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Okanagan Valley even better with new wine trails and winery restaurants

Self-guided tours let you see and taste at your own pace

31 August 2011
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As a wine-growing area, the Okanagan Valley is getting all grown up. With more than 120 wineries alongside lakes, perched on hilltops and tucked along obscure country backroads, thinking about touring British Columbia's oldest and biggest wine-producing region can be overwhelming. To help get past that “Where do I start?” feeling, five new Wine Trails have been launched around the town hub of Kelowna, each with its own theme and suggestions of wineries to visit where you can taste, meet local personalities, dine at vineyard restaurants and shop en route.

Pick up or print out a copy of the Wine Trails brochure and head off on a self-guided prowl. All are leisurely afternoon or day trips by car or bike except the Heritage Trail, an historical walking tour in downtown Kelowna where you can drop in at the BC Wine Museum and Shop and taste at BC’s original winery, Calona.

TheEast Kelowna Wine Trail is perfect for those who like to drop in on lesser-known boutique/farm-gate style wineries owned and run by families. The Westside Wine Trail takes in some of the Okanagan’s big boys and it’s hard to go hungry with two great winery restaurants en route: Mission Hill’s Terrace Restaurant, which Travel + Leisure magazine declared one of the world’s top five winery restaurants, and Quails’ Gate estate’s fresh local take on cuisine at its Old Vines Restaurant.

Dining among the vines is really taking off with two new winery restaurants opening their doors this spring in the southern Okanagan near the town of Oliver. On April 1, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in partnership with Manuel Ferreira, owner of Le Gavroche, a long-time French restaurant in Vancouver, launched Miradoro, a chic eatery perched on a hillside serving modern Mediterranean-influenced market cuisine like grilled octopus with locally made chorizo, wine pairing-perfect tapas and Neapolitan-style pizzas baked in the restaurant's open-hearth stone oven.

In June, nearby Hester Creek Estate Winery opened its Tuscan-inspired restaurant, Terrafina, meaning “from the earth.” Italian comfort food with style, the menu includes a grand antipasto platter and mains like wild boar and veal spaghetti and meatballs. Kick back with a glass of their wine amid the cozy Italian villa atmosphere – all brick and wood – or on the patio overlooking the valley and vines.

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