Wine Routes by Region
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The Thompson Region
Venture west into Gold Country and 20 provincial parks beckon with a vast array of landscape that will appeal to nature lovers from semi-arid desert to thick forests with lakes, grasslands, meadows, river canyons and mountains. The region offers a unique way to explore these natural features through geocaching, an activity growing in popularity among group travelers. Couples can enjoy a one-of-a-kind luxury wilderness experience that combines old-world dude ranching with new age wellness.
If cityscapes are more your thing, make your way to the South Thompson and Kamloops, the second largest metropolitan area in the B.C. interior. Fine dining, nightlife, shopping and world-class golfing await. But don't forget to take note of the south's stunning valleys and plateaus formed by volcanic land masses and rivers. And beautiful Sun Peaks Resort is less than an hour's drive away from the city and offers world-class skiing, hiking, mountain biking and golf. It's the site of the annual Winter Okanagan Wine Festival, which is a great option for wine enthusiasts traveling with their families.
Speaking of wine, there are good options in the Thompson region for hardcore enthusiasts to get their fill. Several pioneering vintners have taken advantage of favourable microclimates around Kamloops and in Gold Country region to produce fresh and flavourful wines.
Accessing wine country via the Thompson region would be a fantastic way to kick off a wine-soaked tour of the Thompson-Okanagan. Tasting the region's unique terroir while taking in its diverging landscape will guarantee an unsurpassed sense of place.
The Shuswap is known for being down-to-earth and friendly, with quaint communities that are linked by an incredible lakes and surrounded by beautiful forested mountains. It's where you'll find a charming boutiques, a thriving artist community and a well-established and wildly popular summer music extravaganza called the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival that will appeal to couples as well as groups.
The Shuswap Lake system encompasses over 1,000 kilometres of shoreline and hosts the largest houseboat fleet in Canada from two key bases - Salmon Arm and Sicamous. Houseboating on the lake's pristine waters is a huge warm weather draw to the region providing memorable holidays for families and groups. There are numerous marine park campgrounds where exploration abounds through trails along the forested shoreline.
Other draws for families in the Shuswap include the famous Adams River salmon run and 2014 is a dominant year when observers may get a chance to see millions of sockeye salmon return to spawn in October.
Nature lovers will appreciate Salmon Arm's waterfront trails through a protected sanctuary featuring boardwalks, paths, a bird viewing tower and a Nature House. Then there's Margaret Falls, which passes through a rock chasm and offers an enchanted forest feel. There's a unique ecosystem of flowers, trees and shrubs and the water from Reinecker Creek cascades down a sheer rock face creating a natural shower. There's also a hidden cave in the rock behind the falls.
The Shuswap has a deeply rooted farming community and food enthusiasts are invited to do a circle farm tour that also includes the charming wineries of the area. It's a terrific way to explore the regional food culture.
Further south, visitors will come to the northern gateway to the Okanagan. They'll get their first glimpse of the vast Okanagan Lake which the fills most of the valley floor. The North Okanagan features fertile agricultural land known for daily products, fruit and vegetables. The rich grasslands brought ranchers to the valley and dude ranch experiences are available for adventurers who want to the chance to work the land.
But there's something for urban cowboys and girls as well in the city of Vernon where there's great shopping and dining experiences.
This is serious lake country - in fact, one community in region is called just that. So there are countless ways to enjoy the water no matter, whether its trolling for your lunch in a quiet bay, trying out a waterski ramp, or just taking in the view while sipping a fine wine with your significant other on the patio of a local winery.
One of the most stunning features of the North Okanagan is Kalamalka Lake, a large body of water on south side of Vernon. Calcium carbonate deposits form crystals that reflect sunlight and create the vivid colours that vary from deep blue to aquamarine. There are gorgeous beaches and a 2,420 acre provincial park and protected area with pristine natural areas that nature lovers are sure to enjoy.
Less than an hour from Vernon, Silver Star Mountain beckons offering a playground for winter sports and a picturesque village feel. But the resort is equally as popular during the warmer months offering miles of mountain biking and hiking trails. In fact, the mountain hosts a summer food and wine festival in August. And nature lovers will enjoy the stunning display of wildflowers which bloom all over the hills and meadows. It's a must go for just about every type of traveller.
Lake Country, the most southern part of this region is where visitors will start to see a growing concentration of wineries, so hard-core enthusiasts will be spoiled for choice.
