There’s something special about visiting British Columbia’s Okanagan wine region. Great weather, mountains, lakes, fresh fruit and plenty of wine. With wineries welcoming you with open arms and tasting rooms always pouring, it’s a great way to try a lot of different wines from a relatively small region. I’d recommend driving out and hitting up one of the many sub regions of the Okanagan, and if you are feeling ambitious, hit them all! They are all within a few hours of driving.
Kelowna makes for a great starting point of any wine trip in the Okanagan. Heading south for hour or two will open you up to many vineyards in Peachland, Summerland, Naramata, Oliver, and Osoyoos. If you are not up for adventuring too far, there are exceptional wineries to fill a day in the surrounding Kelowna area, such as Mission Hill, Quails Gate, and one of my favourites, Tantalus.
Tantalus in particular focuses on producing small lots of high quality wines. Their expertise features Riesling and Pinot Noir predominately. While there I had the chance to tour the estate and their new tasting room – which is stunningly contemporary. Some wineries charge a small amount to do a tasting, but generally speaking this fee will be waved if you decide to purchase some wine before leaving. That being said, it is quite difficult to NOT buy wine after tasting at any winery! You will likely see people loading up cases into their car!
In the past I’ve normally made Kelowna my home base to any wine trip in the region. However this time around I decide to checkout Predator Ridge to combine business with a bit of pleasure. Predator Ridge is approximately a 40 minute drive north toward Vernon, and is situated in an awe inspiring back drop surrounded conveniently by two world class golf courses.
Our itinerary consisted of heading to the Naramata bench on one day (about 1.5 hours south), and the next day we’d be driving golf balls off of a cliff all while basking in the glorious heat (It was in the 30s while we were there). Don’t let anyone fool you, tasting wines all day is hard work and golf proves to be an excellent way to de-stress and have fun.
They just opened the “Ridge” course last year and I was anxious to check it out, since there’s been so much talk about it (Best new course in Canada – SCOREGolf Magazine and Travel Golf Network). Playing this course was an adventure. Turn almost any corner and you are treated to a completely new view of the landscape – mountains, water, wilderness. We even ran into a few coyotes before teeing off on the second hole. The course overall is quite challenging; then again my wife managed to get a few legitimate pars and she just started golfing this year. That said, I would strongly recommend bringing a few extra balls.
Golfing aside, the resort has many amenities for almost any mood. Spa, salon, pool, gym, and even a conference center. The suite we were staying in was fully furnished with dinning and kitchen facilities, which allowed us to balance dinning in and tasting the take aways from our winery tours. On the nights when you are not into cooking, fine dinning is just outside the door.
Our winery visiting schedule was fairly regimented (it’s my job I guess), but your trip doesn’t have to be. The people at Predator Ridge put together wine bus tours right from the resort, which means you can indulge a bit more at wineries. The resort also organizes a mix of events that involve wine, food, finess and golf right at the resort. If you wanted to escape in October, they have a Fall Harvest weekend package going on right now as well.
I’m sorry, but I have to show you another photograph from the golf course.
Um, yeah. That photo is taken from the Ridge course, and you’re teeing up from a cliff. Since I’m still relatively new to the game, my ball ended up in the rocky area on the right. Oh well, I had a blast. Granted I was pretty sore afterwords – the Ridge course is huge!
For the most part, the prices are quite comparable to staying in a hotel room in Kelowna! If you’re interested in heading down before the season ends, there are a few specials on rates, as well as golf – Golftoberfest (golfing at more than 50% off) from October 11th to 17th. The beauty of that is the fall Okanagan Wine Festival takes place from September 30 to October 9 so it offers a perfect vacation pair. Wine tasting for a few days followed by some fall golf!
Lastly, as you may have heard, 2011 is proving to be a late harvest for the Okanagan. Which means if you wanted to catch the wineries as the season comes to a close, now is the time to head down. If you would like any tips on places to visit please don’t hesitate to leave a comment and we’ll be pleased to share!