Wine Culture Magazine

This summer sees an exciting new culinary program alongside the winery’s classic aromatic whites

The patio at Gray Monk’s Lookout Restaurant is said to have the best views in the Okanagan Valley. Photo courtesy of Gray Monk

In 1976, the country’s first Pinot Gris vines were planted at Gray Monk Estate Winery in Lake Country. Since then, the Okanagan Valley’s oldest family-owned and -operated estate winery has seen its ups and downs, highs and lows, more of them than one might prefer just in the last few years.

Yet the Gray Monk team is facing the 2024 season with optimism and plenty of exciting new things to savour.

“This year is a bit challenging because of the weather we’ve had, although we’re probably better off than a lot of places because of our location and our size,” says the winery’s executive chef Graham Momer. Adds winemaker Jen Oishi: “Vintage 2023 is a small crop, but overall it was really good quality.”

Since Gray Monk was founded half a century ago by wine country pioneers George and Trudi Heiss, it has been best-known for its aromatic whites, especially its namesake Pinot Gris (known as “Grauar Mönch”—grey monk—in Austria). Andrew Peller Ltd., which has owned Gray Monk since 2017, is dedicated to continuing the winery’s traditions.

In Lake Country, it’s all about fresh, cool-climate wines like Gray Monk’s famous Pinot Gris and other aromatic white varieties.

As Oishi, who has worked here since 2011 and been winemaker since 2019, says: “I’m trying to respect George and Trudi’s legacy, but modernize it as well.”

She’s excited for the just-released 2023 vintage, which includes a Pinot Blanc rich with melon, tropical and orchard fruit along with good acidity and texture and a Pinot Gris that lives up to its famous reputation, “juicy with stone fruit and ripe apple.” Alongside is a small quantity of estate-grown Kerner, Ehrenfelser and Siegerrebe, hard-to-find aromatic varieties that tempt with their pretty floral notes.

Meanwhile, chef Momer is planning an exciting new menu for The Lookout restaurant’s spring reopening on May 9.

Where last year he focused on wine-paired, multi-course set menus, this year he’s taking a more casual approach, noting, “Customers want to choose their own adventure.” He is offering about a dozen “simple but awesome” share plates of “locally sourced, internationally influenced” fare, mostly Italian, but with some Asian and Middle Eastern flavours too.

He thinks guests will love the arancini — “my goal is to make them the cheesiest arancini anyone has ever eaten”—and his modern take on a prawn cocktail, served with wasabi mayo and honey-and-lime “caviar.” There’s also an irresistible buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with truffle mayo, organic chicken with house-made hemp gnocchi and, for dessert, a show-stopper sticky chocolate pudding he calls “a hot fudge sundae but with cake.”

Chef Graham Momer’s new menu features sharable, crowd-pleasing dishes that pair perfectly with Gray Monk wines.

Momer is keenly aware that many guests are price-sensitive right now and says, “If you want to have a crispy chicken sandwich and a glass of wine, you can do it for under $40. And that’s my favourite thing to eat, too.”

Of course, wine pairings are always available, along with an elevated wine-tasting experience that pairs wines with small gourmet bites.

Plus events are back on the calendar, starting with “a rosé soirée” for the solstice in June, featuring a three-course menu paired with the winery’s rosés.

“There will be a whimsical menu and ambience, lots of pink and flowers,” Momer says. “And I’m sure we’ll do more events as the season goes on.”

We can hardly wait.

Gray Monk Estate Winery

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