There are plenty of good reasons to go wine tasting in the Okanagan in October. For starters:
The wine is always good no matter what month you decide to visit, but come October and over the Fall/Winter in general it’s much easier to book accommodation as the wineries are less busy with everyone back to work and back to school. So may I suggest a not so little gem of a place to stay…Summerhill Pyramid Winery Guest House (shown in photos on this page). Not only is it amazingly spacious with a view to die for, but the winery + bistro is adjacent to the guest house. A hop, skip and a roll home away.
What can be better than spending a weekend over wine, food, fun and friendship?Not much!
That’s exactly how I spent last weekend – with my dear long time girlfriend Margeaux. We go back to working together over thirty years ago first selling advertising at an established Canadian film publication. Wanting to branch out, we convinced our boss to fly us to Toronto once we didn’t think there’d be a twice to cover the Genie Awards (recognizing the best of Canadian cinema – now merged with the Gemini Awards to include Canadian television…but to my non-Canadian friends, you’ve probably never heard of either). By some sheer godsend in between partying with celebrities like Donald Sutherland & Kim Cattrall at the event, our commentary and photos ended up getting published in the magazine. Later we worked on a Canadian Mad Max style film together But I digress…
Margeaux met me halfway (well almost) in Oliver, British Columbia – Canada’s wine capital.
She drove from Castlegar, BC and I had spent the night before in Lake Country, Kelowna with my boyfriend so I was not too far away. The drive from Vancouver to Oliver takes about 4 ½ hours and we were lucky to stay with a friend on Thursday night and watch the sunset while drinking champagne on a sailboat. I had to set the scene. Sundown was also the end of a holy Jewish holiday; Yom Kippur. Breaking a fast with champagne? Winenot?
Margeaux had booked a perfect B+B in Oliver that appropriately goes by the name Uncorkedrun by Ian & Judy Born, a couple originally from small farming communities. Uncorked is located within a 15 minute (if that) drive of 40+ wineries in either direction and a lakeview location with a saltwater pool you can use from May – October.
It’s quiet here and all 3 private entrance rooms have en-suite bathroom and flat-screen TV. The beds are king-size, super comfy with new mattress and deluxe bamboo bedding. After all, you need a good night’s sleep for next day wine tasting. There’s a BBQ, shared lounge with efficiency kitchen and a coffee tray was left outside the room in the morning with the little extras (milk, cream, sugar) and full homemade breakfast included.
I was not expecting a menu from which to choose what we’d prefer for breakfast. That was a pleasant surprise. Dietary restrictions noted. Judy’s homemade farm fresh breakfasts are beyond. Coffee, juice, fresh fruit salad, free range local eggs, home grown tomatoes, homemade jams, etc….It was exceptional. As was her advice on which wineries were her favourites (she works at one twice a week which we visited – to be blogged about separately).
As a local, Judy provided plenty of relevant information about small lot wineries (producing less than 5,000 cases) that are excellent that I would probably have passed by had she not mentioned them…including tipping us off to some wineries that are now run by big corps and foreign investors. A few other well known ones that are overblown and such. After our weekend we really appreciated her guidance.
Aside from our drop in to District Wine Village and a vintage shop on Saturday, we managed to visit 7 wineries in total. Two well known wineries where we had dinner and 5 distinctive small lot fabulous wineries we’d never know about had Judy not circled them on our wine map. And as usual, the wine and conversation flowed and the time went way too fast. We decided to do this sametime next year. We’ll stay here again if the rooms are available.
Because travelling with dogs can sometimes be a pain for finding overnight accommodation.
La Quinta Inn & Suites – now owned by Wyndham are reliably dog friendly, clean, comfortable, cost-effective, all no-smoking rooms, free Wi-Fi, continental breakfast (sometimes full depending where you stay) and friendly service.
OK let’s be honest, while The Four Seasons it is not; your dogs probably won’t notice the difference well Layla might and if you’re looking just to overnight on your way to let’s say Palm Springs when the border finally opens and you want a very comfortable bed and a no-charge fee for your pooches – this is the place. If you’re a member you can receive regular room upgrades to larger suites which is what I usually take advantage of. I’ve also stayed at Best Western Plus and the only difference is that they charge for your pets and have a bit more on the menu in the morning. I don’t know about you but none of these breakfasts at either place are my cup of tea. A coffee and yogurt to get me going is usually sufficient and a stop somewhere along the drive for something more substantial is the norm.
Here are a few properties that I can vouch for:La Quinta in Eugene, Oregon is completely revamped with indoor pool, gym and you’ll find the Willamette River right outside the door with a great green space for walking your furry friends. Or if you have time you can run or bike along the many miles of trails. It’s very pretty and peaceful here.
