A Saturday Ride with Friends, Wine and Sunshine
Making the most out of a sunny day in Creston...
by Ilana Cameron
Saturdays in Creston offer a unique opportunity to sample our abundance of local produce and the ever increasing value-added products created from them. The outdoor farmers' market is the hub to find the fruits of these labours and to meet the locals that produce them. After the market finishes there's also plenty of day left, so why not sample some wine? Even better, why not ride your bike to the wineries and bring some friends along for the adventure?
- Budget: $60-$200 (Depends on how much sampling you want to do and how many friends you bring along)
- Difficulty: Easy (paved bike paths and wide shoulders along streets and roads)
- Time: 2.5 - 5 hours
- Highlights: Free samples, delicious treats, light workout, flexible budget, huge variety of scenery
- Where: Creston Valley Farmers Market, Summit Cycles, Skimmerhorn Winery, Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery
Creston Valley Farmers' Market
Start your day by attending the Creston Valley Farmers' Market which runs from 9am-1pm every Saturday from May to September beside the Creston Valley Visitor Centre (121 NW Boulevard). Thanks to recent changes in British Columbia's liquor licenses you can now find local wines and spirits at the market alongside seasonal produce vendors, artisans and much more. Just a hop and skip away from Creston's iconic grain silos, the location also offers scenic views of the Creston flats, highlighting the community's namesake of "Crest"- Town.
I decided to bring my friend Jensen, who is new to the Valley, here to get a taste of Creston hospitality. It didn't take long for him so sample all that was available while also making new friends amongst the market's vendors and patrons.
After the market Jensen and I decided to continue our adventurous Saturday by cycling to a couple wineries in Erickson, the rural farming area south and east of Creston. Since Jensen didn't have a bicycle we went down to Summit Cycles to rent one for the day ($30.00 including helmet and lock) and met the new owners, Daniel Secor and Christine Park. After managing and working at The Bike Kitchen at the University of British Columbia and Our Community Bikes, Daniel and Christine moved to Creston a couple of years ago for new opportunities and a change of lifestyle, taking over Summit Cycles this spring from the original owner Robert Unger.
Christine talked with us about their vision for shop, "We want to be a community hub for cyclists, because we are such passionate cyclists and it's something really important to us, to help make it more accessible to everyone. Eventually we will expand to support more outdoor sports too so that we are a hub for all of that."
Aside from their bike services, they also offer advice on where to ride, have ski and snowshoe rentals and stock lots of other outdoor equipment for your next adventure!
Path to the Wineries
After a couple of friends joined us at the shop, we put on our helmets and pedaled out of town along the Rotary path. Starting behind Pealows Independent Grocer on Cook Street, this paved path follows along beside the rail line before crossing Cedar street, and ending at the Creston Library parking lot. After that you'll take a right onto 16th Ave for a short half block ride until you reach Erickson road.
(Map image sourced from Google Maps)
Once you get to Erickson road and take a left you will gently climb until you get to your next turn on 25th Avenue south. Make a right there and enjoy the views of the Mount Thompson & Skimmerhorn sub-range on east side of the valley. Take a left on Connel and follow it as it curves to the right. The two wineries will be on your left shortly afterwards – once you crest your last hill. While the route is more than safe, it's advisable to be cautious whenever you encounter cars along shared roadways!
Home to four wineries in the last fifteen years, the Creston Valley is quickly growing a reputation as a wine growing mecca for good reason! With a long history of agriculture in the valley and BC's third warmest climate, it was only a matter of time before wineries, cideries and distilleries "cropped up" to take advantage of living in such a fertile place. More than a dozen years ago Skimmerhorn Winery was the first to do so, renowned for not just their wines but also for a tasting room,bistro, and incredible patio which overlooks the vineyard and the south side of the Creston Valley.
Erika Stavinga (left) was our incredibly knowledgeable wine tasting host at Skimmerhorn. She started us with their whites going dry to sweet, then moved on to their slightly effervescent rose and finished with their reds. This is her first year working in the wine industry and is clearly excited to learn as much as possible, keeping her wine term dictionary close at hand for studying.
We then decided to take a moment to enjoy the afternoon sunshine, so we grabbed a bottle to share, ordered one of their cheese and meat boards, which featured homemade buns, local meats, pickled asparagus and cheeses from Kootenay Alpine Cheese Company. Sitting on the patio, we enjoyed the southerly view overlooking the winery, Goat River, and rolling hills and farms of the Lister area. We were joined by several hummingbirds as well, who caught the attention of several birders from the Creston Valley Bird Fest who were at the bistro as well!
Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery
Our next stop was Baillie Grohman Estate Winery, conveniently located next door to Skimmerhorn and offering their own wine tastings, several cheese and meat platters, as well as their own terrace where you can bring your own picnic and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Skimmerhorn Mountains to the East.
Owned & operated by husband and wife duo, Bob Johnson and Petra Flaa along with their son and head wine-maker Wes Johnson, Baillie-Grohman Winery has rapidly developed a reputation for its world class wines, collecting an impressive list of accolades and awards to prove it. Most recently, the winery won the "Best in show" varietal award at the Okanagan Wine Festival for their 2018 Recolte Blanche and silver for their 2018 Blanc de Noirs (Rose) and Gewurztraminer!
Needless to say, we had a lovely time sampling wines on the terrace and chatting with our host Brenda Silkie, who has been working with the winery for several years and truly knows and can explain the distinct aromas and flavours in each vintage.
With the sun finally starting to set and the air cooling, we concluded our evening by making the short bike ride back in to town - Jensen's bike has to be returned by 6pm after all! All in all, it was a fantastic way to spend a sunny Saturday touring the Creston Valley with a new resident and friends!
On a final note, please drink responsibly. Should you need it, you can always call a taxi at 1 250 428 - 5545.
What To Pack
- Water bottle (the rental bicycles come with handy a water cage)
- Layers (you might want to sit on the patio at one of the wineries, weather changes quickly).
Thirsty for more?
Other options in the valley for wine, cider or distilleries:
William Tell Family Estate makes fruit vinegars, spreads, sparkling rose and ciders. While they do not have a tasting room yet, you can find them at the Creston Valley Farmers' Market every Saturday or their products at several stores in the area.
Wynnwood Winery (5566 BC-3A, Wynndel, BC) - Situated on the rocky slopes of the valley overlooking Duck Lake and Kootenay Lake to the north, Creston's other established winery offers a variety of varieties, which can be found at liquor stores, local resaturants, and at the farmers' market. Or stop by on your way the Kootenay Ferry and do an entertaining wine tasting with the always gregarious owner-operator, Dave Basaraba!
Red Bird Winery (1046 Lamont Road, Creston BC) - the newest winery to the Creston Valley, which opened in 2017, offers a variety of wines that can be found at most local restaurants as well as the Farmers Market. Be sure to try their unique Meritage blend, a Quebec inspired mix Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Wynndel Craft Distilleries (1331 Channel Road, Wynndel BC) - Located on the Creston flats near Duck Lake, the distillery has a tasting room where you can sample their delicious collection of brandies, gins, liquors, schapps, and vodkas made from local fruits and produce. Drop by their on-site tasting room or book a tour in advance.
(All images in this post are courtesy of Jensen Shields)