Top Picks – Winery Restos
September is the start of vendanges. Winemakers across the country are in the fields, testing the grapes and preparing for the full-on harvest. This is probably the most interesting time of the year to visit a winery. And experiencing harvest firsthand from the comfort of a winery’s restaurant, where you can watch the action as you enjoy a scrumptious meal, is key. We’ve asked Quench contributors Rick VanSickle, Tony Aspler, Sean Wood, Time Pawsey and Gurvinder Bhatia to suggest a few of their favourite winery restaurants. Just bring your appetite.
Tinhorn Estates – Miradoro Restaurant
537 Tinhorn Creek Road, Oliver
Almost all of the experts consulted included Miradoro as their number one pick. That makes this a must-visit stop. Located in the south of the Okanagan Valley, the dining room boasts a commanding view of the valley’s Golden Mile. “I once ate three consecutive meals here,” says VanSickle, “lunch, dinner and lunch, from three different tables all equally with stunning views on the wrap-around outdoor patio.” Aspler raves about the view as well: “Our table on the balcony gave us a magnificent view over the valley, towards The Golden Mile and Black Sage Road.”
But the view alone isn’t the only thing that draws attention; the food is touted to be equally as amazing. “[Executive Chef] Jeff Van Geest, one of BC’s most celebrated chefs, focuses his culinary talents entirely on locally procured foods from sustainable producer partners,” says VanSickle. Aspler mentions that “[Restaurateur] Chef Manuel Ferreira, owner of Le Gavroche in Vancouver, prepares some of the best food in the country.”
Mission Hill Family Estate – Terrace Restaurant
1730 Mission Hill Road, West Kelowna, Okanagan Valley
Suggested to us by Wood, this outdoor restaurant features a seasonal menu of wine country fare that complements their wines. “My other great Canadian top pick is the whole culinary package at Mission Hill,” says Wood. “[It] has rightly been called ‘a temple to wine and gastronomy.’” The view from the dining area is nothing to scoff at either — rows and rows of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will enchant you as you enjoy the fare that made Travel + Leisure magazine call them “one of the top five winery restaurants in the world” and “the centerpiece of the Canadian wine tourism industry.” The menu is created from local products grown on nearby farms and each dish comes with two wine pairing suggestions.
Quails’ Gate – Old Vines Restaurant
3303 Boucherie Road, West Kelowna, Okanagan Valley
Unlike the other two Okanagan restaurants on this list, Old Vines is open all year ‘round. “Quails’ Gate was among the first to create the humble genesis of what’s evolved into a year-round destination,” says Pawsey. “The food is stunning, locally sourced and simply, beautifully prepared. And the setting is gorgeous” says Bhatia. Located on the slopes of the Boucherie Mountain Bench, the view completes your tour of the Okanagan Valley. “The Okanagan boasts no shortage of vista-kissed dining opportunities,” states Pawsey, “but few combine lake and vineyard views, great tastes and sophisticated service as this.” That service Pawsey speaks of is managed by Chef Roger Sleiman. Working with Executive Sous Chef Andrea Callan, Sleiman prepares gourmet fare with suggested pairings. “Add in smart pairings and sound local sourcing … — plus a polished adjacent hospitality centre — and it’s easy to see why Quails’ Gate has emerged as the go-to North Okanagan room,” says Pawsey.
Cypress Hills Vineyard & Winery Bistro
Hwy 271, Maple Creek
The only commercial vineyard on the prairies, Cypress Hills is a quaint working ranch in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan. Their wines are still being discovered by Canadians, though their signature red is intriguing enough to make the trip; a blend of grapes, rhubarb and Saskatchewan sour cherry. The Bistro embodies the essence of the vineyard — a successful “accident” that draws in all who visit. Their gourmet sandwiches, green salads and cheeses are the perfect snack as you sip their original fruit wines.
Cave Spring Cellars – On the Twenty Restaurant
3836 Main Street, Jordan, Niagara
Part of the On the Twenty partnership between Inn On the Twenty and Cave Springs Cellars, this restaurant was founded to help contextualize Niagara wines with regional cuisine. According to Aspler, they’ve attained that goal. “The menu is inspired by local produce, beautifully prepared and stylishly served in tranquil surroundings,” says Aspler. “Angelo Pavan’s accompanying Cave Spring wines match the menu perfectly.” It is their ability to remain true to their brand that truly impresses Aspler. He suggests them “for sheer consistency over the years (since 1993).” Since it’s located opposite the Inn On the Twenty, you can make a visit to this restaurant a weekend experience. “This was one of the first high quality winery restaurants in Canada,” says Bhatia. “In my opinion, [it] signalled the coming of age of the Canadian wine industry with respect to hospitality and tourism and the importance of the connection between wine and food and the concepts of local and handcrafted (both the wines and the food).”
290 John Street East, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Most Canadian wine aficionados will recognize the Peller Estates label. But a visit to their restaurant will give you a true appreciation for their wines. The restaurant sits in the middle of the winery, where you can relax and stare out at their vineyards as you enjoy the seasonal menus created by Chef Jason Parsons. Each dish is matched to one of Peller Estates’ wines by winemaker Katie Dickieson. Rated “Extraordinary” by Zagat readers — the highest rating possible — and mentioned in their Top 10 Best Overall Dining Experience and Best Ambience lists, this is a must-visit winery restaurant on your tour.