The Central Okanagan may be regarded as urban central in the Thompson-Okanagan, indeed Kelowna is the largest interior city, but many might be surprised that it's rooted in a rich agricultural history. This is where wine growing got its start.
Father Charles Pandosy is credited with setting up the first vineyards at the Obelate Mission near Kelowna back in the 1860s. The purpose was to make sacramental wines for his parish.
Nobody could predict what was to come, but these humble beginnings served as the catalyst for what is today a mecca for wine enthusiasts locally and globally.
As far as destinations go, the Central Okanagan has it all. The region has two distinct communities - Kelowna and West Kelowna, separated by William Bennett Bridge at the narrowest point of Okanagan Lake. The area offers the scenic wonders of the great outdoors that will appeal to adventurers, with the convenience of an urban setting for those who crave modern conveniences.
It is here you will find miles of sandy beaches hugging the shores of Okanagan Lake that attract families and sun worshipers, as well as hiking and biking trails within minutes of a central core. The region is home to a growing number of wineries, ranging in size from tiny cottage-style to larger but still intimate by most standards.
There are plenty of options for accommodations, shopping, fine dining, entertainment, arts and cultural activities, historical attractions and much more to be had on both sides of the lake. You're also just a stone's throw away from dozens of golf courses, trails and nature preserves, not to mention the ever beckoning lake.
The water is a veritable liquid playground in this area with amenities for waterskiing and boarding, windsurfing, paddle boarding, parasailing, jet-skiing, fishing and more. For those who love boating, there are scores of beaches, coves, and parks to explore that are accessible by watercraft. Maps are available identifying public areas, campsites and buoys in case you want to anchor on the water over night.
On the Kelowna side of the lake, you'll find Okanagan Mountain Park, the site of the infamous fire that swept down the mountainside in August 2003, torching hundreds of homes, forest and parkland, even destroying many of the popular Myra Canyon railway trestles that were a hit with hikers and had survived Mother Nature's wrath for more than 80 years.
Now just over a decade later, new life has been injected in the park and it is once again a sought-after backcountry area for hiking, biking and camping. The canyon trestles have been restored and once again open for everyone's outdoor enjoyment.
An interconnected corridor of parks follow Kelowna's downtown waterfront, perfect for a leisurely sunset stroll after a romantic dinner out. Foodies and families will get a kick out of Gellatly Nut Farm located on the west side.
Less than an hour's drive from downtown Kelowna, you'll find Big White Ski Resort, a winter destination renowned for its champagne powder snow and family-friendly vibe. The west side has its own ski hill too, Crystal Mountain, a locale that is accessible and affordable with groomed cross-country ski trails nearby for those with an adventurous spirit.
For the hardcore wine enthusiasts, there are several clusters of wineries located along the lake off Boucherie Road in West Kelowna and in the southeast part of Kelowna city. And you'll also find one of the oldest and largest wineries right downtown.
A piece of the wine industry's vital history still lives on with Father Pandosy's Mission heritage site in Kelowna, where you'll find his chapel still standing.
Venturing south from the Central Okanagan, you will begin to understand why the South Okanagan is regarded as a vacation hotspot with its beauty, bounty and glorious weather.
The names of the first two charming lakeside communities should give you some clue as to what awaits in Peachland and Summerland. Both are picturesque, peaceful retreats bathed yearly in ample sunshine and located right along Highway 97 between Kelowna and Penticton.
Peachland offers clean waterfront access to beaches, marine parks and docks. One of the most popular attractions for families is Swim Bay, which has a zip line, lifeguard supervision and a children's playground. There are also plenty of walking, hiking and biking trails, not to mention several quaint wineries.
Summerland is home to the Kettle Valley Railway, a historical attraction that will delight groups and families. Nature lovers will enjoy the ornamental gardens, agricultural research centre, and the salmon hatchery. But if you're here for the wine, the concentrated group of wineries that have marketed themselves as the "Bottleneck Drive" won't disappoint.
This area encompasses rolling vineyards with incredible views and a truly grassroots feel and artistic vibe. Expect to be entertained by local musicians, and enjoy the works of artists and crafters. This is an area rich in creativity.
It's also a foodie's paradise, with local producers and restaurateurs embracing the concept of the 100-mile diet - regional cuisine that promotes local, seasonal ingredients.
