If there was one thing I was really looking forward to on my recent trip to British Columbia and Alberta, it was the wine touring in Kelowna. Kelowna is a city in the south of BC in the Okanagan Valley. It’s surrounded by provincial parks, forests, orchards, mountains, and of course, vineyards (over 100 of them). It’s next to impossible to visit them all in one trip, but I did my best to go to as many as I could. Thankfully I had the help of Uncorked, a local wine tour company, to help me jam some fantastic wineries into my day.
What wine region should I visit?
The Okanagan Valley is broken into several different regions and given that they are all quite spaced out from one another, it’s wise to choose one region to focus on per day to really make the most of your time and limit the distance you’ll need to travel between each winery. The key regions are broken up as follows:
- Central Kelowna
- West Kelowna
- Lake Country
- Black Sage-Osoyoos
Of course, I didn’t have time to visit all of these areas of the Okanagan Valley, but there were certain areas that came the most recommended to me which were Summerland, Penicton, and Lake Country. That’s not to say that the other regions aren’t worth a visit or don’t have award-winning wineries within them.
Wine touring in Summerland
The tour I opted for with Uncorked was their tour of Bottleneck Drive in Summerland. The drive to Summerland was about 30-40 minutes from central Kelowna where we were staying but Uncorked picks you right up at your accommodations (if they’re central) and you don’t have to worry about transportation from then on out.
The tour will differ dependent on your guide and the day you are going on it, however, the wineries that we visited were:
- Sleeping Giant – a unique fruit winery where their wines are made with everything from berries to peaches
- Thornhaven – loved this Tuscan-inspired vineyard with a cute little taproom and unreal views
- Lunessence – a gorgeous patio to enjoy the views while you taste their wines
- Sumac Ridge – one of the bigger guys that has 3 wine brands under their one location
- Sage Hills – a certified organic winery with a gorgeous tasting room
We also had a bonus stop at Back Door Winery as our guide had to drop off some guests a bit off the beaten path before he drove the rest of us back to downtown Kelowna (note: this tasting was at our own expense and was optional). We also had a lunch stop in the middle at Zia’s, a historic family restaurant with a beautiful patio and good fuel to fill us up for more wine tasting.
By traveling with Uncorked through Summerland, really allowed us to not worry about who was going to be the designated driver for the day, and try six wonderful wineries further off the beaten path from central Kelowna. Our guide was knowledgeable and had tons of stories to tell, and the smaller group size (there were eight of us) really made it feel like a private/intimate tour of the area.
Wine touring in West Kelowna
Aside from my tour with Uncorked, we also did some of our own winery stops as well on the other days we were in the area. To start, as we were driving into the city, we made stops at some of the wineries (and a cidery) in West Kelowna. These included:
- Quail’s Gate – this is one of the infamous wineries in the region and is a must-visit
- Hatch – a cute, boutique winery with great wine
Wine Touring in Lake Country
Lastly, the only other area we got to in this trip was to Lake Country where we visited three highly recommended wineries:
Honestly, I can’t say anything but good things with all three of these wineries. They all topped some of our favorites on the whole trip. They each had outstanding wines, great tasting rooms, and fantastic views. What more could you need? Some additional places that were recommended in Lake Country to us were:
Uncorked also offers a guided tour through Lake Country as well. You can find more details on that here.
What to know before you go
You can’t do it all. Well you can, if you have a lot of days and a designated driver!
Tastings aren’t all included. Tastings differ from each winery. If you go on a tour like Uncorked, your tastings will be included in the price of the tour. However, if you tour on your own, you’ll have to pay anywhere from $10-$15 CAD per tasting. Note that all tastings include anywhere from 3-5 wines that you’ll try and most wineries will waive the tasting fee if you buy a bottle of wine.
Reservations are encouraged. Especially during high season, or if you have a group, you’ll want to make reservations for your tastings. If you have the flexibility, try visiting on weekdays, or during shoulder season (spring or fall).
Food. Not all wineries serve food, and/or require a separate reservation for their restaurants. However, there are several great meal and wine pairing options at many of the wineries if you have the time.
Dress code. You’ll see people of all walks of life at wineries. For wine tastings and tours you’ll see people in leggings to dresses with heels. If you plan to visit a lot of wineries, keep in mind that most tastings are standing so you’ll want to have comfortable shoes!
Bringing wine home. Of course, if you are traveling domestically, you can put wine in your suitcase without having to worry about the limits of what you can bring into your country. We brought home 10 bottles in our suitcase and (thankfully) nothing broke. We went to a local store and bought some bubble wrap to wrap them up well. However, this was still definitely a risk. Most wineries offer shipping or wine clubs for a fee that may be a better alternative depending on how much wine you want to bring back.
Overall, I loved my time in Kelowna. There is so much to see and do, and the winery options are endless. I could spend a week here just visiting wineries and never getting sick of it. If you are a wine fan, a visit to this area is definitely a must! I can’t wait to go back. Let me know your Kelowna recos below so I can add them to my list for my next visit!
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Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with Uncorked. However, as always, everything written within this post is authentic to my experience and opinion.