Vineland Estates Winery Restaurant
3620 Moyer Road, Vineland, Niagara
One of Niagara’s first winery restaurants, Vineland Estates Winery Restaurant offers locally-sourced cuisine prepared by an internationally-trained team led by Executive Chef Justin Downes. The restaurant is situated in a renovated 1845 farmhouse with an outside “terrace” covered by new shade sails.
Ravine Winery Restaurant
1366 York Road, Saint Davids
Located in St Davids, a sub-appellation of Niagara, the 34-acre winery is home to a “self standing restaurant” — they bake bread, raise pigs and grow certified organic vegetables to use in their dishes. Chef/proprietor Paul Harber teamed up with Chef Nathan Young and winemaker Martin Werner to create a menu that is wine focused. Each dish complements the wines of Ravine, with suggested pairings from the vineyard cellar. The ingredients are preserved with “Ravine Pure And Free Preserves” so that their extremely local produce is available throughout the winter (during which the chefs create rustic comfort dishes with these little “drops of summer”). The Ravine Pure And Free Preserves pays homage to the old Lowry Bros Family Canning Factory that operated on their location over 100 years ago.
L’Orpailleur Winery – Le Restaurant du Tire-Bouchon
1086 Bruce Street, Dunham
This quaint Quebec vineyard provides a picturesque venue for parties and events, or, if you’re looking to relax, they have a special vine and spa package with the nearby Spa Eastman. Known as one of the first commercial vineyards in Quebec, L’Orpailleur’s Le Restaurant de Tire-Bouchon is the perfect place to rest after you’ve explored the winery — one that embodies all of the characteristics of Quebec’s wine scene.
Domaine de Grand Pré – Le Caveau Restaurant
11611 Highway 1, Grand Pré
Located in the heart of the Annapolis Valley, just outside of Wolfville, Le Caveau Restaurant is a 50 minute drive from Halifax. “Do not overlook Le Caveau … here in Nova Scotia,” says Wood. If you’re looking for an exceptional Nova Scotian dining experience, this is the place to be. Chef Jason Lynch and restaurant manager Beatrice Stutz emphasize regional products in their global cuisine infused menu. Each dish on the menu is matched with one of Domaine de Grand Pré’s wines. Sit on their outdoor terrace during their popular Martini Night, sip on a glass of wine on the pergola or enjoy a fancy meal in the dining room while you enjoy their unique atmosphere.
For those of us who are travelling south this September to get away from the ever-colder temperatures, here are a few intriguing wineries that’ll keep your palate begging for more.
Barnard Griffin Wine Bar and Eatery
878 Tulip Lane, Richland, Washington
On Tulip Lane, there sits three wineries, each with their own individual charm. That being said, Barnard Griffin Wine Bar and Eatery is the best choice. Whether it’s happy hour, a weekend lunch or an evening dinner, the local wines pair well with their bistro dishes (try the little flat bread pizzas for some interesting pairings). Their menu features fresh, local cuisine made in a contemporary style with Mediterranean flare. Throughout the week, they host fun events like Trivia Tuesday or live music on Friday and Saturday. They even have special tasting events. Their website has a full schedule listing of the events. Barnard Griffin is the only winery in the world to also have an artisan glass studio and gallery on the premises — db Studio & Gallery is full of charming art made from glass and other textiles created by winery co-owner and artist Deborah Barnard.
Ponzi Vineyards – The Dundee Bistro
100-A SW Seventh Street, Dundee, Oregon
Located right beside the Ponzi Wine Bar, The Dundee Bistro is the perfect stop for a beautiful meal after your tasting tour of the vineyard. Executive Chef Christopher Flanagan crafts a seasonal menu that emphasizes the intriguing characters of local fish, meat and produce. You’ll enjoy your meal and Ponzi wines surrounded by murals designed by Oregon artists and decorative wine bottles. If your taste buds are too saturated to enjoy another glass of wine (hey, it’s possible), Dundee Bistro also offers a selection of Oregon microbrews and direct fair trade, locally roasted coffee.
The Mountain Winery – Multiple Dining Options
14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga, CA
One thing that makes this place stand out from all of the other great wineries and restaurants in California is the concert venue. Visitors can purchase tickets to the concert itself in the grand amphitheatre or watch from the mountaintop patio. The Chateau Deck offers the elegance of fine dining coupled with an exquisite concert. The Backstage Brasserie on the Winery Deck features California comfort cuisine, inspired by the flavours of Italy; it sits above the amphitheatre and offers a view of the concert and the surrounding vineyards. Michi Sushi in the winery building, an ivy-covered building constructed in 1905, allows you to experience the “new wave” of sushi in an old-style ambience. Plaza Grill, Vineyard Terrace Wine and Martini Bar, and Marketplace Bistro on the Plaza are casual, just-passing-through options for those who want to see the other vineyards of California before the sun goes down.
Charles Smith Wines – First Thursday
400 W Moore St, Walla Walla, Washington
First thing to note is that this isn’t a winery restaurant but rather an event that is held in Charles Smith Wines’ Tasting Room. “For a number of years, Charles Smith would run Blues And BBQ,” says Bhatia. “Now it’s First Thursday and they bring in live bands of all sorts, have different food trucks parked outside and serve Charles Smith and K Vintners wines.” This is a unique opportunity to taste the wines from Washington State in an informal and fun atmosphere. “The event was great because it look all the pretence out of wines,” states Bhatia. “[That] made it fun and accessible while still maintaining high quality — exactly what wine is and should be about.”