Activity: Exploring Okanagan Wines on Black Sage and Golden Mile Bench, Oliver, Canada.

After a great float down the Penticton River Channel, we spent some time getting to know the area. We started off being introduced to some terrific wines.

This post is one chapter on our trip through the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada. This trip was booked using Marriott Bonvoy Points. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Exploring Okanagan Wines on Black Sage and Golden Mile Bench, Oliver, British Columbia, Canada Checkmate and Church & State Wines

We were up a bit earlier today as compared to yesterday. Thankfully, we did not have to change rooms at the Fairfield.

The goal today was to sample a view wines and visit some wineries in the Okanagan Wine Region. We had made pre-booking reservations at each of the wineries as a result of the pandemic. Normally, you can just turn up without a booking and be accommodated at most of these places, save the higher end wineries like Checkmate.

Getting there:

The area of the Okanagan Wine Region we were visiting was towards the South. It was about forty five minutes in the car before we’d make the region surrounding Oliver, British Columbia, Canada.

It was a pretty drive down Highway 97 from Penticton to Oliver with some interesting bluffs and other bodies of water to look at.

Approaching Okanagan Falls on Highway 97
Bluffs South of Okanagan Falls

First Stop: Church and State Winery

Our first stop was at Church and State Winery just outside of Oliver, British Columbia, Canada. The winery cellar door is situated on the Black Sage Bench on the east side of the valley.

Arriving to Church and State
Vallies under Vine
Entrances hidden around the back
Church and State Cellar Door

Thanks to the current pandemic operating conditions, we were welcomed outside while the previous customers finished up. It was a limit of 2 groups in the tasting room (with a maximum of 4 per group). We had no one else join our reservation time so we had the whole place to ourselves.

Church and State Tasting Room
Tasting Options Menu

We enjoyed a base live estate tasting with five wines for $15 with fees waived with the purchase of any bottle. We moved through the various wines with our host. It was a great and low key time with him.

Todays highlights were a Vourssance Chardonnay, a Rosé, a Cabernet Franc, a Meritage and a Petit Verdot which was typically off the sales menu.

We had a bit of time between Church and State and our next appointment up at Checkmate Winery. As a result, we relaxed on the patio and took in the views from the Church and State winery.

Views of the Okanagan Valley from Church and State
Petit Verdot Right out Front
MrsWT73 enjoying some sparkling in the vines
Vines almost ready to be harvested
Vines ready to be harvested

A Tasting Experience at Checkmate Winery

The home of Canada’s only 100 point wine, two years in a row

We left the comforts of Church and State and drove ten minutes across the valley to Checkmate Winery. Like Church and State, visiting at Checkmate winery was a “by appointment” tasting.

In addition to being much more boutique than Church and State, Checkmate winery is well known to be the the home of Canada’s first perfect 100 point chardonnay. It’s unusual to expect to find a Burgundian-style Chardonnay to receive these kinds of accolades but indeed it was possible; two years in a row.

Access Road up the hill to Checkmate Winery
Checkmate Winery Vines
Beautiful Approach on the Golden Mile Bench to Checkmate Winery Cellar Door

The Checkmate cellar door is under a bit of construction. We had a short wait in the warehouse with a sample before we were seated at a socially distanced private tasting table.

Welcome Sign

It was a nice environment in order to taste some high quality wine.

Checkmate Winery Tasting Room
Checkmate Bottles

Our host took us through the varieties and regions that their grapes were grown. The Little Pawn Chardonnay was the 100 point Chardonnay, although unfortunately not for the 2014 vintage.

Checkmate Wines
A Map of Local Parcels under Vine
Tasting in respectable glasses

We had a great tasting with 6 excellent wines under organic growth. Overall the tasting experience was very enjoyable, quiet and self paced; perfect for those who enjoy wine.

Last Call: Burrowing Owl Winery

We left Checkmate Winery with only a few purchases and headed onwards to our last tasting of the day at Burrowing Owl. Burrowing Owl was one of the first upscale wineries that ended up being successful in this particular region. It’s large enough to have enough reservation availability, but not too large that you can find it’s products everywhere so it still has some exclusivity to it.

The winery building itself isn’t to my design tastes – it looks a little horrific going up to it.

Approaching Burrowing Owl

Despite my personal tastes in architecture and design, the resort looks much nicer from the resort itself. The vines against the hill side were full and ready for harvest. The views are among the most picturesque of all the wineries in the South Okanagan, in my humble opinion.

Burrowing Owl Vines
Vines all around

Perhaps more interesting is the hotel operation at the winery, that offers a terrific private pool that overlook the vines.

A deserted pool; a mirage for many
Required Faux Fountain
Burrowing Owl to Sonora Room Restaurant

The wines would be a tough act to follow after the higher price point Checkmate winery but the higher end reds at Burrowing Owl were pretty good. Being a larger operation, the tasting room was a more commercial experience.

Burrowing Owl Tasting Room

Today’s wines

After our last tasting at Burrowing Owl, it was back to the hotel for a little relaxation. We were set for dinner this evening at Miridoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Winery.

Dinner at Miradoro Creek Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Winery:

Miradoro Creek was owned and operated the team that ran Le Gaviroche Restaurant in Vancouver. Le Gaviroche was home to one of Vancouver’s greatest wine cellar’s in its day before they opened Miradoro in Oliver at Tinhorn Creek. They have since closed their doors at Le Gaviroche in Vancouver, thanks to the super competitive restaurant and well financed franchise restaurant market that sells quite mainstream but consistent food. 

We booked through open table. There was lots of availability but well in advance (4 days or greater). 

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek at Dusk

There was nice socially distanced seating out on the patio with a very pleasant view over the Okanagan Valley. We took in the views as the sun set for the day.

Valley Views with parties facing the valley

The menu was interesting and regional, with a renewed emphasis on farm to table and local ingredients. There was enough variety across the menu to keep you interested and engaged with both light and heavier dishes. Being at Tinhorn Creek winery, their wines (including reserve wines) were prominently featured.

We started with some fresh house focaccia bread, with regional olive oil. I never tire of this dish, no matter how it’s presented.

I went with a Bear and Flower Farm Grilled Pork Chop with miso honey and espeliette pepper glazed stone ground cornmeal polenta, pickled peaches, sweet corn and chantrelle mushrooms, mustard greens with an Tin Horn Creek Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc 2014. 

It was great cut of meat and very tasty. The flavours went really well together with the peaches which are popular in this area however I found the meal a bit soupy and would have probably gone with a little less sauce. The portion size was very generous for the price and much larger than we typically get in the city. 

Bear and Flower Farm Grilled Pork Chop

MrsWT73 enjoyed Quatro Fromaggi Pizza with a Cosmopolitan served in a traditional class and Merlot 2018. She rated it just average on the glass, which may have been expected after tasting those wonderful 90+ point wines up at Checkmate down the road.

Traditional Cosmopolitans
…along with a Quattro Formaggi Pizza

My thoughts on our Okanagan Winery Visits:

We had a great first day re-discovering Okanagan Wines. Although this region is a mere five hours’ drive from our house, we rarely come this way in favour of more exotic destinations around the world. I was quite impressed with the facilities and quality of the wines at Checkmate winery. Our experiences at Church and State and Burrowing Owl were also nothing to sneeze at either; both have produced quality products.

Our dinner was also particularly enjoyable at Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek and we would easily come back. All to say, I had forgotten what a picturesque and impressive corner of British Columbia this area is and I was keen to explore more tomorrow.

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