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Three Days of Wine

So Many Wineries…

There are over 250 wineries in the Southern Okanagan, and it’s just not possible to visit them all in a couple/three days.   So, what you need is a plan to hit some of the highlights, and a vow to come back again real soon to tick off some more.

Pick a Region

From Penticton, there are four basic regions that are easily accessible and well worth the visit.  The first is the Summerland area, known as Bottleneck Drive.    The second is the Naramata Bench, up the East side of Okanagan Lake just out of Penticton, the third is Oliver/Osoyoos,  which is only a 30 minute drive, and the fourth is Okanagan Falls which is on the way to Oliver.  They are all well worth the visit.

Once you get started, you may feel the need to tack on an extra day to hit all those ones you didn’t quite get to.

(If you would like tons more information on ideas for touring, check out this “sister” site🙂  Okanagan Wine Tales.  Click Here.

Day 1:  Bottleneck Drive

Sumac Ridge winery is easy to find, just off the highway in Summerland

This is the most laid back of the three regions you will be visiting.  Some of the wineries have tasting fees, many do not.   Most of them are smaller, family run shops with beautiful views of the lake and more often than not, a patio you can have a picnic on.

Wineries in Summerland
Train made of Old Wine Barrels at 8th Generation

While most of the best wines produced in this region are whites, you will find a few good reds, so don’t hesitate to give them a try.   The bigger wineries, like Sumac Ridge, also have land down in Oliver which they use to grow the more heat-demanding red grapes, so don’t miss that stop if you truly are a red wine drinker.

If you tire of wine, and want to try something different, there are a couple of ciderees you can visit as well.   And one maker of Fruit wines – Sleeping Giant Fruit wines

Most popular stops:

  1. Dirty Laundry – The tasting is free, and there is a story behind the wines along with an interesting gift shop to wander through.  A very popular stop for visitors.
  2. Thornhaven – Most people are on their way to Dirty Laundry and notice Thornhaven at the fork in the road, – so they make this their second stop.  This is a very friendly family-run winery where you will be sure to find something you like, at a very reasonable price.
  3. Sumac Ridge – One of the bigger wineries in the region, Sumac Ridge has been around for a long time.  They own land in Oliver, therefore they have some very tasty Reds on the menu alongside some award-winning whites.

Once you get started, you will feel inspired to stop at many that you see.    Each has its own unique character and you will always find at least one wine that you like wherever you go.    Make sure you pick up a Passport and get a stamp at each winery you visit – when you collect 5 stamps you can mail it in to enter a draw.   Each region has its own Passport so you will need to pick up the Bottleneck Drive one at the first winery you visit.

View from the tasting room at Sage Hills

Summerland wineries
Patio at Dirty Laundry Winery

Day 2:  The Naramata Bench

Grape de-stemmer at Van Westen in Naramata

Naramata has lots of fun surprises in store for you.  The wine-makers here care deeply about their products, as shown by the large number of medal winners in the midst.  Many of the wineries here specialize in whites,  but you will also, once again, find some very good reds.  So don’t give up on trying.

There is one grape that seems to be getting a little more attention lately – Viognier.   It is my “new” favourite white.   If you are typically a red drinker, but are willing to give whites a whirl, you may really love this one.  Don’t turn down an opportunity to try it!

There are so many good choices here of which wineries to visit, on a different day I would give you a different list.  Today I will name but three.  But once you arrive at the ones on this list, you will see three more wineries nearby that you might as well stop in at “while you’re at it”.

These three are by no means the most popular or well-known wineries, which is why I picked them to highlight.   They are, instead,  some of the area’s best kept secrets….

  1. Moraine – the white wines go down faster than candy.  Definitely worth the stop.
  2. Van Westen – all of their wine is good, but if you are pre-disposed to reds this should be a stop.
  3. Tightrope – Fun, friendly and great views from the “new” tasting room.

You might also want to try some fruit wines.    Back before grapes became so very popular, wine was made from just about anything.  Elephant Island brings you back in time by offering samples of a variety of fruit wines.

Naramata Penticton
View from Maple Leaf Spirits

There are also a couple of distilleries you can stop at if you want something different.    Legend Distilling has a patio with food and cocktails served after most of the wine tasting shuts down for the day.   Maple Leaf Spirits makes an incredibly smooth brandy along with other fruit-based spirits.

