I’m not writing this guide to the best Okanagan wineries as a sommelier or journalist on a press trip. I’m writing it as a long-time, passionate (translation: obsessed) wine drinker who lives in the region and has spent countless hours and days visiting more than 80 of its wineries. From Lake Country in the North to Osoyoos in the South, there are no shortages of excellent wineries in the Okanagan Valley of B.C., Canada to keep us winos happy.
I was thrown into the world of wine at age 18 as a fine dining server at a Fairmont Resort, and quickly grew to appreciate all that is wine while working in high-end restaurants through university. As I started travelling more, I had the pleasure of visiting wineries all over the world (Australia, Europe, the U.S.A. – but mostly the Okanagan), turning wine tasting into an epic hobby. Visiting wineries gives me a certain joie de vivre. I appreciate everything from an oaky, buttery chardonnay, to a fruity, patio-pounder rosé, to a peppery, full-bodied Syrah.
But it’s not just about what I think. This article takes into account opinions from friends and family who live in the area and have also spent a considerable amount of time visiting Okanagan Valley wineries.
With so many wineries and sub-regions in the Okanagan Valley, it’s incredibly difficult to choose which wineries to visit, especially if you have limited time. I have this problem and I LIVE in the Okanagan (Kelowna). So I’ll tell you what I think are the overall best wineries in each area, and even my top 10 picks for the whole valley, so you can choose to focus on one or two areas, or do the driving to hit up the best of the best.
DISCLAIMER: With so many wineries and a range of individual preferences in wine (plus the fact that I haven’t been to all of them), this a subjective opinion piece. There are many good wineries I haven’t mentioned below, simply because there are too many. I’ve tried to pick the best overall based first on the quality of wine, and second, the atmosphere, scenery, and tasting experience. If you disagree, let me know, and I’ll drink two to three glasses of wine to reduce my risk of giving a shit, then consider updating this article (wink, wink).
Okanagan wine tasting: what to know before you go
With 84% of the province’s vineyard acreage, the Okanagan Valley is B.C.’s premiere wine-growing region. Along with Ontario’s wine region, it makes the best wine in all of Canada. The valley stretches over 250 kilometres, with gentle mountains hugging calm, dark blue lakes and vineyards rising up from the shores. If you’re not pressed for time while in the Okanagan and hope to accomplish more than a daily wine buzz, check out this post on Kelowna to Osoyoos: the ultimate Okanagan road trip for loads of good ideas for what to do in the area in addition to visiting wineries.
Okanagan wineries are generally all open from April until October, seven days a week, from about 10 a.m. until five or six p.m. Many are open year-round, but several close from November until March (check before you visit as opening months, days, and times vary by winery). Small groups can visit most wineries on a walk-in basis. Large groups should call ahead and book a tasting. All of the wineries listed below take walk-ins unless otherwise noted. Most have a five dollar tasting fee, which is waived with the purchase of wine.
This is the best map and listing of Okanagan wineries I’ve been able to find online.
Since it isn’t good to keep things bottled up (especially wine), here we go with the best Okanagan wineries, starting with the North of the valley to the South, and ending with the top 10.
Lake Country Wineries
This area doesn’t have the volume of wineries or as much “wow” factor as some of the other sub regions listed below. The benefit of Lake Country though is that it’s close to Kelowna and the international airport, so very accessible, with great lake views and a range of varietals for tasting.
50th PARALLEL ESTATE
Why: A beautiful and impressive property with a selection of crisp, fruity whites and expressive Pinot Noirs (the only red varietal available).
Wines to try: Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir Rosé, and the multiple Pinot Noirs.
Restaurant: Yes, Block One Restaurant.
GRAY MONK ESTATE WINERY
Why: Spectacular lake and vineyard views and a wide selection of varietals to suit all palate preferences at a good price point.
Wines to try: reds from the Odyssey reserve series.
Restaurant: Yes, The Lookout Restaurant.
O’ROURKE’S PEAK CELLARS (FORMERLY THE CHASE)
Why: This newer, contemporary winery has friendly service and a nice range of whites (but only one red – a Pinot Noir).
Wines to try: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rosé.
Restaurant: Yes, the Garden Bistro is a lovely, modern patio.
- ARROWLEAF CELLARS, for its good price point, awesome lake views, and tasty Bacchus.
Kelowna and West Kelowna Wineries
Heading further south into the valley, there are more than 30 wineries in Kelowna and West Kelowna, and I’ve marked them with (K) or (WK) to help you plan. If you only have time for one area, West Kelowna is the one to choose, although I’d hate for you to miss out on Cedar Creek Winery.
