Fam­ily friendly op­tions in B.C.’s wine Coun­try

Trav­el­ling in wine coun­try with a six-year-old is fun, but it re­quires some ad­just­ments

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - MHAIRRI WOOD­HALL

Okana­gan wine tour­ing is a sum­mer sta­ple, which un­til now, has been an adult-only in­dul­gence I’ve en­joyed with my hus­band. This past sip­ping-sea­son, how­ever, we de­cided to ex­tend an in­vi­ta­tion to our child, who was thrilled with the prospect of end­less char­cu­terie plates and lake­front fun. Of course, trav­el­ling with a six-year-old re­quired a few mi­nor ad­just­ments to our itin­er­ary.

First, we booked slightly off­sea­son to avoid the crowds that flock to B.C.’s in­te­rior ev­ery July and Au­gust. This in it­self was a bril­liant move. We prac­ti­cally had the winer­ies to our­selves, and wa­ter­front ho­tels are far more af­ford­able just be­fore — or af­ter — the school break. An­other strat­egy was to hit up winer­ies that are ap­pro­pri­ate — and dare I say fun — for chil­dren. Sur­pris­ingly, we found enough to sat­isfy our palates. Fi­nally, we added a few ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties to round out the trip.

KID-AP­PROVED WINER­IES

Most Okana­gan winer­ies wel­come kids — es­pe­cially in shoul­der-sea­son — how­ever, there are only a few that your lit­tle ones will ac­tu­ally have fun at. Our daugh­ter’s top choice in Nara­mata is Ele­phant Is­land for its whim­si­cal out­door pa­tio stocked with stuffed an­i­mals, toy cars, games and tea sets. While my hus­band and I savoured a tast­ing of cherry, black cur­rant and pear wine, she played tea party with new-found friends. In Oliver, just out­side of Osoy­oos, there are three ex­cep­tional winer­ies to visit with the fam­ily.

At Hid­den Chapel, par­ents can sam­ple the tongue-in-cheek Blush­ing Bride, Nuns on the Run and Shot­gun Wed­ding while chil­dren ex­plore the prop­erty’s lush gar­dens in search of the tiny white chapel.

Try the award-win­ning French­style wine at vinAmite and your kids will be hap­pily oc­cu­pied at the colour­ing ta­ble or se­cure a seat on the vine­yard-view pa­tio for a lunchtime tast­ing and ap­pe­tizer plat­ter of local cheese, pate and char­cu­terie. At Covert Farms — an or­ganic farm and win­ery — we booked a guided tour to learn about the 650-acre prop­erty, visit with al­pacas and Scot­tish High­land cows and col­lect juicy straw­ber­ries from the U-pick field. Post-tour we re­laxed with a wine tast­ing on the pa­tio and watched our daugh­ter play on the farm’s gi­ant bounce pad.

KID-FRIENDLY PA­TIOS

Nosh­ing al fresco is a wine coun­try hall­mark that’s al­ways a win­ner with kids. A Kelowna favourite, with epic lake views and happy-hour spe­cials, like baked mac and cheese, lamb meat­balls and $6 glasses of wine, is OAK + CRU at the Delta Grand Okana­gan Re­sort. Oliver’s Mi­radoro at Tin­horn Creek — one of our din­ing tra­di­tions — is also pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies due to the de­li­cious Neapoli­tan style piz­zas and ca­sual pa­tio vibe. If you’re look­ing for a more so­phis­ti­cated en­tree, ex­ec­u­tive chef Jeff Van Geest’s pan-roasted hal­ibut is ex­cel­lent. An­other win­ery pa­tio to visit in Oliver is Ter­ran­fina at Hester Creek. The grilled Hum­boldt squid and build your own char­cu­terie board was an in­stant hit with our daugh- ter. Or, visit late-af­ter­noon for the happy-hour pizza spe­cials and $3 off san­gria, wine and beer.