La Quinta in Redding, Ca, off the Cypress exit on I-5 in Shasta County. Located near the Sacramento River where you can explore National Recreation Areas within a five minute drive to Whiskeytown or the scenic world-renowned Sundial Bridge. They have a fitness center, outdoor pool and breakfast. Plus a little courtyard to walk pets and enjoy a coffee before taking off.
If you absolutely must overnight in Bakersfield, all I can tell you is to make sure you stay at the La Quinta at the North end of the city (not the South end god help you).
Sometimes being a tourist in your own city can be very rewarding. Of course it helps if you live in a beautiful city to begin with.
Remember; people travel or used to from all over the world just to be exactly in a place that we tend to take for granted.
On Sunday I was on my way to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver but remembered along the drive that there is a Farmers’ Market in Ambleside Park, at the foot of 13th Street.
It’s on every Sunday from 10am to 3pm, May through October. Since it was a gorgeous day we stopped there first. I love this market. They have such a wide assortment of organic foods and a nice varied selection of B.C. crafts including jewelry, clothing, wrought iron, garden sculptures, soaps, pottery and much, much more.
Faces of the Farmers Market
Stock at the Market
I must say the market and the whole Ambleside area in general is very dog friendly. I ended up playing ball with Layla off-leash in a sprawling huge park area across from the beach and we hung out on a blanket for quite some time. That was after having lunch at The Boat Shed. And before we listened to live music on the beach and then walked all along the boardwalk.
The Boat Shed at Ambleside Beach. Local fresh cuisine for everyone.
Pavel, our waiter was excellent. He recommended an awesome homemade Mexican cilantro hot sauce to compliment my meal. I took it home.
A day trip to Vista D’Oro Farms & Winery in Langley, B.C., is like taking a step back in time.
I met with Patrick, a winemaker with old-world techniques, who introduced us to the farm overlooking the vineyard and an amazing view of the Golden Ears Mountains. Hence, the golden view or, for those with an Italian influence, Vista D’oro.Now there’s a name!
We toured the barnyard complete with resident owl and elegant chandeliers.
Then over to the antiquated boutiquey tasting room where we got to try a flight of five varietals from heritage orchard fruits and vinifera grapes all grown on the property. All available for purchase in the Farmgate shop in the form of either wine or preserves.
Speaking of preserves…do you know that there’s 101 uses for their preservatory preserves? I cannot describe them all in this post but I’ll give you a few samples.
I was already familiar with the ones sold at our local wine + cheese shop and used as a staple either on their own, or added to a cheese platter (2 uses right here, you’re welcome!). The fig + walnut wine was my go-to for a long time but I hadn’t had it for a while. I left with another jar and one peach with jalapeño + tequila which was excellent and for the first time I tried the small batch mango-lime salsa. I added it to a burger last night and let’s just say the burger was much better for it. They’re all excellent. Tamara left with the Driveway. No; not the actual driveway…It’s a bottle of red wine called “Driveway” (one of 3) but that’s another story.
Vista D’Oro is also famous for making delicious fortified wines such as the 2015 Walnut Wine and 2007 D’Oro Vin de Garde (with notes of current and butterscotch). We always learn something new. Patrick referred to the apple cider as apple wine. In the style of Normandy to Brittany, France – that is the correct name.
Ciders with names like “smoked tea” and plum brandy are seasonal and will be available soon.
Which means we’ll have to come back. I Look forward to that.
It’s easy to see why this open-air art gallery draws visitors from all over the world.
This is only a splattering of photos taken with my Samsung phone camera a few days ago. See story below.
Like many others right now during this pandemic craze, I’m tending to stick closer to home. Well maybe not always too too close; but close enough. At the very least I’ve been discovering places in the province where I live that I have either never been to and wanted to visit, or haven’t visited in such a long time, that I can’t even remember when I was there last.
Such was the case a few days ago when I took the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island with my boyfriend Paul and Layla, my sheltie. The reason I decided to go in the first place was to look at the possibility of getting a companion dog for Layla. I was very interested in getting another male sheltie who lives on the island. However, without going into detail it sadly was not meant to be, at least for now…so we decided to make a little holiday out of the situation.
We took the ferry boat one way going there and another way coming back with stopovers in some quaint little towns…Ladysmith, Chemainus, Duncan and finally ending up in Victoria to take the ferry back to Vancouver. The weather for November was excellent and the scenery very picturesque.
