During my recent visit to Canada we did a road trip from Vancouver to Calgary. The first stop of the trip was Kelowna, chosen because it is the hub of the Okanagan Valley wine region. We had only one afternoon the spare, and chose five Kelowna wineries for wine tasting during our brief visit.
Located around 400km to the west of Vancouver, Kelowna and the surrounding Okanagan Valley is home to around 120 wineries, producing more than 80% of the wine in British Columbia. The area has a wide variety of different terrains, and thus grows over 60 different varieties of grapes allowing for many different wines to be produced. While not unique to this region, this is one of the premiere places in the world to find Ice Wine, a sweet dessert wine made from grapes that are allowed to stay on the vine and freeze before they are harvested.
The Five Kelowna Wineries We Visited
We visited these five wineries, most of which were recommended to me by a local before we arrived:
Summerhill Pyramid Wines
This is a large, commercial cellar door. It has a lovely setting with great views and a great looking restaurant. This is the sort of place the tour buses stop at. That said though, the staff were great during our tasting, and I got to try ice wine for the first time. I don’t normally like dessert wines as they are too sweet, but there was something about this that gave it a lot more depth. If you are in the area, I really recommend trying some.
There was quite a wide range of wines available to buy here, although not all were available for tasting. We tried a variety of white and red wines, including one of their organic red wines.
Wine tasting at Summerhill Pyramid Wines was free, with a cap of four wines, which are chosen from the current list. They also run what they call the Pyramid Experience Tour. It lasts for about 45 minutes and talks about the vineyard and wines, visits the pyramid and includes a wine tasting. Places are limited so book online in advance.
Ancient Hill Winery
Another cellar door with great views. This one is a bit more boutique with another beautiful setting to taste wines. Again the staff member was lovely, and as we were the only people there tasting, we were able to have a great chat about the wines and the area. Here we added another winery to our tasting list for the afternoon as the staff member was keen to recommend other places to visit while we were in the area. The rosé was the most popular wine here, and while we were tasting some locals came in, grabbed a bottle and sat out on the balcony to enjoy the views. We bought a bottle of the 2016 Baco Noir to take with us.
There was a small tasting fee here at Ancient Hill Winery, but this was taken off of the price of the bottle of wine we purchased. Keep an eye out for free music events here too, especially over summer.
House of Rose Wines
This is a little cellar door right in the vineyards. When visitors arrive, there is a self-guided walk through the vines with an information sheet to show off the different grapes and other features. At the time of our visit they were building an area for weddings amongst the vines, with the first one happening the following weekend. The owner was a great source of information during the tasting and the wines had quirky names like “Grapes with Benefits” and “Hot Flash”. Unfortunately the wines were not to our taste, but still we enjoyed our visit.
Tasting here was free. Keep an eye out for events like their Grape Stomping Parties during the harvest around about October.
Here’s where we start venturing off the usual cellar door path! This place is best described as quirky. It’s a recording studio and a cellar door, the tag line being “Wine Infused with Music”. It’s not just that there are two different business here, they are actually combined, with the vibrations from the music being used to remove the sediment from the wine in unique ways that changes the flavours. (They can explain that better than me!) They also have a unique wine that came about a couple of years ago when one of the holding vats froze. Once it defrosted, they discovered the remaining liquid was not too bad and they decided to turn it into a sparkling wine called “Grateful Vine”. There are also some beers made here and a delicious apple cider, which we purchased to take with us.
The wine tasting here was $4, which again came off the price of any purchases.
The Vibrant Vine
A sister winery to Frequency, this one is not to be outdone. Here is it all about 3D art. The winemaker is also an artist who paints these bright, 3D images that decorate the whole cellar door. They are used on the wine labels and all the extra merchandise. When visitors walk in the door they are handed 3D glasses to wander around and look at the art before commencing tasting. I don’t remember the wines here so well (it was winery #5 after all!) but I remember they were okay without being exceptional.
One that did stand out is called “Woops” – thanks to it accidentally being labelled upside-down. It was also accidentally delivered to the World Wine Competition in Geneva in 2013 and won Best White Wine. The bottles were meant to go to a labelling competition for the beautiful 3D Labels, but unbeknownst to the winery, only empty bottles were sent to this completion. Thanks to a delivery person not reading the label properly, just feeling full bottles, it went to the wine competition instead. After winning the competition, the upside-down labels and the name stuck.
The staff were fantastic – mostly other Australians and we spent a lot of time chatting and comparing the wines to ones we knew from home. There was a charge of $6CAD per person to taste here (it would come off of any purchases) but we didn’t pay it. I only realised once we had left, so not sure if they forgot to charge us or didn’t on purpose. Visiting The Vibrant Vine is about more than just the wines, and this winery really should be on your must-see list for the whole experience.
Tastings cost $6CAD, and there is also a Guided Sensory Tasting available. Book online here. The Vibrant Vine is one of the few wineries open all year round. Look out for live music every weekend.
Here’s where you will find the wineries I have suggested
Now that you know which Kelowna Wineries to visit, include them on your next itinerary.
Is there a great winery I missed? Let me know so I can visit next time I am in Kelowna.
Prefer to join a wine tour? Click through to see prices and availability of these
- Wine Tasting Tours (4 hours)
- All Star Wineries of Kelowna Tour
- Okanagan Wine Country Bike and Wine Tour
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.