Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
British Columbia offers myriad ways to swirl and sip. Here are a few unique BC wineries where the tasting experience is anything but ordinary.
BC’s Similkameen Valley is home to Orofino, the country’s first strawbale winery. Powered by solar energy, the ecofriendly design ensures consistent insulation for barrel-room temperatures, and relief from the desert heat. Sip their Wild Ferment Syrah or Scout Vineyard Riesling inside, or picnic under the winery’s almond and oak trees. Another option? Stay for the night at Orofino’s one- and two-bedroom vineyard suites, atop the barrel room.
The winemakers at Summerhill Pyramid Winery age all of their wines in a geometrically-precise pyramid. Here, grapes for organic and biodynamic wines are grown in Kelowna’s semi-desert valley, a site chosen specifically for its location (both surveyors and astrologers were tapped for their input). Sample the winery’s lineup, including an impressive array of bubbles. While you do, ask your hosts to explain the pyramid’s structure, its invisible energy, and its all-important life force.
Tantalus Vineyards is BC’s first Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED)-certified winery. Translation: the winemakers here value both land stewardship and quality vintages. Check out the beehives (a partnership with Arlo’s Honey Farm) that pepper the landscape just outside the tasting room. Vital to the Kelowna-area vineyard’s natural ecosystem, the bees also ensure that nearby orchards and vegetable farms stay productive. Along with an old-vines Riesling or Pinot Noir, consider purchasing a pot of honey to take home.
Set between Vaseux and Skaha lakes near Okanagan Falls, Liquidity Winery is a modernist gem, with a seasonally inspired bistro and an impressive lineup of rotating artwork. Paintings, sculptures, and whimsical indoor and outdoor installations are all on display—a prized personal collection curated by the owner himself. While these visuals delight, it’s the winery’s reds and whites that shine. Standouts include a plummy Rosé, a spiced-berry Pinot Noir, and a peachy, crowd-pleasing bubbly.
Situated on 263 hectares (650 acres) north of Oliver, Covert Farms Family Estate is home to third-generation farmers and a first-generation certified-organic estate vineyard. Here, wines are crafted with minimal intervention, with focus on natural fermentation; expect fruity, crisp whites and luscious reds. Once you’ve sipped, you can wander through more than 60 different U-pick crops (field tomatoes, sweet corn, and more) or take a tour of the farm in a vintage 1952 truck.
Nk’Mip Cellars, overlooking Osoyoos, is North America’s first Aboriginal-owned and -operated winery. Sample a few wines from the Nk’Mip Winemaker Series and the premium Qwam Qwmt collection (Qwam Qwmt translates to “achieving excellence” in the Okanagan language spoken by the Osoyoos Indian Band). If you’d like to delve into a broader selection, proceeds from the nominal tasting fee go towards preserving the Okanagan language at the nearby Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre. After lunch at the winery’s seasonal patio restaurant, consider heading to the centre for a glimpse into a traditional pit house and sweat lodge.
When people think about winemaking, they often think of sunny, southern climates. Situated at a latitude of 53 degrees north, Northern Lights Estate Winery shattered that stereotype when it opened in 2015, becoming the province’s northern-most winery. Here in Prince George, winemakers grow local fruits (think: apples, blackcurrants, gooseberries, rhubarb, and more) and turn them into fruit wine. You can sample the vintages with a view of the Nechako River and the city centre.
Getting to BC wineries can be an adventure unto itself. Ever consider travelling by helicopter or electric bike? Check out route97.net/wine-tourfor some fun ways to visit the province’s winemakers.
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