Often, the big draw for visitors to Western Canada is the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean but sandwiched nicely in between is the beautiful Okanagan Valley, the heart of Canada’s wine country. Surprised that Canada even has a wine country? Don’t be, the Okanagan Valley offers world-class wines at a great value, especially compared to the famous wineries of Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California.
With its amazing location in the middle of British Columbia, with numerous golf courses, lakes and hiking trails, the Okanagan Valley offers something for everyone. For those of us wanting to taste what the Okanagan Valley has to offer, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to visit many amazing wineries that call the Okanagan Valley home. One lovely aspect of the Okanagan is the short distances between towns and wineries, making it a great destination for wine tours. Tours are readily available to visit some of the region’s 200+ wineries. Bicycle tours are also quite popular as the valley is fairly flat and the weather is often hot and sunny.
We like to look at the Okanagan Valley with three main regions to explore: north, central and south. The North area’s main towns are Vernon, Kelowna, and Lake Country; the central region features Summerland, Penticton, and Naramata Bench and the south region has Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos. Kelowna is the largest city in the valley and offers an airport with non-stop flights throughout Canada. The Okanagan Valley is a lovely, 5-hour drive from Vancouver though and we always recommend taking this scenic route if you have the time!
Wineries to visit when in the Okanagan
Here are just a few of the great wineries you’ll find around the Okanagan Valley:
The Okanagan is the heart of Canada’s wine country, and Kelowna is arguably the heart of the Okanagan. Boasting over 40 wineries in the immediate area, Kelowna is a great city to stay in while visiting nearby wineries. With well-known and award-winning wineries, like Mission Hill and Summerhill Pyramid, Kelowna will be sure to satisfy the most discerning wine connoisseurs. A couple of unique standouts to note is the quirky, Vibrant Vine winery which offers a wine, art and sound experience that combines into an experience you will never forget. Just across Okanagan Lake, Grizzli winery recently launched a night market, bringing together local food vendors and artisans to turn the estate into an all-day affair where you can sample local food and crafts as well as their superb wines. A newer, unique addition to the wineries of the area, Indigenous World Winery offers lovely wines while highlighting the heritage and lands of the local Sylix people who have lived in the area for thousands of years.
Photo credit: Mission Hill Family Estate
Naramata Bench, a name synonymous with great wineries in BC, boasts over 40 wineries within a 20km stretch and is another great town to set up shop for a week and indulge yourself in some of the Okanagan’s best wines. One well-known local winery is La Frenz, which overlooks Okanagan Lake. Along with offering wonderful white wines, the view from the winery is so beautiful it used to be featured on the Canadian $100 bill! Dirty Laundry Winery is another family-owned winery on the opposite shore of Okanagan Lake that takes a more casual and light-hearted approach to make and serving wine. With fun wine names and an even more fun atmosphere, you’ll love this Summerland based winery
Photo: DCT family trip to Naramata Wineries
Osoyoos, at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley, also has many excellent wineries. Nk’mip Cellars is a stand-out of the area. The first Indigenous-run winery in North America, you can learn all about the local indigenous culture and the region’s history at the nearby cultural centre after tasting the great wines on offer at the winery. For longer stays in the area, be sure to stay at the Spirit Ridge Resort that is also on-site. Another well-known winery in the area is the Burrowing Owl winery. This winery offers not only a tasting room but a restaurant and guest house on-site. Blasted Church is a fantastic winery not to be missed near Okanagan Falls. This winery is a BC favourite and found in many liquor stores around the province. As we hear from time to time in BC, blessed are those who drink Blasted Church wines.
Photo Credit: Nk’Mip Cellars
With so many spectacular wineries in the Okanagan, you could easily spend weeks there and barely scratch the surface of the region’s wonderful wines on offer, so be sure to include a visit to the Okanagan Valley on your next trip to Western Canada! What other great wineries should visitors to the Okanagan visit? Let us know in the comments below.