I’ve made a habit of visiting wineries in the north Okanagan – Mission Hill, Grey Monk, Cedar Creek, and my all-time favourite Quails’ Gate – but I’ve never ventured much further south. In a quest to hit up somewhere new, we did just that – ventured south into Oliver and Osoyoos, and spent a full day trundling through their delicious wineries.
With my bf as my designated driver (yes, he got mad bonus points for being my wine chauffeur), we headed out for the day. It was the day after Labour Day, so things were awfully quiet in wine country, meaning I got extra pours in most wineries. Hells yes. With the hot, gorgeous sun showing its pretty face, we hopped in our super-cute yellow Fiat 500 and headed for Burrowing Owl.
Our little Fiat liked wine tasting.
FUN FACT! Many north Okanagan wineries have vines in the south Okanagan because of the quality of grapes produced in this funky little micro-climate.
Alright, so Burrowing Owl. This place was gorgeous, up on a hill, with a small resort. Next time, we’re staying there. The wine was great. I believe I liked the Syrah. Conceivably, since this was our first stop, I should remember the wine I liked. Alas, I don’t.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, Oliver BC.
At Burrowing Owl we picked up a little Okanagan wine passport in which you get stamps at each winery you visit. You had to visit five wineries (or seven) and do tastings to get enough stamps to win a prize. GAME ON.
FUN FACT! In most wineries, if you buy anything, your tasting fee is waived. If the winery doesn’t do that for you, well then that’s just bad karma.
Next up was Church & State, who also have a winery on Vancouver Island. Loved their wine, and their tasting room was modern and bright (good when you’re drinking). I loved their wine, specifically the 2008 Meritage (ha! I remembered! … lies, I totally took notes). They also do a wonderful Syrah. The girl there was super friendly, and we had a really nice conversation (which will always get you extra tastings), and she also recommended some wineries to visit next, based on our (my) wine preferences, which was great, because I wanted to maximise my time at good wineries.
Church and State wine tasting.
Taking her suggestions, we headed next to Stoneboat, just down the road, which was a gorgeous, tiny, fairly new winery that I’d never heard of. Once again, the guy was really friendly, and I absolutely adored their Pinotage, Duet, and Chorus.
Gorgeous setting at Stoneboat Vineyards.
From there, you can be sure that I needed food. We’d heard that several of the wineries had little delis that were perfect for picnics. While I love winery restaurants, and many of them in Oliver and Osoyoos have great restaurants, our budget really wasn’t up for the task. Instead, we headed to Hester Creek, where they have a stunning covered patio that’s perfect for wine-o picnics. You can either bring your own food or purchase some there, but the wine you drink must be purchased there. We grabbed a fresh baguette, salami, prosciutto, goat cheese, and a massive hunk of pate (don’t worry, I ate the whole thing), and headed out to the patio. Glass of wine in hand, I have to say, it was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Setting up our wine picnic at Hester Creek.
FUN FACT! Osoyoos is considered “the warmest place in Canada” as well as “Canada’s only desert”. These claims are disputed, but they’re fun to claim, nonetheless.
So now you’re probably betting that I’m a touch tipsayyy. You win. I’m having the best day, but I’m also starting to go a touch cross-eyed. But what to do? We still had one more winery that I absolutely had to visit, aside from Nk’mip, where we were staying. Naturally, we kept going.
Next was Desert Hills, at which we were welcomed by a MASSIVE dog. 10 points to Desert Hills. The dog, we later learned was named Ali (after Muhammad Ali), accompanied us into the tasting room, where we were greeted by the very friendly owner and several other tasters. Apparently this was the place to be. For a donation (no tasting fee) we got to taste all the wines. At the point in the day, I almost didn’t even want to taste all the wines! Almost. So I tasted all the wines. They were all pretty damn good, but I remember (?) liking the Gamay. Well, I bought it, so I must’ve liked it.
Fiat’s eye view of the vines at Desert Hills.
We left Desert Hills intent on one final tasting at Nk’mip, but when we got back, all I wanted to do was nap (read: pass out) next to the pool in my bathrobe, which is exactly what I did.
Next time you find yourself hankering for a wine tour, head to the south Okanagan. It’s only about an hour and a half drive from Kelowna, and about five and a half from Vancouver. And if you don’t have a super generous wine chauffeur like I did, the OK Wine Shuttle should do the trick. (Yes, it’s a hop-on-hop-off winery shuttle….yes….I know…AMAZING, right?!).