If summer is all about hot, thirsty gulps of long, icy drinks, fall brings with it a slower pace. It’s time to savour every sip. To take stock of, and give thanks for, summer’s efforts. At risk of sounding like a plagiaristic poet: we are entering a season of mellow fruitfulness. Let’s sit back and savour every moment as we sip our way through the new season’s offerings.
Where we live there is certainly much to savour and be grateful for. And plenty of options to put in the glass we intend to use for toasting the harvest season. From orchard, vineyard and farm to glass, or plate, Vernon and our immediate surrounds can boast of wineries, a brewery, a cidery, a distillery, and even an olive oil and vinegar tasting room. No matter what your tastes, you’ll find something to savour, right on your doorstep.
“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” Ernest Hemingway
The Okanagan Valley is known for beautiful fruit and wine. It’s not some best kept secret; instead it’s something we are more than happy to shout from the rooftops. What is perhaps slightly lesser known is that you don’t have to travel to Kelowna or Naramata to find the Okanagan’s best wines. Right here at home, no more than 30 minutes from our doorstep, we have a handful of incredible wineries worth sharing.
Gray Monk Estate Winery
Perched above Okanagan Lake in Lake Country, no more than 20 minutes south of Vernon, you’ll find Gray Monk Estate Winery. With stunning panoramic views of mountains, vineyards and the lake, it is the perfect place to stop a while and drink in all that the Okanagan has to offer – both literally and figuratively. Owned by the Heiss family, Gray Monk is British Columbia’s oldest family owned and operated winery. And with age, as we all know, comes wisdom. And with wisdom, comes great wine making. You know what comes next: that’s right, great wine. With an enormous portfolio of wines, there is a sip here for every palate and pocket.
50th Parallel Estate Winery
This gorgeous winery in Lake Country is the perfect blend of modern spirit and passion and age-old winemaking traditions and knowledge. The 10,000 sq-ft winery and wine caves are a marvel of modern architecture, but the winemaking is steeped in wine-making knowledge and history years in the making. The 50th Parallel winery has been developed specifically for the purposes of gently handling sensitive Pinot Noir and a select few aromatic white wine varieties, utilizing the natural sloping grade of the site to gently process fruit by maximizing the use of gravity. Too much science for you? Let the wine speak for itself.
Ex Nihilo Vineyards
Also in Lake Country you will find a winery made ‘out of nothing’… On their first holiday together to Napa Valley and the Bay area, Jeff and Decoa Harder came across the sculpture of Ex Nihilo at an art gallery in San Francisco. Jeff and Decoa decided at that moment that Ex Nihilo – a Latin phrase meaning ‘out of nothing’ would be the perfect name for the winery they dreamed of having. That dream would become a reality, courtesy of passion and persistence, a partnership forged with old friends, Jay and Twila Paulson, and a parcel of land on a rocky hillside near Vernon. The result? The exquisite Ex Nihilo Winery and Vineyards: 10 acres of wine-producing perfection, built on a dream, with 10 wines to match. A wonderful Okanagan wine experience.
They may as well rename Lake Country ‘Wine Country’! No more than 150 metres up the road from Ex Nihilo, you will find Arrowleaf Cellars, a family-owned and operated winery strongly committed to all things local. They source 90% of their grapes from Lake Country, and the other 10% from within just 35km of their winery, to bring you aromatic whites like Bacchus and cool climate reds like Pinot Noir. Open daily from March 1 to December 24, Arrowleaf offers spectacular, sweeping views for stunning slow sipping.
With another four wineries (Scenic Sip) in Lake Country, and six wineries to the North in the Shuswap, you will find a variety of varietals to tempt your tastebuds.
“For a quart of Ale is a meal for a King.” William Shakespeare
An icy cold beer in summer is perfection. And in Fall? A lovely way to remember summer’s warmth! Here in Vernon we have the perfect excuse to drink beer – no matter what the season: Okanagan Spring Brewery, one of BC’s original craft breweries.
