We’ve been to the Okanagan before but never done any wine tasting. That’s strange since the Okanagan valley BC is famed for its wine. The best BC wines, and indeed some of the best Canadian wine, come from the Okanagan. This past Labour Day weekend we decided to go on a road trip with some friends to the Okanagan for some cycling and wine drinking. We based ourselves in Kelowna and so visited Kelowna vineyards and wineries near Kelowna. If you’re looking for some of the best Kelowna wineries then check out this post about some of the top wineries in Kelowna that we visited.
About BC wine
You may be surprised to know that BC has a booming wine industry. Despite the fact that Canada has this reputation for being a super cold country, the British Columbia interior is pretty mild and dry which is ideal for growing grapes. For this reason there are a lot of vineyards and the Okanagan has become known as BC wine country.
While BC wine is found in many areas of the province, the best BC wine is typically produced in the Okanagan Valley.
About Okanagan Valley wine
The Okanagan Valley has 84% of the province’s vineyard acreage. It’s regarded as BC’s premier grape-growing region and one of the best Canada wine regions.
The whole valley covers over 250km and each sub-regions has its own distinct soil and climate conditions. This leads to different areas being suited to different grape varieties.
The Okanagan wineries vary in size from quieter family-run boutique vineyards to world-class operation. It’s now not unusual to see Okanagan vineyards ranking among the world’s best at international competitions.
How to visit the best Kelowna wineries
Deciding how best to visit the wineries in Kelowna can be a bit tricky. Most people don’t want to volunteer to be the designated driver when you’re off out wine tasting! There are several ways you can do Kelowna wine tours without having to draw straws.
If you really, really don’t want to drive then the Kelowna region might not be the best option as there seem to be fewer winery tour companies operating there. One of the best tours would be the hop on, hop off bus but that only tours the wineries in the Penticton / Naramata and Osoyoos / Oliver areas.
In the end we opted for a self guided Kelowna winery tour which worked for us since we only visited a couple (it worked even better for Thom and I since our friends had the rental car 😉 ).
If you’re not keen on driving then these Kelowna wine tours below will help you out!
About Kelowna wine
Kelowna is the birthplace of winemaking in British Columbia. Kelowna wineries regularly win national and international awards and there are over 40 wineries within a 20 minute drive!
If you’re visiting wineries in Kelowna you’ll find that they can generally be split into five areas or wine trails. The Kelowna wine areas are; Kelowna’s Fab Five, Lake Country’s Scenic Sip, Westside Wine Trail, Lakeshore Wine Route and Downtown Grapes & Grains.
Kelowna wineries map
You can add this map by Tourism Kelowna to your phone. They’re split into the five different trails. These trails cover a lot, but not all, of the Kelowna area wineries.
Kelowna winery tours
There are lots of companies offering wine tours in Kelowna. Here are a few suggestions for the different wine regions in Kelowna. The cost of these Kelowna wine tours is around $100+ but you may be able to find a few cheap wine tours in Kelowna if you’re visiting mid-week as some companies have special offers then.
Distinctly Kelowna Tours
Distinctly Kelowna Tours run wine tasting tours through the Okanagan Valley. Their Summer Sips tour ($109 + tax) takes you to several West Kelowna wineries such as Ciao Bella Winery and Off the Grid winery. There’s also a tour that takes you to some of the East Kelowna wineries. This covers a few of the wineries we visited by car (more info below) such as Sperling Vineyard and Meadow Vista Honey Wines.
OK Wine Tours
OK Wine Tours offer several different tours in Kelowna. Their Scenic Sip tour ($149+ tax) takes you to four wineries with a Kelowna winery restaurant for lunch too (lunch is extra). They also run West Kelowna wine tours the cheapest west Kelowna wine tour is $129+ tax for three wineries plus a lunch stop (but lunch not included).
Uncorked Okanagan Wine Tours
Uncorked Okanagan Wine Tours seem to specialise in Bachelorette parties. Their Thursday Thrills on Lakeshore covers four wineries with tastings and may include visits a few of the wineries mentioned below (Sperling and Kitsch). $124 + tax
What do the Okanagan wine tours include?
