This lovely guest post is from Laura Goyer of the Culinary Travel Guide.
“You could call it the northernmost wine area in the world. You could also call it Napa meets Palm Springs meets Narnia — a mix of crystalline mountain lakes, lush green forests, pillowy hills and vine-strangled farms.” (Mike MacEacheran)
1. World-Class Wineries
In 2015, the Okanagan wine region made the leap from up-and-coming to world-class. With over 170 wineries, more than 80 grape varietals, and hundreds of award-winning wines, it’s no wonder The Huffington Post named it the #1 wine region in the world – and the accolades don’t stop there. USA Today called the Okanagan Valley the 2nd best wine region to visit while Wine Enthusiast Magazine dubbed it one of the 10 best wine destinations of 2015.
Wineries here run from large magnificent estates to small family-run vineyards.
With its stunning architecture, spectacular views, first-class culinary workshops and summer concerts featuring legends like Tony Bennett and Martina McBride, Mission Hill Winery is unquestionably, “the Versailles of the Valley” (The New York Times) and a not-to-be-missed stop on any Okanagan wine tour.
Mission Hill Vineyards overlooking Okanagan Lake
2. An Impressive Culinary Scene
Wine regions throughout the world have always attracted talented, innovative chefs and the Okanagan Valley is no exception.
Kelowna, the largest city in the Valley, is home to the Canadian Culinary Championships – an intense, 3-day culinary battle where Canada’s best chefs come together to compete for top honors. It’s also home to Top Chef Canada contestant Evelyn Takeoff and Chopped Canada winners Stephanie Schoales and Brock Bowes.
With talent like this it’s no surprise that the region has more than its share of award-winning restaurants, many featuring farm-centric cuisine and craft cocktails. Local favorites include Raudz Regional Table, Micro Bar & Bites, Waterfront Wines, The Salted Brick, and Smack Dab. Further south, winery restaurants like Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek serve locally sourced dishes with spectacular vineyard views.
Smoked ahi tuna with first-of-the-season asparagus and Okanagan apricots
3. A Bountiful Harvest
Seasonal wine country cuisine depends on fresh, local ingredients — something the Okanagan has in spades. Prolific orchards and lush farms anchor a strong farm to fork movement throughout the Valley. Roadside fruit stands, U-pick farms, and Farmers’ Markets offer a cornucopia of pleasures that varies with the season – juicy peaches, plums and apricots, crisp apples and pears, and some of the tastiest cherries on earth.
Recent legislative changes mean that vendors at local seasonal markets can now sell (and sample) made-in-B.C. wines, spirits, ciders and craft beer alongside fresh fruits and veggies.
4. Fantastic Festivals
Local festivals, long table dinners, and unique events are a great way to sample the Okanagan’s food and wine. Some of the best include:
- Okanagan Fall Wine Festival – this 10 days festival kicks off October 1 and coincides with the annual grape harvest. With over 165 events celebrating gourmet food and wine, there’s something to please every palate.
- Gellatly Annual Nut Harvest Festival – as much a state of mind as a 100-year-old working farm, Gellatly Nut Farm borders Lake Okanagan, just below the town of West Kelowna, where it’s home to over 800 nut trees and shrubs. The annual nut harvest and fair takes place each autumn, courtesy of the Gellatly Nut Farm Society.
- Okanagan Feast of Fields – Described as a wandering harvest festival, the Okanagan Feast of Fields is the culinary event of the summer. With almost 60 restaurants, wineries, distilleries and breweries on site, guests are free to wander, taste, sip and enjoy the experience.
- Diner en Blanc – Also known as the world’s largest secret dinner party, it’s part pop-up picnic, part flash mob, and a whole lot of fun!
The Okanagan Valley is a utopia for food and wine lovers so dust off your passport and discover the best wine region you’ve never heard of. (Fox News)