Okanagan Spring Brewery
Okanagan Spring was founded in 1985 by Buko von Krosigk and Jakob Tobler – and continues to brew from the same location today, right in the very heart of Vernon. Buko and Jakob poured the very first Okanagan Spring Premium Lager on December 31 of that year, and the rest as they say, is a gorgeous head of foaming history. At the time, they didn’t realize the role that Okanagan Spring would play in popularizing craft brewing, but they did know they’d created a rather delicious brew. They continued to make tasty beer, and today many of their beer styles were the first to be brewed in BC. Now that’s something worth toasting.
Cider house rules
“The apple tree takes what is freely given to it, and returns cider and pies and tarts and jams.” Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden
There’s something about hot apple cider that speaks of crisp air and cozy blankets, the promise of snow in the not too distant future, and the warm embrace of family love like nothing else. But a crisp, cold cider – now there too lies a special sort of feeling worth savouring. Especially when it’s made right on your very own doorstep.
BX Press Cidery & Orchard
“Our dreams are tied inseparably to these trees, this land, this life on the farm.” So says Missy, who co-runs The BX Press with her husband, Dave. It is this sentiment and passion, as much as the gorgeous locally grown apples, that is steeped through every bottle of BX Press cider you savour. How could you not love it? Missy and Dave have been crafting premium full-juice ciders from his family orchards for the last two years. This is truly a “branch-to-bottle operation”. Missy and Dave “grow the apples, press, ferment, mature, and bottle” right on their own orchard… right on your doorstep. Located in Vernon’s BX neighbourhood, these hand-crafted ciders understandably come in small batches – which means they sell out. Go, taste, savour and, above all, celebrate this epitome of local-love.
“Life is the flower of which love is the honey.” Victor Hugo
“Mead is probably the original fermented drink. You hear of ambrosia, the nectar of the gods: that’s mead, or fermented honey,” writes author Gary Penner. And they are making it right here in Vernon at PLANET BEE Honey Farm & Honeymoon Meadery!
PLANET BEE Honey Farm & Honeymoon Meadery
Local liquid gold indeed! Ten varieties of Honeymoon Mead, each with their own unique bouquet and flavour, are available to try at Planet Bee’s Honey bar. As if the gorgeous flavour isn’t enough, here’s another reason to head to Honeymoon Meadery at Planet Bee: the word honeymoon is linked to Norse wedding celebrations which lasted one full cycle of the Moon. It was believed that by faithfully drinking mead for that first month, the woman would bear sons bringing great status to the clan. Honeymoon Mead represents a return of this ancient “beverage of love” and is a new and exciting product experience for visitors to Vernon BC.
“Whisky is liquid sunshine.” George Bernard Shaw
Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery
100% BC hand-crafted spirits. 100% BC fruit. 100% natural – no additives, chemicals or artificial flavours. 100% worth savouring every sip. Located in downtown Vernon (with another distillery in downtown Kelowna), Okanagan Spirits is North America’s only World Class Distillery (‘World Spirits Awards’, Klagenfurt, Austria) and has a portfolio of over 25 spirits, including Fruit Brandies, Liqueurs, Marc (Grappa), Aquavit, Gin, Vodka, Whisky and Taboo Genuine Absinthe. Visit them for a tour of their gleaming copper pot stills, and take the opportunity for a tasting of some of the most delicious spirits that will ever pass your lips. Now would also be a good time to toast their success as Western Canada’s oldest craft distillery. And our good fortune that they call our home their home.
“Good oil, like good wine, is a gift from the gods.” George Ellwanger, Pleasures of the Table (1902)
Olive Us Oil & Vinegar Tasting Room
If you’re looking for something to excite your jaded palate, you can’t beat the extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars to be found at Olive Us Oil & Vinegar Tasting Room on Vernon’s 30th Avenue. (Psst: they also now have a Lake Country location.) Owned by Ray and Jan, this local family are excited by EVOO, and want you to be TOO. Let them share with you the stunning savoury experience to be had in tasting exquisite extra virgin olive oil. With more than 50 premium certified non-GMO oils and vinegars on tap, expect to walk away with a new-found appreciation for these deceptively simple ingredients.
If you haven’t found something to please your palate from the above offerings, fear not! Vernon has plenty more to offer all five your senses, especially at this time of year. Activate your Fall foodie adventure now!