Get ready to meet your new favorite wine region: Canada’s Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. This ravishingly pretty region of gently sloping hills, pristine lakes and sandy beaches encompasses some of the world’s most diverse vineyard climates, including Canada’s only desert region
Pronounced “oh-can-AH-gan,” the region stretches from Osoyoos in the south, past Penticton and Kelowna, and finally up to Kamloops in the north. Its varying climates mean silky pinot noirs and fruity varietals such as gewurztraminer flourish in the region’s cooler lakeside areas while soaring summer temperatures help grow bold peppery syrahs.
Although British Columbia’s first commercial vineyard was established in 1932, wine remains a relatively young industry here. Only in the past 30 years have B.C. wines begun to thrive.
Despite the industry’s relative youth, it’s already making a name for itself on the world stage as wines from British Columbia continue to score gold medals at international wine contests.
But with only around 10,000 acres planted in the Okanagan, relatively small amounts of wine get exported, so your best chance of trying these wines is heading to Canada to taste for yourself.
The ideal base from which to explore B.C.’s wine country is Kelowna, a friendly lakeside town known for its truly excellent farm-to-table and boat-to-plate bar and restaurant scene. Explore local wine culture and sniff, swirl and sip your way through the delicious variety that the region has to offer.
3 Can’t Miss Gold-Medal Wineries
Multiple award winning, organic and biodynamic (with the certification and compost heap to prove it), Summerhill is Canada’s most visited winery thanks in no small part to its quirky practice of aging all its wines in a pyramid modeled after the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
Visitors can explore that and more on a visit to the winery, its tasting rooms and its farm-to-table restaurant.
Their 2014 Chardonnay Icewine was the top scored wine at France’s 2017 Chardonnay du Monde competition.
CEO Ezra Cipes says, “With notes of honey, apricot, poached pears and minerality, try this wine chilled by itself or pair [it] with panna cotta, sponge cake or fresh fruit. If you are feeling decadent, it is delicious drizzled over vanilla ice cream.”
Housing one of the Okanagan’s best restaurants (the excellent Old Vines) and a brace of award-winning wines, Quails’ Gate in West Kelowna is an unmissable stop for pairing flavorful wines with delicious food.
“The Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay is a full-bodied, masculine, bolder New World–style Chardonnay with a lot of texture to it,” says winemaker Nikki Callaway. “It is a big chard, but it goes really well with food, especially roast chicken or maybe gnocchi or pasta with an intensely flavored cream sauce with local mushrooms.”
Visit Sandhill’s funky, modern, downtown tasting room to taste winemaker Howard Soon’s blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, called “Two.” The blend scored a best-of-class gold medal at the Pacific Rim Wine competition and a silver at the Decanter World Wine awards.
“Cabernet sauvignon, sometimes called the ‘King of Grapes,’ is the framework that gives structure and ageability,” says Soon. “The merlot provides width and generosity in the flavor and mouth-feel. The cabernet franc provides great aromatics along with interesting spice and herb notes.”
3 Great Spots to Swirl, Sniff and Sip All-B.C. Wines
With an all-Okanagan wine list and an extensive on-tap and by-the-glass selection of wines produced a stone’s throw away, the lakefront OAK + CRU at Delta Hotels Grand Okanagan Resort is the perfect place to sample your way through B.C.’s best.
One of Okanagan’s best restaurants, Waterfront chef Mark Filatow’s fresh and local flavors pair perfectly with B.C. wines, which are available by the glass at this multi-award-winning restaurant tucked away on Sunset Drive.
Head into downtown Kelowna for the buzzy atmosphere at this locals’ favorite spot where chef Rod Butters and team whip up locavores’ delights paired with a 100 percent, all-Okanagan wine list.