If you've driven up Vancouver Hill on the way to wine touring on the Naramata Bench and ever wondered what that glut of parked cars is just as you leave town, it's definitely the hungry patrons of The Bench Market.
No longer the best kept secret in Penticton, this place is a busy favourite spot for locals and visitors alike. Great sandwiches and salad, and arguably the best coffee in Penticton, The Bench has been hopping since it opened.
Fresh baked goods are a favourite, as are Eggs Benny on the weekends. While there are some seriously good meat sandwiches happening here on many occasions, there are plenty of vegetarian options perfect for lunches in the hot Okanagan sun.
The Bench Market
368 Vancouver Avenue
(Arctic Char entree at Raudz)
One of the original "farm to table" concept restaurants in the Okanagan, Raudz has become a perennial favourite place to eat in Kelowna. In fact, it has become a favourite for diners throughout the valley attracting patrons from places as far away as, oh say, Okanagan Falls.
Building on a stellar reputation built in some of Canada's best luxury hotel restaurants including the Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn, Chef Rod Butters has put together an exceptional dining experience in Kelowna with partner Audrey Surrao.
(Crab Cappuccino at Raudz)
Food at Raudz is reasonably priced with entrees falling between $14 and $30, and is sourced as much as possible from local and sustainable sources.
The wine list is entirely local and selected from top wine producers across the valley. We are proud to have our Pinot Noir and Brut Sparkling featured amongst some of our other favourites from the Okanagan.
If you're looking for a great place to eat in Kelowna, definitely stop in at Raudz. Get there a little early to stake out a table or seats at the bar.
Raudz Regional Table
1560 Water Street
Wine touring has become a popular past time here in the Okanagan Valley, and with that has come the rise of a number of wine touring companies offering a ride to wine lovers around the valley.
We've compiled a list of some of the tour groups that we've seen come through the winery over the summer. Now if only we could get out of the tasting room and out into the vineyards to visit some of our neighbours.
- Top Cat Tours
- Okanagan Wine Shuttle
- Uncorked Okanagan
- Okanagan Wine Country Tours
- Grape Escapes
- Wine Your Way
- Desert Country Wine Tours
- Grape Friends Lounge & Tours
- Wine Tours Gone South
- Sunshine and Wine Tours
- Experience Wine Tours
And of course if you want to do it in style you can always travel by helicopter.
However you do decide to see the wineries of the Okanagan, please be sure to arrange for safe transport, and be sure to drink some water along the way. We look forward to seeing you in OK Falls!
(Photos by: C.K. Stenberg)
Are you looking for a great place for lunch in Penticton?
Paul Cecconi's Brodo Kitchen is serving up a fresh array of soups and sandwiches for the lunch and early dinner crowd. Enjoy a glass of Okanagan wine with friends while you eat at the communal table.
Located in the former Amante Bistro space, the new Brodo Kitchen has been put together in a modern country aesthetic with an open airy feel.
Fresh bread and gourmet ingredients make for some seriously tasty fare at Brodo. We haven't tried everything on the menu yet, but we're working on it. Our bet's on the soup being a winter favourite here in Penticton.
483 Main Street
Penticton is located in the centre of an amazing agricultural area. From May through October some of the best fruit, produce, and grapes in the country can be found here. This has of course led to a burgeoning culinary scene set against the perfect backdrop and paired with some delicious Okanagan wines.
Here are a few of our picks for places to eat in Penticton:
Lunch / Dinner
- The Cobblestone Restaurant and Wine Bar at Naramata Heritage Inn
- The Patio at Lake Breeze Winery
- Hillside Estate Winery Bistro
- Vanilla Pod at Poplar Grove Winery
- The Kitchen at Misconduct Winery
- The Hooded Merganser at Penticton Lakeside Resort
- Theo's Greek Restaurant
Of course there are many other great restaurants throughout the Okanagan Valley.
If you have any other suggestions, or if there is somewhere that you've particularly enjoyed, please feel free to comment below!
In the spirit of the 2013 Wine Blogger's Conference being held in
Penticton this weekend, we thought it appropriate to create a series
of blog posts highlighting some of our favourite things to do here in
Whether you're joining us locally from the Okanagan, or from abroad in
Canada and the US we welcome all of our cyber wine friends to this
amazing part of the world.
We hope you'll enjoy a sunny weekend here along with some fantastic
wine and great people. Should you require any information while you're
here, or would just like to stop by for a glass of bubbly please
contact us in the tasting room and we'll be happy to assist you.
