With travel restrictions in place, why not stay local and support local by having a staycation close to home? With the new rules in place, it seems impossible to go around the world but why not explore some beautiful and unexplored spots in the Okanagan? As the sun has finally started to come out, a vacation has been on our minds, so we decided to take a mini vacation to nearby Lake Country, which is just over 22 kilometres from downtown Kelowna.
First things first, when you are in Lake Country you cannot miss out on the Scenic Sip Wine Trail, so we took a mini wine tour. The first checkpoint to this expedition was Blind Tiger Vineyards. One of the most unique features of the family-owned and operated winery is that it's a 100% organic wine producer, their wine tasting menu is on a rotational menu offering visitors a very diverse list of wines to taste on every visit.
During our wine tasting one of the wines I fell in love with was their Pinot Noir Reserve which showcased some beautiful tasting notes of currants, raspberries, liquorice and a touch of earthy finish on the palate. It's unlike other Pinot Noir which are generally light-bodied, this wine had a medium body with a very well-rounded tannin structure because of it being aged in American oak casks. Apart from the Pinot Noir, there was another wine that caught my attention because of its quirky name, which is “Giggle Water”. This rosé wine is made out of a mélange of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer which makes it beautifully aromatic with a burst of freshness and complex flavours on the palate. Now to complement the wines you need good food as well! Luckily, as of June 2021 the winery will have this taken care of as their amazing and lip-smacking woodfired pizzas will be back and available for purchase.
After a beautiful experience at Blind Tiger Vineyards, our next checkpoint was Ex Nihilo Vineyards which gave a memorable tasting experience offering one of the best sparkling wines I’ve had so far. The unique part about their sparkling wines is that they are all blanc de blanc wines, which means that they are all made with 100% white grapes. The blend they use to make their sparkling wines is Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Viognier. Another interesting fact about this wine is the name which is “Imagine". It makes you think about its aromatic nature and beautiful characters which is best suited for a nice sunny afternoon.
To end our staycation wine tour, we stopped at another vineyard, 50th Parallel Estate Winery. I still cannot stop thinking about the beautiful architecture upon walking to the building. The winery is so well structured that it literally has a panoramic view of the vineyards from its tasting room, which made us feel as if we were tasting the wines in the middle of a vineyard. The wine tasting was so much fun and I could not appreciate more how well the Gewürztraminer was balanced, with the classic tropical notes on the palate it's a good choice to have on a nice summer afternoon. To top it off, despite all the restrictions due to the pandemic they made us feel very safe with just one group of visitors at a time in the tasting room to maintain social distancing and avoid any contact with other groups of visitors. It was overall a great experience.
After a nice day at all the wineries, we drove to The Hampton Inn & Suites near the Kelowna airport. Upon arrival, everyone at the hotel was following all protocols including social distancing and wearing masks. The check-in process was made super quick and easy by the staff; Ms Darby, who was at the front desk made sure that we got everything we required. And she told us about a neat service the Hampton Inn has. It's a unique text service where you can send a text to the number with whatever you need, be it food or an amenity, and it will be delivered directly to your door. This is a great way to avoid any social contact and you can still enjoy the amazing service provided by the hotel. After we settled in, we decided to quickly freshened up and head towards our next destination, the Spion Kop Trail.
Spion Kop Trail is one of the most beautiful places to go for a hike in the Lake Country area. The uniqueness of this trail is that one can get a beautiful panoramic view of three lakes at the same time, which are Okanagan Lake, Wood Lake, and Kalamalka Lake. Spion Kop has four different trailheads where you can begin, we decided to do the ‘Arrowleaf Trailhead’ which starts at the Upper Lake Trail Head and leads to the top of the mountain from where you can get great views overlooking the mountains. It took us about 2 hours to finish the trail and return back to the starting point. After such a good hike our hunger had no limits and we decided to get dinner early.
Have you heard of Pane Vino? If not, you are missing out! Pane Vino opened its doors in summer 2019, they source all of their ingredients locally giving an opportunity for all the local farmers and businesses to expand their operations and also means the restaurant has the freshest ingredients available for their customers. There is immense joy in supporting a local business, especially when their goal is to make you feel like you are at home and Pane Vino has won the hearts of many pizza lovers and will continue to do so. The restaurant provides its customers with a wide range of pizzas to choose from and we chose the Fungi Pizza and the Primavera. Both the pizzas proved to be one of the bests. Despite indoor seating being shut down due to the pandemic, the restaurant provides an option of patio seating with a beautiful view overlooking the lake and mountains where customers can enjoy their pizza with a mesmerizing sunset view.
After having an amazing meal, we drove back to the hotel, and as we walked into the room our preordered cheeseboard waiting for us! So, we ended our night with the perfect combination of wine and cheese provided by the hotel.
The next day after we checked out, there was one last thing left to do before we went back to Kelowna and it was brunch at The Salty Caramel Kitchen. I have had the cookies from Salty Caramel Kitchen and they are simply to die for and I was curious to try their breakfast menu as they are a 100% plant-based cafe. Their menu is super creative and diverse, providing different options like all-day breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and a wide range of refreshing beverages to accompany any meal. We decided to try the Chickpea Omelette and the Tofu Bowl. One word to describe the breakfast is ‘WOW’! This is a place where I would come back just to try the rest of their menu because everything looks so good and I am also sure that it tastes amazing.
As we were heading back home, this mini staycation made me realize that there is so much to explore just in one town a short distance from Kelowna. I am so grateful to call Kelowna and area home and would recommend everyone to travel locally and support local businesses as all they need is our support and in return, all they do is share pure happiness!
About the Author:
Karishma Rane was born and raised in the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, India, and now calls Kelowna home. She is a foodie and photographer with a particular passion for coffee. Supporting local has always been something she cares deeply about and she tries locally roasted coffees everywhere she travels. She documents her food, coffee, and travel adventures online, follow her on Instagram @kariimiso and visit her website KarishmaRane.com.