And speaking of picturesque…I was aware of an abundance of story-telling murals in Chemainus as I had been there once before, but I had no idea that it is known as Canada’s Mural Capital. And I don’t remember seeing nearly as many as I did this time around.
I was blown away by how this proud seaside community shares its heritage and celebrates its history through art on the sides of stores, restaurants and private homes. The creation of one mural and sculpture after another which began in 1982, has turned this tiny town into Canada’s largest permanent outdoor art gallery. And might I add… when was the last time you stood in front of a “Subway” sandwich shop or “Canada Post Office” in admiration?.
You can follow the yellow footsteps (like the yellow brick road) on the sidewalks to locate all the murals. Although we did it by chance and decided to spend the night in a hotel there so we could enjoy the town the next day.
When Chemainus was established in 1858, forestry was the principal industry, and it is still central to its life. The townspeople were concerned about the future of their one-industry town so looked to economic diversification as a way to thrive. As it has a natural beauty setting to begin with, it made sense to expand as a tourist spot so The Chemainus Murals Program was born.
The subject from the beginning has been the community’s heritage, reflecting the history of the First Nations people and their life here, and the unfolding story of settlement by the families and individuals who built the community.
World renowned Vancouver Island artist Emily Carr’s legacy is depicted in a special Emily Carr Mural Series. It’s really beautiful.
The name Chemainus is believed to have come from a legendary First Nations shaman and prophet who survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. Tsa-meeun-is (Broken Chest).
If you’re looking for The Mural of the Story…
Going by the official mural guide I can look through and tell you by number what each mural means, however I think it best you go there and discover for yourself… if only becauseit really is worthwhile.
As summer sadly slips away...we decided to soak up the remaining rays with a perfect little getaway to Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast. As their website says, Sechelt is as laid-back as it is scenic, full of artists, and surrounded by mountains. That it is!
September tries its best to have us forget summer. – Bernard Williams, Philosopher.
Layla and I were kindly invited by a Vancouver friend, who along with her husband, just finished building a second home in the area.
It’s all scenic from here. Even though it’s a short drive from Vancouver to the ferry in Horseshoe Bay, then a short ferry ride over to the coast, it had been a long time since my last visit. Long overdue actually.
Since covid it appears that many people are exploring regions closer to where they live and re-discovering places they’ve not visited for some time.
In British Columbia we’re surrounded by beauty with a surplus of outdoor activities to take advantage of.
In Sechelt we walked along the rugged coast, visited a sandy beach, did two hikes, went to a local pub on the water for dinner, met some artists, hung out at home and laughed a lot. We also visited a longtime friend of mine who relocated there recently and lives with a talented artist. The vibe they made in their home is splendid.
On the last day we drove to Pender Harbour and hiked Skookumchuck Narrows, a popular attraction where the powerful rapids and whirlpools of the changing tidal waters can be seen that flow between two inlets – Jervis Inlet and Sechelt Inlet. Layla did the hike with us as it was not very hilly.The trail is about 8km roundtrip and passes through a scenic west coast rainforest before reaching the viewpoints at either North Point or Roland Point. These rapids are a fairly unique occurrence as the water flow can reach speeds of 30km/h as about 200 billion gallons of water passes through the narrows during a tide change.
On the advice of a friend/photographer we had to stop and eat a cinnamon bun from the local Skookumchuk Bakery & Café. You cannot help but notice the bakery either at the beginning or end of your hike. Everything at the bakery is made from scratch using fresh local ingredients. The bun came fresh out of the oven and it was to die for.
If you want to know more, the following was taken from the Sunshine Coast official website:
Getting to Sechelt is just a 40-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver, followed by a 27km/17mi drive up Highway 101. Sechelt is the name of a town, a peninsula, an inlet, and a people. The town is a small community sitting on a sandbar; the narrow Sechelt isthmus which separates Sechelt Inlet from the Salish Sea. Named after the original First Nations people of the region – the shíshálh.
This charming seaside town serves as a central hub for exploring the southern Sunshine Coast, where it’s easy to go sightseeing and take day trips to the neighboring communities of Halfmoon Bay, Roberts Creek, Pender Harbour, or Egmont. It’s also the perfect launching point for boating & paddling excursions to the surrounding fjords, including Narrows, Salmon, and Sechelt Inlet.
If you want to visit a true water-centric community, Pender Harbour is a must.
This unique harbour community is all about the water. Experience the true Pender Harbour Spirit, or just enjoy the 5 freshwater lakes scattered around the ocean harbour.
