Coast Hotel was proposing 8 different road trips over the span of a month. Each leg of route was offered to a different blogger who took their followers and those following the hashtag #GreatCoastRoadTrip on the different social media channels along for the ride. When I saw the different legs of route that Coast Hotels had planned for the 8 bloggers that were taking part in this adventure, I was tempted to email back and say that I’d do them all! Instead, I concentrate on my leg, Okanagan Uncorked, which started out in Kelowna and included driving down along Lake Okanagan to Penticton then onwards to Osoyoos all the way in the south then westward through the Rockies to Vancouver.My leg of the Great Coast Road Trip started when I landed in Kelowna – the Okanagan Valley’s primary town nestled between the water and the mountains – on a rainy Monday afternoon. I made my way to the first of four Coast Hotels I was to stay at during my trip, the Coast Capri Hotel, where I met my flashy, purple, branded ZipCar, which was going to be my trusty transportation for the rest of the trip.
The Okanagan Valley is about 200 km long and 20 km wide and is located between the Cascade mountain range to the west and the Columbia one to the east (the Rockies are located within the Columbia range). It contains a series of lakes and is known for its dry, hot and sunny weather which creates a micro-climate ideal for growing fruit, vegetables and, of course, grapes for wine. Unfortunately for all of us fruit lovers, a large number of orchards are being converted into vineyards because of better profit margins. And fortunately for us wine lovers, dozens of vineyards extend as far as the eye can see on both sides of the lake as you pass by. It can be dizzying to pick which ones to visit – and a definitive health hazard if you were to visit them all! I stopped by a few of them in and around Kelowna, as well as some gourmet spots. Below are some highlights from my time there.Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolate – We spent the afternoon chatting (in French!) with owner and pastry chef Sandrine while enjoying some of the delicacies sold at this lovely French pastry shop: buttery and flaky croissants, fresh and crispy mille-feuilles and a delicious Okanagan apricot tart. Sandrine also sells savoury meals like duck confit and of course, that quintessential French delicacy: dainty macarons in dozens of colours and flavours! Sandhill Wines – Sandhill Wines is a single vineyard winery located in downtown Kelowna in a brand new, beautiful modern industrial building that they just moved into. I took one of their great virtual wine tours sitting in front of a flat screen with a wine expert going through their 6 vineyards and the different wines they produce, all this while taste testing a few of the excellent, single vineyard wines made by Sandhill, one of the largest wineries in the Okanagan Valley.
Micro Bar Bites – As the name implies, this is a tiny wine bar tucked in the middle of downtown Kelowna serving smart and complex cocktails as well as small plates of simple food to share, including great cheeses and charcuterie. The decor is striking and is a great mélange of industrial and vintage with brick walls that look like they’ve been there for ever when they were, in fact, built from the ground up and given that feel. The action centers around the U-shaped bar which constitutes most of the seating. The custom lighting fixture above it is a great conversation starter with your fellow drinkers or the most friendly staff.Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan – Originally from Israel, the founders of Carmelis (a combination of both their daughters’ names) run a small, artisan, goat cheese making facility with a breathtaking view on the outskirts of Kelowna, right on Okanagan Lake. Their 35 goats are hand-raised, free roaming and raised with love. They make up to a couple of dozen different varieties of goat cheese from fresh, yogurt cheese (labna) to some that are aged for 12 months or more. The goat milk gelato is an absolute must-try, with outstanding flavours like salted caramel, pistachio and maple pecan. Summerhill Pyramid Winery – Summerhill is an organic and bio-dynamic winery founded by Stephen Cipes and now run by some of his sons. It’s located right on Okanagan Lake and has gorgeous views of the water and mountains beyond. Summerhill produces quite a few wines with a predilection for sparkling ones, which was just fine by me. The property’s restaurant, the Sunset Organic Bistro’s patio is the perfect place to relax, have a bite to eat from their organic and local menu and enjoy a glass of Blanc de Noirs or Cipes Ariel 1998, a 2012, World Wine Awards Gold Medal winner. The entrance to the property is flanked by a pyramid built in the 70s (using the same golden ration as that other one in Giza) that was just receiving a new finish when we were there. Some of the wine bottles are aged inside the pyramid and the serenity is said to affect the wine positively. Tantalus Vineyards – Tantalus is a neighbour of Summerhill and also located on Okanagan Lake with beautiful views (I know I’m repeating myself, but the views are all encompassing and really gorgeous!). The first vines ever planted there were done in 1927 and it’s known as the “oldest continuously producing vineyard in British Columbia”. They produce single vineyard wines that are truly exceptional, including a Syrah ice wine that is like nothing I’ve ever tasted. I highly recommend taking a tour of the vineyards at this property followed by a wine tasting.
On our way from Kelowna to Penticton, the second stop on our road trip itinerary, we stopped by Quail’s Gate Winery for a quick look. We didn’t do any wine tasting there but the estate looks lovely and it came highly recommended by some of the people we encountered in the area.
Word of advice: if you are going to go on a trip to the Okanagan Valley, be prepared to do a lot of wine tasting! I am not one for spitting my wine after swirling it in my mouth but even if I only tasted a sip of each of the wines, my liver was screaming for mercy at the end of each day. You’ve been warned!
Many thanks to Coast Hotels for inviting me to be a part of this Great Coast Road Trip. My flight, hotel room and certain meals were covered by Coast Hotels as part of this organized press trip. Many thanks also to ZipCar for covering the transportation part of the trip.
Check out more photos from my trip in my Facebook album here and stay tuned for the rest of my trip to Penticton and Osoyoos.