tasting room staff go out of their way to share their excellent knowledge.  Kudos to Luke who went out of his way to let us taste more wines.  

The restaurant staff were just as accommodating while we boisterously sorted out our wine and food choices.  The patio is now my favourite restaurant in the Okanagan. 

The Seared Halibut with roast cauliflower, leek and saffron tart, tomato confit and chardonnay cream is the best Halibut dish I've had this season.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

8th Generation Vineyard and Poplar Grove Winery are neck in neck for favourites on day 2 of our 5th Annual Okanagan Wine Buying Trip

Day 2 we visited Thornhaven, 8th Generation, Painted Rock, Poplar Grove, Township 7 and Perseus with a final stop at the Wine Country Visitor Centre in Penticton.  All are worth a visit but 2 stood out for all 6 of us.

8th Generation for the depth of information shared with the tasting and the quality of all the wines we tasted.  Plus getting our hands on a couple of the very limited 2010 Pinot Noir that took Double Gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships made us all feel lucky.

Poplar Grove's new digs with tasting room, view deck and the Vanilla Pod Restaurant is great.  Fine pizzas, pastas and salads.   The Yukon Gold Potato Cake with tomato and avocado salsa and chevre was absolutely delicious and the kind of dish you could crave.  The Chickpea salad got good reviews as well.
Everyone I talked to in the winery and restaurant were enthusiastic and happy.

Our final stop of the day was at the Wine Country Visitor Centre in Penticton.  They have an excellent gift shop as well as a great selection of wine.  We had hoped to visit Pentage but their tasting room isn't open yet.  The Visitor Centre had some 2007 Pentage and we needed something for our picnic that night.  Pentage is the BOMB!  Christmas shopping done!  You can hope your on my list.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our 5th Annual Okanagan Wine Buying Trip. It's Going to be a Very Red Christmas.

For our fifth annual Okanagan wine tour we returned to Summerland and the Bottleneck Drive.  starting out on the first day of summer we found it wasn't as hot as our early fall visits had been.  We were hoping not to worry so much about the heat cooking our wine and  also find less wine SOLD OUT.  I'd say we were successful because I'm feeling very smug about my purchases.  

Day 1 we visited Bonitas for tasting and lunch and Okanagan Crush Pad for tasting.  We liked Bonitas and had a bottle of their Gewurztraminer with lunch on the patio.  

The warm crab and goat cheese dip served with flatbread and veggies was given a thumbs up by everyone at the table.


I liked the beet and orange salad with goat cheese rolled in walnuts and honey balsamic but I LOVED the oyster add on.  

David thought the basil crusted tuna nicoise was one of the best dishes of the weekend.  

The pasta special with rose sauce, prawn and sausage was also a hit.  

Okanagan Crush Pad is an interesting place with creative ideas and some kick ass international consultants.  Pay attention, they're doing BIG THINGS.  I'll stop every time I pass.   They have some comfy outdoor furniture and start the tasting with a glass of their excellent Pinot Gris served tableside.  A very nice touch.  Then they give you a $5 card for use in their Enoteca machine.  They had 8 wines in the machine and you could get a $1 or $2 pour.   Novel and fun.  They follow up with a tour of the winery but it was a full house and we had a date at the spa.  Next time.  I bought a bottle of The Bub by Haywire to try at TTG's Friday's winedown.

We were staying at The Summerland Waterfront Resort so had dinner at Local Restaurant there.  They have a new chef and a new menu and it needs work.  We've loved that restaurant in the past and I'm sure they'll work out the kinks.  Great wine list.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Riding the rails in style on the Rocky Mountaineer includes wild life spotting, historical landmarks and great food and wine.

I recently took the Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver to Banff with an overnight in Kamloops.  We were in Gold Leaf Service with a glass domed passenger car above Gold Leaf dining car.  They also offer Silver Leaf service which gives you a hot meals in your passenger seat or Red Leaf which is a cold meals in your seat.  But Gold Leaf is the way to go.  

