Destinations

A week in Canada’s wine region, the Thompson Okanagan

Meet the region pioneering an exciting new era of wines in British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province.

By Daniel Honan
The Okanagan Valley is a magnificent place of natural beauty, wildlife wonders, and edible adventures. It's abundant with outstanding wine, grown in, arguably, one of the most spectacular wine regions in the world with nearly 200 wineries.
Beautiful any time of the year, but surely autumn is the best time to visit; to see the first dusting of white snow sprinkled high up on the mountain slopes; to witness the region ignite in seasonal celebration with bright deciduous colours that shift from green to gold to orange to red; to watch the light from the sun glitter across the gorgeous blue hues of Lake Okanagan.

How to get there

Fly, then drive. Air Canada flies direct to Vancouver from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Driving in BC is an adventure in itself. Hire a car in Vancouver, then head west on Highway 5. Go up and over the Cascades, through the Coquihalla Pass, to get to Kelowna, gateway to the Okanagan Valley.

Kelowna

Beginning at the northern end of Okanagan wine country, spend a day or two exploring the wineries and dining scene in and around the small city of Kelowna. Some of BC's best known wineries are located here, including Tantalus Vineyards, which boasts the oldest vines in the valley.

Stay
Elegant and modern, surrounded by picturesque views and pretty lakeside ambience, the Mariott Grand Okanagan Resort offers a stylish place to stay in Kelowna. The rooms are cosy and comfy, and many have balconies that look out over the lake or nearby marina. The resort is located right in the heart of Kelowna's Cultural District. 1310 Water Street, Kelowna, marriott.com/ylwok
Eat
Oak + Cru, located on the waterfront at the Marriott Grand, offers a perfect vantage point to watch the sun set down over the lake and mountains beyond. With a glass of wine and a couple of small plates to start, you're gastronomic Okanagan adventure begins here.
Locals say Raudz Regional Table is Kelowna's best restaurant. There's booze behind the bar, stocked with a library of 100 per cent local wines, and the seasonally inspired, locavore menu is brimming with fresh ingredients that arrive straight from the farms and markets of the Okanagan Valley.
Wake up well with a coffee and healthy breakfast from Naked Café in downtown Kelowna.
Drink
Kelowna boasts more than 30 wineries you can visit. It also has its fair share of hip joints to hang out and relax, drink in hand. Seek out a crafty pint from BNA Brewing Co., or Tree Brewing Beer Institute, or enjoy a cocktail from Krafty Kitchen + Bar; the Wildflower Old Fashioned is a class act.

Winery wise, listen for the bells ringing out at Mission Hill Winery; set in lakeside grounds with spectacular scenery and superb wines to taste. A little ways down the road you'll find Quails' Gate, who produce a steely Chenin Blanc, which pairs supremely well with fresh Joyce Bay oysters. Over the lake, the landmark Summerhill Pyramid Winery is known for their dedication to biodynamic winegrowing, producing delicious sparkling wines, delicate whites, and powerful reds.

Penticton

Penticton is possibly the Okanagan's prettiest little city. Located between two lakes, swimming beaches and stunning shorelines abound. The city's agricultural roots are vivid for all to see, with apples, stone-fruits, and, of course, wine grapes growing along the benches, ridges, and ravines that define this remarkable part of the valley.
Stay
Penticton Lakeside Resort's lakefront setting is the best place to rest during the Penticton part of your picturesque Okanagan journey. The resort's latest addition, the West Wing building, has lake views from almost every room. Stylish, modern and ultra-comfortable. 21 Lakeshore Drive, W Penticton, pentictonlakesideresort.com
Eat
Eat at Poplar Grove, the superb restaurant/cellar door on the hill. Overlooking their Pinot Gris vineyard and the Okanagan Lake beyond, Poplar Grove's elegant dining room is the perfect place to while away an evening in the Okanagan. Enjoy a refined Mediterranean menu that highlights local and seasonal fare sourced from the local surrounds.

Drink
Wayne & Freda is an oasis for caffeine fiends. It's quite possibly the best coffee spot in BC. They specialise in cups of joe from single origins and do tasty toasties, bowls, and fresh breakfast sandwiches.
Become an Okanagan wine expert in no time by booking a wine tasting experience at Great Estates Okanagan. Located beneath the West Wing at Penticton Lakeside Resort, Great Estates is a tasting room partnership between some of the Okanagan's premier wine producers, including Sumac Ridge, Jackson Triggs, Black Sage Vineyard, and See Ya Later Ranch.

A visit to Painted Rock Estate Winery is crucial for serious wine lovers. Lauded by the likes of Jancis Robinson, Painted Rock's vineyard overlooks the spectacular Skaha Lake and grows some of the best wines in BC. The cellar door's modern, minimalist design is the perfect place to sample through their range of stunning wines, in particular, the Syrah, and Red Icon flagship blend.

Hire a bike and take a two-wheel, downhill trip along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, through the beautiful Naramata Bench, bursting with wineries to visit for a well-earned wine tasting, and perhaps a picnic with a view. Try booking a tasting with Bella and you might learn how to sabre a bottle of delicious BC bubbly while you're there.

Osoyoos

At the southernmost end of the Okanagan you will find the sunny town of Osoyoos; a dramatically delightful desert town, right on Osoyoos Lake. Use this place as your base to explore the surrounding towns, such as Oliver and Okanagan Falls, further north, plus the Nk'Mip Desert & Heritage Centre on the outskirts of town.
Stay
The lakeside Watermark Beach Resort is Osoyoos' best place to stay and soak up the magnificence of the Okanagan desert landscape. Book a beachfront townhouse, fully furnished with a self-contained kitchen for privacy, space and comfort.
Eat
Stop in at Oliver Eats for brunch or lunch or some tasty takeaway. Super cute and contemporary, Oliver Eats is the place to go for tasty cheese and meats, freshly made sandwiches, cakes and pastries, good coffee and super friendly service with a smile.
Farm stalls line the route in and out of Osoyoos, selling valley produce, fruits and vegetables. Stop in, talk to the locals, and buy some fresh Okanagan Valley foodstuffs for a delicious home cooked meal back at your lakeside apartment.
Drink
Located within the grounds of the Nk'Mip Desert & Heritage Centre, Nk'Mip Cellars is home to the first Indigenous-owned winery in North America. They make some of the Okanagan's most authentic wines; try the delicious Dreamcatcher white wine blend.
Hidden away, between the border and the lake is boutique winery Lariana Cellars. Again, a must-visit for the serious wine lover. Outstanding wines of elegance and finesse; one sip of the Carménère and you will know why.

Presented by Gourmet Traveller and Destination Canada