If you're just tuning in and wondering what's happening for the
conference, or would like to attend, you can find full details at the
Wine Blogger's Conference website.
The choice to use cork as a closure for wine is something of a contentious debate. While there are many arguments in favour of a manufactured screw cap closure, or Stelvin Cap as it is known by popular trade name, there also exist many arguments against.
Blue Mountain continues to use all natural corks. This is partly due to the availability of top quality corks, and the increased quality of the cork available to us. It is also a style of winemaking that we feel has worked for us. Oxygen transfer, or lack thereof, into the bottle over time is a significant factor in how a wine ages over time, and we have reached a point where we know how our wines age in the bottle given the methods we have been using. A changeover to a metal screw cap would dictate a new approach to making our wines, and would also take time to understand whether or not we had made the correct choices in type of enclosure, type of glass, cap liner porosity, etc.
While there is certainly a place for the screw cap, we are sticking with the natural cork for our wines based on experience and testing over time. While we would never say never, at the moment there's just something satisfying about popping a cork. Call us old fashioned, but we like it that way.
What do you think? Do you prefer cork or screw cap?
Our Brut Sparkling wine is made in the traditional method, or Méthode Traditionnelle as it is in Champagne.
The blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris is fermented with yeast in the bottle to create the bubbles. Over the aging process the bottle is riddled (rotated) through a series of positions until it eventually ends up top down, or sur pointe, as they say in France.
The yeast ends up settling in the neck of the bottle where it is then disgorged; the removal of the yeast plug. The wine is topped up with a dosage, which can be anything from wine, to sugar water, and is then corked and ready to sell.
The entire process typically takes 3+ years from start to market. If you're keen on understanding more about the process Ian gives a detailed explanation in the video above produced by our friend Chris Stenberg at Vine & Beach.
We are extremely fortunate in the Okanagan Valley to have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and also a widely diverse selection of fantastic wines. Spending an afternoon wine tasting in the Okanagan is one of the great pleasures of being in this area, and it’s our aim to make this experience enjoyable for all of our guests and show off this area that we proudly call home.
If you’re looking to spend some time touring the local wineries we have outlined some tips for you based on our own experiences around the valley.
Where Should I Go?
Well, we’re partial to Okanagan Falls and feel that this area is the dark horse of the local wine industry, but we may be a bit biased! Otherwise the entire valley is filled with stunning views and some great wine.
Okanagan Wine Regions
- Similkameen Valley (Cawston / Keremeos)
- Oliver (Black Sage Bench / Golden Mile)
- Okanagan Falls (Corkscrew Drive / Skaha Lake / Kaleden)
- Naramata Bench
- Summerland (Bottleneck Drive)
- West Kelowna
- Kelowna (The Mission / East Kelowna)
- Lake Country
What Should I Wear?
While there is no set dress code, we would imagine that most wineries adhere to a “no shirt, no shoes” policy. A good rule of thumb would be to dress as if you were going out for a casual bistro meal. Dress comfortably for the weather, and a day spent wandering around outside and travelling between wineries. Also, try to avoid heavily scented perfumes and colognes as this might interfere with your wine tasting experience and that of others.
Who Should I Go With?
Bring all of your best friends, or go it alone! Either way can be a great experience, but we do recommend a designated driver or tour service to make the day safe and enjoyable.
Do I Have to Drink the Wine?
Most definitely not. You are free to taste from available selections, and it is perfectly acceptable and non-offensive to spit discretely into the spittoon, or dump out the remaining contents of your glass. In fact, professional wine tasters always spit when judging wines as it allows them to keep their wits about them for the duration of the tasting day and properly taste a larger quantity of wines.
Are There Wine Tasting Fees in the Okanagan?
This depends on the winery specifically. It is common practice now for most wineries to charge anywhere from $2-10 per tasting flight. Some reserve or special vintage wines may be available to taste in addition to that. Many wineries waive the tasting fee with a purchase on a per person basis. Some wineries do tasting fees by donation to a local charity. Again, it varies from winery to winery, but in our experience it is best to bring some cash along for the day as it seems difficult to find an ATM when you need one.
How Old Do I Have to Be?
The law in British Columbia dictates that you need to be 19 years of age to consume alcohol, so basically you need to be 19 or beyond to try our wines at the winery.
What Kind of Wines Can I Try?
