Spring in the Okanagan brings many things: daffodils, fruit tree blossoms â€“ and the occasional freakish cold snap. They usually hit mid-April, and this one came with hail / snow / rain and gale-force winds. The kind of wind that makes me think of battening down the hatches. Whatever hatches are.
After a depressingly cold spring day (those words so donâ€™t look right together), I like to think about being sometime else â€“ itâ€™s being at a different time, but in the same spot. Got it? Hope so. It was on a cold spring day that I tasted wine from an Okanagan winery I hadnâ€™t tried. Shocking, I know. Hey, I canâ€™t drink 24/7. Although it has worked well for other writersâ€¦
There was a bottle of â€™06 Reserve Merlot from Hillside Estate Winery hanging around the house, and I needed to take the chill off the day. Hello, corkscrew â€“ meet bottle.
Snide Sideways comments aside (you know who you are), merlot does fairly well in the okanagan and Hillside definitely makes an easy drinker out of it. Take a bag of overripe cherries, sit down on a hay bale thatâ€™s baked all afternoon in the hot August sun, then open the bag of cherries and inhale. Repeat. Yeah. Thatâ€™s this wine. Itâ€™s ready to drink now, so donâ€™t wait.
Hillside is, not surprisingly,Â builtÂ up the actual hillside along the Naramata Bench. Theyâ€™ve got a sweet little bistro-typeÂ eating spot with a killer patio thatâ€™s aching to be crammed with people laughing, drinking and doing all that fun summer stuff you do on a patio.
On the day I tried the bistro it wasnâ€™t yet warm enough for patio action, so my friend Allison and I sat by the gigantic windows and took in what view we could from the inside â€“ which was a lot. Then the wine came. And the food. Hell yeah.
Their new executive chef Robert Cordonier has lots of wine-bistro-y food on the menu. From duck confit to mussels, theyâ€™ve got it. I tried the daily special â€“ always try a daily special; it’s special for a reason.Â Penne, sautĂ©ed mushrooms and bits of caramelized onion with just enough garlic. Pasta perfection, enjoyed with a (recommended) glass of their â€™09 Muscat Ottonel. Fresh. I need to do dinner at Hillside with my fella this summer.
Oh â€“ one more thing: I asked, andÂ Chef Rob emailed me the how-to on making this dish. What a sweetie. Thanks.
So Allison and I sat. And ate. And chatted for over two hours. Lunching over good food with pretty wine and a new friend is a great way to un*wine*d, no matter what the weather.