I started Wine Country BC for a number of reasons. One of which was to provide a little local knowledge for tourists who come to visit BC’s most famous wine region. Why was that an issue, you ask? It’s because when I was working at a busy wine store in Penticton, I would get questions like this:
Customer: Do you have any suggestions for where the best wineries are?
Me: Sure, there are lots of places. What kind of wines do you like?
Customer: Big reds.
Me: Well those are all around but most of those varieties are grown in the south between Oliver and Osoyoos. The valley looks different in the south and if you’ve never been, I’d recommend going there for the day.
Customer: Um, yeah, we looked at that on the map, but, it looks really far. Are there any gas stations there?
Customer: We weren’t sure if there were going to be restaurants or anything down there.
Customer: We’ve been to Naramata before. Maybe we’ll just go there again.
With apologies to my sister, who is a writer, you can’t make this kind of stuff up. Although it many ways, I wish that I had. Apparently, the world beyond McIntyre Bluff is seen as a wild, untamed hinterland, inhospitable and dangerous for urbanites to explore without a standard-issue SUV and a Starbucks. Misinformed though it was, this was not the only conversation of this type that I had that summer.
The idea for Wine Country BC began that day.
This leads me to a more recent addition to our list of secret wine touring information that may not yet be on the radar of wine tourists. The food truck phenomena has come to the Okanagan. Food trucks have been all the rage in cities like Portland for years and Vancouver has caught on lately as well. You may be surprised to know that the town of Oliver (now with 3 traffic lights) has 4 – count ‘em – 4 food trucks – all on Highway 97 and each with their specialty.
Hammer’s House of Hog – The second truck to appear in Oliver in 2011 set up shop south of Oliver on Highway 97. Hammer specializes in authentic southern BBQ, not grilling, but real smoked brisket, ribs tips, and pork shoulder roasts cooked in two large smokers. Like an olfactory billboard, it is impossible not to smell the wonderful smokey aromas when you pass on the highway. The pulled pork sandwiches are unbeatable and come with a choice of 4 house-made sauces and coleslaw.
Beach Bum Lunch Box – My heart skipped a beat when I first tasted the Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches made by Quebecois Marguerite and Charles. As a frequent visitor to Ben’s in Montreal when I lived in Quebec, I learned what smoked meat should really be and smoked meat at Beach Bum is the closest to the real thing that I’ve tasted outside of Quebec. The most diverse menu of the food trucks, you can get pizzas, nachos, wraps, and paninis. Et biensure, ils ont des hotdogs steamé.
Jampee’s Thai Kitchen – The most recent addition and the farthest outside of the town of Oliver, Jampee moved her business from West Kelowna to set up shop at the EZ Fuel station north of Oliver on Highway 97. From her truck you can see Covert Farms to the west and the Jackson-Trigg’s winery east across the highway. The intersection is the beginning of the famous Black Sage Road so starting or ending a tour here is easy. The portions are generous and tasty. I recommend the pad thai with prawns.
Mr. Spud – The original food truck in Oliver has been here for as long as I can remember (although I’ve only lived here for 5 and half years). They are also frequent vendors at the Festival of the Grape, which is where I’ve indulged in their fries often over the past few years. Their home base is usually in the lot next to the government liquor store across from A&W.
So there you go – creative choices for some great quick eats when on a wine tour in the Oliver area.
Cheers from wine country!