A little further south and you'll hit another urban centre - Penticton - which is ideally situated between Okanagan and Skaha Lakes, making it the ultimate water-lovers paradise. It's a city with a small town feel appealing to all types of travellers. Families will love the beaches and the river channel in the heart of the city down which you can float on tubes and other personal inflatable devices, an activity that has been listed as one of the 115 things to do in the book titled, The Great Canadian Bucket List, published last year.
Adventure travellers will appreciate that they're only minutes from Skaha Bluffs, a climber's paradise that has garnered international recognition.
A short drive through Penticton and around the north side of Okanagan Lake and you'll find yourself on the pastoral Naramata Bench, a place that will take you back to a simpler time. The view of the lake as you wind your way down the road toward the village is nothing short of breathtaking.
Better yet, here is where you'll find one of the highest concentrations of wineries in the valley, taking full advantage of the setting, the climate and unique terroir that is the measure of a great wine. The Naramata bench is Nirvana for the daytripper and if you don't mind the occasional hill climb, this is a sensational destination for a winery tour by bicycle.
Once you arrive in the Okanagan Falls area in the South Okanagan you'll quickly realize that the pace is relaxed and laid back, drawing on the appeal of a simpler way of living.
In case you're wonder, the "falls" themselves don't actually exist. Originally, the hamlet was blessed with twin falls that fell from where Skaha Lake empties into the river, however, in the 1950s a series of dams to control flooding were built, reducing the falls into a series of rapids.
Still, the area is pretty and a huge draw for nature lovers as a large selection of wildlife lives in the area, with many unique desert flora and fauna for naturalists to explore. A bird sanctuary is situated at Vaseux Lake just south of the town, complete with an interpretive centre.
You won't find big box stores here, but if you're a shopper, you'll be delighted by the eclectic mix of antique stores and craft shops, not to mention the flea market that runs from March through November. There are also beaches, trails and parks to explore.
Okanagan Falls is also home to the Corkscrew Drive, a sizeable collection of grassroots wineries with distinct approaches to wine. Many of the producers on this trail have embraced their unique terroir to craft wines with unique signatures to critical acclaim. You'll find biodynamic, quirky and passionate producers here. For the hardcore wine enthusiast, it's a must visit.
Furthering southwest and you'll find yourself in the Simikameen Valley. Here the Similkameen River brings life to the arid grasslands of the valley. Keremeos is the Fruit Stand Capital of Canada and centre of B.C.'s newest wine region.
The Similkameen Valley is rich in mining history and you can still pick up a pan and try your luck at striking gold. First Nations culture and agricultural lands still thrive here. You'll come across colourful fruit stands and farmlands, as well as an increasing amount of new wineries that produce both grape and fruit products in the bottle. They'll make you think twice about what is possible with the region's bounty.
The Similkameen boasts scores of accessible fishing lakes along with the remote backcountry terrain of Cathedral Provincial Park, a major attraction to adventure seekers looking for unparalleled experiences and breathtaking views. History buffs will be drawn to the old frontier-like atmosphere and landscape.
You have now entered the fruit basket of the Thompson-Okanagan. This is a veritable paradise of plenty when it comes to tree fruits, produce and wine. It won't escape your notice that the roadways through this region are lined with orchards, vineyards and fruit stands. In the spring, every corner of this area comes alive with gorgeous blossoms, followed by the brilliant foliage and eventually the distinctive hues of the individual fruits. You'll be tempted to pull over along the route to pluck a fresh cherry, apricot, peach, pear, plum, apple and, of course, grape as it ripens. The temptation is hard to resist.
It might surprise you that under normal circumstances little would grow here. The Oliver/Osoyoos area is in a desert belt - an extension of the Sonoran stretching up from Mexico. Cacti and rattlesnakes are more at home here. Irrigation has breathed new life into the South Okanagan, creating fertile ground for growing fruit. Coupled with the area's extended days of heat and sunshine and you've got wine growing Nirvana.
Oliver has been dubbed the Wine Capital of Canada. And while that is a self-designation by the municipality, the area comes by it rightly with the highest concentration of wineries and vineyards of any where in the country. No self-respecting wine enthusiast would visit here without out at least considering a tour of the area.
Osoyoos is the southernmost point in the valley and located on the shores of the warmest lake in Canada. It's a border town with easy access to the U.S. for those who want to make a quick trip stateside.
Despite recent development of luxury hotels and residential communities, Osoyoos has managed to retain its small-town charm offering idyllic respite with all the amenities you might desire at your fingertips. Dining in the area has been cranked up at notch in recent years, with a nod toward regional and season cuisine.
