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My Best of BC Wine Country Experience

The Best of BC Winery Tours: the top wineries to visit in the Okanagan from Tori Wesszer, Registered Dietitian and Food and Lifestyle Blogger

As a food blogger, living in the heart of wine country is like a dream come true!  I jumped at the chance to partner with the BC Wine Institute [1] to show off my ‘back yard’ (filled with wineries) to the world through the lens of a local foodie … and hard-core wine lover! AND give you the chance to VOTE [2] on your favourite BC winery experience!

I honestly feel ridiculously lucky to live in the Okanagan Valley where I’m surrounded by incredible fresh produce, stunning lakes and wineries on every corner.  The wine industry in BC has absolutely boomed, it’s been so much fun watching the evolution of the wineries over the years (I have lived in Kelowna since 1985… starting to feel like an old-timer lol).  And there’s SO much more than just wine to be enjoyed at these wineries!

With the local food scene exploding and a strong farm-to-table movement British Columbia wineries are truly one of the most interesting places to visit. There is an incredible knowledge and pride that the wineries and their owners have that shines through when you visit a winery. From local gourmet food trucks and restaurants, boutique accommodations, artisan shopping and world-class lake views, every winery is different and offers a rich and unique experience.  I HIGHLY recommend planning a trip to check out the BC wine region (check out this interactive map [3] to help you plan your visit) this summer or fall for an unforgettable experience! Create your own Trip Planner account [4] and you can download my wine tour here [5].

I was fortunate enough to go on a guided wine tour (thank you Laura!) last week to visit some of my favourite wineries and show you a glimpse of how incredible the area is! We only made it as far as Naramata (just south of Kelowna) but I will be doing another post in the fall when Charles and I visit to show you some of my favourite places further south!

I would love to see you VOTE [6] (click here) [6] for your favourite winery experience through the Wines of British Columbia’s “Best of BC Wine Country” [6] – essentially the “Peoples’ Choice Awards” for BC Wine – online survey before August 17th! I know that it means so much to the hard-working teams that pour their lives and passion into creating the wines and the wineries for us to enjoy.  The award categories include:

  1. Best of BC Wine: Red, White Rosé and Sparkling wine
  2. Best of BC Place: Wine trail, Accommodation, Restaurant with local food, Wine pet
  3. Best of BC Experience: Winery tour, Tasting room, Events, View

 

You can also enter for a chance to win 1 of 3 prizes [2] including:

  1. Best of BC wine gift basket or
  2. An overnight stay at a Best of BC Winery accommodation or
  3. Dinner for two at a Best of BC winery restaurant

 

Here is a recap of my fun-filled wine touring day!  I wish we had more time, there are so many hidden gems!

 

Fitzpatrick (Greata Ranch) [7]

Our first stop (it was an early one at 9:30am!) was to meet Gordon, the gracious and incredibly knowledgeable owner of the winery.  Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards [7] is tucked between Kelowna and Penticton and has SUCH incredible views to go with the world-class award-winning wines!  We sipped traditionally-crafted sparkling wines and got to check out the outdoor concert area where they host world-class artists like Jim Cuddy and Chantal Kreviazuk on their impeccable crush deck (where they crush the grapes for the wine) – how cool is that?! They even have a wood-fired pizza oven… I can’t wait to take Charles here on a lunch date!

 

JoieFarm [8]

If you look up ‘farm-to-table’ in the dictionary there’s a good chance you’ll see a picture of JoieFarm [8].  Owner Heidi (aka Superwoman, this lady is incredible) is a chef and self-taught wine maker with buckets of talent and style.  I LOVE this place!  The farm-style décor is simple but stunning and epitomizes the farm-to-table movement. Dave, Heidi’s right-hand-person, toured us around the property where we sipped beautiful crisp European-inspired white wine (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried the Noble Blend [9]), devoured fresh zucchini fritters and watermelon haloumi salad from Le Comptoire at Joie Picnique [10] in the pear orchard (with a lakeview…seriously perfect) and even played a game of bocce and snuck a cuddle in with their sweet dog Barney (his picture is at the very end if you scroll down, such a sweet dog!).  It’s basically a little slice of heaven!

