If you get a chance to spend some time in the Okanagan wine region of British Columbia, you might be surprised at just how many vineyards are actually here. Let me give you some facts before I share a few of the wineries that we toured on our visit to this area.
The first vineyard in the Okanagan was planted in 1859 and there are now over 182 wineries located in this area with more than 60 grape varieties being grown.
The Okanagan wine valley covers over 250 km and there are 7 different wine growing regions. The hot, dry summers, combined with the cooler nights, mean the grapes grown in this area have a distinct acidity that BC wine is known for.
There is a huge variety of wineries and so on our Hop-On Hop-Off Tour we tried to experience both larger vineyards, as well as smaller family-run vineyards. Our first stop was a family owned winery called Kismet Estate Winery.
This winery began back in 1991 when the current owner bought the land and over the years planted 300 acres of grapes. They were originally selling their grapes to other wineries and when these wineries started winning awards they decided it was time to begin making their own wine. They’ve been making wines for 6 years now and have won awards in local as well as international competitions.
The second stop was Rust Wine Company, a winery that uses grapes from four different vineyards throughout the Okanagan Valley to make their wines. This smaller winery had an extremely relaxed atmosphere with great views. Guests are greeted with a glass of wine upon arrival and encouraged to sit at one of the patio areas and take in the spectacular scenery as the tastings continue. The unoaked chardonnay was a lovely wine…and with a hint of citrus…it had me wanting more.
Next up was Hester Creek Estate Winery. This property was extremely beautiful with a lovely restaurant, which we had lunch in. The winery was much larger than the previous two and is also more popular, with their products being stocked in many liquor stores.
Tinhorn Creek is a winery where you could spend some time just wandering around the property. There is a restaurant here as well as a terrace that overlooks both the valley and the vineyards. In the vineyard the different grape varieties were marked with the names and the wines that are produced from them.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is another larger winery with well-known products stocked in many liquor stores. They offer luxurious accommodation with a pool and 360 degree views of the vineyards and the Okanagan hills from the rooftop.
Desert Hills Estate Winery is another family owned vineyard that we visited. When the three Toor brothers moved from Winnipeg and bought the property in 1988 it was an apple orchard. Over the years they replanted the apple trees with grape vines. They now own 5 vineyards and their wines have won over 600 medals. The brothers pride themselves in the fact that they grow half the amount of grapes per acre which produces a better full body grape for their wines. The next generation is also getting into the business with one of the sons starting their own winery called Ursa Major.
The last winery we visited was Silver Sage Winery. This smaller winery, bought in 1996, was the perfect place to finish our touring for the day. The Romanian owner provided us with tastings for 13 wines! She had stories for each of the wines, along with suggestions for pairings, and lots of humour. The wines were definitely on the sweeter side, with a good number of the tastings being dessert wines. One wine in particular, the Sage 2017 “Grand Reserve”, is a white wine with the aroma of sage, perfect for those Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners.
After five hours of touring wineries it was time to call it a day. We headed back to our accommodation in Osoyoos, sat on the balcony, and enjoyed the view….with a glass of wine of course. Our accommodation at Spirit Ridge was beside Nk’Mip Winery which provided us with lots of wine options right at our doorstep.
Although we enjoyed our tour of all the different vineyards, we definitely preferred the smaller, as well as the family-run wineries more. The attention and time spent with us at these wineries made the experience more personal and I would definitely recommend these ones first.
Make sure and plan ahead for any winery visits and tastings. Some wineries have not reopened yet, and some may have reopened with reduced hours or limited tastings and number of visitors allowed. We did a wine tour with OK Wine Shuttle, which unfortunately has not started up again during these times. For information on Spirit Ridge Resort…click here