Exploration and relaxation were on our agenda last weekend as we took a road trip into British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. The wine and seasonal fruit bountiful in this region, just a short four hours drive from Vancouver, attracted us and since it has been almost 18 years since I was in the Okanagan, a visit was due. Okanangan Wine Country is now internationally renowned for its extraordinary terroir, offering world class wines and equally delicious culinary experiences.
Our first stop was Mission Hill Estate Winery to enjoy an outdoor patio dinner at The Terrace, set atop a scenic overlook in Westlake. The five course tasting menu provided a masterful dining experience set against the dramatic architectural backdrop and landscape. My favourite was the Foie Gras au Torchon, accompanied by sweet quince purée, caramelized onion, and ice wine agar caviar on buttered toasted brioche. Dessert choices featured local orchard treasures, either ripe plump apricots or a trio of cherry concoctions, including a strudel which I plan to reproduce very shortly.
We stayed at a lovely bed & breakfast in Summerland under the shadow of Giant's Head Mountain, surrounded by the dry summer heat and early morning calls of quail (they say "Chicago! Chicago!"). At nearby Silkscarf Winery, along with wine, the most perfect Lapin cherries were for sale and after the first hour, I was already near maximum gastrointestinal capacity from unbridled cherry consumption. Later, I discovered that the Lapin variety of cherry was actually developed in Summerland in 1983 and to me, their crunchy dense texture and explosive flavour make them, by far, the best cherries I have enjoyed.
And of course, the wine. After visiting seven wineries with my wannabe sommelier husband, I think that at least, I know what I like. My grossly underdeveloped palate certainly lacks the finesse to appreciate the intricacies of fine wine and my Chinese liver lacks the enzymatic tools to deal with it. But we came home with a selection of reds and one white, some to be enjoyed now and some for later, when memories of the summer heat and succulent cherries have faded.