From unexpected ice cream flavours to impossibly tasty breads, these stops in Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country offer more than just great grapes
Best known as a wine destination in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, Oliver has plenty to offer foodies too. Local vineyards are getting creative with their cuisine, showcasing the abundance of the area’s farms and fields in addition to award-winning grapes. From a quick lunch break to world-class dining, these wineries combine acclaimed wines with uncommonly delicious food, each in a vineyard setting that provides a feast for the eyes.
1. Artisan Bread Co. at Platinum Bench Estate Winery
Leila KwokSince opening in 2012, this small winery run by the husband-and-wife team of Murray Jones and Fiona Duncan has become a local favourite with its bold reds and show-stopping breads. While Murray tends the vines, Fiona runs the kitchen, leading a team that bakes 300 loaves each day and routinely sells out by lunchtime. All wine tastings at Platinum Bench feature pairings with Fiona’s four incredible wheat stalk—or epi—bread varieties: asiago cheese, double-cream brie with pear preserves, gorgonzola with fig preserves and soppressata with Swiss cheese. The tasting room opens at 10 a.m. and the queue for bread forms quickly. Go early to start with a tasting and then grab all the loaves you can carry. Before leaving, pop around to the side of the building for a look into the screened-in kitchen. The smells wafting from the three busy ovens will make it very hard to leave.
2. Masala Bistro at Kismet Estate Winery
Christina NewberryWhen the first members of Kismet's Dhaliwal family left India for Canada in the 1990s, they sought a new home where their farming skills could be put to good use. After getting their start picking apples, the Dhaliwals moved on to grapes and soon became award-winning growers supplying fruit to the best wineries in the Okanagan Valley. Now with three generations working together, the Dhaliwal family has established its own Kismet Estate Winery and launched Masala Bistro—an onsite Indian restaurant that showcases how surprisingly well Indian flavours pair with the region's wines. The paneer pakoras and butter chicken are top picks, as are any of the dishes from the tandoori oven. Make like the locals and stop in for takeout or settle in for a leisurely meal at a tasting room table or out on the patio. Kismet’s wines are sold out for the season but you can still sip a glass (or two) with your bistro meal.
3. The Wine Lounge at vinAmité Cellars
Christina NewberrySure, you can get a charcuterie board anywhere. But the heaving appetizer platter at vinAmité is in a category all its own—and, at just $15 per person, the beautifully plated feast is a steal. In addition to the usual local cheeses, cured meats and pickles, the platter includes French-style chicken paté, wild boar terrine with cognac, sauccison sec made with vinAmité’s Petit Claret and a selection of jellies made in-house from vinAmité wines. Paired with a tasting of this family-run winery’s French-style varietals, it’s a satisfying lunch—and an Instagram-worthy one too, especially when enjoyed on the sunny patio perched atop the vineyard. While you’d never be able to recreate the view (or the plating perfection) at home, you can pick up all the supplies you need to make your own appetizer platter from the highly curated deli case dubbed Le marché vinAmité.
4. The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
Facebook/Burrowing Owl WineryThis fine-dining restaurant overlooking Burrowing Owl’s 140 acres of vines is the perfect place to celebrate a special event or just indulge in a top-notch Italian-inspired meal, featuring ultra-fresh ingredients from local farmers, fishers and foragers. There’s also an unexpected foodie find here, in the form of house-made ice cream, like white cheddar (served atop a perfect apple pie) or burnt honey. If you’ve already filled up at some of the other great stops on this list, pop into Burrowing Owl for a wine tasting anyway. The $3 tasting fee for four wines goes directly to the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia, supporting breeding programs for this local endangered species. Since starting its donation program, Burrowing Owl has donated more than $1 million to protect its namesake bird.
5. Cooking Classes at Hester Creek Estate Winery
Christina NewberryFor a special vineyard meal, it’s never the wrong decision to visit Terrafina, Hester Creek’s Tuscan-inspired restaurant helmed by Chef Rod Butters. But foodies looking for a more hands-on exploration should sign up for one of Hester Creek’s cooking classes, hosted in a demonstration kitchen just off the main tasting room and led by one of the region’s many acclaimed chefs. You’ll learn about the ingredients currently in season in the South Okanagan and pick up new kitchen skills while making your way through a multi-course meal paired with Hester Creek wines. As a bonus, you’ll get to bring all of the recipes home. Cooking classes often sell out so be sure to register in advance.
Originally published in BCLiving.