Yesterday I was invited up to Hester Creek Winery in Oliver (at the Southern tip of the Okanagan) to tour their facilities, meet their winemaker, and learn more about their vineyards. While I am very familiar with the brand (and they have also been generous sponsors of the last two Twestival events I have organized) I had still never been to the Hester Creek estate.
We spent the day touring the villas (that are currently B&B style), meeting the friendly staff like Robin and LeeAnn Openshaw, exploring the property with General Manager Mark Sheridan, and doing tastings with winemaker Robert Summers.
Our group (which consisted of food and travel writers from Vancouver) tasted a variety of Hester Creek’s yet-to-be-released offerings as well as some of their classics.
After the tastings, we enjoyed lunch courtesy of visiting Chef Ned Bell who will soon be at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.
The soup was fresh, fruity, smooth and creamy, and the crunchy apples garnish with crusted toast added a delightful contrast in textures. Chef Bell created the soup’s stock from the chicken that was our tender and juicy second course and more apples were used in our sweet and salty dessert.
Hester Creek’s new restaurant will feature meals prepared with their wines in mind with locally-sourced ingredients from Oliver and the Okanagan. Their demo kitchen in the winery will continue to host a cooking series with top-notch guest chefs from around the country. I took a few photos of the restaurant’s construction and look forward to returning in the summer to take some “after” shots, perhaps while enjoying some of their mediterranean-style pizza on the patio overlooking the vineyard while sipping on a Character White.
I have been going to the Okanagan every year for the last 30 years and have spent quite a bit of time in Osoyoos over the last ten years. Wine tours in the region include hopping in the car with a designated driver and heading up the Golden Mile for tours and tastings before returning home to your hotel, campsite, or (in our case) my aunt’s condo. I didn’t previously know that Hester Creek had villas just up the hill from their winery and that they will soon be opening their own restaurant. Before now, they have sent their guests over to Burrowing Owl for dinner but they can now be their own ‘one stop shop’ for a getaway in the vineyards.
I was most impressed by the people of Hester Creek and their passion for two things: the visitor experience and above all, the quality of the wine. It’s clear that they are all about the grapes, the vines, sustainable practices, and producing a quality product.
Returning home just a few hours later, I got to ride in the co-pilot seat of the airplane. It was a whirlwind tour but at a relaxed pace, leaving me feeling very excited about visiting the South Okanagan in the coming months.
Follow @HesterCreek on Twitter for updates and check them out at the Vancouver International Playhouse Wine Festival later this month.