Shortly after we leaving Vancouver we were invited down to the dining car which was set with white linen and china. Fresh fruit,juice, coffee and hot croissants were served immediately.
I liked the scrambled eggs with salmon and lemon chive creme fraiche. Perfectly prepared and well presented.

The Benedict on Montreal Smoked Meat was the most popular dish and  was getting rave reviews.  It's hard to believe the meals they can prepare in the tiny galley.  

Lunch included wines and similar elegant food.  Salmon, chicken and pasta were most popular.  The menus are a little different both days.  

We overnighted at the Hotel 540 in Kamloops, an older hotel with newly and very nicely renovated rooms.  For dinner we strolled down the street to the Fireside Steakhouse and Bar in The Plaza Hotel.  They are very proud of their locally raised premium beef but they did a fine job with my baked halibut too.  

I loved going through the spiral tunnels, an engineering curiosity that winds the tracks in a spiral through 2 mountains to manage the grade at that point.  

I saw big horn sheep, elk, mule deer and a grizzly beer mother and cub.  Impressive.  

Our last night was spent at the Fairmont Banff Springs.  Although in pictures the hotel looks big and out of place when you are actually there is it charming.  The Swiss decor is lovely and the hotel is warm and welcoming.  You can book a sunrise wake up call so you can open your curtains and watch the sun hit the mountains or get up and go down to the lake for an even more impressive start to your day.  I'd recommend trying a fondue for dinner.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lompoc Wine Ghetto offers an interesting alternative to Fess Parker or Gainey Ranch for tasting wines in Southern California

On a recent trip to Los Angeles we wanted to get out of the city so headed North to Santa Barbara.  We stayed at the Santa Barbara Inn, an old funky hotel in a great location and spent a couple of days driving around the beaches, farmland and vineyards.

We especially liked the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc.  There are 19 tasting rooms in an industrial park, many of them showcasing premium small lot wineries that you can't taste or buy anywhere else.  We liked The Taste of Santa Rita Hills where you can taste wines from 5 or 6 wineries.  Owner Antonio Moretti makes a nice Pinot Noir.  We came home with this Ken Brown Pinot Noir from the highly acclaimed Clos Pepe Vineyard.  

We spent the rest of our time at the Wine Ghetto at Jalama Wines talking to wine maker Mark Gargasacchi and tasting his incredible wines.  I love the single varietal Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah as well as the El Capitan blend.  These are hand crafted small lot wines of exceptional quality and value.  Only available at the Wine Ghetto.

A little further east we loved the town of Los Olivos, a charming little town home of The Fess Parker Inn and Spa.  I think I'll stay there the next visit. We looked in and the restaurant is definitely worth a visit.  We ate right across the street at The Wine Merchant.  They have a huge selection of wine for sale, a
large tasting bar with small plates of food and a lovely restaurant.  I asked about a wine that said limited stock and when they delivered the glass I was shocked thinking that they would sell such a small pour but they had run out and were giving me the last of it free.  When I ordered another glass I was presented with a taste first to make sure I liked it.  My kind of place. 

 Our waiter wasn't only knowledgeable about wine but knew a thing or two about beer as well.  David tried the Firestone Walker Reserve with a nicoise.
 I highly recommend the Wine Merchant.

 Back in Santa Barbara we had reservations at Cielito Restaurant, an upscale Mexican restaurant in a courtyard off State Street.  It was an exceptionally good meal.  I had a crab and shrimp enchilada with a poblano, tomatillo cream sauce.  One of the best Mexican dishes I've had.

David had the fish feature and it was crisp without being overcooked in a deeply flavourful sauce.  

Wine Cask Restaurant

For our final night in Santa Barbara we ate at the Wine Cask.  Great wine selection and an amazing rock shrimp ceviche.  I got to try the Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay and considered myself a very lucky lady.
The next time your in Los Angeles consider heading north.  There's great food and wine in them there hills.

Cheers,  Cathy