The Okanagan region in the interior of BC is well known for its wines. Many wineries in the area, especially in West Kelowna, have risen to international fame through various awards won around the world. Mention to any Vancouverite that you’re going to the Okanagan and they’ll be sure to tell you to visit the wineries. Being in the area, of course we were going to visit them!
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The Okanagan Valley is Canada’s second largest wine region, second only to the Niagara Peninsula in southern Ontario. The Cascade Mountains to the east and the Coast Mountains to the west, plus the Lake Okanagan, gives the Okanagan Valley an unique climate, almost desert-like with little rain and hot summers (up to 40C sometimes!), that allows this region to be able to grow the grapes necessary for wine. The oldest continuous running winery in British Columbia, Calona Wines, founded in 1932, is still in the area.
There are so many wineries with them literally being neighbours of one another – it was hard to pick the ones that we would visit! We originally wanted to sign up for a guided tour so that we could both enjoy the wines, but there was no tour that seemed to stand out. We ultimately decided to concentrate on West Kelowna (also known as Westbank) because of the number of famous wineries in the area and how close they were to one another. Using the Westside Wine Trail as a guide, we set off to taste what this region had to offer.
Mission Hill Winery
Mission Hill Winery is probably one of the most famous wineries in the area. They’ve won many international awards for their wines. I had signed us up for a tour of the winery where we heard about the history of the winery, and the process of how they make their wines. The whole thing felt very gimmicky and didn’t offer much information that isn’t already available online. But the cool part was when they took us into the cellar where they leave their wines to mature.
Included in the tour was a tasting. I was the designated driver, so I didn’t do much tasting. The Boy, a self proclamation oenophile (wine aficionado), on the other hand, went to town.
The estate, fittingly situated at the top of a hill, is beautifully designed. There is an amphitheater that is built into the grounds and is often used for local concerts. The day we went, they were selling tickets to see LeAnn Rimes.
Quail’s Gate Winery
Our second stop on our self tour was Quail’s Gate. This was the Boy’s favorite stop of the day, probably because of the gentleman who was doing our tasting. I wish I had caught his name. He clearly knew his stuff when it came to wine and was able to answer all of the Boy’s questions properly.
We had originally wanted to eat here as the Yelp reviews were good, but we were running a little late and just missed the cut off time for lunch service. So instead, the Boy filled up on wine and I nibbled on some snacks.
Quail’s Gate Winery has a great view of Okanagan Lake as well. The tasting room is at the top of the estate and looking over the lake and the vineyards during the tasting was fabulous.
The Boy tasted a variety of wines and I had a few sips here and there and we walked out of there with two bottles in hand.
Little Straw Vineyards
Little Straw Vineyards is a significantly smaller winery compared to the previous two that we visited. Hidden upstairs is a small unassuming restaurant that overlooks their vineyard and the lake below. This was the best discovery of the day. Aside from a couple mentions of it on the Yelp page for the Vineyard, the Barrel Top Grill is virtually unknown on the internet unless you know to look for it.
I ordered their sandwich of the day: beef sliders with a potato salad. I absolutely loved it. It was simple, but the ingredients were fresh. Leaving it simple made them speak for themselves. The chef was on hand and we talked for a little bit as well about the restaurant and the food. They try to source food locally as much as possible which is easy to achieve in the Okanagan in the summer time – there is so much delicious abundance. Can you tell I’m passionate about food? They’re closed during the off season, but will reopen in the spring.
After we ate, we headed for a tasting. While most wineries ask for a small fee for tastings, Little Straw bucked the trend instead asking for a donation to a local charity.Maybe I was wooed because of the food and their generous nature when it came to wine tasting, but I ended up buying two bottles of wine here.
Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery
Mt. Boucherie was our last stop for the day, despite it being located right in the middle of a cluster of wineries. You can actually see it from Little Straw Vineyard (in the image right above, it is the light tan building in the middle of the photo – difficult to see, but it is there). Immediately surrounding it are the Beaumont Family Estate Winery and Volcanic Hills Estate Winery, which we had planned on visiting as well.
Mt. Boucherie felt smaller than many of the other wineries. The tasting room was small and there were a lot of people there that day and not enough space making it difficult to enjoy. They have a terrace which is available for those to sip their wines outdoors or enjoy a snack.
By the time we were done at Mt. Boucherie, I was ready to call it a day. 4 very vastly different wineries and plenty of wines tasted later, I was all wined out. I had always wanted to come and visit the various wineries in the Okanagan – especially as Vancouver is only a 5 hour drive away. There are plenty of other wineries in the Okanagan Valley and so many more to explore.
Do you like wine? Have you gone on a winery tour before?
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