One day you turn around and it’s summer Next day you turn around and it’s fall And all the winters and the springs of a lifetime Whatever happened to them all? – Lyrics from “September of my Years” sung by Frank Sinatra
We’re back from a little holiday with friends in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan LakeCountry/wine region and
…which is a city situated at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers in the southwestern corner of the Kootenay Rockies. Along with a day jaunt to Nelson to have breakfast and walk around, this trip reminded me of all the beauty that super, natural British Columbia has to offer and how lucky we are to make this province our home. The road trip/staycation with friends was quality time well spent.
Lake Okanagan, British Columbia:
If you spot Ogopogo, the legendary lake monster said to inhabit these waters, you’ll make headline news, but other than that, this 82-mile lake has many recreational activities to offer: swimming, boating, parasailing and all types of water sports. It’s within a short driving distance from several amazing wineries.
Layla lounging on a watermelon slice. Lake Okanagan, B.C. Photo: d. king
On Lake Okanagan we stayed at the home of our wonderful hosts Stephen Cipes and his wife Rie. Stephen is the owner of award winning Summerhill Pyramid Winery, the most visited winery in Canada. The winery offers tours & tastings of organic/biodynamic wines, plus a bistro & an aboriginal gallery. The food is excellent and I brought back a few cases of outstanding wine. I got to drink and sample ones I hadn’t tried before. I’ll blog about this on a separate post next week.
Castlegar, British Columbia:
Incorporated in 1966, this relatively new mill town sits in a valley that has a rich and diverse history, steeped in the heritage and culture of the Doukhobors, who migrated here in the early 20th century.
People flock to Castlegar for many reasons – its diverse art scene, its world-class recreational activities, its rich culture, and its ideal location in the mountainous Kootenay Region of beautiful British Columbia.
We stayed with my amazing friend Margeaux in her resort home overlooking the spectacular *Columbia River and swam in her saltwater pool. While in the pool we saw three eagles fly directly above our heads. I was not quick enough to capture all three but was able to get one as it flew away.
Margeaux owns Kootenay Valley Water Company, providing premium bottled water and water dispensers for home and business owners throughout the West Kootenays. The company have added Arctic Spas® to their family, quickly becoming the authorized dealer in Castlegar and for the West Kootenay region. They provide full service for hot tubs and pools and some fun extras like luxurious egyptian cotton bathrobes and outdoor glassware.
*The Columbia River offers excellent fishing for multiple numbers of species from Rainbow Trout, Walleye, Bass and Whitefish.
Nelson, British Columbia is located in the Selkirk mountains and along the shores of Kootenay Lake. Only a half hour drive from Castlegar, it’s known as “The Queen City“, and acknowledged for its impressive collection of restored heritage buildings from its glory days in a regional silver rush. Nelson is a treat. It’s an inspirational mecca for foodies, art-goers, music lovers, history buffs and adventure seekers. Little local shops offer a multitude of goodies you might otherwise not find elsewhere. It’s an old hippee hangout.
Trying to replicate the appearance of an outdoor area like this at home can be challenging.
When I had the desire to create the look and feel of a real vineyard patio I looked to photos and my imagination. Like the ones here, but not exactly. As you will see.
The familiarity of having visited many wineries in British Columbia’s Okanagan wine region, Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Willamette Valley in Oregon, Napa, Sonoma, Lodi & Temecula Valley in California and Tuscany, Italy may have helped.
A little decadence mixed with naturalness and something to take you away and remind you of vacation. Remember vacation? How about stay-cation?That’s the idea I was going for. I want to enjoy the wine regions of my home. Specifically the outdoors. After all, I’m an outdoorsy person!
So sitting in the courtyard area with a glass of wine overlooking my vineyard mural under the ivy instead of actual grape vines felt very relaxing and the next best thing to being at the real deal.
Although over the years, we discovered the ivy started to slowly get out of hand, growing more and more unruly. What once appeared striking started to take over the whole area and brought some undesirable pests along the way. So recently I was bummed to have to remove it away from the beams completely. A dirty task.
It took a little while to get used to the bareness on top of the cross beams where the ivy once was, but on the bright side literally, there’s a lot more light to an area where there was no light for quite some time. So now I’m re-creating the space once more.
It will still have a vineyard feel but without the vines. Once it’s finished I’ll take a photo and share it. A new potential and a realization that sometimes doing something out of necessity gives you a chance to create something else. Learning to let go of the familiar in any given area takes courage but it can turn out to be a positive thing. Not necessarily better, just different.
Doing so makes me want to modify a few more areas around my home, inside and out.
Maybe modify is a metaphor for simplifying life in general. A tiny transformation to keeping it fresh.