Making Memories: Kelowna in Winter
By Roslyne Buchanan.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away” is wisdom attributed to America’s multi-talented, eternally treasured Maya Angelou.
Her words come easily as I pause along the Myra Canyon rail trail to inhale the fresh winter air and feast my eyes on boundless vistas. I’m sure if Ms. Angelou was still with us and standing here beside me, she’d agree this is a measurable moment.
Under three-quarters of an hour from downtown Kelowna or the Kelowna Airport, Myra Station/Bellevue Provincial Park Day Use Area offers ample parking, rustic restrooms and most importantly, the entrance to the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) trail. Here, depending on the season, you can hike, bike, snowshoe or Nordic ski on a piece of history. Learn more about this feat of engineering ingenuity and hard labour completed in 1914 at myratrestles.com
Our plan was to snowshoe. While the snow gods weren’t generous that day, walking the trail leading through two tunnels and across hand-hewn trestles carved into the canyon was magical. Under those blue skies hued in winter light, our roughly two-and-a-half hours hike stirred quite an appetite.
All aboard for lunch at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. Along with the panoramic views of Okanagan Lake, Kelowna and the mountains beyond, your breath will be taken away by the pyramid. Yes, on site the Cipes family, owners of Summerhill, have built a geometrically precise replica on a 1:16 ratio of the dimensions of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Not just for show, all Summerhill’s wines which are 100 per cent certified organic (biodynamic, actually) are aged in the pyramid. Given the abundance of national and international awards bestowed to Summerhill wines, the proof is in the tasting. If you want to reflect upon your measurable moments, the pyramid is open to tour and for meditation.
Acclaimed as Canada’s most visited winery, Summerhill offers a more relaxed pace in the winter season. Its restaurant, the Summerhill Organic Bistro, is open year-round, too. One of the top chefs in the Okanagan, award-winning Executive Winery Chef Jeremy Luypen and his culinary team invite you to “Think World Class. Eat Local & Organic”. For locals and those astute enough to tour in the offseason, the bistro and winery presents a number of specials and programming until spring. See summerhill.bc.ca/Bistro for details.
The lunch menu is divided into two categories: plant-based; and from the sea & land. We opted for the vegan soup of the day, wild mushroom gnocchi, and vegan calamari (tempura oyster mushrooms with vegan tzatziki) on the plant-based section paired with Cipes Brut Rose. From the sea & land, the artichoke chorizo pizza of the day hit the spot with Summerhill Pinot Noir.
We checked into the Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort, ideally located for lakeside and Kelowna skyline views. This elegant gem is an easy walk to all the downtown attractions and restaurants plus it offers its own special wine tasting room and the delectable and regionally-inspired OAK+CRU Social Kitchen & Wine Bar. With boutique shops and its spa, fitness facilities and indoor/outdoor pool and hot tubs, you’ll be tempted to stay put.
By dinnertime, the lure of another winter wine touring adventure led us to the Old Vines Restaurant & Wine Bar at Quails’ Gate Winery. The Stewarts, owners of Quails’ Gate, are a third generation, Okanagan farming family who’ve been part of the community for more than a century. Through Stewart family sweat equity, research and innovation, a collection of wines are assembled “that consistently exceed expectations in quality, character and flavour”.
To complement such fine wine, Old Vines Restaurant was established vineyard side for exceptional dining with spectacular Okanagan Lake views. Executive Chef Roger Sleiman and his team have been consistently offering farm-to-table cuisine before the term became popular. Says Sleiman, “Providing a true taste of the Okanagan using the freshest of local and sustainable ingredients is just what we do. Our dishes are designed to pair perfectly with Quails’ Gate wines and we source our ingredients from surrounding field and pastures, our kitchen garden and regional BC.”
We sipped a glass of Quails’ Gate Okanagan Valley Chenin Blanc and put ourselves into the hands of Sleiman and Executive Sous Chef Adam Mukasa. I’m salivating as I recall the three-course menu.
First, 2017 Shannon Pacific Viognier was paired with Scallops & Pork Belly, roasted cauliflower, mushroom stuffed leeks, cauliflower puree. The dish packed a flavour punch yet was delicate enough to balance beautifully with the floral, apricot and almond notes of the wine.
Second course featured Yarrow Meadows Farm Duck Breast, roasted sunchokes, parsnip puree, cardamom bruised rutabaga and spinach duck jus paired with 2016 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir. The dish was such a unique symphony of flavours that played well to the complex notes of dark berries, light cherries, currants, pepper, smoke, tobacco and warm spice finish in this flagship wine.
Dessert course highlighted the 2017 Totally Botrytis Affected Optima with Apricots and White Chocolate, lemon cake, almond nougatine, white chocolate yogurt cremeux and apricot sorbet. Visions of sugar plums dance in my head recalling the silkiness of this elixir with apricot, floral and ginger notes.
Based on the quality of the wine and food, it’s little wonder that Quails’ Gate attracts patrons year-round and that Old Vines has been rated as a top-100 restaurant in Canada. Open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 am; Sunday brunch 10 am to 2:30 pm; and High Tea, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 3:30 pm. For more information go to quailsgate.com
That night instead of counting sheep, I tallied moments that took my breath away in exploring Kelowna in winter.