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BC’s Okanagan wine region, with its sparkling lakes and picturesque vineyards, is an experience not to be missed. A little up front research can help you make the most of your visit by choosing in advance a specific area to focus on, and a mode of transportation. Whether you want to plan and execute on your own, or hook up with an experienced guide, this will be a trip to remember. Here are 5 ways to go wine touring in the Okanagan:
There are so many ways to enjoy wine touring. One option is to stay in an urban area and walk to some wineries. In Kelowna, Sandhill and the historic Calona Vineyards are just over one kilometre (0.6 mi) from the Delta Grand Okanagan, or just over two kilometres (1.2 mi) from the Prestige Inn.
In Penticton, from the Penticton Lakeside Resort it’s just over a one-kilometre (0.6-mi) walk down Lakeshore and up Vancouver Avenue to Perseus Winery. Continue less than a kilometre to Monster Vineyards and another half a kilometre or so to Poplar Grove Winery for an Okanagan Lake vista.
For an even shorter walk, stay in an accommodation that has a winery on-site, such as Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos, home of Nk’Mip Cellars, the first aboriginal-owned and -operated vineyard and winery in North America. Other examples of wineries with accommodation are Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, Hester Creek Estate Winery, Silver Sage Winery, Therapy Vineyards & Guesthouse, Elephant Island Orchard Wines, Vineglass Vintner’s Resort, and Crowsnest Vineyards.
If you’re really feeling energetic, take in a running event such as the Kelowna Half Marathon. The race begins at a winery, winds through vineyards and ends by the lake with a wine and music festival. Or for a lighthearted romp, get in on the lottery for the Half Corked Marathon presented by the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association.
Cycling combines a scenic and healthy approach to wine touring. Plan your own route and either bring or rent a bike, or go with an operator such as Monashee Adventure Tours (Kelowna) or Hoodoo Adventures (Penticton) so you’ve got someone packing your purchases home. Many wineries provide special parking for cyclists.
Cycling along such routes at the Kettle Valley Rail Trail along the Naramata Bench, you can stop in at wineries for a tasting and perhaps a well-earned lunch.
Take a self-guided tour in your own car or motorcycle, or consider a personalized tour in a “fully restored, chauffeured, Classic Car Convertible” from Nixdorf Classic Cars Inc. in Summerland. A similar opportunity is available in Kelowna with Tours 59 Classic Cars.
Another option is a well-designed wine touring package from one of the Okanagan’s professional tour companies, such as: Distinctly Kelowna Tours, Grape Escapes, Grape Friends Lounge and Tours, Landsea Okanagan Tours & Charters, Okanagan Wine Country Tours, Top Cat Tours and Charters, Uncorked Okanagan Wine Tours, MJO Tours, Heart and Sol Tours Inc, Wicked Wine Tours and Napa North. There’s even a “Hop-on Hop-Off” tour and dinner service available through OK Wine Shuttles.
Dock your boat at a public facility or take a lake cruise to check out some wineries within walking distance from the shore. For example, tie up at Three Mile Beach and hike to Howling Bluff Estate Wines. And speaking of water, whatever way you tour, be sure to keep yourself hydrated. Bring along your own water bottle or ask the wine shop staff for water between tastings.
For the most decadent of wine tasting experiences, get a bird’s eye view of wine country. Arrange for a winery tour by air in either a helicopter or a float plane at select wineries. See Alpine Helicopters Inc (Kelowna) or Valhalla Helicopters (West Kelowna). There’s even a wine-themed balloon tour by Okanagan Ballooning (Kelowna).
Inspired to give back to the world while wine touring? Try volunteering at Okanagan Gleaners in Oliver. Here, donated (gleaned) vegetables are processed into healthy and nutritious dry soup mix, which is then packaged into 100 serving bags to be shipped to more than 50 countries worldwide. As long as you book ahead and commit to a specific number of volunteers hours, you and your group can camp in its orchard or hook up your RV in one of the 12 slots right on the Gleaners plant site. Work in the morning and tour in the afternoon. A similar opportunity is available through the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners Society in Vernon.
The Okanagan Wine Festivals Society has been coordinating outstanding events for more than 20 years and planning a trip around a wine festival or event is a great way to get the most from your trip. Annual wine festivals are held in the fall, winter and spring, and they’re a great way to sample local wine and food in a spectacular setting. Farmers’ markets, including the highly regarded Penticton Farmers Market, offer opportunities to taste wine from a number of local wineries with participants changing each week.
Whatever mode of touring you choose, and whether you decide to tour on your own or in a group, be sure to plan for a designated driver or a safe ride home, and treat yourself to a few bottles to take home. Happy wine trails to you.
Featured image: View from Kraze Legz Vineyard and Winery in Kaleden
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