While you and I may find significant guilty pleasures in attending wine tastings, sampling wines is a summer staple for Okanagan wineries. The past few months have been tumultuous, to say the least, for numerous businesses around the world and for a while it looked as if the pandemic would put a halt to us getting to try the latest offerings of red, white and sparkling from our favorite Okanagan winery. Thankfully, that all changed a few weeks ago when the closure order affecting businesses selling food and alcohol was rescinded by the provincial government.
Facts About the Okanagan Winery Area
With 84% of the province’s vineyard acreage that stretches over 250 kilometers, the Okanagan Valley is BC’s premier region for growing grapes. This large area includes four sub-regions, each with distinct climate conditions and soil that are perfect for growing a range of varieties. These sub-regions are: Skaha Bench, Naramata Bench, Golden Mile Bench, and Okanagan Falls.
The climate is unique for the Okanagan Valley as well. The Valley is warmer and more arid than the renowned Napa Valley and during the peak growing season, Okanagan Valley gets almost two hours more sunlight per day. Okanagan winery selections owe their signature trait to the daytime temperatures that only hit 40° and cool nights that combine to allow the grapes to maintain their natural acidity.
What to Know Before You Go
Before packing up the car to head off to visit a Okanagan winery in person (they do make the best wine in all of Canada after all), you need to make sure that you properly plan your trip.
Generally, most of the Okanagan winery options are open seven days a week from April until October, from about late morning (10 a.m.) until late afternoon (5/6 p.m.). A good portion of the Okanagan wineries are closed from November until March, but others are open year-round. Therefore, you’ll definitely want to check ahead for hours, days, and even months that they are open to the public.
While just about every Okanagan winery accepts small groups on a walk-in basis, in the age of COVID-19 it is a good idea to call ahead and verify before your visit. As always, in order to book a tasting large groups should call ahead.
Keep in mind too that most will have a small tasting fee (approx. $5), however that fee is usually waived when purchasing wine from that Okanagan winery.
Okanagan Wineries Open For Tasting
With your trip planned, bags packed, and armed with the necessary knowledge, the only thing left is picking which Okanagan winery you want to visit. While you may not be able to visit all of the Valley’s wineries, we wanted to point out a few great ones from around the area.
In the Lake Country
Close to Kelowna and the international airport with great lake views and a range of varieties for tasting, you can’t go wrong with making one of these the first Okanagan winery you stop off at.
• O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars – with their modern patio restaurant, the Garden Bistro, this is a newer Okanagan winery that can make a great first stop. They have a nice range of whites and while they only offer one red, a Pinot Noir, if you do visit, visitors suggest that you cannot go wrong with their Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, or Rosé.
There are entirely too many wineries in this area to cover them all, and any sort of “listicle” would be of a disservice to someone that we inadvertently omit, so we’ll simply include the one that numerous visitors agree is one of the best.
Cedar Creek Estate Winery
This Okanagan winery has a great portfolio of high-quality reds and whites, as well as rosés. Furthermore, visitors are treated to amazing lake views, a great staff and excellent service, and a beautiful tasting room that just opened a year ago. They have a fantastic chardonnay available at a lower price point than others in the valley and other fan-favorites to try are the Block 4 Pinot Noir, Estate Syrah, and Estate Chardonnay.
Quails Gate Winery
Another fantastic Okanagan winery that offers visitors a selection of amazing wine, stunning lake and vineyard views, an excellent restaurant, and great service all around. If you find yourself at Quails Gate, be sure to try the Pinot Noir, Old Vines Foch, and Gewürztraminer.
This is the perfect area for those that enjoy a more quiet and quaint wine tasting experience.
While this winery does not have an on-site restaurant, this quality, family owned and operated winery offers an intimate tasting experience and some memorable, unique wines. The owners and winemakers usually do the tastings, so you’re certain to have all of your questions answered. Be sure to try the amazing White Pinot as well as the lovely Shiraz-Viognier and Malbec.
Another area with numerous wineries that are just absolutely fantastic. In fact, you wouldn’t be doing yourself a disservice at all if you solely focused your entire Okanagan winery trip on this area. However, if you can only visit one, the consensus is generally for one winery in particular.
Painted Rock Estate Winery
With a modern, bright and beautiful tasting room, beautiful views of Skaha Lake, and exceptional wines along with knowledgeable and friendly staff, it’s quickly evident why this is a fan favorite. Be sure to try the Red Icon Bordeaux blend, Syrah, and the Chardonnay.
Closer to the U.S. border you’re likely to find a new favorite Okanagan winery in or around Okanagan Falls, Oliver, and Osoyoos. This is another are you could spend a full day or two visiting the great wineries, but if you only visit one, we suggest:
Hester Creek Estate Winery
This Okanagan winery offers a wide selection of wines that feature a range of textures, bodies, and finishes. This is the only winery in the valley where you can get a Trebbiano, but you should also try their Rosé as well as the Garland.
Subscribe to Jebiga for a dose of the best in gear, design, rides, tech and adventure.