Schell: Some of the Okanagan’s best dining at wineries

What a fabulous tour de force this week was.

Terrafina Restaurant’s Duck Prosciutto and Little Qualicum Blue Cheese Pizza plus Wild Boar and Veal Meatballs.

Terrafina Restaurant’s Duck Prosciutto and Little Qualicum Blue Cheese Pizza plus Wild Boar and Veal Meatballs.

What a fabulous tour de force this week was. Along with all of the fun Summer Wine Festival events happening throughout our wine regions, I managed to tack on some extra miles with a road trip down south to check out some new eats and new wineries.

Saturday night we enjoyed a food and wine extravaganza in the beautiful Similkameen wine region. Part of the Summer Wine Festival, I was honoured to be a judge at the Similkameen BBQ King event at the stunning Grist Mill—a heritage site in Cawston.  Eight local chefs were each set up at a barbecue station and paired with a winery from the Similkameen Wineries Association (Cerelia, Clos du Soleil, EauVivre, Forbidden Fruit, Orofino, Robin Ridge, Rustic Roots, Seven Stones).

Each chef received an identical basket of locally sourced ingredients with the main ingredient being local turkey.

The meals created were spectacular and it was incredibly difficult to choose a winner. Two awards were given: Chris Van Hooydonk, executive chef from the Sonora Room at the Burrowing Owl, was named the 2011 Similkameen BBQ King. Chris Remington, from the Hooded Merganser and Forbidden Fruit Winery, won for the best food and wine pairing.

The paired wine was Earth Series SauVidal, which is the perfect union between Sauvignon Blanc and Vidal grape varietals and made from 100 per cent certified organic grapes.

The next morning we toured Poplar Grove’s astonishing new winery on the Naramata Bench.  This modern feat of architecture is not to be missed and offers delicious wines and killer views.

Onward to Oliver where we first popped into Church & State winery’s new Okanagan Valley digs.  Formerly located only on Vancouver Island, this is the second phase of their award-winning winery.  Maker of one of the most luscious Chardonnays to ever hit my palate, the Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc are now also on my fave list. Do make sure to add this stop to your tour.

Next stop: Hester Creek and Terrafina, the gorgeous new Tuscan-style restaurant on site. The name means “from the earth” and you will be swept away by the romantic, out of this world setting of this eatery.  With 40-year-old vines twisting around the pergola-topped patio and views overlooking lavender to rows of vineyard, you might swear you are in Italy.

One bite of the pizza and Wild Boar and Veal Meatballs and you might just believe it.

Chef/co-owner Jeremy Luypen, has mastered the craft of pizza dough. We chose the Duck Prosciutto and Little Qualicum Blue Cheese Pizza—with caramelized onions and balsamic glaze it was so delicious that we almost wept.  The layers of flavours were extravagant and vibrant. Each flavour was distinct yet melded together in harmony. The crust had the perfect texture—the right amount of chew and crunch—achieved perhaps through the imported Italian flour and three-day resting period Jeremy insists on for the dough.

Jeremy and his business partner April Goldade are thrilled with their creation and are now reaping praise from the realization of their co-vision.  Jeremy describes his menu as a celebration of “simple, clean flavours” and, in true Tuscan style, uses very few ingredients but the very best he can find.

On his style of cooking he repeated the wise words from an old instructor of his: “a tomato is a tomato—let it be a tomato.”

Jeremy’s menu will change with the seasons and he loves to use as many locally source products as possible, including the wine list which offers, of course, Hester Creek wines but also a list of his favourites including 8th Generation, Orofino Vineyards, Church & State.

This guy has a fabulous palate and great taste in people—I love how he spoke of the personalities of the winery owners and his dedication to supporting the local community.

Jennifer Schell is editor of B.C. Wine Trails



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