Okanagan Wine Country: A 48 Hour Itinerary Perfect For Wine Lovers!
Wanting to explore Okanagan Wine Country? Here is a great itinerary!
The last time I was in the I was seven years old and climbing trees and picking fruit. British Columbia’s wine region is also the fruit basket of the province and I was there on a family vacation and much too young to drink. I have been wanting to visit Okanagan Wine Country but I just never made time whenever I was home. When the opportunity came to explore this emerging wine region, I was all in! Winter may not typically be the season to wine tour but I enjoyed the quiet vibes of the wineries and the ability to meet the winemakers and people behind the wineries.
I left LAX on the first flight out to Vancouver, had a short layover, and then connected to the Kelowna Airport. When travelling to the area you’ll most likely transit through Vancouver or Calgary and then on to Kelowna which services Okanagan Wine Country. We were picked up by a lovely representative of the Wine Institute of British Columbia who was going to be our guide and driver for the next few days. We waited for the rest of our party to arrive and then we made our way to our first stop, Dirty Laundry in Summerland.
Before we start our tour, learn some interesting facts about the wine industry in BC:
- In 1990, there were 17 wineries, now there are 273
- First grapes were planted in BC in 1859
- 1.5 Million winery visitors a year
- Pinot Gris and Merlot are the top varietals in BC
- BC’s grape harvest happens in early September and can last until mid-November depending on weather
Our first stop was Dirty Laundry Vineyard in Summerland.
The winery is located along Bottleneck Drive, home to many popular BC wineries. Dirty Laundry has a bit of a naughty history, a super fun tasting room, and a great patio that would be ideal to visit during warmer months. We were introduced to many of their award-winning wines and some of my favorites included their “Woo Woo” Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir.
Watch the short video of sommelier & wine blogger friend Elizabeth Schneider teaching me to swirl.
Since we arrived in the late afternoon, after Dirty Laundry, it was time for dinner. We drove to a restaurant called Bogner’s in Penticton. It has been around for over 35 years and located in an old heritage house on Eckhardt Avenue. Chef Darin Paterson prepared us a 5-course meal and showcased his talent from working all over the world. The menu focuses on what is in season locally.
After dinner, we drove to Naramata and checked into Therapy Vineyard and Guesthouse for the night. It was quite dark by then so we didn’t see much but even in the dark I could tell that Therapy was pretty awesome. It’s a house located on the vineyard that has several suites for rent or you can rent out the whole house if you wanted. It would be an epic place for a family reunion, stagette, a romantic weekend for a couple, or even a solo sojourn.
I stayed in the suite on the top floor where the kitchen and living area is and my own bathroom as well as a huge tub that overlooked the vineyard. There is also a communal hot tub on the deck with a view.
A wintry morning stroll
Lately, I’ve been getting up at 6 am and in Canada that means before the sun. I was up before everyone else so I made a coffee and then took a stroll through the snowy vineyard as the light was coming out. Everyone woke up a bit later and then we gathered for a breakfast and bubbles. The guesthouse serves breakfast bites from Bench Market for everyone that stays.
After our breakfast, we headed for a tour of the facilities with their winemaker and then tried out some wines in their tasting room. I enjoyed their Fizziotherapy Blanc which is a white sparkling wine and of course, their Pinot Noir (I’m a Pinot Noir lover).
Hillside is a winery along the Naramata Bench with winemaker Kathy Malone, one of the few women vintners in the area, running the show. The winery has a tasting room and a bistro but the bistro was closed (wrong season!). We tried most of their wines and I was a fan of their “Mosaic” which is a Bordeaux-style blend. If you’re lucky and meet Kathy, she may just sing for you.
After touring along the Naramata Bench we headed over to The Bench Market in Penticton. If you recall from our morning, we had food catered by The Bench Market. We stopped in for a quick lunch before we headed to West Kelowna. The Bench is totally my kind of place. It’s a cafe and gourmet food market rolled into one. We grabbed coffees, lunch, and treats for the road. I still can’t stop thinking about the Sicilian sandwich. It had capicola, Genoa salami, marinated artichokes, organic gouda cheese, banana peppers, and sundried tomato spread on a toasted baguette. I can’t stop thinking about this sandwich still!
The Sicilian sandwich. So tasty!!!
Mission Hill Family Estate is a world renown winery based in West Kelowna. If you live in Canada, you’re most likely familiar with the wine, if you’re not, get to know Mission Hill. I have spoken about Mission Hill before when I attended a winemaker’s dinner at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel on Vancouver Island. The winery is an amazing place to visit. The grounds, the architecture, the restaurant, and the grounds itself. It’s absolutely stunning. I don’t think a trip to Okanagan Wine Country is complete without a visit here. Some of my favorite wines albeit on the pricey side are Compendium. Perpetua, and Occulus. Definitely worth the splurge! I’m looking forward to a return visit to Mission Hill during the summer months when they have concerts on the property.
I wanted to drink all of the wine!
The Giddas, an Indo-Canadian family were the largest apple growers in West Kelowna then eventually started growing grapes and cherries. Now run by their children and other family members, Volcanic Hills Family Estate was born in 2010. In the short years, they have won several awards for their wines notably their Gamay Noir, Chardonnay, and Cab Franc. Next door is Blue Saffron Bistro which is open for lunch and dinner.
After wine touring all day we headed to the El Dorado Hotel in Kelowna for the night. I have to admit I was unsure about the accommodations in the area since there are not many hotels that I am familiar with. The El Dorado was a real pleasant surprise and I can’t recommend it enough for your stay when visiting Okanagan Wine Country. I stayed in a renovated suite and loved it. It was spacious with a living room area and it had an epic tub.
We also had dinner at their Lakeside Dining Room within the hotel. I love eating fish when I go home to British Columbia because I know it’s fresh and most likely wild. I had the Arctic Char and it was excellent.
This tub was amazing!
In the morning, I grabbed complimentary coffee in the lobby and went for a morning stroll to El Dorado’s dock. You can rent boats and Sea-Doos in the summer. I heard that there may be a boat that takes you across the lake to wine tour but you may want to check with the hotel when it’s summer/fall season. When I came back I had breakfast with my companions Elizabeth Schneider of Wine For Normal People and Stefanie Michaels from Adventure Girl.
Peaceful morning on the lake at El Dorado’s dock
After breakfast at El Dorado Hotel, we headed to our first of two wineries before heading to Sun Peaks Resort for some skiing and snowboarding as well as the Okanagan Winter Wine Festival.
We met with At St. Hubertus, the vines on their property are some of the original grapes planted in the Okanagan. The wines they produce only use the grapes grown on their vineyard. Elizabeth, who is a certified sommelier, was quite intrigued by the fact they make Chasselas here. I took note only because as a total wine newbie, I had never even heard of it before. Another wine I was not familiar that they produce is a Foch, which is made from hybrid French red wine grapes.
Our last stop in Okanagan Wine Country was the Summerhill Pyramid Winery. Summerhill is Canada’s largest organic winery, British Columbia’s first biodynamic vineyard, and the biggest producer of sparkling wines. I do enjoy those bubbles! I was a fan of their Cipes Ariel and Rose. We were short on time so we didn’t get to check ou their sacred geometric pyramid wine cellar or their bistro. Summerhill is on my summer visit list for sure!
And that was my 48 Hours in Okanagan Wine Country! This strip would be a great sample itinerary if you’re looking for a variety of wineries and areas to visit. If we had more than 2 days, we could have visited loads more wineries. I’m hoping for a return this summer and doing another girl’s trip with my sister in law. I can only imagine how much more fun it would be with the lively patios, restaurants, and tasting rooms.