The northern most point of the Sonora Desert is Western Canada’s beautiful Okanagan Valley, home to British Columbia’s prime grape-growing region with over 8,000 acres planted and 131 vineyards and wineries.
Located in the southern interior, the Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes.
The mountains are lined with ponderosa pine, which give way to cacti, tumbleweeds, and fragrant sage brush.
The region receives a mere 10 to 12 inches of rain annually and is geographically considered a semi-desert—the hottest and driest place in Canada. But the sandy slopes are the foundation of an ever-expanding industry that is producing world class, award-winning wines.
An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a growing range of varietals.
Lake Country/Kelowna/West Kelowna
Home to more than 25 wineries, this region has become synonymous with wine, and for good reason. BC’s first vines were planted in Kelowna in 1859 by Father Pandosy. Kelowna also boasts the province’s oldest continually operating winery, Calona Vineyard (established 1931).
Many of the first families of the BC wine industry call this area home such as Gray Monk Estate Winery’s Heiss’ family, the Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Organic Winery, and the Stewart family of Quails’ Gate Winery. Several wineries in the region also offer exceptional culinary experiences, some with year-round dining options.
Driving into Peachland and Summerland, you are greeted with spectacular views of Okanagan Lake and a glimpse of the striking Naramata Bench across the lake. Not only is this an exciting area of new development, but the region is also soaked in history with a few wineries and vineyards over 25 years old. The picturesque rolling hills will lead you to delicious Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Rosé in addition to a lineup of sparkling wines to make any occasion a little more special.
The vineyards of Penticton and Naramata Bench boast ideal conditions for ripening Merlot and Bordeaux varieties and full-flavored Pinot Gris and Viognier. To the south of Penticton is Skaha Bench where Painted Rock Estate Winery and Pentâge Winery produce award-winning wines. And with an established (and simple) wine touring route, breathtaking views, and several wineries with delicious dining spectacular settings, it’s easy to see why the Naramata Bench is one of the hottest wine regions in the province
Okanagan Falls claims some of the most charming vistas in the Okanagan. Better still, this compact region is home to more than 10 wineries and 32 vineyards. Famous for its rolling hills and winding roads, the wineries are well worth the drive, offering a plethora of wine styles. Because of the unique climate and elevation, cool-climate varietals thrive here producing some of the province’s most awarded sparkling wines, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling. With wines as delightful as their owners, this a must-visit region.
The ‘Wine Capital of Canada’, Oliver is home to nearly half of British Columbia’s vines. To the west, the Golden Mile soaks up the morning sun making it ideal for white wines such as Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, and bright fruity reds like Cabernet Franc. To the east lies the Black Sage Bench which basks in the afternoon sun, and cultivates powerful red wines and full-flavored whites. The combination of hot days and cool night’s produces fruit with the perfect BC balance―exceptional flavors as well as vibrant acidity.
Osoyoos lies at the Okanagan’s southern-most tip, stretching all the way to the US border. Officially Canada’s hottest spot, this is red wine country. Wineries from many other regions utilize grapes from the south to produce award-winning red wines. Osoyoos is home to well-known vineyards including Jackson-Triggs and the famed SunRock Vineyard, producer of the world’s Best Shiraz (2006 International Wine & Spirit Competition). North America’s first aboriginal winery, Nk’Mip Cellars is also located here.
Wine festivals are a great opportunity to meet the winemakers and sample wine. A superb wine experience, the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival is now in its 35th year (October 1-11, 2015).
Anyone who tries to make you believe that he knows all about wines is obviously a fake.
―Leon D. Adams, The Commonsense Book of Wine