Wine & Travel

Snooth User: dmcker

Best wineries, and wines, in the Okanagan?

Posted by dmcker, May 19, 2010.

Would definitely be interested in hearing what people think are the best wineries, and wines, in the Okanagan. Hopefully with an explanation why. Have a good friend going for an extended stay, based in Kelowna, in a month or so, and it'd be nice to be able to offer some pointers. She and her husband drink a lot of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and, paradoxically, Bordeaux red at the moment. Though that should only be a brief starting point...

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Reply by TerriW, May 19, 2010.

Are they going for business or pleasure? Are they staying in Kelowna or surrounding area? How far are they willing to travel?  Okanagan is really one of Canada's gems...along the the Calgary Flames. : )  Will they drink fruit wines? Ice wines? 

I have been through the region four times; the last time in 2007 we only hit a very limited number of wineries due to time constraints. A lot can change in three years but I am going to give this some thought for you/them. I did think BC producers were dong a better job with their whites but they are building a better red reputation.

One difference I did notice between Napa, (painful graft trip with Picnic #2) and the OK wineries was the friendly welcoming atmosphere. The OK folks just opened their arms and really seemed to enjoy you walking in their door.  And the majority of the wineries did not charge for tastings and if they did/do, and you purchase wine, they eliminate the fee.  

I would recommend Nk'Mip (pronounced in-ka-meep) in Osoyoos. This is the first Aboriginal owned winery in North America. Enjoy a read about the chief's philosophy.

I have a few photos I can send along of some of the wineries. Although the multitude of pictures from my first trip in 2001 were unceremoniously deleted from my friend's camera by her enthusiastic and sometimes rather silly boyfriend. 

I know someone living in Peachland, further south from Kelowna, and will see them at a wedding on June 12th.  I can pick their brains then or I can contact them sooner. They would likely recommend the organic  Hainle Vineyards Estate Winery.They have the auspicious claim to be the first North American ice wine producer. But, I am shuddering, as I see they have spelled sauvignon blanc as sauvignon blank on their website.  I hope it is a joke. I have just fired off an e-mail to the winery for illumination.  

Additionally, there is some good golf in the area.

Reply by John Andrews, May 19, 2010.

Wineries I have heard that are good (but no personal experience):

  • Quails Gate
  • Laughing Stock 
  • Mission Hill
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Tantalus Vineyards
  • Township 7

Hope to make a trip up that way soon too. 

Reply by John Andrews, May 19, 2010.

Also, here is a website that can help with some planning:

Not the most visually appealing but it has a decent map and links to lots of wineries. 

Reply by dmcker, May 19, 2010.

Thanks, Terri and John. The more specific info the merrier.

They'll be staying with family (who are generally knowledgeable about tourist aspects of the area, but not on all the ins and outs of wine per se) somewhere within Kelowna. Some travel at times is certainly possible, but if it's far away it should be well worth it, I would think.

Would love to be able to introduce them to an experience they wouldn't just stumble across on their own. Vitis vinifera would take precedencie, I would think, though anything exceptional in the way of other fruit would be potentially of interest. Icewine should be good, of course, not just sweet.

They gift me with Dog Point SB from NZ, even a nasty Cloudy Bay or two, and the occasional Cru Bourgeois from Bordeaux. I last gifted them an '83 Mouton at Christmas. Think they're getting the better part of that exchange, but there are of course other compensations... ;-)

Reply by TerriW, May 19, 2010.

I am going to agree with Quails Gate located on Mount Boucherie - Old Vines Patio is recommended (accolades for winery restaurant in Wine Spectator; Okanagan and Vancouver silver/gold top restaurant award '08 and '09). Then your friends can have a great meal paired with the winery offerings. Overall visual is aesthetic. Awards in UK; Grand Harvest Awards, Sonoma CA; MI; Canada - BC and ON. 

Burrowing Owl is a lovely winery and they donate $ to conservation efforts for the endangered little owl.

