Restaurants: Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, Okanagan Valley, BC: Local food with a view

Oliver, British Columbia / September 1, 2010 / dinner

Winederlust Rating (details below): 7.9 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes


The last time Jay and I visited the Okanagan Valley – sometimes called “Canada’s Napa Valley” – was in 2005, when my brother was married in a lovely ceremony at Gray Monk Estate Winery. The Okanagan, a scenic five-hour drive east of Vancouver, boasts some of the loveliest vineyards anywhere in the world. Many of them are on the banks of the Okanagan River and offer sweeping views of the water and the vines, many of which slope down to the river’s edge.

Jay and I spent one night at the glorious Hester Creek Estate Winery, which boasted one of the best views we’ve had from a hotel in a long time. Our private patio looked out onto the breathtaking vineyards below.

View from our room at The Villa at Hester Creek.

Since the hotel didn’t have its own restaurant, we made reservations for dinner at the Sonora Room Restaurant at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, about a five-minute drive away. This restaurant also offered magnificent views of the vineyards and mountains behind them, though we could only enjoy them briefly before the sun set. Inside the restaurant was one big room with high ceilings, somewhat in the style of a Spanish hacienda.

The restaurant specializes in locally sourced foods, as we saw right away with our amuse-bouche: Harker’s Temptation melon (from just down the road) on a spoon with smoked ahi tuna, balsamic, and pea shoots on top – light and flavorful with the smokiness of the tuna.

Of course, we had to drink wines from the home vineyard. I tried a 2007 Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir and Jay enjoyed a 2007 Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc. The Pinot was a lighter style with candy apple and pepper on the finish, while the Cab Franc was in a bigger style than the North Fork Cab Francs we’re used to, but round and well-balanced with bright cherry flavors.

Burrowing Owl wines (with fruit fly protectors on top!).

We started with the spot prawns with red pepper paper, yellow watermelon (I usually don’t like watermelon, but this yellow version had a refreshing sweetness), and squid ink. Surprisingly, this components of this dish worked well together – the watermelon and tangy red pepper were light enough to balance the delicate flavor of the spot prawns.

Spot prawns with red pepper paper, yellow watermelon, and squid ink.

We also shared a tasty morel mushroom and corn soup, with chive oil drizzled on top. The soup was rich with corn flavor before the woodsy mushroom taste emerged.

Morel mushroom and corn soup.

Our first main course was the Osoyoos sockeye salmon on lentils with local pork and green beans topped with candied apple. The candied apple was actually a nice addition to the dish, lending a hint of sweetness to the smoky lentils and heavy fish. Our one complaint about this dish was that it definitely evoked fall flavors, though we were still experiencing summer 90-degree days in the Okanagan!

Osoyoos sockeye salmon on lentils with local pork and green beans topped with candied apple.

Our next dish was the spiced duck breast on spinach spaetzle with vegetables, carrots, turnips, spinach, beet greens, and plums served with a brown butter sauce. The duck, spiced with cloves, nutmeg, and pepper, didn’t have much visible fat and was juicy and tender, nicely complementing the surprisingly light-tasting spaetzle.

Spiced duck breast on spinach spaetzle.

We finished our meal with a peach tart with French vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce served with plums and sour grapes – a lovely dish that reminded us summer was still in the air.

Peach tart with French vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Burrowing Owl. The atmosphere and quality of the dishes, plus the use of many local ingredients, were a great welcome to the local Okanagan cuisine.

– by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief


Winederlust Rating Details (out of 10):

Food: 8.0 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine: 8.0 (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service: 7.5 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 8.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)
Price Range$$$ (Expensive)


Essential Information: 

Sonora Room Restaurant at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery / Black Sage Road, Oliver, British Columbia

Direct Line: (250) 498-0620


Hours and days open vary depending upon time of year; check website for the latest details.





“I just don’t see Big Wine allowing labels on wine reading something like this: This wine was dealcoholized by reverse osmosis and smoothed out with micro-oxygenation. Ingredients: Water, alcohol, grapes, chestnut tannin, oak extract, oak dust, genetically modified yeast, urea, enzymes, grape juice, tartaric acid, bentonite, and Velcorin.” – Alice Feiring, The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization

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