BC’s Okanagan Valley is sleepy no more. Not only is it a four-season outdoor playground (ski hills! hiking! mountain biking! climbing! beaches!) but it’s becoming a huge destination for food and drink. (The Okanagan is on Travel & Leisure‘s list of places to visit in 2016, by the way.)
The wine scene is exploding, sure – we can brag about Canadian wine now – but the new reason to visit is the beer, spirits and cider. Ready for a thoroughly thirst-quenching journey? Grab your DD and head out on the road.
The dry, desert-like conditions at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley have made it a vacationers’ paradise – because luckily, there’s plenty to drink. The Oliver-Osoyoos Wine Region contains a whopping 38 wineries, including Covert Farms, which hosts an annual obstacle race every fall, the Freak’n Farmer. After you’ve run around the fields and vineyards taking breaks to solve puzzles, do burpees and run through freezing cold mud pits, you get rewarded with a tasting of local wine and beer, which pretty much makes it worth it.
While many of the region’s wineries have been around for a while, there are plenty of new players, too. At vinPerdu, for instance, which only started selling in the past two years, you can stop by for a tasting paired with snacks (including Okanagan cheeses), all enjoyed on the back patio overlooking the vineyards.
3. Platinum Bench
If you’re smart, wine o’clock will start early so you can make it to Platinum Bench before they run out of bread. Yes, besides a range of very good wines, the winery makes and sells hundreds of loaves a day of sourdough bread in flavours like pear-brie and fig-gorgonzola, and they’ll even recommend wine and bread pairings.
4. Burrowing Owl
Another beautiful spot to visit is Burrowing Owl. If you stay in their guest house you can swim in this pool (amazing, right?), and if not, you can console yourself with a meal at The Sonora Room, the onsite restaurant. Their wine list is worthy, naturally, but if you need a break from the vino, there are plenty of beer and cocktail options featuring local producers.
5. Bad Tattoo
Next up, Penticton, where your must-stop for dinner is brewery Bad Tattoo, which serves killer beer and killer pizza. Make sure to save room for dessert – you can get an ice cream float with either craft root beer or stout. Book ahead if you’d like a tour in addition to just eating and drinking.
6. Cannery Brewing
Nearby Cannery Brewing is another must-stop for beer lovers. Order a tasting flight and sip it as you munch on bar snacks like popcorn.
7. God’s Mountain
One top Okanagan food and wine experience is the al fresco dinners at God’s Mountain Estate, with food by Joy Road Catering. The property is just south of Penticton overlooking Skaha Lake, and you’ll dine at a long table outdoors as the sun sets over the lake. Book a Thursday-evening winery series dinner to sample vintages from one specific winery, with the winemaker in attendance.
On the other side of Penticton, along the eastern shore of Lake Okanagan, is the Naramata Bench, another beautiful place to go wine touring. You can drive there, of course, or if you’re feeling adventurous, sign up for a kayak and wine tour with Hoodoo Adventures – you’ll start in Penticton, kayak to Naramata, then be driven around to some wineries and back to Penticton. (No drinking and kayaking!)
9. Legend Distilling
Also in Naramata is Legend Distilling, which makes super-tasty gin, vodka and even coffee liqueur. They even have a cocktail lounge so you can drop by and sip some of their creations mixed up into cocktails, alongside tasty tapas. In a true sign everything is mixed up now, they also serve local wine and beer.
10. Evolve Cellars
Near Penticton is the amazingly named town of Summerland, also home to tons of wineries. A true Okanagan classic (they’ve been around forever) is Summerland Sweets, which makes fruit syrups and jams as well as 21 different fruit wines. Those on a search for organic and sustainable bottles should drop by Sage Hills for a tasting of their 100 percent organic whites, reds and rosé. And after a meal and tasting at Evolve Cellars, go for a walk in the vineyard (pictured) and marvel at how gorgeous it all is.
We’ve made it to Kelowna! It’s the largest city in the valley and has as many wineries as you’d expect by now, as well as breweries, distilleries and cideries galore. Local cideries include the BC Tree Fruits Cider Co and Cahoots, as well as Tree Brewing, a big local brewery that also makes a cider called Dukes. Drop by their Beer Institute for a meal that includes bread products (pizza, pretzels) made with spent grain from the brewing process as well as tank-to-tap beers and a refreshing grapefruit radler.
Another brewery-slash-restaurant in downtown Kelowna is BNA Brewing, which opened in 2015. You can spend hours here – sample their own beers on tap as well as some from other B.C. breweries like Vancouver’s Parallel 49 and cult favourite Crannóg from Sorrento, just north of the Okanagan. They also serve up cocktails, wine and cider, and you can take a growler to go from the bottle shop.
13. The BX Press
Once you’re in Vernon, don’t miss a visit to the tasting room of local cidery the BX Press. Located at the edge of an apple orchard (it’s been in the family for generations), the tasting room serves up samples from their huge range of products, all of which are immensely popular with local residents. Alongside basic apple ciders with varying levels of sweetness or dryness, they make flavoured versions – think dry-hopped, juniper-infused, or aged in whisky barrels.
14. Kalamalka Lake
Now, it’s time to sober up with a jump in the lake. We recommend the brilliant blue waters of Kalamalka Lake – and if you’ve got the energy, sneak in a hike as well. Then tomorrow morning, you can do the whole trip again in reverse.