Apparently I am on an avian theme of acceptance here. 

Mission Hill was one of two wineries I have visited that we walked out after being ignored by the server/pourer. I have not purchased any of their wines since but it is quite a facility. 

Reply by sacrifice333, May 21, 2010.

Road 13 & Therapy are two great "up & coming" wineries.

Reply by zufrieden, May 21, 2010.

Well, the strategically-minded are always able to tease back a wayward club member. Working on that obvious British Columbian patriotism of mine never hurts either.

The problem with providing a nicely concise plan for visitors to the inland fjord known as Lake Okanagan (note that the spelling of this aboriginal name differs from that used in the county in Washington State just across the border from Osoyoos BC) is that the wine map is constantly changing.  Also bear in mind that, as some of the readers of these forums know, I am actually a bit persnickety when it comes to quality - British Columbian born and raised wine drinker notwithstanding.

If you seek the best of the best (and who would not - given an infinite line of credit?), I would suggest concentrating on the area just north of the town of Osoyoos known as the Golden Mile for its auspicious wine-growing qualities.  The red varieties that do best (so far) are Merlot and (perhaps strangely) Syrah.  Meritage blends are also doing spectacularly well; if your friends are serious Claret lovers, I suggest Osoyoos Larose 2006 and 2007 - most excellent elixirs, if I may be so bold.  The latter vintage is pure joy; easily rated with a classified growth from Bordeaux (and I am more than reasonably familiar with Bordeaux, so stay thirsty, my friends). 

Apart from these Bordeaux-style wines, I recommend a serious look at CedarCreek Wines on the east bank just south of Kelowna for splendid Syrah (or Shiraz, if you prefer). Stock of these wines is limited, however, so I cannot guarantee supply.  Try the Platinum Reserve.  If you wish my personal opinion, look up these wines on Snooth as I have reviewed them recently.

For whites, try Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay.  This is the benchmark for this variety in BC and is something of a cross between a Premier Cru Chablis and a Santa Barbara Chard.  Another excellent example of this variety from the region is the Platinum Reserve of Cedar Creek.

Also note well Note Bene for more Meritage blends of quality.

For other whites and reds, enjoy the farm-gate rusticity and passion of the small producers.  Focus on Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Reisling and Gewurtztraminer.  My favorite small producer (you won't be disappointed, I assure you) is Wild Goose.

I hope this gives you a start, and make sure you look out the car window at the gorgeous scenery.

Reply by dmcker, May 22, 2010.

Thanks, Zuf, for plenty of food for thought. Yeah, I used to camp, and hunt for deer and elk, in th Okanogan National Forest from near the border all the way down to Lake Chelan back in the '70s with college mates for the former and my uncle for the latter. Just your mention of that spelling difference brought quite a few memories I'd forgotten. Like walking into a small clearing in the trees, and as I hopped a log suddenly what I initially felt to be a Richter 8 earthquake erupting enough to nearly knock me on by rear as twenty or thirty elk took off running. Just hiking that time....

Would be interested in any more detail you care to share on the wines and wineries either in Osoyoos or back up near Kelowna. I'm thinking I'll want to put together a projected itinerary for the trip down south. She'll be there for more than a month, but her husband for less than half of that during July and that's when the more serious outings are likely to occur.

Reply by dpdinger, May 24, 2010.


Here is a link that may provide you with some wineries to list for visits.

These are some that I have enjoyed and keep at home. Some are hard to find out side of B.C.

Granite Creek Estate Wines

CedarCreek Estate

Township 7 Vineyards & Winery

Road 13 Vineyards

Stag's Hollow Winery & Vineyard

Burrowing Owl Vineyards


Reply by TerriW, May 24, 2010.

I have hit Cedar Creek, Stag's Hollow and Burrowing Owl of above group and would say yes to all three.

