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Discover Kelowna Wine


Kelowna is the largest city in the Okanagan and is also one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. The natural beauty combined with lakes, mountains, beaches and wineries make for the perfect place to vacation. Everything from boating, hiking, fine dining, and wine tours can be found here. It’s a magical place that captured my heart and I’m grateful to call Kelowna home.


Since Kelowna is in the northern part of the Okanagan Valley, the growing conditions here favour cooler climate varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. These are the staple wines that you will find at most Kelowna wineries. Regardless of your wine preference, I would highly recommend an open mind to try the different varietals these wineries specialize in.


This area is divided by a floating bridge that crosses the lake into two sides, West Kelowna and Kelowna.


West Kelowna


West Kelowna is home to some of the most well-known, and pioneering Okanagan wineries such as Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate. Most wine produced in the Okanagan doesn’t get exported out of BC, however consumers in Eastern Canada can usually find these two wineries on their local shelves.


The landscapes from these founding wineries are top-notch and boast picture perfect views of the vines, mountains, and shimmering lake. Mission Hill opened in 1966 and is strategically perched on top of a dramatic viewpoint. This is one of the most visited Okanagan wineries that offer an extravagant tasting room, iconic cellar, Terrace Restaurant, as well as many tasting and tour options. The open-air courtyard is a magical place to relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the scenery.


From a distance, the estate has the appearance of a winery placed on top of a Tuscan hill town. The 12-story belltower is a recognizable landmark of this architectural masterpiece. Mission Hill was the first Okanagan winery to win an international wine award and put BC on the wine map. “In 1994, the Mission Hill Family Estate’s Grand Reserve 1992 Chardonnay won the Avery Trophy for ‘Best Chardonnay Worldwide’ at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London” (International Competitions - Wine BC).


Quails’ Gate has a special place in my heart. When I visited this winery for the first time, I fell in love with BC wine and made the decision to start a career in the wine industry. If someone asks me where they should visit in Kelowna, Quails’ Gate is one of the first that comes to mind. Their Home Block vineyard have vines dating back to 1961. On this same block, the Stewart family planted the Okanagan’s first Pinot Noir in 1975. This is now the flagship varietal at Quails’ Gate.


The family decided to convert the Home Block entirely to red varieties, and have moved Chasselas, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Optima, and Chenin Blanc to their cooler East Kelowna vineyard. In 2022, they plan to open a new winery on this property (yet to be named) and do the first crush. From starting out as a farm-gate winery producing 2,000 cases a year, Quails’ Gate now has the capacity to produce 100,000 cases (Okanagan Wine Tour Guide p. 358). Great quality wine for very reasonable prices can be found here.


If you have a boat, Frind Estate Winery is the first beachfront winery in North America. Here you can dock your boat at the beach and enjoy some food and wine right along Okanagan Lake. The owner of this winery is Markus Frind, who started and sold the online dating site ‘Plenty of Fish’.


In general, depending on your taste preferences, I find that the wineries in West Kelowna have more options for bolder red wines than in East Kelowna. A reason for this is many of them own vineyard sites further south in the Okanagan which allows them to grow other grapes that require warmer conditions. Again, this is just a general statement and doesn’t apply to every winery. If you’re a fan of bold red wines then I would check out Quails’ Gate, Black Swift, Mt. Boucherie, and Mission Hill. Each of these producers offer a selection of cellar worthy red wines.


Kelowna


Once you cross over the bridge to Kelowna and East Kelowna, here you will find a combination of small, large, and urban wineries. The province’s oldest continually operating winery, Calona Vineyard (est. 1932), is in the urban district of downtown Kelowna.


If you’re interested in Okanagan wine history, Kelowna is where it all began. The first records of vines planted in BC date back to an Oblate mission founded in 1859 by Father Charles Pandosy, a French priest. Although the site can be visited in East Kelowna, no vines remain (Okanagan Wine Tour Guide p. 20).


I’m a big fan of Kelowna Pinot Noir and my top recommendation in this area is SpearHead. They use three different vineyard sites where they grow single vineyard expressions, all of them are unique based on the terroir they are grown in. Coyote Vineyard in East Kelowna, Golden Retreat Vineyard in Summerland, and Saddle Block Vineyard on the estate property. This producer continues to reward consumers with a wide range of ripe and complex Pinot Noirs. Winemaker Grant Stanley has been specializing in Pinot for 15 years and it is evident when you taste the different expressions of their wine. He even has his own Pinot Noir vineyard on his personal property in East Kelowna (Okanagan Wine Tour Guide p.433).


Riesling is another variety that is thriving in Kelowna. Tantalus has Riesling vines that were planted in the late 1970s and are now producing remarkably powerful wines. This property is one of the Okanagan’s oldest, and one of the first to grow wine grapes in quantity (Okanagan Wine Tour Guide pg. 454). Their Old Vines Riesling (flagship wine) is one of my favourites and the 18’ vintage won the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Wine of the Year Award. Riesling is the star here, but the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also tasty. Tantalus produces very limited quantities of the Old Vines Riesling Brut which is a delicious and unique sparkling that I attempt to purchase each year. Lovely view of the Okanagan Valley can be seen from their panoramic patio.


Summerhill Pyramid Winery (yes, they do have a pyramid), has been a pioneer in organic wine growing in the Okanagan since opening in 1991 and is Canada’s largest organic winery. Their 20-hectare (50 acre) vineyard and most of the winery’s 14 contract growers have also been converted to organic production (Okanagan Wine Tour Guide pg. 446). Summerhill has built a reputation based on their sparkling wines like Cipes Brut, which has won numerous awards over the years.


Winery Dining


Finally, there are many winery restaurants located in Kelowna that offer great dining experiences while boasting incredible views. It’s a fantastic way to end off a day wine touring. My favourites in this area include Home Block at CedarCreek, Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate, and Summerhill Organic Bistro at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. These wineries have done an excellent job hiring chefs that have created dishes to pair seamlessly with their wines.



Sources:


Schreiner, John, and Luke Whittall. The Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. 6th ed., TouchWood Editions, 2020, p. 20, p. 358, p. 432 p. 433, p. 454.


Kelowna & Lake Country Wine Region of British Columbia, Wine BC, winebc.com/discover-bc-wine-country/okanagan-valley/kelowna-lake-country/.


International Competitions, Wine BC, winebc.com/awards/international-competitions/.


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Javen - Poured By Jay

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