Travel is one thing that makes me so, so happy.  It is my favourite thing in the world.  A close second?  Wine.

Oh come on!  You feel that way too!  A lovely glass of wine can make the most humble evening and a pizza dinner something… special.

And if you’re having a lonely, emotional night, an empty bottle of syrah leaves you with far less self-loathing than eating a whole carton of Ben and Jerry’s or half eatten tray of chocolate brownies.  Fewer calories with the wine?  Probably not, but at least that pleasant buzz makes for a more tolerable evening (buzz, followed by pass out on the couch, followed by a stumble to bed at 3:30 am, and the real pain is put off until morning).  If you’re super smart and on the ball, take two Tylenol and guzzle some water on your mid morning stumble to your actual bed.

wine-yes

Buuuttttt… I digress…

So when my friend, Nima, suggested a trip to the Okanagan for a weekend of wine tasting, I was IN!  We planned our weekend for the Labour Day weekend, and left early on a Saturday morning.  No coffee was allowed in our other friend’s car… WTF??!!  The average speed left our hearts in our throats, and we did get subjected to country music the whole way to Penticton which, if you’re not a fan, can be grating to say the least.   But we made it!

race-car

We did stop in Hope, BC for a late breakfast at the Hope Drive In & Restaurant.  This friendly little diner had an outstanding breakfast with some of the best hashbrowns I’ve ever had.  They were the shredded kind (they way they ALWAYS should be) and fried to a crispy brown!  So yummy.   And bloody decent coffee.  A good start to our trip.

 

We stayed at the Coast Penticton hotel, a humble hotel with clean rooms and comfy beds.  We dumped our bags and prepared for a sweep of the Summerland wineries.  Our first stop was Sage Hills Winery.  It was very pretty with gorgeous views sweeping down over the valley behind the winery.  The wine, however… well, it was a bit of a disappointment.  The tasting fee was a whopping $20, which basically ensures you’ll buy a bottle, whether you like the wine or not.  The wines were average, the staff only moderately friendly, and their  “Rhymes with Orange” wine tasted like of campfire and peat—not a pleasant taste for a wine (at least in my humble opinion!)  So I walked away with a rather expensive bottle of their Gewürztraminer, and feeling a tiny bit deflated. 

Summerhill, Sage Hills winery

Fortunately, we were well buoyed up by our next stop, the Okanagan Crush Pad.  Very rustic and a tad industrial  feeling, this winery was welcoming from the get go.  And the gal behind the tasting bar had a friendly, beautiful smile and made us feel very welcome.  I left with two wonderful wines, the Haywire Pinot Noir, and the Haywire Switchback, a lovely Pinot Gris.

tasting bar at Okanagan Crush pad

Haywire Switchback pinot gris

Dirty Laundry winery came highly recommended, but their tasting room back jam-packed with people, and felt impersonal.  I simply didn’t feel motivated to buy their wine.

My absolute favourite Summerland stop, however, was Lunessence Winery.  It was our final stop and we obviously saved the best for last.  Lunessence was owned by a young Slovakian couple, Michal and Martina Mosny, who had moved to Canada and started this winery just four or five years earlier.  This winery is, in my opinion, the jewel of Summerland.

Lunessence winery  wine-at-lunessence-patio

Their tasting bar was hosted by the lovely Beverley, and their winery was perched on the edge of the lake, with an incredibly welcoming patio to enjoy their fantastic wines.  Their wines were absolutely outstanding, and I brought home a bottle of Merlot, but am now wishing I purchased more!  It is available on Vancouver Island including:

  • Cork and Barrel Wine Merchants on Oak Bay Avenue
  • Spinnakers Spirit Merchant on Wilson Street (and also on Simcoe Street)
  • Metro Liquor in Brentwood Bay
  • Northgate Liquor Store in Nanaimo

Lunessence winery and winemaker

the women of Lunessence winery

Martina and Beverly of Lunessence Winery

Their website provides a full list of all the wine/liquor stores you will find these little gems.