Most wineries pour a selection of their wines depending on availability. Typically many of the white wines are released in the spring around the Spring Wine Festival, with the big reds being released around the Fall Wine Festival, however, there are exceptions to this. Also, while the Okanagan is considered cooler climate, and well suited to grapes like Pinot and Chardonnay, we also get some intense heat and sunshine, particularly in the most southern parts of the valley, so we also have some nice Merlots, Cabernets, and Syrahs.
At Blue Mountain we produce Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a Sparkling Brut. We typically taste 4 of these wines at any given time depending on availability.
While wine tasting can be a bit intimidating at first, the most important thing to remember is to have fun. Wine means many things to many different people, but ultimately we feel it is meant to be a part of a great social experience.
Whether you are a wine connoisseur or a first time wine drinker, we hope that what you take away from your wine tasting experience is an appreciation of the experience. We want you to have a fantastic time and go home with fun filled memories of your time in the Okanagan. Read our "How to taste wine for beginners".
Our tasting room staff is here to make your experience enjoyable, so please don’t hesitate to ask any questions while you are here. We are always more than happy to help you have the best experience possible.
The act of tasting wine itself can look a bit strange to the newcomer, so we’ve put together this handy beginner’s guide to wine tasting, so you can look like an expert on your visit to the tasting room should you so desire!
Step 1 - Select Your Wines
Typically the host will explain what is available for tasting and ask you which ones you’d like to try. Most Okanagan wineries will allow up to 5 tastings.
To maximize your experience, it’s usually recommended to start with the lighter wines and move to the heavier ones, as the heavier ones will have a dominating effect on your palate which would make tasting a lighter wine more difficult should it be done the other way around.
So typically it’s advised to taste from white to red, and within those two categories from light to heavy, or dry to sweet. Most tasting room menus are ordered in this way, so simply following from top to bottom on the list will usually suffice.
Step 2 - Swirl Glass
You’ll notice people swirling their glasses. Unless you’ve developed impeccable wrist twirling technique, it’s best to do this by placing the base of the glass on the counter and moving it in a circular motion. The purpose of this is to aerate the wine. The wine has been trapped in a bottle sometimes for a couple of years, so it needs to “breathe” a little to reach its optimum flavour.
Step 3 - Sniff
Stick your nose right in the glass, close your mouth, and breathe in giving the wine a good sniff. Take the glass away and think about what it might smell like. The scents that you pick up might remind you of cherries, raspberries, tobacco, chocolate, or leather in a red wine; while in a white wine you may detect citrus fruit like lime or grapefruit, stone fruits like peaches and apricots, grass, and honey.
What you pick up here is entirely about you. Don’t be swayed by what other people think, and feel free to come up with your own observations. If you smell waffle cones and butterscotch then that is what you smell. Everyone has a different point of reference when it comes to tasting wine.
Step 4 - Repeat Steps 2 & 3
It’s ideal to take another run at the swirl and sniff as often you’ll pick up more the second time around.
Step 5 - Sip Wine
Take a little sip from the glass and hold it in your mouth for a couple of seconds. Some people will take air in at the same time making a little gurgling noise. This is for the same reason as step 2. Otherwise give the wine a little swish in your mouth, and take note of the flavours. Often what you taste initially on the tip of your tongue will be a bit different than what you taste mid-tongue, or mid-palate after the wine has lingered a moment. Spit or swallow the wine as you desire, and then think about the flavour or aftertaste that remains in your mouth. This is described as “the finish.” Does the flavour linger for a long time, or does it disappear quickly? What does it taste like. If you breathe back into your mouth what flavours remain?
A wine could have a smoky finish, or some nice caramel on the finish. Repeat the process a second time or until the wine is gone.
Step 6 - Pontificate
Many people find it fun to think about the wine and share observations about it after. This can be educational, interesting, and sometimes even downright hilarious. Again, serious tasters will have very seasoned palates and astute observations, but this should not turn you off as wine is different for everyone. Try to form your own opinion, and remember that it’s okay to start with whether or not you like it. This is probably the most relevant piece of the puzzle.
Step 7 - Buy Wine
While you certainly don’t have to purchase wine after a tasting, if you do like one, some, or all of the wines it may be nice to bring some home for dinner that night, or to take some home to enjoy at a later date.
We welcome you in the tasting room Monday through Sunday from 11am -5pm, May through October.
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars's Tasting Room/Wine Shop.