So Many Options For Okanagan Valley Wine Tasting
On a road trip around BC, we didn’t miss a chance for Okanagan Valley wine tasting. Everyone we talked with about the wines of British Columbia had another suggestion for a winery to visit. We only made it through a few on our stay in Kelowna. When we headed south, there were a few more wineries on the west side that we stopped at.
A few more wineries in the south end of the Okanagan Valley were added when we visited Osoyoos. We certainly got enough of a taste test of the great wines from this region. But we knew we needed to return.
Wine Tasting On Our Travels
We have done wine tastings around the world. The south of France for wine harvesting season was an early experience for us. When we visited Cape Town in South Africa, we headed out into the hills and tried the wines in the Stellenbosch area. A stop in Porto in Portugal let us try the deliciously sweet port wines. On a road trip in California, we stopped in the Temecula area for wine tasting. And then spent a long weekend wine tasting our way around Napa.
So it was not a surprise that we planned to visit the wine regions in the Okanagan Valley. There were several different areas in the valley. And we found some interesting new grape varietals too. The wine tasting experience was good. But the scenery in the Okanagan Valley added such an amazing added touch to our travels for Okanagan Valley wine tasting.
We Started At The Summerhill Pyramid Winery
We started outside of downtown Kelowna with the Summerhill Pyramid Winery. As we entered, we saw the pyramid. This pyramid was the centrepiece in a beautiful piece of stained glass in the restaurant.
The art piece of the wine glass being filled was an iconic Kelowna sight. Lake Okanagan was far below in the distance.
A large tour group just finished their visit as we arrived. So we wandered around and waited. This was the only large tour group we encountered as we went from winery to winery. This was an advantage when we headed to the Okanagan Valley early in the season.
When we got to the tasting bar, we looked at the tasting menu options. There were two different tasting menus. One was a standard list and the other had premium wines. We tasted our way through both tasting menus. And sampled sparkling, white, rosé and red wines. Most of the wines were ok. But I didn’t find a new favourite. Our server was patient as we posed pictures over and over again.
The tastings for ice wine were by the glass. We recently toured the Niagara region for ice wines. So these were fresh in our minds. It was interesting that we found a new grape for ice wines on the west coast.
The Ehrenfelser grape was used for ice wine and we also tried it as wine. It had an apple taste and reminded us of the ice wine we tried on our visit to the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal. Tasting the ice wine back to back with a last harvest second press Syrah was interesting. The Syrah reminded me a bit of the Cabernet Franc ice wines I loved in the Niagara region.
It was great to start our Okanagan Valley Wine Tasting at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. We were introduced to some new wines. And got the most amazing views too.
Finding Wineries Around Lake Country
We wound our way back down the hills and got on Highway 97 for a faster trip up to Lake Country. Our first stop was for lunch at Sparkling Hills.
Refreshed, we consulted our wine area map and plotted our route to explore wine country. As we drove, we found winery signs to be elusive. But some of the ones we saw were quite amusing!
The day we toured around Lake Country we looked for the 50th Parallel Estate Winery but missed it. With the map the second day, we knew we were in the generally right location. And by luck we drove into the winery.
We were greeted outside the main door with a glass of wine and told to keep our glasses. When we stood at the tasting bar, we saw the list of wines that were available for tasting. This tasting was far more rote. A small sample was poured with little introduction. Neither the wine nor the experience tempted us to linger or to buy wine.
We finally found our first Lake Country winery on our Okanagan Valley wine tasting trip. But we were a little underwhelmed.
On To A Great Wine Tasting at Gray Monk Estate Winery
We continued to follow our Lake Country Scenic Sip Trail wineries map. We thought we were on the right route when we saw a tiny sign for Gray Monk Estate Winery. Vineyards started to appear around us. And as we began one of the sharp turns on the road, we caught sight of a larger sign on the road for the winery. We were happy we did not miss it.
We drove up the long driveway to a great winery building high on the hill. The views out over the Okanagan Lake definitely made us happy we found Gray Monk Estate Winery.
The tasting room was large and well laid out. We wandered around the room and checked out the wine selection. Immediately we were approached by a staff member. He proceeded to talk about some of the wines we saw. And he took us to the tasting table and showed us the wines that were open for tasting.
This winery had an interesting selection of grapes. Many grape varietals were familiar to us. But some were new. The winery was the first to bring in Pinot Gris grapes. In Austria and Hungary, the Pinot Gris grape is called ‘Grauar Mönch’ which translates to ‘Gray Monk’. Of course with was one of the white wines we tried. The Chardonnay was done in stainless steel and not oak. So I tried it and liked it.
The rosé wine was a Rotberger grape that was new to me. We again tried the Ehrenfelser white and it was sweet enough for David’s taste. We finished up with one of the winery’s premium label Odyssey port style wines. And David liked this so much we bought this one too.
