Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Canada Wine Country)
Though it is not readily known internationally (yet), this wine region to the North (Canada), Okanagan Valley is a true gem and one of my favorite places to go in the summer.
This gem of a region in beautiful British Columbia could easily be misconstrued as Europe or California because of it’s long lake front (135km-long with its own fabled Loch Ness monster, named the Ogopogo), greenery, wineries, fruit orchards and farm-to-plate food scene (In fact, some of the wine coming out of this county is now among the best coming out of North America as a whole). The Okanagan is located a few hours inland from Vancouver – you can fly into Vancouver then drive or Kelowna directly – nestled in the hills, and is a much warmer and drier climate. There are many different towns along the giant lake, offering different flavors and ambience, from Kelowna to Penticton, Naramata, Oliver, Summerland, Peachland, Vernon, Osoyoos and more.
Wine is booming here. Twenty years ago, there were only 31 wineries in the region; now there are over 130 (check out the Okanagan Wine Festivals). Ambitious wineries such as the giant Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate have been fueled by a tech industry boom that has brought an increasing number of wealthy millennials to the region. The Okanagan, like parts of the neighboring US states of Oregon and Washington, was until recently an undeveloped rural area, dotted with ranches and fruit farms, and this tradition can be witnessed at first hand through farm-to-plate experiences on estates such as Covert Farms’ sprawling 650 organic acres. There is an individuality to the Okanagan that’s not really found in Napa, or even Sonoma.
Eat, drink, swim, be merry. It’s pretty low key but hitting the vineyards and booking some special dinners to experience the local flavors should be mandatory. It’s a large distance from north to south so plan your day accordingly if you plan to visit a certain region. Perhaps book a wine tour to get, such as Authentically Okanagan (aoktours.com) or Experience Wine Tours (experiencewinetours.ca), or the cheap hop-on-off self-guided experience with wine shuttle (okwineshuttle.ca).
Like most wine regions, some places you go for the exception wine, and others for their exceptional estates – You can see a full list here. Vineyards like Mission Hill dominate the area due to their size and outstanding views, ready for tourists. But some of the best wine comes from the smaller vineyards (Blue Mountain and Joie are personal favorites). Here is a great list from the Vancouver Sun for top 25 BC wines for summer
There are a lot of B&B’s and houses to rent in this area, so hotels would not necessarily be my first choice BUT there are still wonderful options everywhere, you should just stick close to nature. Hotel Zed is a colorful new boutique hotel in downtown Kelowna, or high above the valley is the Observatory B&B in Osoyoos, or Spirit Ridge at NK’Mip Resort.
I had a spectacular outdoor group dinner at God’s Mountain years ago, I hope it is as special today. Waterfront Wines in Kelowna is a small bistro run by chef/sommelier Mark Filatow, Miradoro, the restaurant at Tinhorn Creek winery is one of the many classy winery restaurants in the valley, the Bench Market is a homely Penticton institution and great for breakfast or brunch, with epic scones. I would suggest doing your research as there may be special farm-to-table dinner happening throughout the region and at various vineyards in the summer months. If you are in Vernon, I always load up on produce, jams and pies at Davison Orchards Country Village.
*I am including this tourism video for an overview only, please excuse the cheesiness of its tone. Sorry Kelowna, but next time hire us here to make one for you 😉
Author: Carrie Mitchell
Carrie A. Mitchell is the founder of L’Aventure Travel, the host of the Suitcase Sojourn Podcast, and author of the children’s travel book “To Be We”. Carrie is a global travel and hospitality expert who works with publications, brands and entertainment outlets on a number of travel related projects, from marketing consulting to editorial coverage to hosting & producing content for the web, TV and podcasts. She is always seeking to learn from people and places around the world, and share through her cultural exploration (40+ countries and counting)