For those of you who have never heard of Kelowna, British Colombia, please immediately put it on your bucket list. The Okanagan Valley in British Colombia, Canada is a region known for its mild, sunny climate, lakeshore communities and incredible landscapes. Kelowna is the little gem in the heart of it all. Situated along the 160km long Okanagan Lake, Kelowna is home to golf courses, a first class ski resort, orchards and award winning wineries. Those who live in Kelowna, typically do so for its lifestyle. Where you can work until 4:30pm, drive 5 minutes, enjoy a scenic hike and then make your way to a local restaurant for a boozey reward. Best part is you can do all of that in the middle of March. The Okanagan Valley breaks the stereotype that Canada is covered in a blanket of snow 90% of the year.
Within the Valley, no month of the year has an average high temperature that is below freezing. Because of this (and other variables, I’m no master sommelier guys) Kelowna has ideal grape growing conditions. There are over 120 wineries with 200+ vineyards covering over 2,400 hectares of land. In lay mans lingo that translates to a lot of wine. With so many options it becomes overwhelming as to which wineries to pick, especially if you’re only visiting for a short time. As a Kelowna native, I feel well equipped to provide a tip or two on which ones to choose. And as a Canadian, I feel inclined to share. Here are my picks on best wineries to visit in Kelowna!
Source – Mission Hill website
Stop reading this blog post and click on the above link. Seriously go. Are you done? Welcome back! Not including Mission Hill on a “best of Kelowna” winery list would just feel wrong. Mission Hill is an absolutely stunning winery that you can never go wrong with. Perched on the edge of Boucherie Mountain in West Kelowna, Mission Hill has arguably one of the best views from any Kelowna winery. Anthony Von Mandl, an Austrian fellow, founded the winery in 1981 as he recognized the Okanagan region was an up and coming wine empire. Its wine has won numerous awards (try the Compendium! Although here is your warning that a bottle costs a pretty penny) and please do yourself a favour and book a tour or sommelier-guided experience. Honestly, Mission Hill sells itself.
Source – Spearhead website
Spearhead is beautiful boutique winery just a short 15 minute (FIFTEEN. MINUTE.) drive from downtown/ central Kelowna. Spearhead makes a great Pinot Noir, which luckily for all my red lovers, grows well in Kelowna. Their Pinot Noir has won many awards including BC Wine Awards, National Wine Awards of Canada and San Francisco International Wine Competition. Their Pinot Noir grapes get 4 of the 6.5 hectares of vineyards they have. Spearhead is located on the bench lands of southeast Kelowna. Its bright yellow exterior makes it hard to miss. It’s a beautiful little spot for a post wine tasting picnic, as there are benches overlooking orchards.
Source – Tourism Kelowna
Summerhill is a fantastic winery located a short drive out of Kelowna’s city limits. Seriously, I love Kelowna and its easily accessible wine. The Cipes family purchased its vineyard in 1986 so it’s another OG winery. Summer Hill’s signature trait is that all its wine is 100% organic. CEO Ezra Cipes and winemaker/ viticulturist Eric von Krosgk believe “organic practices allow for the grapes to honestly express their surroundings, providing terrior-driven qualities that are true of the Okanagan region.” Another unique aspect to Summerhill Pyramid Winery is their pyramid. Strategically constructed on site 20 years ago, a pyramid was built for a place to age wine. It is believed that having the pyramid oriented to true north versus magnetic north helps produce a smoother wine. To be honest, I’m not really sure what that means. But believe me when I say you won’t regret going here. If you’re curious, just know that the phenomena cannot be explained scientifically but you can ask the staff the theories behind it! When you head to the winery plan your stop around lunch or dinnertime as they have a fantastic restaurant – Sunset Bistro. Their menu changes frequently to reflect seasonal availability but for me, they have never been a miss. Important for vegans to know is that they offer a variety of plant-based dishes. After your meal make sure to pick up a bottle of their Cipes Brut – Canada’s most awarded wine and Kelowna’s version of Champaign.
Source – Tantalus Vineyards website
Tantalus is a premium winery with a stunning view, a gallery style tasting room and art work from highly-acclaimed Canadian artists. Its vineyards first started growing grapes (although table grapes) in 1927 and it is known as the oldest continuously producing vineyard in British Columbia. Fellow environmentalist will be pleased to hear that they are another winery dedicated to sustainability. They were the first BC winery to be certified in Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design. When you visit, make sure to get a bottle (or case) of their Chardonnay. They have also garnered national and international attention for their Rieslings.
Source – Tourism Kelowna
For a little more of a fun/ funky winery, Vibrant Vines is a must. The bottles are unlike ones you have ever seen before. Bright colours, abstract shapes, they’re almost psychedelic! It may seem unusual at first, but really, the vibrant labels are a genius idea. The wine bottles are so eye-catching, you can’t help but pick one up. The graphics on the bottle are actually 3D and appropriate glass are provided on site to get the full affect! It really is like a piece of art. Better yet, what’s inside is equally as amazing on what’s on the outside. The winery itself is equally as eccentric and thoughtfully designed. It overlooks beautiful orchards and has a view of the lake. A must while touring the area!
There are so many fantastic wineries in Kelowna and the Okanagan you can’t go wrong when visiting the majority of them. The thing to keep in mind with the ones I’ve picked is that they are not really on a convenient route. You could visit The Vibrant Vine, Spearhead Winery and Tantalus Vineyard on a route that makes sense. Summerhill and Mission Hill are definitely out of the way but worth making a trip for. Just make sure to check out other wineries around their locations. Like Cedar Creek by Summerhill and Quails Gate by Mission Hill!
Pro tip –
If you’re coming to Kelowna outside of the high season (May-October) make sure you check their business hours. A lot are still open (and often provide free tastings!) but they may have reduced hours or you might need to reserve a time slot with them. During the high seasons, tastings are typically 5$CDN for three wines but then waived with the purchase of a bottle. If you are anything like me, you will more likely than not have that fee waived. I’ve also gone on tours with upwards of 8 people on a summer weekend and have never needed to wait more than 10 minutes.
I hope my post was helpful and that you enjoy your stay in Kelowna!
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