We were delighted with our Okanagan Valley wine tasting stop at the Gray Monk Estate Winery. But we were not done yet! We enjoyed a glass of wine and a dessert on the Lookout Restaurant patio. The view was as sweet as the dessert!
More Stops In Lake Country
When we checked our watch we found it was past five o’clock and we knew that most of the wine tastings would be finished. But we continued along our wine route to at least see more vineyards.
As we pulled up to the Ex Nihilo Winery, we saw a small bright orange helicopter by the entrance. We watched as two guys joined the pilot after they finished their wine visit at this winery. Such a great way to do an Okanagan Valley wine tasting.
We really wanted to stop at Arrowleaf Cellars. Several people suggested this winery to us. But it was too late. We saved it for another visit.
Starting With Volcanic Hills Estate Winery On The West Side Of Kelowna
We made a few targeted winery stops on our route south from our stay in Kelowna to our second base in Osoyoos. There were so many recommendations on places to stop that we really could just pick a few. The first stop was at the Volcanic Hills Estate Winery. There was one wine we went in to try. But we found some surprises.
We browsed around the store to see what range of wines were offered. It was just after opening, so we moved to the tasting bar before the crowds arrived.
The 2016 Lava Red wine was recommended so we started there. It was an interesting blend with 46% Zweigelt mixed with Merlot, Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir and M. Foch grapes. Both David and I liked this interesting red. Of course, we purchased a bottle.
I continued to sample the rosé wines at every winery we stopped. This rosé was again too citrusy for me. But from the tart rosé David went right to try a selection of sweet wines. We started with the Gewurtztraminer late harvest, went sweeter to the Chardonnay icewine and finished up with the Riesling icewine. We were told that the star of the icewine line up was the Zweigelt icewine. So that is what we added to our purchases.
It was great visit the wineries on the west side of Kelowna on our Okanagan Valley wine tasting trip.
Sampling The Offering At Quails’ Gate Winery
The next stop on our marked up wine map was at Quails’ Gate Winery. This was a much larger winery with the great Old Vines Restaurant on-site. We walked around the beautiful grounds. It was Mother’s Day and even early in the day the restaurant patio was full.
When we finally went into the tasting room, we knew we were now behind the Sunday crowds. Before we approached the tasting bar, we checked out the range of wines that were available at this winery. I did not want to do a full tasting so we cherry picked two to try. There was one for me and one for David.
I of course wanted to try the rosé wine. It was a dark pink colour and I hoped it would offer the right mix of berry taste without being too sweet or too dry. Unfortunately, this was not the one for me.
David of course went to the sweet wines. There were 3 options – a Riesling ice wine, the recommended Optima late harvest wine or a fortified vintage Foch. We started off wanting to try the Foch as it appeared to be like a Port. And we did love our port wine tasting when we visited Porto in Portugal. But it was recommended that we try the Optima.
We were delighted to find that the dessert wines were served in small dark chocolate cups. This reminded us so much of tasting Ginja cherry liqueurs on our visit to Obidos in Portugal. David sipped his Optima and then ate the chocolate cup. Two treats in one tasting.
It was nice to visit the Quails’ Gate Winery. A nice a surprise on our Okanagan Valley wine tasting adventure.
Experiencing The Dirty Laundry Vineyard
When we got winery recommendations, we got suggestions for both wine to try and for wineries that were destinations themselves. The Dirty Laundry Vineyard was one of those tourist spots that we did not want to miss.
The property was originally a Chinese Laundry. When that did not bring in enough business, a brothel was added on the second floor. At some point, as wine took over the Okanagan Valley, the property became a winery. The signs and decorations at this fun winery were a tribute to both of the past businesses.
The shop and wine tasting bar were full. We checked out the wines that were available. Of course, the inside decor and wine names matched this unique winery. But we decided we did not want to do a third wine tasting on that day.
The large covered patio was full when we arrived on Mother’s Day. People indulged in both beer flights and wine from the shop. There were different ways to get food including a great pizza menu. After we explored the shop we ordered a pizza and found a table.
It was great to look out over the valley from this winery on the plateau. At one point we saw a steam train go past. It did a special run for Mother’s Day. But started up for the season in July.
We loved our stop at the Dirty Laundry Vineyard. It was certainly a unique experience on our travels around for Okanagan Valley wine tasting.
We Enjoyed Our Okanagan Valley Wine Tasting Experience
Wine tasting in the Okanagan Valley was definitely something we wanted to do on our stay in Kelowna. We had a short list of wineries when we arrived. But everyone we talked to added one or two more to our list.
Our visit for Okanagan Valley wine tasting started in Kelowna. We then headed north of Kelowna in Lake Country. And stopped at a few wineries on the west side of Kelowna. A real wine tasting trip would take far more than the 5 days we had on our stay in Kelowna.
A few more wineries in the south end of the Okanagan Valley were added when we visited Osoyoos. This gave us a different perspective on the wines from this large wine region.
Did you enjoy Okanagan Valley wine tasting? What was your favourite winery?
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