 

Laughing Stock [11]

This winery has the coolest story that is so inspiring!  Founders Cynthia and David Enns led conservative, calculated lives in the financial industry prior to diving head-first into the wine-making industry in 2003… despite the warnings of their friends saying ‘you’ll become the laughing stock’.  Thankfully they forged forward (and the name was born); their wines are outstanding!  Visit the winery to enjoy the epic panoramic lake views, full-bodied reds (they release their famous Portfolio wine in the fall again,…there’s a reason it’s sold out right now!) and crisp and perfectly balanced white wines.  You’ll need to book your tasting room visit ahead (click here). [12]

 

Red Rooster [13]

Our next, and last, stop of the day was Red Rooster Winery [13] for a stunning lunch on the Pecking Room patio by chef Darin Paterson with perfectly-paired wines with the winemaker (and my next door neighbour!) Karen Gillis.  The ambience on the patio is really serene and there is such an unpretentious enthusiasm that the team has for the wine and food, both of which are out-of-this-world!  From cooking classes in the vineyard [14] to yoga and brunch [14] experiences, if you have a chance to visit this winery DO IT!

 

There are a few other wineries in Kelowna and West Kelowna that I highly recommend checking out during your visit… too many to mention but here are a few that are top of mind!

 

Quails’ Gate [15]

I grew up next door to Quails’ Gate Winery [15], catching the school bus across the street as a child.   Needless to say it was just a rustic old cabin on the property back then and a much smaller operation (thank goodness they restored the cabin, it is the oldest building on the west side!).  This winery is really special to me. Charles and I had the chance to enjoy dinner on the Old Vines Restaurant [16] cozy patio nestled in the vineyard last weekend (highly recommend) and it was, as usual, perfect!  The views of the lake are stunning, the patio is like stepping into France, and the food is world-class!  Try the Truffle Parm Fries (dietitian’s orders lol!) and their fish dishes never disappoint.  For a unique red wine experience check out the Old Vines Foch, and if white wine is you jam, you can’t go wrong (the Chasselas is delicious!).  They have interesting events including yoga in the vineyard [17], an awesome wine club [18] and even have lakefront accommodations [19] just a stone’s throw away from the winery!

 

Sandhill [20]

If you follow me regularly you’ll know that Sandhill [20] is one of my favourite wineries.  They make incredible wine that everyone loves (they struck gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships this June 2018) and have an epic wine club, delivering award-winning wines straight to your door, that you don’t want to miss!  Their tasting room [21] is unique (and so gorgeous) in that it is located in downtown Kelowna, perfect if you’re out and about in the heart of the city and want an accessible wine-tasting experience!  If you’re in Kelowna go check them out … and don’t miss the Rosé!

 

Mission Hill [22]

If an impressive wine tour is on your hit-list look no further.  Mission Hill [22] is an experience that you don’t want to miss!  Perched high above West Kelowna overlooking the lake (just up the road from my house), the European-inspired property is nothing short of breathtaking. The views, wine shop, bell tower (the bells were imported from France), art, cellar wine tour (click here to book ahead [23]) and Terrace restaurant [24] will not disappoint, you have my word!  They also offer cooking classes, outdoor summer concerts and long-table dinners if you’re looking to add to your wine touring agenda!

 

If you happen to be visiting further south in the Oliver/Osoyoos region (near the US-Canada border) and are wanting my recommendations, here they are!  I’m hoping to visit these this fall with Charles and will give you another sneak peak of the area then with some pictures too!

 

Burrowing Owl [25]

Charles and I have stayed at this winery and fell in love!  The accommodations are super quaint with a lovely restaurant and outdoor pool… and the wines are impeccable (we are big fans of full-bodied reds and Burrowing Owl hits it out of the park; try their Cabernet Franc!).

 

Platinum Bench [26]

This winery is really quaint and owned by the sweetest people from the prairies who decided to up and move to the Okanagan to make wine (and thank goodness they did!).  The wine is awesome but you know what you really need to try?  Their BREAD!!!  Ok, I know it sounds crazy but they make artisan bread that is to DIE for.  Trust me on this. I dream about it.  Just go and see for yourself!  It’s a perfect stop to load up on goodies for a picnic (they sell cheeses and other small items to round it out).

 

Black Hills [27]
Best known for their Nota Bene (a pretty famous red blend in the region and is absolutely worthy of the hype), this winery offers sit-down tastings where you can truly relax and take in the experience: it’s not to be rushed so you will need a bit of time for this one but it’s worth it!  They have a lovely restaurant with a simple fresh menu as well.

 

The list is so long (and there are so many more) but other wineries that I highly recommend include Blasted Church [28], Church & State [28], and Noble Ridge [29].

 

Please don’t forget to VOTE for your favourite BC Winery Experience here [2]!  Your opinion and vote is so appreciated by the hard-working wineries … good luck, I hope one (or more!) of my followers win the prizes!

 

xo

Tori

Thank you to the BC Wine Institute for sponsoring this post, all opinions are my own.