Penticton Wine to Greenhouse Dinner in Summerland

As I travel through the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, I’m continually amazed by the food, the wine, the scenery and the people. Every town is full of quaint places to discover and everyone has made me feel welcome. That was not going to change on this day as I explored Penticton and finished the day with a most unusual (and wonderful) dinner in a greenhouse.

Susan and I headed out early to Penticton, where we met Tracy Reis of the Wine Country Tourism Board.  She greeted us with a smile in her “optimistic” summer dress, ready to immediately warm the breezy day.  We headed over to Munsons Mountain for sweeping views of Lake Okanagan, at a point that is deeper than the Grand Canyon. The town is known for the lake and the mountains, and a juicy fruit that has it nicknamed the land of “peaches and beaches.”  We enjoyed coffee and treats from Bench Market before heading over to Hillside Estate Winery for lunch, tastings, and more great views.

We sat down at Hillside’s Bistro with a glass of the wonderful 2009 Gewurtztraminer as we met owner Bill Carpenter and the chef surprised us with some Sweet Pea Ravioli with Ricotta to wet our appetite. It was followed by a Carrot Apple Soup, a bit spicy, but cooled with a dab of sour cream, while Susan had a Smoked Red Trout that she thought was very good. We then shared a Flatbread with Arugala and Fresh Cheese in Pesto Sauce and a Pulled Chicken BBQ Sandwich with Apple Coleslaw on Ciabatta that was most definitely as good as it sounds.

After lunch, Laura took us on a tour around Hillside, originally a farmhouse, that still has rock estimated to be two billion years old. We looked at the 72 foot tower and then headed over to the tasting room, where the finds included a 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay and a light and peachy 2010 Muscat Ottonel (which I did not leave without) before we left for Elephant Island Orchard Wines.

Tracy thought Elephant Island was a must stop and I was glad we did. The orchards – with the mountains in the background – were breathtaking and the wines unique. One of the most popular of these is the Pink Elephant, a sparkling wine made from granny smith apples and casis which is actually a lot drier than one would expect. The Blackberry Wine is also something to try, very fruity and tangy at the same time. If you can’t make up your mind, you can always spend the night in their treehouse and try again in the morning!

The evening was quite an event that we were lucky enough to be in town for. Local Lounge & Grille, a favorite around here, was hosting the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival finale dinner at the Summerland Greenhouse. I was thrilled with the wine selection, which included: Sumac Ridge Tribute Sparkling Wine (made as the official bubbly for last year’s Olympics); 2010 8th Generation Pinot Meunier Rose, a bit sweet, very fruity and perfectly balanced; and 2010 Dirty Laundry Pinot Gris, with light acid and citrus, mild enough to work with any food.

Local Lounge Executive Chef Paul Cecconi prepared an exceptional meal, beginning with Smoked Prosciutto-Mushroom Risotto served in a spoon.  I couldn’t eat the Scallops on a Stick Appetizer (which I heard was great), but the Sunchoke Veloute with Thyme Foam was fresh and delicious, as was my Spring Asparagus Salad with a House Cured Pancetta nd BBQ Lamb Bun (those not allergic had a Lobster Bun). After a cleansing Rhubarb-Rosemary Smoothie, we had a Smoked Duck Roulade with Cured Egg Yolk, Vegetable Puree and Turnips in a Lavender-Honey Reduction which was great, but nothing was quite as good as the dessert plate of tiny treats – Warm Chocolate Croquettes, Red Beet Pannacotta and  Basil Tapioca!

Dinner was made even more enjoyable by the very talented Ari Neufeld, who kept us entertained with an evening of soft rock through gentle vocals and a smooth guitar. At the dinner I also had the pleasure of sitting Roger Gillespie, chef/owner of Victoria Road Deli & Bistro, where I was scheduled to have lunch the next day – my final stop on the Okanagan adventure.


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