Well it’s wine o’clock somewhere? Wine Wednesday? Or is it Rosé all day? Basically when I can find any excuse to drink a glass of wine I’m good. In recent years with my job putting me on the road in wine country Okanagan BC, I have had the privilege of going to a handful of tastings. There are still so many wineries I have not discovered yet but some of my favourites of the Kelowna region are, Grey Monk, Arrow Leaf, Mission Hill, Quails Gate, and Summer Hill. I’ve also recently discovered Sand Hill which is a sister winery of Grey Monk under the Peller Estates umbrella of wine collection.
Lookout Restaurant at Gray Monk has one of the best views of the lake. This winter they did a renovation to create a sleek and modern ambiance with their decor and revamped their menu with a new head chef. On my last visit to Kelowna I went to go check it out and I was not disappointed, they lived up to the reviews of savory local flavour paired with some of their amazing wines. Grey Monk has one of my favourite Pino Gris’ and this year it came out with a bit of a pinkish colour to it and a new sweet but not too sweet taste to it compared to the 2017 Pino Gris.
Last summer when I was visiting the winery I ended up gifting myself a one year wine club membership. It is the gift that gives all year round, 4 shipments of 6 bottles each time. Every shipment is a surprise, 3 bottles are ones you would be able to purchase in the liquor store and 3 seasonal wines that you are only able purchased at the winery. It has been quite the treat to receive the wine right to my door each quarter and I’ve decided to continue for another year as I enjoyed it very much. One of my favourite wines from the winter shipment was their Odyssey Merlot. It paired so well with so many dinners as well for dessert, a glass of wine and a piece of dark chocolate Mmm Mmm… Fun fact about red wine, it creases circulation of your blood. I have terrible circulation in my hands and feet in the winter months, I am always cold and I discovered that a small glass (5 ounces maybe) at night would thin my blood enough to allow it to circulate and keep me warmer. So Italian of me, my Nona would be proud!
The next winery is actually just up the street from Grey Monk and it is called Arrow Leaf Winery. They have some of my favourite sweeter white wines as well an excellent rosé (it sold out last year so I was only able to have the taster without being able to buy any). Their patio is modern and a great place to relax and sip a glass of wine and take in the view. What I love about Arrow leaf is it is quiet and boutique so each time I’ve been in, it hasn’t been super busy. This way the sommelier’s can take more time explaining the wines and which grapes/flavours or techniques were used. My one complaint about Arrow Leaf is that they need to bring back the Snow Tiger tropical blend. This wine was from 2 years ago, it was a bit fruity but not too sweet and I loved it. It was perfect to pair with a spicy dish or have on its own on a summer night with an ice cube to keep it extra cold. The replacement wine they created, although it is also very good, just isn’t the same.
Mission Hill is always a great place to check out, but because they are so well known it is usually swamped with tourists. They have some fantastic wines but I feel like the whole point of visiting the winery is so that I can try a new wine and purchase what I like. I’ve been to Mission Hill a handful of times now and the crowds have just turned me off and I feel like I could just go buy the bottle in the liquor store instead.
Ex Nihilo is next on my list of places to check out not only for their wines but for the gourmet fire oven pizza. I will keep you posted once I go check it out.
Heading a bit south along the lakeshore wine route, Summer Hill is one of the few certified organic wineries in the area. I highly recommend getting a full tour to take in how they make their wine as well just to see inside the pyramid. For locals, they have monthly events held in the pyramid as a candle lit soirée. They also have a fantastic restaurant here, however like Mission Hill it gets very busy with busloads of tourists so be prepared to wait or make a reservation.
Next up, the West side. Quails Gate is an excellent place to check out in the afternoon as the view is stunning on the West Side as well their restaurant is excellent for either lunch or dinner. Their wine shop also gets bombarded with busloads of crazy tourists in the summer, however, their sommelier’s do not cut back on customer service. They make sure to spend a sufficient amount of time explaining the wines and if you get a good one (they have all been good every time I’ve been), they give you a small teaser of something not normally part of the tasting. Next to Grey Monk, Quails Gate is one of my favourite wineries to visit.
Mission Hill is also top of my list for their wine making but I haven’t always had great experiences because the number of tourists that go there.
There are so many wineries to choose from all of the Okanagan regions from West Kelowna and Lake Country all the way through Penticton, Naramata, Oliver and Osoyoos. A few others I know about that I would like to check out next time I am in the Kelowna region are; Mount Butcheries, Cedar Creek and Volcanic. As for the other regions, I have only been to a few others in previous years, Sumac Ridge in Summer Hill and Poplar Grove at the start of the Naramata Bench.
Vanilla Pod is the restaurant in Poplar Grove and on a clear day it is one of the best patios. The menu has some fantastic options and their wine is tasty. I only had the one glass of rosé with dinner since when I was there I was riding the Okanagan GranFondo race the next day. I had one of the specials of the evening which was wild salmon tartar with a salad with a vinaigrette dressing all locally sourced. Since I only had a small 5-ounce glass I decided to purchase a bottle. I was surprised when I saw it has a glass cork (I have only seen this on a French Rosé Wine, Côte des Roses by Gérard Bertrand. A trick to opening it is to just push up with your thumb rather than try and pull it straight out. With the pressure of your thumb it will easily open.
Since I travel and drive a lot for work I try and stay healthy and eat a lot of salads so when I saw this sign in a store, I burst out laughing. So why not mix the two and make a wine vinaigrette for a salad. Here is a recipe I found for a red wine vinaigrette.
- ¼ cup of red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp basil
- ¼ tsp oregano
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic minced
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp your favourite red wine
Lastly, I will leave you with 10 fun facts about what wine can do for you.
1. Provides you with antioxidants
2. It can boost your immune system
3. It can increase bone density
4. It can reduce the risk of stroke
5. It can reduce the risk of heart disease
6. It can lower cholesterol
7. It can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
8. It can reduce the risk of cancer
9. It can improve cognitive function over time
10. It promotes longevity
Happy wine touring. Santé.