November 10, 2010

quail's gate winery - part i (west kelowna)

The Old Vines Restaurant at Quail's Gate Winery was our next winery meal. Quail's Gate is one of the more famous wineries in the Okanagan, and is located in Westbank, across the lake. The Old Vines is also one of the few winery restaurants that is open year-round. They've won awards and commendations from across North America, and so here we were to see what the hype's all about.

The winery grounds slope downhill (it's a mountain after all) and as-is seemingly tradition, gives a gorgeous view of Lake Okanagan. Sadly the day we visited, the much-promised rain clouds had arrived, but we got lucky and had a few dry hours to walk the vineyard.

This little guy was standing sentry, looking forward to a post-rainshower meal. It was amazing how many different species of birds I saw around, and dear God, how I did not miss the cacophony of seagulls! It was so nice to just hear birds chirping and singing while zipping in and out of the vines. If you're a nature lover, the Okanagan definitely offers something for you to see.

Old Vines celebrates the seasons using the freshest local ingredients available in the Okanagan and Southern BC. The menus change constantly depending on what's available, and they offer daily specials based on what's particularly bursting off the trees. The room is divided into 3 sections: a wine bar, the main dining area, and the patio. There's windowed doors all along the perimete which let in plenty of natural light, and on this particular brunch, I don't even remember any lighting in the dining room being on. Though it was overcast out, there was plenty of light shining through the doors.

The patio just outside the main restaurant was closed up due to the weather. I am definitely coming back here during the warmer months - I would love to just sit back with some friends and enjoy the night air while listening to nature do its thing. You can truly revel in the simple pleasures out here that you wouldn't get a chance to in the bigger cities.

I should mention that I'm just beginning to develop my wine palate so I won't be mentioning our wine tastings much during my Okanagan reports. I just wouldn't know what to say.

As our previous evening's dinner at Raudz, the head chef at Old Vines was also the Chefs Congress so our meal may not be representative of what Old Vines should be capable of. Is that a proper excuse? No - it really isn't. A properly trained restaurant should be able to replicate the dining experience anytime they're open regardless of who is and isn't in the kitchen - but I thought I should mention it nevertheless.

That being said, I ordered a corn chowder to start, it being a chilly day. Also, I knew I'd be going light with the rest of the meal, so I really wanted something warming. When I think corn chowder, especially during corn season, I'm looking for something that's just exploding in "corn-iness" - either a light broth with loads of corn kernels and veg, or a nice thick chowder seeping of natural sweetness from every mouthful. Instead I got watered down Campbells with a few kernels bobbing around, looking lost in the thin pool of bland dark beige liquid that was presented to me. To say it was underseasoned would be an understatement as it didn't taste much of anything, let alone corn. Well okay, it sort of tasted like brunt cream. This was such a sad sad bowl of food that I neglected to take a picture and was filled with dread in anticipation for the rest of my meal.

Thankfully my next course did meet my expectations. Keeping my mantra of fresh and local, I ordered their "Farm To Table" salad which was fresh greens and vegetables from their garden, toasted almonds, goat cheese and a citrus vinaigrette. Every mouthful was an explosion of summer bounty and I enjoyed every last bite. This was the first time I'd eaten raw beans and I loved it! At $16, it was quite pricey for a green salad, but the portion was quite large and it filled me up nicely.

For dessert, they were offering a raspberry trio which I jumped at. Raspberry season had ended in Vancouver a month prior, so I was more than happy to partake in fresh local berries whenever I could get them. The dish consisted of raspberries macerated in Quail's Gate Optima wine (think icewine) and raspberry financier batonnets topped with homemade raspberry gelato. The macerated berries were excellent - the syrupy sweet Optima masked any late-season sourness that may be present. The financiers, eaten alone, were clearly past their prime and were stale and tough. None of that light buttery smoothness that one expects from a fresh financier, or even one that's been properly stored. Fortunately mixing it with the macerated berries helped save it, and actually, elevated the whole thing since the tough pastry actually gave a texture contrast from the mushy berries. Was that what they had in mind to begin with? I don't know, but it worked. The gelato was excellent - light and flavourful, bursting with little pockets of fruit. Perfect on its own, and even better when mixed with the macerated berries. Proof positive that anything is better with freshly made berry syrup.

The next part of the review will cover my parents dishes, and show you more of the winery grounds.
Old Vines Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I disagree with your comment on the restaurant. I have eaten there many times(including special events)since it has opened. I have taken many friends there as well. Never have I had a bad or even average meal. Service always great as well.

I recommend it often without hesitation.

slif said...

And I truly do wish I had the same experience at QG, but alas, I did not