Look between the Okanagan Valley’s mountainous peaks, fruit orchards and breathtaking lake and you’re sure to find world-class wineries, known internationally for producing excellent fruit and hybrid wines.
Today, the Okanagan Valley is British Columbia’s foremost winemaking region, and is home to over 172 wineries and counting. Spanning over 2,400 hectares, this winemaking area is spilt into sub regions that each have their own distinctive climates and soil varieties, allowing a greater range of wines to be produced here.
The Okanagan Valley has been used for winemaking since the 19th century; the first winery opened here in the mid 1800s, producing only communion wine. However, the Prohibition of the early 20th century put a stop to any development of wine production in the area until the 1930s. By the 1970s, the Okanagan Valley’s winemakers had started production in earnest and today the region is home to over 60 grape varieties, from rich Merlot to aromatic Riesling.
It’s the Okanagan Valley’s specific terroir that means such a mix of varietals can be grown here. Unlike other parts of Canada, which are subject to extreme weather, the Okanagan Valley’s eponymous lake means the region has a milder, more continental climate. Very hot summers are typical and its northerly location means plenty of daylight during peak growing season. Cool winters, with occasional snowfall, allow grape vines to go into full winter dormancy, which encourages a healthy life cycle.
There are also notable differences in temperature within the region, from the arid desert of Osoyoos to the cooler climes of Kelowna. Wineries can be found all over the region, but you’ll find most in one of four areas: Kelowna, Summerland, the Naramata Bench near Penticton, and between Oliver and Osoyoos in the south. Each offers its own wine trail, showcasing its particular landscape and leading producers.
Kelowna is home to some of the Okanagan Valley’s most prestigious vineyards. A modern spin on a traditional Tuscan farmhouse – complete with a 85 five-foot high bell tower – Anthony von Mandl’s grand wine estate, Mission Hill, rivals its international counterparts. Visit for a tasting and a tour and admire the stunning lake views whilst you’re there. Look out for the award-winning winery’s signature bottle, Oculus, a Bordeaux-style red, made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, among other grapes.
Just a 15-minute walk from Mission Hill, Quails Gate is a family owned winery that is one of the Okanagan Valley’s longest standing estate wineries. Begun by the Stewart family as a fruit farm and vineyard in the 1950s, it’s now known for its small batch, high quality wines.
From the historical to the ultra modern, head south in the Okanagan Valley and, situated on the banks of the lake in Summerland, you’ll find Okanagan Crush Pad. This hip facility produces natural wines from organic grapes under its Haywire and Narrative labels. Try the Haywire Free From White; fermented using native yeast, it’s a delightfully complex, citrusy wine.
There’s also plenty of innovation going on in nearby Namarata Bench. This spot is home to several wineries including the Upper Bench Winery and Creamery in Penticton, which combines both a vineyard and artisanal cheesemakers. Run by husband and wife team, Gavin and Shana Miller, stop by for a glass of Pinot Noir and sample Shana’s handmade cheeses.
The Osoyoos is located in the hotter, drier southernmost point of the Okanagan Valley’s and is home to Nk’mip Cellars, which has received more accolades than any other winery in Canada. Owned and run by First Nation Canadians, it’s a vineyard, resort and cultural center in one. The Aboriginal people already owned over 300 acres of superior quality grapes, so it made sense to establish their own winery. Highlights include the premium range, Qwam Qwmt, translating to ‘achieving excellence,’ as well as the Mer’r’iym Merlot, a name that means ‘marriage’ and perfectly describes this blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.
Discover more of the Okanagan Valley’s viticultural delights on the Luxury Gold Trans-Canadian Grandeur journey.