There are a number of very high quality restaurants along this route which take great pride in creating dishes with wine parings, so if it’s in the budget, plan to engage your palate.   There are also two artisan cheeseries – Poplar Grove and Upper Bench – that offer samples with their wine pairings.

If you are out near Naramata on a Wednesday afternoon in the summer, you can pop by the farmers market for something to do.  It operates from 3-6 pm and it also has a few wineries offering tastings blended among the fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade sauces and preserves, and select crafts.

Day 3: Oliver/Osoyoos

Wineries in Oliver
Outside Gerhinger Brothers in Oliver

Oliver and Osoyoos have  slightly more desert conditions, which makes if one of the few regions in Canada where one can grow really good red grapes.

Because of their notoriety, tasting fees are ever-present here, and the wines are a little more expensive.    Generally, though, if you buy a bottle of wine, the tasting fee is waived, so it doesn’t matter all that much about the fees because you are bound to find at least one that you like at every stop.

Oliver/Osoyoos is the pride of the Okanagan for sure.   There are many fantastic wineries.  Here is a suggestion of just three, but don’t assume just because your favourite isn’t mentioned it isn’t worth the visit.    What is presented is a smattering of great choices nested among other great choices:

  1. Moon Curser – this winery is located all the way on the other side of Osoyoos, but it is worth the trip,   The name comes from the days of smuggling whiskey and other such things across the border during prohibition – when the light of the moon was a bit of a curse.   A slightly smaller winery, but worth the visit.  And while you are on that side of town you can visit Adega and Nk’Mip as they are only a few blocks away.
  2. Burrowing Owl – these guys are one of the wineries that put Oliver on the map.   They began producing fabulous reds about 20 years ago that got international attention.  Now they have a hotel, a fine dining restaurant, and a sizeable tasting room and wine shop.   A very popular destination.  While you’re there, climb the tower for a view of the whole valley.   They are located along Black Sage Road, a very sought-after grape growing location.
  3. Intersection – On the other side of the highway, along the Golden Mile,  there are many more great wineries as well.    Intersection is unique because they offer courses on wine tasting and therefore have plenty of knowledge to impart on the subject.   It is fun to compare two wines made from the same type of grape, grown just a few rows from each other – but in completely different soil… they do not taste the same!   While you are in the neighbourhood, Hester Creek is just up the road.  This is one of those very reliable wineries where it’s hard to find something you don’t like.  They are big enough that you will find their flagship products in the liquor store so the goal is to find yourself some “go-to” wines that you really like that you can can always pick up en route to that dinner party down the road.   The winery has a beautiful setting, an expansive wine shop, and a relaxing picnic area.   And right across the street is Gehringer Brothers which is your next stop for sure!.   Enjoy.

Day 4:  Okanagan Falls

I know, this is supposed to be a three-day adventure, but sometimes you get on a roll and don’t want to stop.  The Okanagan falls region is so close to Penticton yet sports a personality all to itself.  The wineries here have bistros and spectacular views of the valley and of Skaha Lake.  Here, you can see the world in a whole new perspective.    And it’s only a short 10 min drive from Penticton so why not take a few of these ones in on your last day.

okanagan falls wine tasting
View from the patio at Liquidity Wines

For much more information on individual wineries, and touring ideas visit our “sister” site Okanagan Wine Tales.

Want More Wine Touring Ideas?

Check out our Okanagan Wine Tales website that goes much more in-depth into wineries of the region.

What to Do if Your Get Bored with Wine Tasting

If you get bored with wine tasting, there are plenty of fruit stands and ice cream shops to visit along the way.  There are also plenty of lakes to swim in if it’s a particularly hot day and you need to cool off.

There are plenty of other things you can do in the region, for sure.    Check out the rest of this site for more options, including our article All About Fruit that will give you a schedule of what is ripe when.

Dog Friendly

Many of the wineries are dog friendly, and even if they do not allow in the tasting room itself there is always a shady area to tie them up and a bowl of water for them to drink.   One idea is to take them for a quick swim in the lake before you head off to do a tasting or two so they will be nice and cool in that shade.   To see a list of where the dog beaches are located, check out our article I Have a Dog