Gorgeous beaches and family-friendly options are plentiful in this stunning lakeside community. Awesome hiking and biking trails and backcountry adventures are close at hand. And you're never more than a few minutes from a glass of wine. This is B.C. wine country at its best.
Nestled in a valley surrounded by soaring mountains and dense forest, the Fraser Valley is an area rich in agricultural roots. In fact, more than half of the province's farming industry is located here. It's only about an hour to downtown Vancouver, but you won't feel much of the city's influence in the valley. It's a grassroots and hard-working community with a much slower pace than its bustling neighbour to the west.
There more than 20 wineries scattered between Chilliwack and Richmond that are considered part of the Fraser Valley wine growing region, although several are actually in the Metro Vancouver region. Producers focus on making fresh fruit-forward wines but also obtain grapes from the Okanagan to create fuller bodied offerings.
This region has a lot to offer travellers such as great mountain climbing, salmon fishing, white water rafting, zip lining, biking and hiking trails for those with an adventurous spirit. Romantic couples can enjoy an escape to Harrison Hot Springs, while families will appreciate the many attractions such as various aquatic and recreation centres, historic sites, parks and campgrounds. Nature lovers will be drawn to Mountain View Wildlife Conservation and Breeding Centre and Bridal Veil Falls.
The close proximity to Metro Vancouver makes it highly accessible and provides excellent opportunities for rural daytrips and urban excursions.
Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands wine regions are magical places where wine growing and production is often family-based and deeply passionate. There are 34 wineries on the big island mostly concentrated in the Saanich Peninsula and Cowichan Valley, which are blessed with microclimates that that are drier and more favourable to winegrowing then one might think on the "wet coast."
You'll find another 10 or so wineries on the neighbouring gulf islands of Saturna, Thetis, Hornby, Salt Spring and Quadra. The lifestyle on the islands is laid-back, carefree, unhurried, unpretentious, artistic and that is apparent in their approach to wines.
Vancouver and the Gulf Islands have a longer growing season, a lower risk of frost in the spring and fall and little or no snow in the winter. These areas are more suitable for growing aromatic whites and lighter-style reds. But fine wines are also being made from tree fruits, berries and even honey. Many island producers purchase grapes from the Okanagan to make fuller-bodied wines.
This area is a naturalist's dream with natural wonders galore - cliffside hiking trails, Garry oak ecosystems, sandstone formations. Adventure lovers can partake in experiences unique to the coast such as ocean kayaking and diving, deep sea fishing and whale watching tours.
For families there are plenty of beaches, campgrounds and festivals and events year round. Those with a boat will appreciate the fact that many of the most pristine natural areas can only be reached by the water. The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, for example, covers 33-square kilometres of parkland on numerous islets, reefs, and islands. Nature cruises, boat charters, sailing tours, and saltwater fishing charters are options to get out on the water.
Agritourism is very strong in this area with a focus on the 100-mile diet and organics. You'll find roadside stands and farm-gate shops offering up fresh local produce, honey, spring lamb, cheeses, and, of course, wine.
Urban dwellers can opt to stay in Victoria, a beautiful seaside city with a central harbour and an Old World charm. The area teems with heritage architecture and stunning garden displays. It's a place here high tea is a ritual and a laid-back attitude is a must. It's an ideal spot for a romantic getaway complete with horse-drawn carriage rides and fine seaside dining.
One might have never imagined finding a winery in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, but today there are five. It's better known for being a rugged, pristine area filled with lakes, rivers, waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, meadows and mineral hot springs. But grapes were first planted in 1995 and today the West Kootenays is a small but emerging wine growing area. Wine enthusiasts will enjoy the quaintness and the pride the vintners have in their products. But most of all they will appreciate the fact that the producers pushed incredible boundaries to coax the grapes from the soil to the glass and have a determination to make world-class wines.
The West Kootenay is an outdoors person's ideal. There are hectares upon hectares of undeveloped terrain, waterways and natural habitat providing unsurpassed exploration, flora and fauna observation and activities such as climbing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and biking, hang gliding, and more. There are also excellent golf courses and ski resorts.
This is a region with an adventurous spirit, a friendly vibe and an ecosystem consciousness. The people here take pride in their land and work hard to preserve it. Families will delight in the West Kootenays. The area teems with festivals and events, campgrounds, playgrounds and historical attractions. But romantic couples will also be drawn to the charming bed and breakfasts, mineral hot springs and scenery.