Sip in the Shuswap: Discover BC’s Northern Wine Region

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Laid-back, friendly, informal—these are the wineries of BC’s Shuswap. Here, family-run operations have taken root less than an hour’s drive of each other and most are minutes from a major highway.

Numerous varieties of grapes grow in the Shuswap and each winery has their niche specialties of award-winning wines that reflect the terroir of the region. These wineries, located just north of the 50th parallel, grow cool-hardy and quick-ripening grapes for their varietals while a few of them source other grapes from within BC to use for their blends. The result? High-quality, artisan-style wines for every palate.

Sunset over the Sunnybrae shore of Shuswap Lake.

Sunset over the Sunnybrae shore of Shuswap Lake. Photo: @stevengienphotography via Instagram

Check for these bottles in liquor stores and restaurants throughout BC; fans can also purchase online from the wineries’ websites or—better yet—by visiting their tasting rooms. Bring your own picnic to enjoy on one of their outdoor patios and a camera to capture the lake and mountain vistas beyond the vineyards.

Oh, and forget about tasting fees, dressy attire, and wine snobbery. In the Shuswap, you’re likely to get a friendly, personal tour and be served samples to try before you buy, by the owner or a member of the family—they wear many hats.

Here are six to visit.

Larch Hills WinerySalmon Arm, Owner Jack Manser

In the vineyard: Ortega, Madeleine Angevine, Madeleine Sylvaner, Siegerrebe, and Agria.

In the bottle: 8 whites, 5 reds, 1 rosé, 2 dessert wines, 2 sparkling wines.

Take your wine touring to new heights: Larch Hills has the distinction of being the highest vineyard in North America, yet it’s only a 12-minute climb in a vehicle up Black Road from Highway 97B.

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., March to December. The tasting room is also open throughout the winter; call ahead to check the road conditions.

Ovino WineryBetween Salmon Arm and Vernon, Owners Catherine and John Koopmans

In the vineyard: Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Meunier, Petit Milo, L’Acadie Blanc, Traminette, Regent, and Marechal Foch.

In the bottle: 5 whites, 3 reds, 1 rosé, 1 dessert wine.

The journey’s part of the fun: located in the heart of the Salmon River Valley, the winery is reached via an easy drive through rural countryside, 15 minutes off the beaten tracks of either Highway 1 or Highway 97.

Open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., May long weekend to October 15. Please call for an appointment for the rest of the year.

Marionette Winery, Salmon Arm, Owners Amanda Eastwood and Jamie Smith

At Marrionette Winery, you can taste varietals not often found in the Shuswap.

At Marrionette Winery, you can taste varietals not often found in the Shuswap. Photo: Marionette Winery

In the vineyard: Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Zweigelt.

In the bottle: 4 whites, 3 reds, 1 rosé.

New kids on the block: Amanda and Jamie put their degrees in viticulture to the test by choosing varietals not so typical of the Shuswap—thanks to their property’s unique micro-climate, minutes from downtown Salmon Arm.

Open daily from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., May to October.

Sunnybrae Vineyards and Winery, North of Salmon Arm, Owners Nancy and Barry Turner

The vineyard views at Sunnybrae Vineyards and Winery in BC's Thompson Okanagan.

The vineyard views at Sunnybrae Vineyards and Winery. Photo: Sunnybrae Vineyards and Winery

In the vineyard: Marechal Foch, Siegerrebe, Kerner, Ortega, and Schonburger.

In the bottle: 3 whites, 3 reds, 1 rosé.

Family affair: the Turner family and staff will help with wine decisions as well as recommendations on other things to see, do, and taste in the area. Or, you could stay put and take in the pretty views of Shuswap Lake and Mount Ida from their outdoor patio.

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., May to October.

Recline Ridge WineryWest of Salmon Arm, Owners Maureen and Graydon Ratzlaff

In the vineyard: Marechal Foch, Madelaine Angevine, Madeleine Sylvaner, Ortega, Siegerrebe, and Optima.

In the bottle: 5 whites, 4 reds, 1 rosé, 2 dessert wines.

Personal touch: More often than not, expect to be greeted and served by owner Graydon Ratzlaff in the tasting room, where he helps both newbie and seasoned wine lovers discover what makes Shuswap wines uniquely flavoured.

Open daily from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. in April, May, October, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in June and September, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in July and August.

Celista Estate Winery, Celista, on the north shore of Shuswap Lake, Owners Marg and Jake Ootes

Celista Estate Winery's inviting outdoors, in BC's Thompson Okanagan.

Celista Estate Winery’s inviting outdoors. Photo: Celista Estate Winery

In the vineyard: Ortega, Marechal Foch, Seigerrebe, Gewurztraminer, and Sylvaner.

In the bottle: 3 reds, 3 whites, 1 rosé, 1 dessert wine.

Alternative transportation: Arriving by houseboat? No problem. Jake will shuttle you up to his property from the beach if you call ahead. Travelling with friends? The winery specializes in group events, too.

Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., May to October. Vineyard tours every Wednesday and Saturday at 11 a.m. No appointment needed.

Feature image: View of Sicamous, Shuswap Lake and Mara Lake from Sicamous Lookout. Photo: Darren Robinson/Shuswap Tourism