This varies slightly from company to company and tour to tour. Usually the tours include your transport for the day, tasting fee. Usually lunch and tour guide tips aren’t included.
Visit Kelowna wineries by car
We decided to visit some of the Kelowna Fab Five wineries and a few extra in the area by car. Although it’s hard to say exactly which are the best wineries in Kelowna without trying them all (and even then it’s personal preference), there were definitely a few that I’d recommend more than others.
If you’re going to visit Kelowna wineries by car then make sure to have a designated driver and stick to one of the areas on the Kelowna vineyard map above for each wine tasting session you have.
Also, make sure you pick up some wine to take back to your accommodation so the driver can join in the fun too!
What is the alcohol limit in British Columbia?
BC has Canada’s toughest impaired driving laws and there are big penalties for driving over the blood alcohol content (BAC) level. In British Columbia the BAC is 0.05
The amount of alcohol in your blood depends on many factors including gender, age and how much food you’ve had. It’s safer to not drink at all if you’re planning on driving.
If you do want to partake in wine tasting then be aware that a BAC of 0.05 is roughly equivalent to one small glass of wine per hour. For women it’s less than that.
Bike wine tour in Kelowna
You could also visit some Kelowna vineyards by bike. This was something we were planning to do but our accommodation was a 400m climb from the nearest vineyards and we didn’t fancy that after trying some Okanagan wine!
If you’re staying in Kelowna then check out Monashee Adventures Tours who offer bicycle day trips and week long tours through BC wine country. From $200pp
Visit Kelowna wineries on foot
You can also walk between some of the vineyards in Kelowna. The best place to do this would be either in the downtown wine and beer areas since everything is much closer there and there are no hills. On a winery tour in downtown Kelowna you could visit Sandhill Estate Winery, Tree Brewing and Calona Vineyards and Urban Distillery & Winery..
You could also visit the vineyards in West Kelowna on foot too. These would include; Beaumont Family, Little Straw Vineyards, Mt. Boucherie and Volcanic Hills vineyards.
My experience wine tasting in Kelowna
We visited five wineries over the course of two days in Kelowna. I’ve included my experience of all five wineries but my top picks are Sperling and The View Winery & Ward’s Cidery.
Sperling Vineyard was the first vineyard we visited during our weekend touring the vineyards of Kelowna. It has a gorgeous outside area where you can walk through the vines or play table football (like we did while we waited for a hen party to leave).
At Sperling they have a list of around 16 wines and you can choose 5 of these to try for your tasting. The wines include red and white, and a couple of dessert wines.
The prices were extremely reasonable with the cheapest bottle being $19 or just $14 once you’ve put your tasting fee towards it!
Cost of tasting: $5
How many wines?: You can try 5 wines from a larger list
Meadow Vista Honey Wines
Meadow Vista Honey Wines actually make mead rather than the type of wine you’re probably thinking of. Mead is in fact the oldest type of wine and it’s traditionally made with just honey and water.
At Meadow Vista Honey Wines you can take a walk over to the beehives and through the vegetable garden. Meadow Vista also have a Bistro which is open for lunch (& uses the veggies from their garden) if you’re looking for a Kelowna vineyard restaurant.
A tasting here was just $2 and included a taste of four different types of Mead ranging from less sweet to super (& super tasty) sweet. We tried The Cloudhorse, Sparkling Cherry, Sparkling apple cyser and the Ostara which was more like a dessert wine. There’s also a spicy mead they call Mabon which sounds delicious but wasn’t quite ready. If you visit in autumn/winter be sure to try it!
Cost of tasting: $2
How many wines?: 4 different types of Mead. The mead varies slightly depending on season.
This was by far the grandest vineyard we visited. As you pull up to do your wine tasting at Kitsch you’ll see a very grand house. Unfortunately this isn’t exactly where your tasting is (that’s off to the right and round the back) but you’ll get incredible views from up here of the Okanagan Lake, the hills and Kelowna itself.
This was the most expensive tasting we did. We tried 6 wines; 5 white and 1 red since Kitsch is a predominantly white vineyard. All the grapes in their wine come from the estate and you can see some of the vines right outside while you do your tasting.
