Fall brings copious culinary delights to British Columbia, with the rich flavours of harvest season pervading every corner of the province. Keep reading for seasonal sips, autumnal eats and cultural connections.
Three Sisters Winery | Destination BC/@vancouverfoodie
From beer and wine festivals to harvest-inspired production, fall is the perfect time to indulge in seasonal sips:
For a unique spin on the annual apple harvest in Prince George, Northern Lights Estate Winery is teaming up with the Northern Bear Awareness Society to educate the community about apples as a bear attractant. Locals and visitors are invited to pick and donate apples to Northern Lights, helping to deter bears while contributing to the winery’s apple wine production. The winery typically receives 15,000 – 20,000 pounds of apples each season, with the vintage changing year-to-year depending on the types of apples donated.
Commemorate Craft Beer Month in BC (October) with a self-guided BC Ale Trail adventure. The province is home to 235 craft breweries (many award winning) that employ more than 4,000 people—small operations that focus on BC production only, meaning fans are encouraged to travel the province to find their new favourite brew. The Ale Trail has 226 members and 50 associate members pouring pints in destinations like Kelowna and West Kelowna, Port Moody, Sunshine Coast, Squamish, Victoria, and Vancouver.
The Fall Okanagan Wine Festival (September 29 – October 9) shines a spotlight on BC’s stellar terroir with a series of events and tastings in a region considered among the top wine destinations in the world. Taking place in the heart of harvest season, the festival features vineyard tours, lunch among the vines, and seminars hosted by award-winning sommeliers and chefs.
During fall, there’s no better feeling than cozying up beside a campfire amid fresh air and the scents of sizzling cookout fare. Covert Farms Family Estate offers private campfire cookouts in September and October, where guests can book their own pit complete with a ready-to-grill kit. On the menu: Two Rivers organic hot dogs or smokies, s’mores, and a half bottle of wine (organic juice is available for the kiddies). The experience also includes time to roam the farm and pick a pumpkin, for an additional charge.
From pumpkin-picking to all-ages farm tours, ‘tis the season to taste your way across BC’s culinary-minded communities:
While pumpkins and apples might come to mind when considering fall’s edible delights, did you know it’s also the start of the dungeness crab harvest? In Prince Rupert, Dai Fukasaku of Fukasaku Prince Rupert sources crab—and other fish—from the sea next to his pier-side restaurant. Mating season for dungeness crab is late summer and early fall, meaning they are plentiful this time of year. Fukasaku seizes this seasonal opportunity, making decadent crab rolls, crab cakes, and even crab ramen.
Seeking a picture-perfect pumpkin-picking experience? Taves Family Farms in Abbotsford boasts a picturesque patch with plenty of photo opps, including a princess carriage and pumpkin path. There’s also an apple cider mill, with hard cider at Taves Estate Cidery for the big kids. Fun fact: It takes approximately 25 apples to make one gallon of apple cider!
The annual nut harvest takes place between September and November in Kelowna’s Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park, a century-old orchard on the shores of Okanagan Lake. Here, visitors can sample hazelnuts, walnuts, chestnuts, and buartnuts, which can be purchased onsite. There’s also a playground, beach, walking trails, and heritage buildings.
The Okanagan’s South Asian-owned wineries are playing an important role in the region’s evolution, adding a unique perspective into local wine culture:
Kalala Organic Estate Winery, located in West Kelowna, prioritizes harmony between nature and viticulture practices. Naming his winery after the word for “Miracle Place,” owner Karnail Sidhu moved to Canada in 1993 to pursue a better life for his wife and future family. When Canada did not recognize his electrical engineering degree, he went back to his roots of organic farming, starting at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in 1995 and planting his own grapes in 2003. Today, Kalala produces a variety of reds, whites, rosés, and ice wines, as well as dostana (“friendship”), a small-batch, single-vineyard brand made from a small plot of 35-year-old vines.
With vineyards located between Oliver and Osoyoos, Kismet Estate Winery is one of the largest family-owned estate wineries in the Okanagan. Brothers Sukwinder (Sukhi) and Balwinder Dhaliwal immigrated from the Punjab state of India and worked for other vineyards, including Covert Farms Family Estate and Black Sage, before jointly purchasing their first piece of property in 1996. In 1999, they started selling their grapes to Arterra . By 2010, they were producing up to 400 tonnes of fruit and selling it to 10 different wineries. In 2011, they opened Kismet Estate Wineries, and now, they grow grapes on nearly 202 hectares (500 acres) of land and win awards for their wine every year. Their winery also has an Indian restaurant serving flavourful fare like samosas, butter chicken, and biryani.
Gold Hill Winery in Oliver was founded by brothers Sant and Gurbachan Gill, who grew up in the Indus Valley in Punjab. With their farming history stretching back generations, the Gill brothers immigrated to the Okanagan in the 1980s to join their family, who had already established themselves as farmers. In 1995, they purchased a nine-hectare (24-acre) sited planted with fruit orchards and slowly converted it to vineyards. The brothers opened their winery in 2009 and continue to supply many local wineries with their estate-grown grapes.
In 2006, Suki Sekhon purchased an 89-hectare (220-acre) site—today called Vanessa Vineyard —sitting high on a hillside overlooking the Similkameen Valley. While Sekhon comes from a long line of farmers, he was initially drawn to the site through his background in commercial real estate, as he investigated the possibility of leasing vineyards. Ultimately, he decided to buy the land and sell his crop to local wine producers; it was when he realized the fruit was extremely high quality that he decided to try making his own varietals. Today, Vanessa Vineyard’s award-winning wines are marked by rich tannins and subtle minerality, a distinctive taste provided by the site’s rocky terrain.
TIME TO SHINE
Darrien McWatters, operations manager at TIME Family of Wines in Penticton, and her sister Christa-Lee, general manager, have been named among the Wine Industry Networks’ 10 most inspiring people . Comprising industry leaders who exemplify innovation and inspiration, the list lauded Darrien and Christa-Lee for their adaptability through the evolution of the wine industry, their father’s death, and the global pandemic. During the latter, the sisters sold their winery to new owners and planned an expansion that will see a second location at District Wine Village in Oliver and the purchase of a vineyard near Osoyoos. Darrien’s journey towards completing her gender transition in 2021 has cemented her status as trailblazer and role model—she hopes sharing her story will help others on their own journeys.
At the Naramata Inn, deep within wine country, Chef de Cuisine Stacy Johnson and her partner, Chef Minette Lotz, have been gaining major recognition. Both chefs dabbled in nationwide fame after appearing in an A&W commercial filmed on location at the inn in summer 2021. This year, the duo took their place as resident chefs at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario (August 25-28), demonstrating their artistry and vision of what Canadian cuisine can be. Naramata Inn is idyllically situated between Lake Okanagan and the Kettle Valley Railway, and is anchored by a hyperlocal restaurant and bar helmed by famed Canadian chef Ned Bell.