Kelowna a killer destination...Jim's deal of the day says "stay close to home"
KELOWNA – Spend a couple days here and you get the feeling people know what they were they’re doing when they made this a popular retirement spot.
The winters can be gloomy, they say. But it doesn’t tend to get cold here until November and the skiing at nearby hills such as Big White and Silver Star is said to be legendary; deep, crisp powder and lots of it; not unlike Utah. More reliable than Whistler but much warmer than Banff, folks explain.
And then the spring comes in March/April, and the summer’s are hot and long and longer. It was 30 degrees on Wednesday and a solid 24 on Thursday, when I had the chance to tour a great goat cheese-making operation and have lunch at the sumptuous terrace at Mission Hills winery, which has outstanding Lake Okanagan views and a menu that’s been hailed by foodies as one of the top winery restaurants in the world.
There were edible flowers and lovely scallops and a rich venison shank that was as artfully arranged as the Chagall tapestry that hangs inside the Mission Hills winery, although, sadly, the latter is not on display for all visitors.
There’s a huge lawn with an ampitheatre, a towering bell tower that rings out loud and clear over the hills and the lake, a great tour, a small rose garden, vines that stretch out in perfect symmetry and a solid tasting room with some great varieties, including a very affordable and tasty Pinot Grigio and some high-end red mixes that most of us can’t manage. The Oculus red, which features a Bordeaux-like blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot, is remarkably tasty.
As Colonel Potter once said while sipping on a nice glass of Scotch in a M*A*S*H episode, “Not enough o’s in smoooooooth.”
Up the road at Gray Monk they have great views from a little lower elevation. While Mission Hills sits on the west side of the lake and is south of Kelowna proper by a few clicks, Gray Monk is nestled between Kelowna and Vernon on the east side of the lake. The flowers on the patio are lovely, they’ve got some great Pinot Gris and Merlot and some interesting German varietals, and the food is rock solid. Great B.C. scallops perfectly cooked and a wonderful free-range chicken on a bed of basil risotto. It’s a bit of a chore to find the place, but well worth the stop.
I’ll be checking in next week from Whistler, where there’s a Canadian travel media conference I’m attending.
JIM’S DEAL OF THE DAY
You’ve no doubt heard of ‘stay-cations’ and the art of vacationing at home. Now there are ‘near-cations’, promoting local or nearby travel. Contiki Holidays is picking up on the near-cation trend with a $100 per person discount to promote its new 2010-2011 North America brochure, offering some 20 itineraries ranging from six to 26 days in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The $100 discount applies to trips eight days or longer for travel booked by Oct. 1, 2009. Contiki caters to the 18-35 year old crowd with packages that include accommodation, transport, sightseeing, daily breakfast and other meals. See www.contiki.com.