Weekend Getaways: Okanagan Wine Tasting:
The Okanagan is a popular destination for many Vancouverites looking to get away from the city. The climate contrasts the mild Vancouver with hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. It is usually a safe bet to escape Vancouver, finding sun and promising weather in the summer months.
Due to the near desert like nature of the Okanagan – it is a perfect area to grow grapes, and more importantly, make wine. The Okanagan is British Columbia’s, and sometimes named Canada’s, premier wine region. Naturally, one of the most popular activities is wine tasting tours!
I have been up to the Okanagan area numerous times the past few summers for weekend trips. I figured it was about time to write a post. What you will find in this post is a mashup of all the weekend trips, the places to visit, and most importantly, the wineries I’ve visited.
Just 30 minutes south of Kelowna, Peachland is a community right on the lake. We spend a decent amount of time in Peachland as Frans’ dad lives here. There is a lovely lakeside boardwalk, shops, cafes. There is also a boat launch and a dock with a high dive and rope swing for swimming. Alternatively, there is a hike up Pin Cushion Mountain, offering great views of the surrounding area. I have seen adverts for ziplining in Peachland.
Peachland or Summerland are good possible bases for wine touring, as they smaller and quieter than Penticton, but would mean more driving to the majority of wineries. The most dense area for wineries is around Oliver. You cannot drive more than 5 minutes without seeing a new wine route or winery sign.
There are 7 wineries listed in the Peachland & Summerland area, click here to see.
Penticton is the next city, situated between two lakes, Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. If you are planning a vacation, I recommend staying in Penticton. Firstly, there are 2 lakes to relax in, beside or on with various water activities. Secondly, there is the river channel to float down on an inner tube, which is a lot of fun with a group of friends and come cans of cold beverages. During the summer months, Penticton has a large farmers market on sundays, selling local produce, goods, snacks with some live entertainment.
Penticton has a few breweries:
- Bad Tattoo Brewing
- Cannery Brewing
- Tin Whistle
And some distilleries:
- Maple Leaf Spirits Inc
- Old Order Distilling Co.
- Legend Distilling Inc.
There are 17 listed wineries in the Penticton & Naramata region, click here to see.
Wineries I have visited:
Painted Rock Estate Winery
A very modern design for the tasting room, with a lawn overlooking the rows of grape vines and the lake below. very scenic setting. Have some delicious wines, though they are at a higher price point.
My favourite wine: Syrah (red)
Hillside Winery & Bistro
Hillside Winery has a more rustic, traditional winery feel to the tasting room and restaurant, with plants growing up the side of the building and filling in the overhead lattices. Old wine barrels scattered as decoration. The food itself is unique and delicious, and even better when paired with the wines.
My favourite wine: Reserve Viognier (white)
Oliver & Osoyoos
There are 13 wineries listed for Oliver & Osoyoos, click here to see. However there are definitely more, all you need to do is watch for the road signs: Wine Route
Black Hills Estate
Black Hills Estate is an upscale winery that is definitely worth the visit. It is beautiful and an experience. Sit out on the deck, order a charcuterie board and sample their flight of wines. During our tasting, we were offered the same wine but in different years; this is a great way to learn a little more about how dependent wine making is on the weather. Each year the grapes differ and therefore each year the wine differs.
Favourite wine: Nota Bene (red blend)
Unfortunately, I cannot remember my favourite wine. We visited Burrowing Owl as our last stop on a tour… so basically I’d had a lot of wine. However, Burrowing Owl has won many awards internationally and is most often a stop on organized wine tours.
Church and State Winery
Church and State also have a location on Vancouver Island, in Victoria. The tasting room in the Okanagan has a modern and clean design, again with beautiful surroundings.
Favourite wine: Trebella (white blend of grape varieties I’d never heard of before!)
Kismet winery is relatively new to the wine business, but not to the grape business. For many years, they had solely been the growers of grapes for many of the other wineries in the region. They are certainly doing something right because I enjoyed most of their wines! We also received a tour of the property and the wine making process.
My favourite wine: Mantra (red blend) & Safed (white blend)
A newer, smaller scale, family run winery. The winery and tasting room is a part of the grower and wine makers home. The setting is more intimate and somehow exclusive. The drive up to the estate has some great photographic perspectives on the rows of grape vines.
Favourite wine: Sparkling White Merlot (a sparkling rose, made from merlot grapes; this was a surprise as rose does not usually peek my interest)
Young & Wyse
When I visited, Young & Wyse was a newer winery, though since then they have grown. Situated right on the Canada, USA border.
Favourite wine: Black Sheep Blend (red blend)
How to get there from Vancouver
Peachland & Penticton:
Take highway 1, follow it through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chiliwack. Depart highway 1 just outside Hope, onto highway 5 (Coquihala), then 5A, then 97C. The routes are very well sign posted, follow signs for Kelowna. The drive takes 4.5 hours with no stops or traffic, and obviously more if you are stopping.
Osoyoos & Oliver:
Take highway 1, follow it through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chiliwack. Depart highway 1 just outside Hope, onto highway 3 (Crowsnest), then you have a choice: 1) stay on the 3 until Osoyoos then join the 97 North or 2) turn onto the 3A at Keremeos, then the 97 South. The drive takes about 5 hours, with no stops or traffic. Some places on the highway are single lane and can become backed up – always be aware of the next passing lane and take advantage.
The Crowsnest is one of my favourite drives on a bright, sunny day, as the scenery is amazing, it really displays beautiful British Columbia. Sometimes we take the Crowsnest home from Peachland, if we are not in a rush.
Warning: the section between Abbotsford and Chiliwack has heavy rush hour traffic, do your best to avoid it!
Recommended stops on the drive:
- Othello Tunnels – originally part of the Kettle Valley Railway, features five tunnels and a series of bridges following a path through the gorge, lined with sheer, flat rock cliffs and a rushing river below. Great to stretch the legs after driving for a few hours. Part of the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park.
- Hope – specifically the “Home” Restaurant for amazing pies!
- Various waterfalls – Bridal Falls, Flood Falls, watch for blue & white road signs
- Fruit stands for fresh, local, in-season fruit
Hope you enjoy(ed) your trip out into the Okanagan!