The view from Poplar Grove Winery in Penticton, BC, is one of the best in the province’s famous Okanagan Valley. Okanagan Lake sparkles in the sunshine, and the rugged mountains across the water provide a dramatic counterpoint to the leafy vineyards surrounding the estate. But on this spring day, it’s the scenery inside the tasting room that steals the show.

New releases of pinot gris, rosé, and cabernet franc are lined up on the bar in elegant bottles, and the tasting room manager has just uncorked the 2017 Legacy, a Bordeaux-style red blend that showcases what’s possible in big reds north of the 49th parallel. It really is a view to savour. After priming your palette at this family-run winery, settle in for lunch at the restaurant, where Chef Stacy Johnston’s menu reflects what’s in season, from locally grown asparagus to ethically raised meat sourced from a nearby ranch.

Dining on farm-to-fork food paired with wine that reflects the valley’s terroir is one compelling reason to visit Penticton in the spring. Add in warm days where the mercury routinely hits 20C (68F) or higher, and fewer crowds than during the busy summer season, and this relaxed lakeside city is hard to beat for a weekend escape. Get ready to toast the many ways you can enjoy Penticton’s burgeoning foodie scene.

Raising a glass during BC Wine Month

Photo: Jamen Rhodes/Little Engine Wines

April is BC Wine Month, an annual event that kicks off wine touring season in the valley. Wineries launch their new vintages, and it’s an opportunity to try (and buy) 2023 releases of rosé, riesling, and more before they sell out. The hard part is deciding where to go — there are a whopping 25 wineries in town. That number climbs to almost 90 when you add in tasting rooms a bit farther afield, but still within just a short 20-minute drive of Penticton: along the road toward Naramata, over in Summerland, and south along Skaha Lake and in Okanagan Falls.

See what the buzz is about at a funky boutique winery like Ruby Blues, whose rock’n’roll vibe and motto — “Make Wine Not War” — will win you over before you even try the award-winning Viognier or easy-drinking Peace & Love & Bubbles, a sparkling rosé. Standing and sipping at the bar here, or at nearby Poplar Grove, is a great way to chat with other wine lovers and compare notes.

For a more in-depth experience, many wineries such as Nichol Vineyard and Little Engine Wines have moved to seated, experiential tastings. You get to relax with wine and a view and learn about some of the region’s 75 varietals, along with the climate and soil conditions that make this corner of the province perfect for grape growing.

Dining farm-to-table, Penticton style

Photo: Nadine Ashby / Kin & Folk

Not only do vineyards thrive here, orchards and farms weave a bucolic patchwork on the rolling hills around town. It’s no wonder the city’s restaurant menus nod to local produce, cheese, and honey, none more so than the salads and entrees at the Hooded Merganser, Penticton’s original farm-to-table restaurant with its own farm. In recent years, more seasonally driven restaurants have launched, helmed by chefs putting their own spin on the local bounty.

The stunning Orolo opened in 2023 in an old downtown movie theater, and the modern space — which shares a venue with the Chronos Tasting Room, both a part of the TIME Family of Wines — has elevated wine-paired dining in town. Kick off the night by sabering a bottle of bubbly next to the winery’s fermentation tanks, then enjoy a dinner of house-made tagliatelle with dry-aged beef and a side of local vegetables alongside a glass of the bold Chronos cabernet syrah.

Kin & Folk is another newcomer, whose Asian-inspired share plates like the Tofu & Mushrooms and Squash Bao Buns have quickly developed cult followings around town. Chef and co-owner Zachary Chan’s vision is to bring together friends and family with foods that reflect his heritage while incorporating fresh ingredients from valley purveyors. Save room for dessert — the tiramisu is life changing!

Following the Penticton Ale Trail

Photo: Chris Stenberg/Cannery Brewing

With eight craft breweries in a city of 35,000, Penticton has more breweries per capita than anywhere in the country, earning it the title of Craft Beer Capital of Canada. There’s even an annual Okanagan Fest of Ale (April 12-13, 2024) that celebrates local beers from across the province.

Brewery-hop downtown between lively Cannery, known for its crushable sours, and Slackwater, with fun seasonal sips like a tangerine pale and a pineapple sour. Tin Whistle is also worth checking out for its unique beers, including Merlot and Gewurztraminer “table beers” that are made using grape skins from the harvest of local winery Dirty Laundry — plus it’s BC’s first carbon-neutral brewery.

You can also literally follow the ale trail north along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a decommissioned railway line that’s now a recreational pathway. Head out on foot or by bicycle until you reach Abandoned Rail, one of Penticton’s newest craft breweries. Owners Scott and Nicole Breier live onsite and use estate-grown barley in their German-influenced beers like the smooth, dark Hefeweizen and the malty Bavarian lager.

You can also make the most of Penticton’s long days and golden evenings by getting a growler to go. Enjoying a beer in public is perfectly legal in select city parks and beaches, such as the Okanagan and Skaha lakefronts, between noon and 9pm year round.

Getting your caffeine fix with a view

Photo: Emma Tassie Photography/Wayne & Freda

If beer and wine aren’t your jam, it’s easy to fuel up on excellent lattes in this lakeside city. Start your day with a sustainable coffee at Wayne & Freda, a cafe with an expansive patio perfect for warm mornings outside. If you’re sticking around for a bit, order The Bacon, a habit-forming breakfast sandwich.

For a taste of Europe with a lake view, Crêperie Ooolala serves Italian-style espressos and traditional crêpes from a converted camper right next to the historic S.S. Sicamous, a sternwheeler that once ferried passengers across Okanagan Lake and is now open seasonally as a museum.

Hopefully all this fresh-from-the-farm food and drink has inspired you to stock your fridge and pantry. If so, check out the weekly Penticton Farmers’ Market (Saturdays starting April 20, 2024) on Main Street. Around 50 vendors sell everything from fresh apricots to zucchini, and you can also pick up locally made specialty items like infused vinegar, pasta sauces, and fruit wine.

These are just a few ideas for eating and drinking your way through Penticton. There are many more restaurants, wineries, breweries, and cafes around town worthy of exploration this spring. Join the foodies and try them all!