As darkness fell, we took our empty bellies to the Hooded Merganser for dinner.  Much swankier than I expected, the food matched the atmosphere.  I had the lamb stuffed with fig and goat cheese, and it was unctuously delicious.  After dinner, we wandered down to the Parrot, one of only two Penticton bars, and danced the night away.  The fellas were friendly, fun, and loved to laugh and dance.  So unlike Victoria!  Our little group had a fabulous night, with even a stolen kiss or two.  Giddy up!

dinner in Pentiton

Day two of wine tasting graced us with sunny skies.  With a hearty Tim Horton’s breakfast under our belts, we headed off to the Naramata Bench.  Our first stop:  La Frenz Winery.  We settled into their lovely ourdoor patio, complete with cozy blankets as the morning as still a little cool.  Chris was our gracious host, and he brought us a lovely selection of whites, and then reds.  They offered a wonderful sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and I came home with my prized Ensemble reserve white!  Their reds were complex and lovely.  We tried the Syrah, Merlot and Pinot noir, and they were all impressive.

 

We carried on to Black Widow winery, which had some lovely wines, but the winery felt a little impersonal.  Howling Bluff was very welcoming, with their wonderful doggies greeting us enthusiastically in the driveway.  I let with two wines, the Sin Cera and Sauvignon Blanc.  And yes, they are beckoning from my wine rack as we speak!

 

We stopped for lunch at Lake Breeze winery, and sat on their patio which overlooked the lovely Okanagan countryside.  I had the salted cod hash which was ridiculously delicious.  Nima ordered the gorgeous green pesto pasta.  Paired with a bottle of their lovely red, it was a very civilized way for these ladies to spend a leisurely lunch.  Interestingly, they didn’t have coffee.  Say what?!  Yep, no coffee.  They claimed to have no room for an espresso machine, which really wasn’t the case, so we surmised that it was more about keeping people moving in and out of the restaurant quickly.  I did leave with a bottle of their Meritage, though.  It was very nice and the price point excellent.

 the-girls-at-lake-breeze

salted cod hash at Lake Breeze winery

Salted Cod Hash for lunch at Lake Breeze

Lake Breeze winery

The views at Lake Breeze

ruby-blues-van

The fun and fabulous Ruby Blues Winery

Onward we went to the groovy Ruby Blues Winery.  This cool little spot had a fun old hippie van parked out front, and a funky and fun tasting room.  And they this, they make their own shoes!!  In honour of their amazing Red and white stiletto wines!  How fun is that??  We tried the “Peace and Love Bubbles” and the White Stiletto.  They were sold out of their Black Stiletto (one of the drawbacks about hitting the Okanagan later in the season), but a bottle of their Red Stiletto did come home with me!

the-girls-at-ruby-blues-crazy

Finally, we stopped a Serendipity winery.  It was such a lovely winery with a kickass viogner.  I am still experiencing some regret about not picking it up, but am hopeful I’ll find it on the island!  Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit “wined-out” by the time we hit Serendipity and my palate was shot.  It was definitely going to be a Perrier evening!

We got up early on the final morning and stopped at Misconduct Winery for lunch on their patio—Portuguese tapas with a Mexican flare.   The patatas brava were to die for!  The tasting bar was tended by the lovely Kaileen, and we had what was some of the best wine of the trip, running a close second behind Lunessence.  We had their Pinot noir, the chardonnay viogner blend, The Big Take red, and their dessert wine, the incredible Inverno.  Now, I don’t like dessert wines, the sweet just doesn’t do it for me.  But this?  Oh this was just music on the palate.  It was luscious and elegant and would pair beautifully with a dessert cheese plate.  misconduct-sign

Then it was time to hit the road and head home, each of us armed with our case of vino.  It was once again country music the whole way back, which wasn’t exactly upbeat, but perhaps matches that subdued feeling of a great trip coming to an end.   I was a walk on at the ferry terminal back to Victoria, and trying to get a case of wine and a suitcase on the ferry?  Well, it was a bit of a shit show, but a lovely young lady named Monique took pity on me and helped me with my suitcase—thank you Monique!!!  You are the best!  To top off this show of kindness, she actually tracked me down at the end of the ferry ride and helped me get my substantial load off the ferry.  Here’s to the kindness of strangers, and to sharing a weekend of wine with one of my besties.  Looking forward to sharing some of our haul over an evening of festivities, Nima!

Lynn and Nima at La Frenz