Canada's Wine Country Is the New Napa
For those of you who love all that Napa Valley has to offer and are willing to take an adventurous chance on a lesser-known alternative, I’ve got just the place for you. This hidden gem, located in a breathtaking region of northwestern Canada, is where you can visit lush green wineries, partake in exceptional farm-to-fork meals, experience breathtaking lake, desert, and mountain views and learn about the culture of the Okanagan First Nations people.
I was recently introduced to the beautiful town of Osoyoos, British Columbia, in the Okanagan Valley — and there was so much to do and see that even after a packed three-day tour, I still feel like I barely scratched the surface. I stayed right in the middle of it all at the invitation of Spirit Ridge, a recently acquired all-suite luxury resort by The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, that peacefully shares land with the Osoyoos Indian Band and honors them by understanding their connection with the natural environment while recognizing their rich culture and history. The uniqueness of the property makes it a perfect spot for a romantic getaway or a low-key family vacation, an ideal jumping off point on the road to exploring Canada's wine country.
My room was a corner suite (including a living room, full kitchen, and gas fireplace!) with a wraparound balcony showcasing some of the most gorgeous lake, mountain, and vineyard views I’ve ever seen. There's plenty to do around the resort, with the numerous walking paths among the vineyard, cultural center, spa, golf course, riding stables, pools, private beach at the lake, restaurants, and the first First Nations-owned and -operated winery in North America, Nk'Mip Cellars. On the first day, we walked through the vineyards, stopped by the market for an energizing smoothie freshly made with local farm ingredients, enjoyed a Dessert Stone Massage at the spa, and visited the Nk'mip Desert Cultural Centre for a traditional Okanagan welcome smudging ceremony.
Venturing outside of the resort, we visited interesting local landmarks, like Spotted Lake and Anarchist Mountain, and lunched on the vineyard courtyard at Kismet Estate Winery. This family-run winery and restaurant served up flavorful South Asian food with a few of their most popular wines: a red called “Moksha” after the Hindu spiritual concept, a sparkling orange muscat, and a rose called “Infinity.” It was a match made in food and wine heaven.
In the nearby town of Oliver, we stopped by Covert Family Farms to see a charming fourth-generation sustainable organic farm, vineyard, and winery. We toured the property from the back of a restored vintage Mercury farm truck, stopping to feed the llamas and highland cattle and to pick the sweetest tasting strawberries around. Back at the farm's country market, we perused the jars of locally made products, witnessed a newly hatched baby chicken in the incubator, and hung out on the flower-covered patio for a tasting of a few organic wines.
Just when we thought life in B.C. couldn't get any better, we took the high road to a mountain slope for a relaxed yet elegant special tasting and a wine paring lunch under the trees overlooking the picturesque scenery at Jackson-Triggs Sun Rock Vineyards. Situated in the sun-kissed region of the Okanagan Valley, we sipped on several of their single-vineyard reds while learning about the basic rules of food and wine pairing from our host, former chef Stephen Ward.
Dinner at the Backyard Farm Chef's Table is the perfect opportunity to indulge in a true farm-to-table event with an exclusive and intimate five-course private dinner for groups of up to 20 people. All-natural, sustainable food is beautifully presented by chef-owner Chris Van Hooydonk, who is extremely passionate about using the highest quality ingredients sourced only from his farmhouse restaurant's yard and orchard or from the local Okanagan farmers who share his same vision. Paired with local hand-crafted wines, each menu is individually tailored to the guests' preferences and you'll never eat the same food twice, as notes are kept on what was served to ensure you'll experience a completely different meal each time you dine here. True foodies will take delight in wandering into the open kitchen to watch how each course is expertly prepared. Once you take a seat at the dining table, the unrivaled talent and passion of the Backyard Farm team becomes clear, as chef Van Hooydonk describes the who, what, and where of each ingredient on the plate. Taking that first bite, it's easy to taste the love that goes into each dish and how the food is prepared by people who truly honor and respect the land in which it receives its bounty.
If you’re just looking to chill and stay close to the resort, you certainly won’t be disappointed. Spirit Ridge has a variety of exciting on-site dining options, all serving food from locally sourced ingredients. One evening, we dined on the outside patio of the Mica Restaurant with stunning panoramic views of the lake, mountains, and vineyard while sampling bottles of the resort's wine. That same view can be seen at the Nk'Mip Cellars patio, where you can have a relaxing wine dining experience, book an exquisite five-course dinner in their private Red Barrel Room wine cellar. Their award-winning riesling ice wine is a sweet dessert wine that's distinctive in taste and difficult to find outside of the resort, so don't leave without trying it!
With its diverse natural landscape, unique cultural heritage and amazing culinary options, Osoyoos, British Columbia could very well be the ideal destination for all types of travelers. Whether you’re planning a family trip, a group outing or a romantic couples retreat, you’ll find something for everyone in this unspoiled part of the world.
All expenses for this article were provided by The Unbound Collection by Hyatt. Opinions are my own.
Karrie is a member of The Daily Meal’s Culinary Content Network known for Tasty Ever After. You can follow her at @tastyeverafter.