For those of us that have had the chance to visit BC, I think we can all agree that there are few destinations in Canada more beautiful in the summer months than the Okanagan. With no shortage of wineries and restaurants to choose from, assembling an agenda while you’re spending a few days in a city like Kelowna can be overwhelming to say the least.
While this is nowhere near the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wineries close to downtown Kelowna, here are five approachable and interesting wine producers to get you started if you find yourself craving a bottle (or two, or three…) of Canadian-made vino for a cheers to the last days of summer.
If you only have time to check out one winery during your stay in Kelowna, Mission Hill should take top priority. The European-style design of the grounds and breathtaking views of Lake Okanagan below, are engaging enough to captivate even the most high-energy children (or easily-distracted adults for that matter). Not to mention their Terrace Restaurant offers some of the best cuisine in area, if not in all of BC.
The ingredients on the plate stay as local as possible and with a large garden on the grounds that grows anything from peaches and apples to mulberries—which contrary to the popular nursery rhyme, grow on trees, not bushes—you will likely get a taste of something that was picked mere hours (or even minutes) before it hits your table. I strongly encourage making a reservation if you’re planning ahead, this spot books up very fast.
Just down the road from Mission Hill, you’ll find Quails’ Gate. The tasting room and restaurant are warm and inviting, and always buzzing with wine aficionados and general tourists alike. I’ve done a lot of wine tastings in the Okanagan and I always find the attendants, pouring and chatting about the wines here, to be some of the friendliest around. The 2013 rosé is especially delicious, so pick up a bottle on your way out.
Their restaurant, Old Vines, offers some great views of the winery’s rows of grapevines running down the hillside, featuring well-composed dishes like the popular crab cakes, trout salad and more. There’s ample seating, indoor and outdoor, so if you’re bringing the family or a group of friends for lunch it usually isn’t too long of a wait, if any at all.
This is an ideal stop for wine novices. Located just outside the heart of Kelowna, Sandhill’s brand new, slick and shiny wine tasting building (dubbed an ‘urban winery’) is a cheap cab ride or even reasonable walk from the downtown core. Aside from being able to sip on different varieties of Sandhill wine, the urban winery will also show you that it produces a more, well, economical line of wine; Copper Moon.
Obviously, low-cost wine isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but nonetheless it’s interesting to find out how it’s made!
The hippie in all of us can appreciate the subtle mystique that Summerhill exudes. Driving in, you’ll see a large pyramid to your right, which is meant to draw positive energy into the vineyard grounds. Outside the tasting room, you’ll likely find tourists climbing onto and snapping selfies of several large sculptures (see below). Shamelessly touristy, but taking a goofy photo is a must.
As eclectic as this place is, they have a great selection of wines for you to sample from bubbly reds, organics and even a few biodynamic wines (a way of growing and producing that is slowly becoming more of a trend in Canada). My personal favourite is the Ehrenfelser, a unique white. Make sure to try a sip of it.
More or less on the opposite side of the lake to Quails’ Gate, you’ll find Tantalus Vineyards. While this winery pales in comparison to the others on the list regarding size and wine lineups, their short list of offerings is solid. Quality over quantity, if you will. This winery is known for its award-winning Old Vines Riesling, which flies off the shelf year-after-year, meaning you probably won’t find any left at this point in the summer. I know, I know, that’s sort of a tease, but more motivation to plan a trip earlier next year, right?
There’s no restaurant on the grounds here, but it’s not uncommon for Tantalus to host special dinner events (the winery recently played host to a dinner cooked by Top Chef Canada alumni Dale Mackay, Matthew Stowe and Connie Desousa), so check their website for upcoming events!
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.