Vancouver to Osoyoos; a great British Columbia drive...Jim's Deal of the Day
Now, that's a great drive.
I've drive the Coquihalla Highway between Kelowna and Vancouver. On Thursday I did the Vancouver to Osoyoos drive on the the Crowsnest Highway, Highway 3. You slowly make your way out of Vancouver and roll past farms and fields out near Abbotsford before starting the climb toward sawtoothed peaks near Hope, then turn right on to Highway 3.
You hardly see a soul as you roll over the Allison Pass at 1,352 meters and make your way through Manning Provincial Park, hard by the U.S. border. You turn back north and follow the silky Similkameen River to Princeton, a great little town that didn't seem to have a Tim Horton's. But a checkout girl at the Shoppers Drug Mart pointed me to a great place called Cowboy Coffee (great name, too; no pretense here) that had dark, black stuff that would make Starbucks proud. You're pumping money, albeit only a bit, into the local economy so it's a nice feeling. Folks in Osoyoos and the lower Okanagan Valley say Cowboy Coffee is a de rigeur stop on the five hour trip to Vancouver, and it's easy to see why.
You get to follow the Similkameen even further as it dances in the sun between the highway and the mountains. The road's not at all treacherous, but you come right along the rock face several times and get some really lovely vistas before you roll down to Keremeos and Cawston, both sleepy little towns in a valley above Osoyoos.
Folks say the Similkameen is the next big wine area in British Columbia. I didn't get a chance to taste any of the local stuff, but there were a couple dozen wineries before I even reached Osoyoos.
We ran a story on Osoyoos in Star Travel earlier this year but I'd never been. I've seen some dry parts of B.C. up around Cache Creek on the Fraser, but the dry-as-toast chaparral on the roads around Osoyoos and the outcroppings of burnt rock and spindly trees looks more like the Ponderosa or the high deserts of Nevada than anything the average visitor would expect in Canada.
It's absolutely beautiful country. And the wine is smashingly good, especially the reds. I've never found many Canadian red wines with the polish and heft that I like. But the Meritage blend and the Syrah at Nk'Mip in Osoyoos, the first aboriginal-owned winery, were both remarkably good and powerful.
It's a great spot, set on a hill overlooking the lake in Osoyoos, with a lovely patio. The signature plate features grilled bison, medallions of venison, wild game sausage and grilled vegetables with distinctive cornbread that's stuffed with cranberries, grilled onions and other goodies. Dynamite stuff, and the view's a killer.
You go past some lovely orchards on your way from Osoyoos up to Kelowna, with names like King Tomato, O'Reilly's, Dhaliwal and Elm Tree. You can buy peaches, nectarines, apricots, watermelon, plums, asian pears, walnuts, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, blueberries and just about everything else except fresh mangoes and pineapple.
Up past Summerland and the lakeside town of Peachland to Kelowna, where I stayed the night at the lakeside Grand Okanagan. A really nice spot with all the amenities and a couple of pools(see photo below) one of which I MIGHT get a chance to dunk myself into later today.
The highlight of the day was a dinner hosted by Kelowna tourism. Ostensibly it was for some food and wine writers here for a seminar, but I got an invite and managed to fake my way into being something of a wine afficionado. They held the event at RauDZ Regional Table in downtown Kelowna, where chef Rod Butters will do everything from tuna casserole with fresh ahi to a pair of merguez sausage hot dogs, or dress things up with oat-crusted arctic char with maple butter, potato, bacon and spinach saute' or duck served on a vegetable bread pudding with morello cherry relish. Yum. Desserts are spectacularly beautiful, with lots of chocolate and fresh, local raspberries.
They had folks from Peller Estates, Calona Vineyards and SandHill (all owned by Peller) on hand to let us try some unoaked Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and a remarkably earthy and full-bodied Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay and Pinot both have won awards from the Lt. Governor of BC, and it was easy to see and taste why. We got to comparing wines to various celebrities and figured the Chardonnay was bright and sparkly like Cameron Diaz. I thought the pinot was George Harrison; complex and hard-to-read but delightful and grounded, and I think that's quite enough of that.
ADVENTURE TRAVEL DEALS
Nice item on the USA Today travel website about the 10 best bargains today in adventure travel. Snowshoeing in Switzerland and cycling in Sicily are two of the options, as well as whitewater rafting in northern California.
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