The woman who did our tasting was super knowledgeable about Kitsch’s wines and it was interesting to learn more about the production process and harvest.
Cost of tasting: $10
How many wines?: 6
SpearHead Winery has a very cute looking outdoors area and you can take a stroll down the vines too. They also have a little display of the different types of grapes you use so you can see the difference.
These were probably my least favourite wines although I can’t quite put my finger on why, perhaps they were drier whereas I prefer sweeter?
Cost of tasting: $5
How many wines?: Can’t remember exactly (clearly I’d drunk too much) but I think 5 or 6!
The View winery and Ward’s Cidery
Another of my favourites was Ward’s Cidery. We didn’t end up tasting the wines in the end but the cider was so, so good I’d highly recommend it.
We tried 5 ciders all of which were delicious and I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for their next release of Sangria Cider!
The ginger cider was a big hit with all of us, personally I think it’s a little like ginger beer but better. The Picker’s Hut Winter Spice was also a hit and I’m keen to try it warmed up with a shot of Fireball as suggested to us by the guy doing the tastings!
Cost of tasting: Around $4
How many ciders?: 5
Do you have to pay for wine tasting in Kelowna?
Yes! You do. Tasting price depends on where you go and I have included the prices of all the tastings we did above. The cheapest one we did was just $2 and the most expensive was $10. $5 was the most common price we paid for a wine tasting in Kelowna.
The good thing about the cost of the wine tasting is that you can put it towards the price of a bottle should you decide to buy one.
Advantages / Disadvantages of doing a tour
The clear advantage of doing a tour is that everyone in your group can drink as you’ll be driven around by the tour company.
However I think cost wise at least there are quite a few disadvantages. First it’s more expensive that doing a winery tour on your own. You’re also with a lot of people and so don’t get the chance to ask as many questions when you visit the vineyard. Another advantage of doing a self guided winery tour of Kelowna is that you can put the price of a tasting towards the cost of a bottle of wine. I don’t think the tours will allow you to do this.
What type of wine will I find in Kelowna?
You can get pretty much every variety of wine in Kelowna. The most common ones (based on the varieties available at the vineyards we visited) seem to be Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
This image below shows which vineyards sell which varieties of grape in Kelowna. Click to enlarge.
When time do the Kelowna wineries close?
We were surprised to find that a lot of the wineries close pretty early in Kelowna. The majority of them seemed to close about 5.30 or 6pm and a few will stay open later.
If you’re on a winery tour you’ll start early so this isn’t a problem. But if you’d been planning to be hiking or cycling during the day then make sure you leave a few hours in the afternoon to check out the vineyards!
When is the best time to visit the wineries in Kelowna?
The best time of year to visit the Okanagan wine country is during the warmer months: late spring to early autumn.
Mid September to October tends to be when the vineyards harvest that year’s grapes and so you may get to try some of the brand new harvest.
We also found that Ward’s cidery and Meadow Vista Honey Wines have special editions that are more festive. If you like spiced ciders or mead then you might want to time your visit for late autumn/early winter. Just be aware that Kelowna gets cold and there’s a high chance it’ll be snowy!
My top wine tasting tips
We were all total novices to wine tasting when we visited Kelowna. Now that we’ve visited a few vineyards there’s a few things we learnt that’ll help you out too.
- Wine tasting goes from dry to sweet. If you want to try both dry and sweet wines start with a dry one and then move to sweet
- Save the dessert wine until last to avoid funny looks
- Bring ID (Government issued plus something like a credit card with your name on it too). The drinking age in Canada is 19+ but they can be pretty strict about checking so just make sure you have it with you.
- Ask questions: It doesn’t matter if it sounds obvious. I’d bet most people going wine tasting don’t know what they’re talking about so don’t be worried you’ll look silly
- Try it all! If you’re not driving try everything, you might discover you like a different type of wine to what you previously thought.
Where to stay in Kelowna
There’s a lot of choice when it comes to where to stay in Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley. The firs thing to consider is how big a part of your trip you want the wine tasting to be. If wine tasting is your main reason for visiting the Okanagan then you might want to book one of the wineries with accommodation.
