HOME AWAY FROM HOME AT CEDARCREEK ESTATE WINERY’S HOME BLOCK RESTAURANT
By Roslyne Buchanan.
From my home above Naramata Bench in Penticton to CedarCreek Estate Winery is roughly an hour and a half scenic drive skirting Okanagan Lake. I was keen to check it out since its May opening yet 2019 almost slipped away despite rave reviews. Good news if you’ve missed experiencing it, CedarCreek is open year-round. Don’t forget in Okanagan Wine Country, it’s a good idea to verify hours and days of operation before heading out.
It took a travelling journalist – Twyla Campbell of Edmonton CBC, Eat North and various other publications – who was visiting local author Jennifer Cockrall-King to motivate us to make reservations. Together with Dana Ewart, co-founder/former co-owner of Joy Road Catering, we embarked on our little road trip and experienced culinary utopia.
The metamorphosis at CedarCreek since it was purchased by the von Mandl family continues to unfold as the opening of the new dining structure was followed by the unveiling of the tasting room. The effect is a warm and inviting European/modern style integrating elemental features of stone, wood and windows that feel as if part of the landscape forever.
Full disclosure I had been discussing with Catherine Douglas, Marketing Manager, coming to see all the changes at CedarCreek since spring so when we made our plans, I contacted her. To our delight, she arranged a sit-down wine tasting for us first in the fresh new Tasting Room. Plus, Catherine actually had time in her demanding schedule to join us for lunch.
What she didn’t mention until we had indulged lavishly was that she and CedarCreek hosted our lunch! We were overwhelmed by the unanticipated generosity. We were all so enthralled by the entire experience it was the “warm brandy sauce on top of the sticky toffee pudding”! Wait a second, CedarCreek actually offers that in its dessert portfolio.
As we settled into couches by the massive windows featuring vineyards and Okanagan Lake in the Tasting Room, it was ‘home away from home’ for me. That feeling remained throughout the entire experience thanks to the welcoming ambiance in the architecture and staff. Brynne Dickson led us through a leisurely and illuminating tasting truly highlighting the quality of the vineyards and skills of Winemaker Taylor Whelan and his team. I couldn’t resist buying the Platinum Block 1 Pinot Noir Rosé and the rare 2013 Platinum M – “the only Madeira-style wine made in the Okanagan Valley”.
The Tasting Room is frequented now by its The Platinum Club members and offers numerous types of tasting experiences. Learn more at cedarcreek.bc.ca
Our research complete on the current wine releases, it was meal time and our opportunity to taste the cuisine of Executive Chef Neil Taylor and his culinary team. To maximize our exploration of the menu, we selected to take a sharing approach. Home Block is named in homage to the vineyard that surrounds it and the whole approach is decidedly local. The interior is “crafted from fieldstone and 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood” and it was fun to learn some of the wood craft was by John Rosseau Design of Summerland. The cuisine springs from those elemental roots.
CedarCreek states: “We integrate natural cooking methods like our wood-fired grill fueled by timber from local orchards and seasoned barrel staves. The result is honest, confident, and approachable food that unites flawlessly with CedarCreek wine.”
Truly “terroir to table” ingredients are sourced as locally as possible and are of the highest standards. We were all impressed by the skill in capturing all the nuances. Our share selection included:
Crispy Squid, chili jam and crème fraiche;
Burrata, Shishito peppers, speck, rocket, aged balsamic, pecorino, grilled focaccia;
Grilled Cabbage Salad, bagna cauda dressing, mushrooms, gremolata & crispy onions;
Gnocchetti Sardo, spicy lamb ragu, Shishito peppers, mint, goat’s cheese;
and Green Chickpea Fritters, Moroccan lentils, Shishito peppers, yoghurt, honey, tahini & dukkah.
Chef also brought us the Slow Cooked Pork Cheeks, soft polenta, red wine braised cabbage, crispy sage, and we were so glad he did because it was spectacular. Who knew pork could melt on your tongue so melodically?
As noted, dessert was Sticky Toffee Pudding, butterscotch sauce, vanilla ice cream – truly a grand finale to a fantastic feast.
Home Block finesses the flavours of each element and unites them on the plate. With its open kitchen, you can watch the food transform. In addition to the CedarCreek wines, some Checkmate Artisanal Winery, Martin’s Lane Winery, Mission Hill Family Estate, and Road 13 Winery selections are offered. There are also a few great beer and cider choices and non-alcohol drinks.
Tastefully decorated with discreet doors on the cubicles, the unisex bathroom is a novelty in the Okanagan. Also, featured is a separate dining room divided by a glass wall displaying wine which can be booked for private events.
CedarCreek and its Home Block is not to be missed. We’ll certainly return. On a warmer day, how glorious it would be to linger on the patios. Now, if only there was a more direct route from Naramata via Chute Lake or if I had a helicopter!
Featured image: Home Block’s wood-fired grill fueled by timber from local orchards and seasoned barrel staves. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.