Is there going to be a designated driver for the wine tasting trips?  I made the mistake of doing day trips down to the Naramata and Okanagan Falls area and we were visiting in Coldstream, on the edge of Vernon towards Kelowna. And my alcohol tolerance is much greater than my friends so I was elected to drive.

Highway 97 is a two lane Highway and can get very busy at the end of the work day plus it will be summer vacation time when your friends are travelling. But slower driving allows one to peruse and savour the gorgeous milieu.

 If you look at a map of the area note that there are a few clusters of wineries. That would be one way to plan out an itinerary. See link below: 

Your friend (s) could hit the Westbank of Kelowna wineries one day and do some of the # 9-13 (Quails Gate is in this group), and the wineries #14-19 (Cedar Creek is in this collection).  

The next few wineries, 20-23 and 41- 3 could be another trip. Hainle is in this bundle, and I liked the Adora winery here.

Our next more voluminous assemblage is along the Naramata Bench region, #25-40. That may be a two day adventure, or two different day trips. Therapy and Township 7 are here; I also enjoyed Kettle Valley.

Then I wonder about another two day trip (or more) with overnight stays in the area when going as far south as Osoyoos #60 - 64,(Nk'Mip, Burrowing Owl ), Oliver #51-59 (Road 13, but not on this map, I hit Silver Sage and Desert Hills here in this aggregation) and Okanagan Falls, # 44-50 ( Wild Goose and Stag's Hollow in this bunch).

That could be a general starting point for itinerary planning and then we could all just periodically add wineries we have come to know and love in each little cumulation of sipping zones.

I actually have a few bottles awaiting my attention from Adora, Silver Sage, Desert Hills and a couple of fortified from Quails Gate and a Sawmill Creek Humidor Cigar Desert Wine and an Impearfection fruit wine from the Organic Forbidden Fruits # 66 on the map .  And I am drowning in ice wine from BC and can not find anyone to share it with. So, if I imbibe in anything over the next few weeks I will give an update on the wines.   

Another thing to note, we Canadians charge 5% GST (Goods & Services Tax). Americans can apply for a refund on this $ after returning home. Unfortunately alcohol is not included as items allowable for the refund, but other purchases could be. 



Reply by dmcker, Jun 15, 2010.

Any more recommendations, amplifications, whatever? My friend, with family, is heading over there next week....

Reply by zufrieden, Jun 15, 2010.

I forgot to mention Blue Mountain Vineyards in my May 21st post. Don't miss the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc from this well-respected winery on Vaseaux Lake - although you do need to taste by appointment.  Here is an image that is quite well-known to travelers in the region:

Reply by dmcker, Jun 15, 2010.

Thanks, Zuf. Which part of the valley is it in?

Reply by zufrieden, Jun 15, 2010.

It is in the southern part of the valley between Penticton and Oliver near the town of Okanagan Falls on Vaseux Lake. The interesting geological formation to the right of the photo is McIntyre Bluff.

You can find the exact address 

Reply by cigarman168, Jun 16, 2010.

DM : If they can have reports after the trips to share?

Reply by Tazza, Jul 7, 2010.

I am probably very late, but James Cluer MW has done an extensive review of the region and you can Youtube his clips. Tantalus Riesling is apparently as good as it gets in North America

Reply by cigarman168, Jul 7, 2010.

"Youtube his clips", where the link?

Reply by sc3, Mar 31, 2011.

Many good ideas here -- Road 13, Nk-Mip, Ganton & Larsen, Blasted Church, CedarCreek, Red Rooster, and the list goes on...

If you can make it for the GranFondo in summer or the October Wine festival -- that's a treat!  Give it the week -- you'll need it. :-)

Reply by dmcker, Jan 13, 2016.

Am bumping this to see if DV or others have additions to make. Of course if Zuf were to show up would love to hear his current remarks, too!  ;-)

Reply by dvogler, Jan 13, 2016.


I replied on JD's post ;)

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