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The Terrace offers incredible food, wine pairings and a stunning view of the valley.
My trip to Kelowna’s Mission Hill Family Estate Winery was food-focused, rather than vino-centric. Their restaurant, The Terrace, is open for the summer and I couldn’t pass up the chance to try the award-winning restaurant at an award-winning winery. Prior to eating we took a tour of the expansive grounds. And despite coming here for the food, the tour started like all good summer winery tours—with a glass of something chilled and crisp.
Ours was Exhilaration Brut, which is all-Chardonnay and reminiscent of effervescent apricots, apples and pears with a lingering acidity. Mission Hill sits upon a large hill (surprise!) overlooking the valley below. The winery was established in 1981 with imported European stonework and trees that together remind me of the Spanish mission architecture that I grew up around back in California. The archways and 11-story bell tower hammer home this old-world energy, but the many sculptures ground me in modernity. There’s a lot of that juxtaposition here; a winery that’s rooted in tradition but is also forward-thinking with their vast organic orchards, rain entrapment systems, and composting methods.
Our tour soon took us out of the hot Kelowna sun as we traveled down a spiral staircase to a large underground cellar. The cellar is filled with barrels, and there’s even more hidden behind a secret door. But here, surrounded by dormant volcanic stone, we get a taste of old-school wineries. A small amount of sunlight shines into the cellar from an opening in the ground above, called the oculus. This natural light delicately illuminates the French oak Barriques. Here we sampled the aptly named Oculus; a Merlot dominant Bordeaux-style wine that is bursting with blackcurrant with a hint of anise. The finish is long and rich with balanced tannins—ideal for underground sipping.
Back upstairs and set above the winery’s orchards The Terrace restaurant features seasonal fare and local produce. The estate has a lush garden where beehives, herbs and a full orchard are tended to and then utilized by the culinary team. By practicing traditional preservation methods like canning, pickling and curing, executive chef Patrick Gayler captures the flavours of the seasons and carries them throughout the year, supplying dishes that are elevated by relishes and sauces that are made at the height of ripeness.
The menu at The Terrace changes regularly, as seasonality plays into what’s available. On my trip in June 2022, we took part in the two-course lunch prix fixe ($70 per person) including wine pairings. Before diving into the two-course lunch (and a glass or two deep) we tried the French fries and a charcuterie platter. The fries were of the crazy-hot, extra-crisp yet fluffy variety. That is to say, they are my favourite style of fry (don’t come for me, shoestring people). Plus, they were served with confit garlic mayo, which is definitely the best iteration of mayo, full stop.
As you can see the fries were also served with ketchup, but next to the confit garlic mayo, it had little appeal.
The charcuterie platter included house-cured meats: pepperoni with dried espelette and cayenne, salami with golden fennel from their garden and pork loin with anise and fennel. I’m a cured meat kind of gal, and these were right up my alley. The cheeses were local finds: Grass Roots Dairies beaufort (an alternative to parmesan) was a clear winner at our table, thanks to its bold yet buttery flavour. But the Mount Ida brie and truffle gouda were also intensely flavourful.
To compliment all the richness from the charcuterie, house-made pickles, blueberry rhubarb compote and a tangy relish (that’s a secret family recipe) made an appearance. Of course, no charcuterie platter is complete without some kind of carb-y vessel, and the naturally fermented sourdough from Sprout Bread was tasty enough to eat all by itself–although we didn’t have to, because a small dish with rosemary oil and quince vinegar came with. The rosemary flavour is strong, heady and almost pine-like while the sharp, yet sweet quince vinegar cuts through to create balance. Served with the charcuterie and fries was the Exhilaration Brut Rosé. Made with Pinot Noir, this rosé tastes like summertime berries and stone fruit thanks to bright acidity and a crisp finish that brightened each bite.
For my first official course I chose the asparagus with estate-grown tarragon. Asparagus might not seem like the most seasonal veg in June, but after a particularly chilly spring, the Okanagan is three weeks behind the normal produce timeline. Prepared just tender enough, it retained a crisp bite and an inherent sweetness that tasted balanced when paired with greens and lightly bitter garlic chips. A puree of tarragon topped the dish and brought a licorice-like herbaceousness to everything it enveloped. Slow-cooked bacon added richness and salinity to the delicate dish, and sea buckthorn verjus a key acidic note. A puree of sunchokes provided a buttery, velvety base where all the other flavours could mingle. On the menu, this dish is paired with the 2021 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, however while on our tour we heard about the Naramata Ranch 2020 Pinot Gris-Chardonnay and were dying to try it. A unique, complex yet smooth blend with notes of pineapple and peach, this wine was incredibly easy to drink and paired particularly well with asparagus.
Next up was Dueck Farms chicken with pine mushrooms. I was surprised when the chicken arrived as a ballantine, rolled tight and stuffed with mushrooms. It was incredibly tender. So tender that I would say it must have been poached or cooked sous-vide, as it didn’t have any exterior crispness. The chicken itself wasn’t super bold in flavour but was served alongside a deeply-umami forward black garlic jus and a puree. Beautiful pine mushrooms brought a unique texture to the dish and played well with the black garlic jus, adding additional umami depth.
To be honest, the reason I chose this dish is because it came with cornbread, and I always say yes to cornbread. Crisp-cornered yet tender inside, it tasted like nostalgic summer and soaked up the black garlic jus and puree while still retaining its shape. Truly my favourite bite of the day. The chicken was served alongside the 2019 Prospectus which is 100-percent Pinot Noir. I find pairing wine with umami-forward foods a little tricky, however this glass brought complex acidity, a deep cherry note, and silky tannins that not only married well, but elevated the deeply savoury meal.
I tried all three desserts that were offered. (when in Kelowna, right?) The chocolate cheesecake was silky and ganache-like, served atop a ring of caramel-y praline and garnished with crisp honeycomb and a fluffy coffee cream. Although the cream didn’t taste super coffee-like to me, I preferred it this way, since the chocolate and praline had enough bitter notes to balance the dish. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and fruit, but here local haskap berries added acidity and a syrupy sweetness that brought out the tanginess in the cheesecake in an addictive way. The roasted B.C. blueberry dessert came with a dense and crumbly almond cake and lemon-less curd that was made with verjus instead of citrus. Silky in texture, the curd was so lemon-like that if I’d tasted it without knowing, I’d have sworn it was the real thing. The blueberries were roasted until they split, bursting with sweetness and mixing with the curd and cake as a sauce. The final dessert was full of spring flavour. The strawberry-rhubarb ganache was soft, almost like pudding and subtly tart. Macerated strawberries on top added a concentrated sweetness, brown sugar crumble provided texture and basil chantilly subtle anise.
I’m not going to lie, this meal felt like a splurge, but on a weekend in wine country I’m definitely more prone to treat myself. And this is a treat yourself moment that’s worth traveling for. The sustainable and innovative uses of farm fresh produce isn’t all talk: the food is awesome. Pair that with some of the best wine in the valley and you have yourself a pretty show-stopping experience worthy of the journey up the hill.
The Terrace at Mission Hill Winery
Address: 1730 Mission Hill Rd, West Kelowna
Book your tasting via their website: missionhillwinery.com