No matter the time of day, there is always something spectacular to sip, see or snack on throughout the Okanagan Valley. With several hundred wineries scattered among the green slopes that wind along a string of lakes, along with an array of boutique restaurants and hidden gem snack spots, it’s hard to narrow down the options.
A solid plan, featuring some must-see spots, will help.
Morning in the Okanagan Valley
Starting the day off right means getting something good to eat – and perhaps stocking up on nibbles for later with a bottle of wine. In Osoyoos, carb load with some of the fine baked goods from The Lake Village Bakery. Here, sourdough serves as the base for most of their offerings, including sticky cinnamon buns and croissants. Grab a coffee and a pastry, but also some focaccia or French baguettes for afternoon snacking.
Every Saturday throughout the summer, Penticton closes off several blocks of downtown for their weekly markets. Fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, preserves and honey are on offer. Treat it like a walkable smorgasbord, stopping for samosas, a spiralled fried potato on a stick and a bag of cherries or apricots. You can also pick up a bottle of local BC VQA Wine at the market while you’re there.
All weekends call for brunch. With his fourth restaurant, Sunny’s – A Modern Diner, Chef Rod Butters puts the focus on breakfast classics, including Cluck and Grunt (eggs with bacon or sausage), Door Stops (French toast) or BBBBenny & the Jets, Butters’ take on eggs Benedict, which can be ordered by the piece – allowing for mixing and matching.
Afternoon in the Okanagan Valley
Build an appetite or work off a luxurious lunch by renting a bike – even an E-bike to help with hills – and heading up to the Naramata Bench. This 15-kilometre stretch is home to dozens of wineries, including Laughing Stock Vineyards and one of the Bench originals, Hillside Winery. Naramata Road serves as an unofficial divide between the two distinct terroirs, with glacial till on the upper side and sand, silt and clay on the lower.
Stop for a bottle of bubbles and an interesting history lesson at the Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards, an estate winery set against the lake, just south of Peachland. Once a fruit orchard, that same plot is now awash with grape vines used to make Fitz Brut, Reserve Sparkling and some still wines. Sit on the patio – which serves as a crush pad come harvest – and enjoy pizza from the restaurant’s wood-burning oven.
From the depths of the valley, wind your way up the road to See Ya Later Ranch, a winery that boasts some of the highest-altitude plantings in the Okanagan. After trying some of its offerings, including the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, head outside and look up to see the rows of vines sloping toward the sky.
A winery on the smaller side, Moon Curser earns a reputation with its unusual varietals and quirky story. The name of the family-owned winery pays homage to smugglers trying to cross the U.S. border near Osoyoos. The moon was something worth cursing when conducting illegal pursuits. Try some of their more unique offerings, like the Tannat, or sip on others based on their names, such as Afraid of the Dark or Dead of Night.
Night in the Okanagan Valley
To better understand the history of the region, and the people who lived here long before grapes were first grown, a visit to Nk’Mip Cellars, North America’s first Aboriginal-owned winery, should not be missed. Begin, if possible, at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre on site at Spirit Ridge Resort to explore exhibits and take the interpretive trail that winds through the semi-arid desert that makes the terroir so unique. Follow it up with wine and dinner at the cellars – try their signature Mer’r’iym (marriage) blends and sample some traditional ingredients, such as bison or salmon.
Further north, Liquidity Wines offers its own sort of education with a limited presentation of the National Geographic Photo Ark project, which features images of thousands of creatures. This is the only place where the Photo Ark is exhibiting the work in Canada, and Liquidity has it on-site until Labour Day. Finish up with dinner overlooking the vines, and try a few of their signature wines, including the gorgeous rosé.
Overlooking stripes of vines down to Okanagan Lake, the view from Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Winery is unparalleled. On warm summer evenings, the restaurant opens the wall of doors onto the patio, breaking down the division between inside and out. Feast on dishes made with local, seasonal ingredients, expertly cooked and beautifully plated, and take advantage of the expert suggested pairings. Lastly, don’t skip the chance to try their splendid Syrah.
Looking for more inspiration? Get a Wine Lover’s Guide to the Okanagan Valley.