Summertime in Abundant Kelowna
By Steven Threndyle
The Okanagan city of Kelowna has so much more to offer sun-worshippers than relaxation on the beach. While the city is a bustling hub of shopping and dining, visitors can escape the buzz of downtown and head in search of the simple life by checking out these four prime agri-tourism attractions, writes Steven Threndyle.
Summer is a fabulous time of year to visit Kelowna. This half-day tour takes in four of Kelowna’s prime agri-tourism attractions; Kelowna Land and Orchard, the Okanagan Lavender Farm, CedarCreek Estate Winery, and Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan. You will see that Kelowna is indeed ‘ripe with surprises,’ as its visitors’ guide boasts.
To get directions, check in at the Tourism Info Centre at 544 Harvey Avenue (Highway 97), and get a map and directions from a helpful staff member.
Kelowna Land and Orchard has been such a major player in the city’s economy that there’s even a major road – K.L.O. Road – leading up to it. They’ve been growing fruit on this 150-acre east Kelowna property for over a century, and to this day Kelowna Land and Orchard is very much a family-owned working orchard.
Since 1995, the Bullock family has welcomed visitors to their orchard, and improvements continue to be made to provide a quality visitor experience. Kids love the petting zoo and the tractor-driven tour of the orchards which includes stops to sample the juicy, flavorful apples. The on-site Ridge Restaurant boasts executive chef Travis Hackl from Okanagan’s Finest Foods. The new menu features informal, family-friendly lunches and barbecues using locally-grown produce and beverages, such as the award-winning Raven Ridge Cider that is made right on the premises. The Farm Shop sells locally-produced jams, jellies, handicrafts, and of course freshly-harvested apples and freshly-pressed apple juice.
It’s a short drive from Kelowna Land and Orchard over to the Okanagan Lavender Farm on winding, pleasant back road that offers fabulous views over the lake and up into the South Hills. The Okanagan Lavender Herb Farm is tucked just off Takla Road. You don’t need to go to Provence in the summer to enjoy the fabulous scents from this vibrantly-hued purple and pale-green herb. Over sixty varieties of lavender are organically grown on this one-acre plot and are refined into an exotic range of products which include oils, soaps, hand cream, and even lavender jelly and dried lavender herbs for cooking and baking. Their lavender lemon cake recipe has even been featured in the National Post.
No trip to the Okanagan would be complete without a visit to a winery, and CedarCreek Estate Winery is internationally renowned. Fans of the Academy-Award winning movie Sideways will note that CedarCreek’s 2002 Platinum Reserve Pinot Noir has received rave reviews; indeed, big, hearty reds have truly come into their own at CedarCreek. The surrounding fifty-acre vineyard is located on a tilted benchland above Okanagan Lake – even without sampling the wines, the views are intoxicating. The Mediterranean style wine shop and tasting room features ceramic tile floors, rounded archways, white stucco walls and a river-rock fireplace. The Vineyard Terrace tapas bar serves up light lunch fare on a patio that offers what is perhaps the Okanagan’s finest al fresco gourmet experience, June through October.
Driving farther south on Lakeshore, you begin to notice hillsides and forests scorched by the Okanagan Mountain firestorm of 2003. The surprise here is that not only are wildflowers and grasses poking through the ashy soil, but that people who lost their houses and businesses have rebounded as well.
Take, for instance, the incredible story of Ofer and Ofri Barmor, who moved to Canada in March of 2003 to start their own dairy and produce custom-made goat cheese. As Ofri says, “the valley already has lots of wineries, but didn’t produce much cheese. What goes better with wine than cheese?” With their original dairy almost completed, the wildfire that spread north from near Naramata in August, 2003 incinerated their almost-completed outbuildings (the Barmor’s house was damaged, but remained largely intact). Showing unwavering determination in the face of such a disaster, the Israeli couple pushed on with their plans and opened up Carmelis Goat Cheese the following spring (2004). Having faced the challenge of rebuilding from the ashes of the fire, the Barmors have an even bigger challenge – selling visitors to the Okanagan on their artisan-crafted goat cheese.
Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan is located in the heart of the forest fire burn area, on Timberline Road about six kilometres south of the Lakeshore/Chute Lake Road intersection. Tours of the dairy are offered at a nominal fee and include a ‘cheese plate’ of the most aromatic and unique cheeses in western Canada. No bland bricks of orange cheddar, here! Kids love the goats that roam freely over the nearby acreage, though Ofer admits that “since the fire, there isn’t that much grass to munch on.” The hay, alfalfa, and feed that is the staple of the goats’ diet is 100% organic, and a surprise here is that they even make “hard” cheeses like their Vintage and Tuscany products.
OK, so you’ve got fresh apples, goat cheese, an award-winning pinot noir, and a bouquet of lavender. Where to go to put it all together? Bertram Creek Regional Park is the perfect place for that nostalgic lunch. Though most visitors stay on the grassy area just up from the beach, a short hike along the bluffs above the boat dock provides one of the most panoramic views of Okanagan Lake from anywhere in the Valley. Bon appetit, and enjoy the warm sunshine!
544 Harvey Avenue, Kelowna, BC
Toll Free: 1-800-663-4345 or (250) 861-1515; www.tourismkelowna.com
Kelowna Land & Orchard
3002 Dunster Road, Kelowna, BC
(250) 763-1091; www.k-l-o.com,
Okanagan Lavender Farm
4380 Takla Road, Kelowna, BC
(250) 764-7795; www.okanaganlavender.com
CedarCreek Estate Winery
5445 Lakeshore Road, Kelowna, BC
(250) 764 8866; www.cedarcreek.bc.ca
Carmelis Goat Cheese
170 Timberline Rd. Kelowna, BC
(250) 470-0341; www.carmelisgoatcheese.com
For more information on Canadian destinations visit the Canadian Tourism Commission.