Wineries of Canada

By Carol Ann Quibell #38554

Crossing the international border between the U.S. and British Columbia brings you into one of the most exciting wine-producing areas in Canada. Situated in the semi-desert Okanagan, this area is well known for its abundant vineyards, world-renowned wineries and fruit-laden orchards, as well as beautiful sparkling lakes and dazzling scenery.

The line-ups at the border near Oroville, Washington, are rarely long and not difficult, giving visitors a chance to relax in anticipation of what adventures they will experience while visiting Canada’s Okanagan and its memorable, first-class wineries. Whether you take two hours, two days or two weeks to meander your way north over the 80 miles between Osoyoos and Kelowna, there will be many opportunities to explore and experience everything this enchanting region offers its welcomed guests. The hot, dry summers and low rainfall make this an area that is perfect for growing a large variety of grapes for producing world-class, award-winning wines. With over 100 wineries to choose from, there will be plenty of opportunities to swirl, savor and sample the wines from any of the estate wineries or small family-operated artisan boutique wineries.
Osoyoos, pronounced “oh-sue-use” by the locals, is in Canada’s only true desert and is the point of entry after crossing into Canada and should be considered as the first stop on your journey. A favorite destination by many, it offers a treasure of attractions and opportunities for experiencing a stunning First Nations Cultural Centre, outstanding restaurants and a variety of water sports, as well as providing an opportunity to enjoy a one-of-a-kind, desert links-style golf course.

The tourist information centre located at the first traffic light is the best place to gather material on things to see and do, not only in Osoyoos but for the whole Okanagan. Traveling north from the border, turn left at the light and an immediate right into the parking lot for the info centre. A place that has it all is the NK`MIP (in-ka-meep) Resort where you can experience rattlesnake programs in the cultural centre, visit NK`MIP cellars, the first North American aboriginal owned and operated winery and stay at NK`MIP RV Park situated on the banks of Osoyoos Lake.

Indulge yourself and let an experienced local guide show you the delights of the valley, where you can savor the best that the local wineries have to offer.

As you leave Osoyoos and travel along the highway a few miles, look to your far right and you will see one of the most notable wineries. Overlooking the valley is the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery that offers wine tasting, has a beautiful restaurant for both lunch and dinner and also a guest house for those who wish to treat themselves to something special.

Meandering your way over the next 18 miles, the highway is lined with rolling hills covered with vineyards, fruit-producing orchards and quaint little fruit stands where you can purchase seasonal, fresh, local produce and enjoy seeing the sites along the Golden Mile Bench.

Considered to be Canada’s wine capital, Oliver is your next stop with over 40 wineries within 10 minutes of the centre of town, and all are easily accessible by car. The majority are open daily for wine sampling, fine dining and a chance for their visitors to gain an educational experience while learning more about the local wine industry.

Definitely take advantage of one of the available wine tour companies who will take you behind the scenes where you will visit some of the region’s best wineries and sample some of the most remarkable wines in the world. For a special experience, there is a helicopter touring service available to show you the breathtaking views of the thousands of acres of outstanding vineyards.

This unique little town of 5,000 residents offers a mixture of inviting parks, golf courses and paths for cycling or walking. A charming museum that once was the British Columbia police station, a cultural centre for the whole family and an arts centre all await their visitors in this sun-filled desert community.

Okanagan Falls (OK Falls)
A short 10-minute drive north brings you to Okanagan Falls, situated at the southern tip of Skaha Lake and is considered by many to be the beginning of the heart of wine country. The many small wineries that dot the hills around the area are special, and their wines are exceptional, providing a fantastic reason for visitors to spend a day touring the back roads looking for the wineries’ signage and sampling some of these fine wines.

You are now in the heart of wine country. Situated between Skaha Lake to the south and Okanagan Lake to the north, Penticton’s local sunny beaches are the place to be on a hot summer’s day. Take time away from the wineries and spend a day floating down the Okanagan River Channel, a popular Penticton summer activity. There are plenty of things to do if anyone is seeking outdoor adventures, whether it is rock climbing, kayaking, cycling or walking the Kettle Valley Railway Trail.

The Wine Country Visitor Centre has knowledgeable staff that will help you create a plan for exploring wine country. If you really want to experience what the locals enjoy, then you must attend the farmers market every Saturday morning, where the vendors line Main Street, selling vegetables, fruit and herbs, as well as scrumptious baked goods.

Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna
Traveling north on Highway 97 alongside Okanagan Lake, the three communities of Summerland, Peachland and West Kelowna offer many attractions, including an antique car museum, beaches, golf courses, distinctive dining establishments and an opportunity to ride on the historic Kettle Valley Steam Railway. The many distinctive wineries along the way are worth visiting and should not be missed.

Your final destination after crossing the bridge spanning Lake Okanagan is the largest and most vibrant city in British Columbia’s Okanagan, Kelowna. This is a perfect location to stay in a comfortable RV park while visiting its many wineries, hit a ball at one of the executive golf courses or challenge a friend to a game at one of the championship courses or maybe spend an afternoon sauntering along the walkway by the lake.

Not to be missed on this tour of extraordinary wineries is the large number within the city as well as the surrounding area. Many have large parking areas that will accommodate a bus, but it is best to park your rig elsewhere and either take a guided tour or use your own vehicle for a self-guided tour.

This 80-mile journey is all about wine tours and tastings of the award-winning wines that this beautiful region offers to the world, and you will definitely want to take some of your favorites with you. Verify with the U.S. Customs what amount you are entitled to bring home with you, but the general rule is you can return home with enough for your own personal use as long as you are willing to pay the duty. Take the time to savor the wines, appreciate the opportunities for adventure and applaud the welcoming atmosphere since you will want to return again to enjoy the wineries you missed on this trip.

Carol Ann Quibell #38554 is an RVer currently living in beautiful British Columbia. She is a freelance writer and columnist and enjoys sharing her travel tips and information with her friends. You can view her Websites online at www.writefortravel.com or roamingrv.com.

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