Our Intern’s Guide to Kelowna Wineries
A narrated tour by someone who occasionally drinks wine from a box.
July 23, 2018
Summer activities in the city seem to always revolve around beach bum days, patio dinners, and weekend road trips to cute nearby towns. But if you’re willing to make the drive out to Kelowna, these plans may also include an excursion to the trendy #InstagramWorthy event that is a wine tour.
Though six hours of dedicated wine touring may sound like a death trap for your kidneys, the short drives between each location and the limitations on the quantity of wine given will help keep you conscious. If not, there really is no better way to go down than through the grapevine.
These Kelowna-based wine-producing venues are just a few of the 40-plus that surround the Okanagan area, but they are quite the eclectic representation of what the city has to offer through its many flavours of grapes.
Group favourite: 2017 C# (Sharp) Aromatic White
Personal favourite: 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Yum!)
Vibe: Pretentiously large and crowded with tourists
If any winery in the province can transport you to another country and make you forget where you are just on ambiance alone, it’s this one. The pinot noir vines surrounding a pathway that leads straight into a stunning mountain view are just the first sights upon entering the royal-like space. Live music guides you through the outdoor arches of architecture that looks like it fell right out of the most stereotypical drawing of Europe.
But since these novelties can only distract from the crowds and wine tasting line-up for so long—make this location a first stop as patience can be owed to the start-of-tour excitement high.
Ultimate bestseller: 2016 Tapestry
Best-selling red: 2014 Maréchal Foch
Vibe: Modern cool and old school hick meet for an extended family vacation
A complete 180 from the last visit, this quiet vineyard located on the top of a hill is the perfect hideaway. With a setup of props for picture taking and a small lobby area for tastings, Little Straw encourages connection and silliness.
Try their Tapestry wine (a.k.a. the “perfect patio white”) that accounts for one-third of sales, or the strange sensation of chilled red BFF (Blau Frankish Foch)—a dark cherry and berry summer blend. One can only dream to be so important (as French marshal Ferdinand Foch) that they have a grape named after them.
Best known for: Icewine
Favourite discovery: A Chardonnay that isn’t horrible
Vibe: Is it lunchtime yet?
All that liquor from the first two visits may have you daydreaming about your upcoming lunch break, but this is the perfect stop to remind you that sometimes it’s more fun to start with dessert.
At this adorable winery, their reds satisfy that sweet craving through the dark cherry chocolate taste of the 21% alcohol 8 Barrels Merlot, or the brisk figgy marmalade and dragon fruit flavours of their Cabernet Sauvignon icewine. You may even try your shot at the unoaked Estate Chardonnay—a surprisingly delicious take on the white wine people love to hate.
Easiest wine to pronounce: Simo [See-Moo]
Hardest wine to pronounce: Gewürztraminer [?]
Vibe: Sunshine sanctuary
With dreamy views of the province’s best features, this winery is the perfect spot to sit down and relax at their Red Fox Club for a delicious light lunch as colourful as the scenery (and keep adding to the buzz you’ve had since Mission Hill.)
The flavours may taste a little more like the memory of college than the wine at previous places, but the lightness of the whites and the intriguing names are valuable traits at this stage of tipsiness—like the white or red blend Hee-Hee-Tel-Kin, a Syilx name given to the Chief’s son meaning “elusive high country stag with large antlers.” Cool.
Memorable goat names: Monica and Rachel
Unofficial new goat alias: Goats Malone
This exclusive winery, whose wines can only be found on site because of small production, is also a sanctuary for rescued goats with its official SPCA rescue status (eek!). Between tastings, you can explore the fields to meet goats named after the cast of Friends or pet the adorable U.S. Blackbelly hair sheep and her miniature Southdown Babydoll sheep best friend.
Under the grassed roof, you can try Zweigelt, a great introduction to reds with its rich colour and earthy chocolate aftertaste, or the “Ever After” rosé—a go-to for weddings and celebratory toasts. Maybe Off the Grid will one day dip their hands into the luxurious sport of goat cheese making, but for now they offer other goodies next to their fun labelled wines like handmade jellies or painted wine glasses by Sarah Parsons for filling up to the very top.
Most popular wine: Dino Sauce (Screaming Frenzy Meritage)
Best acronym: Sauvy B (Sauvignon Blanc)
Vibe: Comedic hipster frat boys start a company
Like the winery itself, these wines can be described as “very good but very weird and good at being weird.” The attention-grabbing graphics on the bottles make as big a statement as the eccentric personalities and dry humour of its employees. This place is millennial perfection.
Whether it’s a label designed with black swifts carrying a monstrous oyster or an elephant reminding us to “never forget”—these bizarre wines and their iconic flavours are a refreshing take on the traditional. For summer days, try their B. Yanco house white or Screaming Frenzy Sauvy B—which at only 11.5% alcohol, won’t make you too sick if you keep on drinking for the rest of the day. Cheers to that!