ON THE WA­TER PLAY

For a ridicu­lously good time out on the wa­ter, book the Red Dragon from Sun n’ Sup in Nara­mata Vil­lage, about 30 min­utes out­side of Pen­tic­ton. Al­though the fourper­son, stand-up-pad­dle board is a rather tem­per­a­men­tal beast, we man­aged to avoid a tum­ble. Ex­pect a full-body work­out, as the Red Dragon is harder to pad­dle, steer and bal­ance. If you pre­fer a more sta­ble op­tion, the shop rents stan­dard SUPs by the hour, day or week, with life-jack­ets in­cluded. After­wards, take a short drive to Man­i­tou Beach for its soft sand, play­ground and shade trees. We brought a boxed pic­nic lunch from Nara­mata Bench Mar­ket, and spent the af­ter­noon play­ing on the grass lawn, build­ing sand­cas­tles and splashing down the lake slide.

CLIMB, BIKE, TASTE

Cy­cling Nara­mata’s por­tion of the his­toric Ket­tle Val­ley Rail trail was a trip high­light for me. Hoodoo Ad­ven­ture Co. in Pen­tic­ton of­fers guided cy­cle-wine tours that in­clude your bike and hel­met, trans­porta­tion to the trail­head, win­ery tast­ings, a light snack and re­turn shut­tle to Pen­tic­ton. Dur­ing the gen­tle down­hill 12-kilo­me­tre ride we learned about the rail­way ’s his­tory and en­joyed sweep­ing views of Nara­mata Bench and Okana­gan Lake. At the end of the jour­ney we toured three winer­ies and fin­ished with a Po­plar Grove Cheese tast­ing and pic­nic over­look­ing the lake at Lock & Worth. As the trail is quite rocky, with a few steep drop-offs, it wasn’t suit­able for our in­ex­pe­ri­enced biker, so we en­rolled her in Hoodoo’s out­door rock-climb­ing camp. Al­though slightly hes­i­tant at first, she ab­so­lutely loved the chal­lenge and was so proud to have scaled an eight-me­tre rock face.

OFF-SEA­SON FES­TI­VAL FUN

If pos­si­ble, plan your visit around an an­nual fes­ti­val or event, like Oliver Osoy­oos Wine Coun­try’s yearly Pig Out party in early May. It’s an out­door fam­i­lyfriendly event com­plete with cook­ing de­mon­stra­tions, local celebrity chefs and wine tast­ings paired with tasty bite-sized cre­ations. You’ll find all of the top winer­ies, as well as ar­ti­sanal cel­lars with a cult­like fol­low­ing. If you want to try Check­mate’s cov­eted $85 Mer­lot, with your kids in tow, this is the place to do it. Trav­el­ling in Oc­to­ber? Check out the Fes­ti­val of the Grape at the Oliver Recre­ation Cen­tre. Ex­pect a highly com­pet­i­tive grape-stomp­ing com­pe­ti­tion, tast­ings from 50-plus winer­ies, as well as booths show­cas­ing local mak­ers, ar­ti­sans and chefs. There’s also live mu­sic and en­ter­tain­ment and a kids’ zone with games, a pet­ting zoo and bouncy cas­tles.

LAKE­FRONT AC­COM­MO­DA­TION

Time it right and you can stay wa­ter­front for a frac­tion of peak­sea­son prices. Our road-trip be­gan with an overnight in Kelowna at the Man­teo Re­sort, where the onebed­room suites have full kitchens for quick, easy break­fasts and a sofa-bed for the kids. Smack Dab, the on-prop­erty lake­front restau­rant, is also our pre­ferred place for mus­sels and crazy fries. In Pen­tic­ton, the new West Wing tower at the Pen­tic­ton Lake­side Re­sort, of­fers over­sized-rooms with un­ob­structed lake views. From the ho­tel’s down­town lo­ca­tion, it’s an easy stroll to restau­rants, beach parks and the Satur­day Farm­ers’ Mar­ket. We com­pleted our south­ern Okana­gan tour at the all-suite Water­mark Beach Re­sort in Osoy­oos, which, with its lake­front town houses, is per­fect for larger fam­i­lies and groups. We booked a bed and break­fast pack­age, bar­be­cued pool­side at lunch and dined in the award-win­ning, on-prop­erty restau­rant for sup­per.

CURT WOOD­HALL

Vis­it­ing Nara­mata dur­ing the off sea­sons and taking a KVR bike tour in is one way to es­cape the crowds.

Lake­side vine­yards in Nara­mata fea­ture scenery that will take your breath away.

En­joy a char­cu­terie plat­ter while sip­ping the award-win­ning French-style wine at vinAmite in Oliver.

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