Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Victoria Day Long Weekend in Penticton

On the Victoria Day long weekend, Matthew and I went to Penticton to visit our good friends, Corinne and Patrick. C & P used to live at Granville Island just down the road from us, until last year. Ever since they moved to the heart of the B.C. wine district, Matthew and I have been threatening to visit.

We left Vancouver on Friday after work, and it took all the powers of our combined organization to get in the car before 7pm. There was beautiful sunlight to guide us up the freeway, and the traffic wasn’t too bad. But it still took us until after midnight to arrive in Penticton (up the Coquihala). We stopped only for 30 minutes in Merritt, for a quick burger at 10pm.

View of Mount Baker when we were driving through Surrey

Full moon at the summit of the Coquihala freeway

We awoke in the countryside (the best feeling after a long week at work followed by a long drive), and enjoyed the glorious hospitality of Corinne and Patrick all weekend… including home-cooked meals, interesting local wines, and a relaxed atmosphere in their new country home.

After hitting up the Saturday Farmer’s Market (this is HUGE and takes up the whole Main Street of Penticton), where we ran into literally dozens of C & P’s neighbours and friends, we then headed to Orofino Winery in Cawston (a majestic geological dot on the map between Naramata and Keremeos). C & P belong to several wine clubs, and this particular winery was hosting a “pick-up party” with fresh-cooked pizza in the wood-fired oven, made right before our eyes, under the dappled sunshine of the almond grove. Yes, it really was that beautiful. We met lots of lovely local and travelling folk, and stayed for several hours, tasting their Spring Releases.

The charming Orofino winery, nestled in the Similkimeen Valley

Clos du Soleil, also in the Similkimeen Valley

Make this image larger... the hills were rivuletted.

On the way home, we stopped in at Clos du Soleil, a kilometer down the road, which in my very humble opinion had the best wine we tasted all weekend. We then headed home for a cup of tea around the fire with mutual friends Judith and Richard (I volunteer with Judith at Friends of the VPL), who were also staying with C & P that weekend. Truly their hospitality is unparalleled!

After dinner Patrick attempted to teach us to play Bridge. I am not much of a gamer (as you know), but I followed along well enough, and as I was partnered with Patrick, who is a card shark, we managed to win a few rounds. Matthew held his own!

Sunday morning Matthew and I were treated to another hot breakfast before we all bundled in the car at 10am to a barrel tasting at Black Widow on the Naramata Bench. We had never been to a barrel tasting before, and C & P kindly explained that this was (like the pizza party) yet another perk of belonging to a wine club. We had an advanced sample of several of their fall releases (straight from the barrel, and not yet ready to bottle). Although everywhere we went featured Rieslings, it was the Syrahs that really stole our hearts. (Matthew is a Pinot man, and I recently discovered an appreciation for Chardonnay after a lifetime of loyalty to Shiraz.)

Patrick and Corinne on the terrace overlooking the lake, at Black Widow

As we were already on “The Bench” as they call that side of the Kettle Valley, we stopped in at a couple of other wineries, including Terravista (imposing concrete architecture, set into the side of the hill, with a truly spectacular view of the Lake), and Upper Bench (also a Cheesery!! Like a birthday and Christmas at the same time, we were so excited).

Corinne, Patrick, and the vintner at Terravista
View from Terravista, with Ben the ginger retriever

By this time our palates were overcome, so we headed home for a reviving cup of tea. Matthew and I then walked from C & P’s house to Main Street along the pretty river, and grabbed a snack at a hippie café (the only open café in town). Downtown was dead in true Sunday country style. It was also threatening rain. But the secondhand bookstore was open (and enormous! Worth a visit – it is a treasure trove in there!) and we lucked upon a vintage clothing store in which I found a supreme pair of brown oily-leather Boulet cowboy boots, perfectly worn-in and with a seductive patina of age…

It started to rain in earnest so we walked back to the house and cozied up with Corinne in their newly landscaped backyard, under a protective awning, around the roaring fire-pit. After dinner we sat around the inside fire with pie and chocolate and yet more tea before hitting the hay nice and early (after, you remember, a quite long day of winetasting and adventuring!). In fact the whole weekend was a perfect mix of getting out and tasting wine, and staying in and being treated to beautiful home cooking. Corinne and Patrick are generous and practiced hosts, and their new home was so tranquil and luxurious in every way. We really could not have had a more relaxing time, and we are so grateful for their warm and easygoing hospitality.

Corinne and her pristine new vegetable garden

On Monday morning we got up in time to see Patrick off on a misty morning walk with his hiking club. Corinne, Matthew and I lounged around the house for a couple more hours, and Corinne gave us a guided tour of their new garden and landscaping. Then Matthew and I (regretfully, after such a glorious and tranquil weekend away) packed up the car for the long drive home on the number Hope-Princeton highway. (Side note: I have only very recently become licensed to drive in Canada, so this was my first long freeway driving experience in some years – Matthew bless his soul was very patient with me as we wended our way up hill and down dale all the way home, over the course of 9 hours.)

We had planned on visiting just a couple of other wineries on our way home. We very fortunately took a little wrong turn in Summerland just before Silkscarf winery, and ended up at a cul de sac with the best 360 views of the whole valley. The homeowner who lived on the cul de sac (and a winery dog) came over the meet us, and pointed out some notable sights. He was in the process of stonescaping down the side of the hill, in spectacular granite terraces. It was a sight to behold. We also pulled into 8th Generation winery for a quick tasting. Over the entire weekend we came away with 15 bottles (not all for ourselves), which was quite restrained given the number of delicious wines we sampled.

The cul de sac with the best view of the Kettle Valley

Giant Head, viewed from the cul de sac

View of the Lake

View of the Kettle Valley Rail Bridge, with another charming winery dog

Matthew on the terrace at Silkscarf, overlooking the cherry orchard

We stopped in Princeton for lunch at Thomasina’s bakery café (converted from an old movie theatre from the 1920s!) and in Hope for a coffee at the Blue Moose café. Despite these picturesque pauses, the drive was long and very tiring. It was with relief that we arrived home (still in daylight!) at 8:30pm to our crying little cat.
Hope is a small town filled with large wood-carved statues.

Actual proof that I can drive in Canada

Our haul, displayed upon homecoming

Farewell, Corinne and Patrick! Thank you for your magnificent hospitality! We loved seeing you and we are so grateful for the relaxing country escape!