Myra Canyon Ranch A-frames
If wine tasting in Kelowna is just an additional thing to do on your Okanagan road trip, then I’d highly recommend staying at the Myra Canyon Ranch (in their rooms if you’re more of a luxury traveller and their A-frames if you’re more budget).
There are two A-frame cabins at the Myra Canyon Ranch. They’re fairly basic but do include basic cooking equipment (a gas stove outside and some utensils), a bed with sleeping bags but I’d recommend you bring extra for warmth and a fire pit. There are super hot showers and toilets just 100m away.
It’s $25 per person per night and we loved our stay here. The views alone are incredible!
Book a night at Myra Canyon Ranch here
Okanagan wineries with accommodation
There are plenty of Okanagan wineries with accommodation. I always use Booking.com to book hotels as they tend to have great deals. Here are a few top picks for Okanagan accommodation for every budget.
Kelowna winery accommodation
Here’s a pick of some of the best accommodation in Kelowna near the wineries. And don’t forget Myra Canyon Ranch! Not many wineries in Kelowna also have accommodation but the Summer Hill Estate does.
Budget: Samesun Kelowna
Mid-range: Stay at the Summer Hill Estate
Other things to do in Kelowna
- Cycle the Myra Canyon Trestles
- Take out a BBQ boat on the lake
- Go hiking
- Visit the farmers’ market (Wed & Sat)
- Try axe throwing
How to get to Kelowna
Getting to Kelowna from Vancouver is easy. Simply follow the 1 eastbound out of Vancouver until you reach Hope. From here take the 5 northbound and switch to the 97c signposted to Kelowna.
Total drive time is about 4.5 – 5 hours.
You can also fly from Vancouver to Kelowna. Flight time is around an hour if you fly direct.
FlairAir tend to do the best deals. Make sure you’re signed up to their mailing list.
The journey from Calgary to Kelowna by car is longer (6-7 hours). But you’ll pass through Banff and other stunning places.
West Jet and Flair Air offer the cheapest flights from Calgary to Kelowna. Flight time is around an hour.
Book flights or car hire?
I always use Skyscanner to check and compare flight prices but be aware that Flair Air aren’t available through them. It’s still a good place to start to get a basic idea of flight cost.
If you need to hire a car then make sure to check out RentalCars.com since it’s super easy to compare hundreds of car hire prices.
Best places to eat in Kelowna
This was super close to the wineries we visited and, if you’re staying in the A-frames at Myra Canyon they also deliver to you. They’re a farm to table local pizza place and they were very generous with the toppings!
Plus, if you’ve bought a bottle of wine from one of the Fab 5 wineries or Meadow Vista Honey Wines then you can save 10% by showing your same-day receipt.
Little Hobo Soup & Sandwich
The Little Hobo Soup & Sandwich’s is extremely popular. It has previously beenr anked as the top place to eat in the entire province of BC!
You can expect home-style, made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch dishes such as club sandwiches and chicken soup. including dishes like breakfast club sandwiches and Mexican chicken soup.
Waterfront Wines specialise in comfort food with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Given it’s name and location you can also expect an excellent selection of wines.
The dishes are made of fresh fish, prime cuts of organic meat and the cocktails use the freshest juices and herbs.
Kelowna’s Salted Brick has an ever changing menu of meats cured in house, and hand-crafted cheese.
There’s a focus on using every part of the animal and so you may sometimes have venison hearts or pigs’ feet put in front of you.
Of course, you’ll get delicious wine too as Salted Brick offer 101 local wines carefully curated by their team. They try to feature the most unique & diverse list of the Okanagan’s best wines. There’s a focus on smaller wineries and on those off the beaten path that you may never experience on a trip to the Valley. You’re in for a treat!
Travelling with wine? These travel wine accessories should help!
Take away all the fear of a bottle breaking in your checked luggage. Even if it does happen, the lining of these Jet Bags soaks up the liquid. Up to a whole bottle’s worth!
The Wine Check
If you think you’re likely to buy a case, or a case’s worth of wine in the Okanaga, then make sure to pack The Wine Check with you.
This padded case on wheels fits around the wine shipper (eliminating the need to find tape) and gives your wine extra protection when you travel.