Wine tasting in BC's Okanagan is bound to make you hungry, and there's no better place to enjoy a bite than when you're surrounded by beautiful bottles
Good wine is nothing without good food. And doesn't trudging from winery to winery, lifting those heavy bubbles of ambrosia, work up an appetite?
A vineyard restaurant is one of the rare gastronomic environs where a winemaker can chat with sommelier and chef on a daily basis. Take advantage of the abundance of palate-savvy expertise.
Here are the six best on-site vineyard restaurants for refueling when touring Okanagan Valley.
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
First prize goes to Miradoro, the sublime partnership between Tinhorn Creek and Manuel Ferreira of Vancouver’s Le Gavroche. The restaurant is a modern 4,000-sq.-ft. cork and wood space that blends effortlessly into the landscape. With two glass walls and a wraparound deck, all 130 diners have access to the breathtaking valley panorama.
Executive Chef Jeff Van Geest has crafted a menu that marries the best Mediterranean technique with ingredients from local field and forest. His crispy calamari frito comes with organic cucumber and roasted red pepper salad atop a perfectly executed squid ink aioli. Leave your wine pairings in sommelier Justin McAuliffe’s capable hands. For that appie, he suggests Tinhorn’s 2010 Oldfield Series 2Bench white.
Terrace at Mission Hill
The Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill, 2011 Canadian Wine Producer of the Year, overlooks the estate’s verdant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines. Sit back and watch the grapes grow as you sample dishes by Matthew Batey, the CCC (Certified Chef de Cuisine).
Batey is smitten with the concept of cuisine du terroir - wine country cooking with fresh, locally grown, seasonal ingredients. Translated onto the plate, you can expect Okanagan venison carpaccio with soft, Salt Spring Island cheese, house-made charcuterie with pumpernickel and organic greens with wildflower honey and apple croutons. Each dish is well-balanced and pure, letting the neighbourhood ingredients speak for themselves.
Mica at Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa
Mica is the newest venue by Dave Keeler, the restaurateur behind the Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. The hip white and wood restaurant boasts sociable communal seating, but the corner table with blue velvet couch is the best in the house, not counting the terrace with views of cool, blue Osoyoos Lake.
Start with the 10-mile chopped salad, then work your way through locally-sourced sharing plates like hazelnut crusted Okanagan goat cheese with shaved Serrano ham, sour cherry chutney and snap bread. If you still have room, the Korbuta pork tenderloin with truffle fries is a favourite. Finish with an award-winning ice wine from NK’MIP - the onsite winery.
Terrafina at Hester Creek Estate Winery
Although European imitation usually doesn’t come off in North American restaurants, there are moments in Terrafina at Hester Creek when you might actually buy the Tuscany comparison. The 45-seat restaurant is an intimate space with rustic wood pillars, an iron chandelier and aged brickwork. The porticoed patio is surrounded by vines; it's the best place to settle on a sunny day in Oliver.
Also unusual for a vineyard restaurant, Terrafina excels at brunch. The Sunday menu includes wood-fired breakfast pizza with farm eggs and mozzerella, wild mushroom frittata and black cod benedict. With options like these an early glass of white wine is easy to imagine. And there’s always the house mimosa.
The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
Residents of the Burrowing Owl Guest House are usually motivated by the easy access to the legendary Sonora Room restaurant. With menus on par with Sonoma’s the Girl & the Fig, diners enjoy a level of sophisication lacking from the basic, locally sourced farm-style fare. The escalope of lamb with spiced lamb sausage, yam ricotta gnocchi and juniper jus sings epicurean rhapsodies when paired with Burrowing Owl’s Syrah.
If you’re after a Burrowing Owl Estate wine that’s no longer available, the Sonora Room’s library is the place to look.