When one thinks of Canada's "wine country" I feel that Niagara automatically comes to mind. While the Niagara region does produce amazing wines, I feel that the British Columbia's Okanagan Valley also needs recognition for the wines that are produced there. I strongly believe that unless you are from Western Canada, you are not familiar with the wine production that takes place in the lower mainland of BC, and you should be! Some of the most amazing wines I have ever tasted come from this region.
If you ever find yourself in the Okanagan and are looking for a wine inspired adventure, they have these nifty little Wine Passports for each area of the Okanagan. On each passport, you are given a list of all the wineries in the region that participate. Each passport varies a little, but generally you have to visit a certain number of the wineries on the list. You get a stamp at each and at your last one, you drop your completed passport into a draw box and it enters you to win a prize. Again, the prize varies depending on the passport.
Here are my 3 favorite Wine Passports:
1. Summerland's Bottleneck Drive - Summerland, BC
This is my personal favorite passport to work on. Located in Summerland, most of the wineries on this passport are at a higher elevation on the West side of Lake Okanagan. This means that the view from most wineries is amazing! You can look across Lake Okanagan and on the other side is Naramata Bench (we'll get to that one later!). My 3 favorite wineries on this passport are Dirty Laundry, Sumac Ridge, and Sleeping Giant.
Dirty Laundry Vineyard - Bottleneck Drive, Summerland BC
Dirty Laundry is an incredibly fun winery to visit and it has an entertaining origin story. Their wine is delicious, the atmosphere is fun and you can use their deli to put together a picnic lunch to enjoy on their magnificent patio.
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery - Bottleneck Drive, Summerland BC
Sumac Ridge is a very modern winery and they run 2 lines of wine. Sumac Ridge and Black Sage. Both are very fantastic and you'll find something you like whether you are a red or a white drinker. There is not much in regards to a patio or a place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine but staff in the tasting room make this place so much fun, you will want to hang out inside.
Sleeping Giant - Bottleneck Drive, Summerland BC
Lastly, Sleeping Giant is quite different than the rest as it is a fruit winery. Specializing in fruit wines, this is the place to check out if you are looking for something a little sweeter and outside the realm of grape wines. They've got a large selection of wines including Peach, Apricot, Blackberry, Blueberry, etc. They are located in Summerland Sweets which is a gift shop showcasing many of the local artists as well as local ice cream, jams, and syrups.
The prize for completing this passport is valued at over $500.
2. The Heart of Wine Country (Okanagan Falls Winery Association) - Okanagan Falls, BC
OK Falls in particular has a special place in my heart. It is a quaint little town nestled on the South side of Skaha lake. There are some fantastic wineries around here and they are a little less known than the rest of the Okanagan wineries. Some of my favorites are Liquidity, See Ya Later Ranch, and Noble Ridge.
Liquidity - OK Falls, BC
Liquidity has great wines but I go here every year to enjoy a nice dinner on their patio. Their dinner menu is a little pricey but it is a rather classy place and I would highly recommend making a reservation on the patio for a nice, relaxing dinner. They have an infinity pool that falls along their patio and the view looks right down the south of the valley towards Vaseux Lake.
See Ya Later Ranch - OK Falls, BC
See Ya Later Ranch is a really neat vineyard and also has a great origin story. It is a dog friendly vineyard and all of their wines are named after dogs that have had significant meaning to the original owner of the land. Amazing wines, both red and white and you can't beat the view. You can take a walk through the vineyard up to the gazebo and take in the spectacular view of Skaha lake.
Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery - OK Falls, BC
Noble Ridge has produced quite a few award winning wines. They also have a gorgeous grassy picnic area where you can grab a glass and some deli munchies and take in the South facing view.
The grand prize for the OK Falls passport is an Okanagan Falls Gift Basket valued at $500
3. Naramata Bench Wine Country Passport - Naramata Bench, BC
The Naramata Bench is located just North of Penticton and on the East side of Lake Okanagan. The wines along here are quite different than those of the rest of the valley. They get the late afternoon sun making it a very hot climate for the grapes. Hot, dry climate equals delicious red wine.
Poplar Grove Winery & Vanilla Pod - Upper Bench Rd Penticton, BC
Poplar Grove is at the top of the list for me when completing this passport. They have a very classy, modern tasting room with great wines and an even better view. They are quite large and have a good variety of wines. As they have a beautiful patio, it's definitely worth stopping here for lunch along your tour.
Monster Vineyards - Tupper Ave Penticton, BC
Monster Winery uses the mythical legend of the Ogopogo (the Loch-Ness-like creature that lurks in the waters of Lake Okanagan) as the theme for their tasting room. The décor of the winery is themed around water creatures and their bottles are also decorated as such. The atmosphere is a fun one, the staff are always ready to entertain their customers and to top it off, the wines are fantastic!
Perseus Winery - Lower Bench Rd Penticton, BC
Perseus winery is a small, quaint winery on the Naramata Bench. It does have a nice patio with a great view but the wines there are spectacular. They have a great selection of wines and some varietals that you won't see at many of the other wineries on the bench. They do have a specialty wine as well, that has been an award winner. It's definitely worth a visit to Perseus if you are along the bench.
The prize for the Naramata Bench Wine Country Passport for 2018 is 2 tickets to a 2019 Naramata Bench Wine Association event of your choice.
All this being said, I highly recommend that if you're looking for a wine infused vacation, definitely consider the Okanagan Valley! Contact me for some planning assistance or check out my Okanagan Concierge Package.