September 30, 2018
Since our three agenda items for the day were not on tap until noon, we had our fabulous Burrowing Owl breakfast and went for a drive. The expansive vistas here are seemingly around every corner!! We drove east out of Osoyoos and the road climbed, and climbed and climbed until we were at an elevation of 1250 meters – and we encountered snow!!! It was falling lightly and sticking gingerly upon the hillside. Yesterday our hike took us to 1845 meters so our timing was perfect to have avoided this change in weather! The Fahrenheit temperatures were 35 degrees (yesterday 47). We passed a cutoff for Mt Baldy (19 km away) which is a popular ski destination with 35 runs spread over 500 acres of skiable terrain and with one of the highest base elevations in BC, at 5,665 feet and an annual snowfall of 21.5 feet.
We hit a rare day – the climate here is the driest in Canada with minimal rainfall. Thus a semi-arid landscape that is home to one of North America’s most fragile and endangered ecosystems is produced. Many of the indigenous plants and animals of this desert area are found nowhere else in Canada, with more than 100 rare plants and some 300 scarce invertebrates. The valley is bathed with sunshine most days of the year, and rain and snow hardly ever visit
Canada’s Wine Capital, Oliver BC, is home to Festival of the Grape, a family-friendly event during Fall Okanagan Wine Festival. This Festival attracts over 4,500 attendees annually who come to sample a variety of BC wines from 50 wineries. There are bands providing live music to listen and dance to, food trucks, an interactive Kids Zone, an artisan Merchant Market and the Fall Art Show and Sale put on by the Oliver Community Arts Council. We have had a brief sprinkle of rain one of our past four FOG forays but ultimately that day turned as HOT as the other three. This year there was real, honest to God Rain, which we were prepared for and surprisingly, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, nor did it seem to limit attendance!!
We queued up early to get a great parking spot for our second agenda item of the day and still had to wait in line in the rain for a bit. The hardy Canadians will not be stopped by a front of precipitation!
Our favorite part of FOG is to cheer on the fun and chaotic grape stomp – teams comprised of three crazily outfitted, enthusiastic, energetic, competitive manual wine producers via their trading off stomping the grapes, juice draining and jar filling!! We were very happy to see our favorites, the Juicy Lucys as well as other repeat teams. The Babushka Mamas have been competing for twenty years! So fun!!
The festival begins with a parade, a First Nations dance, and some dedications and speeches by local public officials. We had our usual fun in spite of the weather and other attendees seemed to enjoy their Sunday afternoon excuse for drinking delicious wind as well. And The Big Easy Funk Ensemble (BEFE) from New Orleans was Top Drawer entertainment and impossible to resist busting out the moves!!!
Oliver is named for John Oliver, an early pioneer who went on to become Premier of British Columbia from 1918 until his death in 1927. Locals refer to Oliver’s postal code, VOH 1TO, as short for Valley Of Heaven in the Okanagan.
After FOG we stopped by Chef Van Hooydonk’s Backyard Farm to pick up some Homemade With Love, Must Have, food stuffs. Not only did we abscond with the loot, we we enjoyed a delightful visit as Chef Chris, awesome wife Mikkel and his team of Jack and Kyle were preparing for an evening cooking class.
What is more perfect than a hot bath on a rainy Sunday afternoon??! Accompanying that bath with a delicious glass of wine! Our fridge had a welcome gift that begged to be employed at this ideal opportunity! From the label: “As if a quiet conductor of nature’s bounty, the Calliope hummingbird impulsively flies throughout the South Okanagan Valley. Inspired by the figure eight flight pattern of this lovely bird’s wings, we named this wine ‘Figure 8’ to symbolize the seamless integration of the grape varietals that comprise the blend: Pinot Gris, Viognier and Chardonnay predominately, with a splash of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Our winemakers take cues from the energetic flight of these delicate creatures and create their own distinct tribute to nature‘s gifts. The results are wines made free of convention, that are truly unique and of the highest quality.” Oh! I highly recommend this wine! And a hot bath on a rainy Sunday afternoon to go along with it!!
Third on our agenda, dinner in the Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery where we are taking our lodging. Surrounded by stunning artistic features true to this entire premises, such as ornate and thick exposed ceiling beams and a First Nations design pattern all around just beneath, as well as amethyst inverted pyramid chandeliers – and pampered by friendly and attentive service, we enjoyed a very satisfying and elegant dinner in this low key lodge like setting. I had a gorgeous and most delicious heirloom tomato salad and grilled pork tenderloin with braised kale, lovely green beans and a savory fruit crumble while Bill had the locally Beretta Farms sourced beef tenderloin with a foie gras mousse, swiss chard, match stick potatoes and Chardonnay grape capers! We accompanied our fare with a knockout 2012 Burrowing Owl Malbec that I seriously recommend!! It was traveling with our son and his baseball team fifteen years ago that introduced us to this alluring valley – and Burrowing Owl Estate wine that (initially) kept us coming back. Now we feel the drive is worth it for the region’s undeniable beauty and bounty, it’s recreational offerings, the wonderful people we have come to know (very little turnover here at Burrowing Owl which tells you something) and okay, the wines! “Walking” back to our room after a dessert trip of lemon sorbet, vanilla ice cream and peach sorbet was an appreciated benefit of being a guest here.
Having overindulged aplenty and eaten our way across The Valley, tomorrow we are back over the border to Washington, homeward bound.