CEDAR CREEK ESTATE WINERY (K)
Why: In my opinion, this is the best Kelowna winery. In fact, this is my favourite winery in the whole valley. It’s the total package, with a large portfolio of high-quality whites, reds, and rosés, plus great service, amazing lake views, and a beautiful new tasting room that opened in August 2019. If you like chardonnay, you’ll find a good one here at a lower price point than others in the valley. You may even end up joining the wine club like we did.
Wines to try: All are good, but fan favourites are the Estate Chardonnay, Estate Syrah, and Block 4 Pinot Noir (I also love the Desert Hills Merlot, and I can’t forget about the Platinum Viognier… oh, and the Platinum Rosé is amazing). I repeat, they’re all good.
Restaurant: Yes, the beautifully modern Home Block Restaurant opened in 2019. It features a large patio overlooking the lake and delectable terroir-to-table dishes.
QUAILS GATE WINERY (WK)
Why: Oh, my heart. Another of the best Kelowna wineries, I am in love with this winery, as are most who visit. It offers a selection of amazing wine, stunning vineyard and lake views, great service and an excellent restaurant.
Wines to try: All are good, but try the Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Old Vines Foch.
Restaurant: Yes. Old Vines Restaurant is one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in the Okanagan.
MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATE WINERY (WK)
Why: Enter the immaculate Mission Hill and you’ll feel more like you’re in Europe than Canada (I purposely didn’t include a photo). It’s highly impressive, with beautiful architecture, a wonderful tasting room and gift shop, and spectacular lake views. If you have time, it’s worth paying for a private sommelier-guided tasting and tour where you can sample the higher-end wines and check out the cellars.
Wines to try: reds from the Legacy Collection (Oculus, Quatrain, Compendium, etc.)
Restaurant: Yes, The Terrace Restaurant.
LITTLE STRAW VINEYARDS ESTATE WINERY (WK)
Why: Friendly service and equally excellent whites and reds (especially the Sauvignon Blancs) to please a variety of wine preferences.
Wines to try: Sauvignon Blanc, Old Vines Auxerrois (and try to say “auxerrois” without sounding ridiculous), and the Southern Cross red blend.
Restaurant: Yes, The Barrel Top Grill.
- THE HATCH (WK), hugely popular for its unique decor, hipster vibe, bold branding, and funky items for sale. There’s even “free babysitting” (see photo below) and quirky, entertaining staff.
- NAGGING DOUBT (K), a quiet, hidden gem in East Kelowna. Tastings are by-appointment only with Rob, the winemaker and owner, who creates a selection of impressive whites and reds. I particularly love the Siegerrebe white and two red blends (The Leap and The Pull).
- SANDHILL (K), for its prime downtown Kelowna location, good wines, and Friday night happy hours with live music.
- SUMMERHILL PYRAMID WINERY (K) is popular with tour groups and is a cool property with a patio restaurant overlooking the lake. It deserves a nod for its vibe, certified organic status, and some lovely high-end reds, like the Spade Foot Toad Syrah.
This area doesn’t have a large selection of super impressive wineries like the other sub-regions of the Okanagan do, but if you like quaint, quieter wine tasting experiences, this may be the perfect area for you to explore.
FITZPATRICK FAMILY VINEYARDS
Why: A super classy, modern tasting room, friendly staff and smooth wines that are especially good on a hot summer day.
Wines to try: The Chardonnay, Rosé, and sparkling wines stood out for me.
Restaurant? Yes, The Bistro.
Why: This quaint, family-run winery offers an intimate tasting experience, knowledgeable staff (the owners and winemakers usually do the tastings), and some memorable, unique wines.
Wines to try: The White Pinot is amazing, and the Malbec and Shiraz-Viognier are lovely.
- DIRTY LAUNDRY VINEYARDS, for those who enjoy sweeter wines, and for its fun and interesting branding and back-story.
This area has A LOT of heavy hitters. You could spend three full days here and still not visit all the wineries. If you’re going to pick one area of the Okanagan Valley to focus on, this one will not disappoint.
PAINTED ROCK ESTATE WINERY
Why: The most beautiful and bright white modern tasting room, exceptional wines (so much so that we became wine club members), beautiful views of Skaha Lake, and knowledgeable, friendly staff.
Wines to try: I enjoy them all, but the Chardonnay, Syrah, and the Red Icon Bordeaux blend are my top picks.
LAKE BREEZE VINEYARDS
Why: This Mediterranean-style winery boasts beautiful grounds and a large range of clean, crisp, fruit-driven wines.
Wines to try: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc
Restaurant: Yes, the Patio Restaurant.
POPLAR GROVE WINERY
Why: A statement winery with a beautiful tasting room, sweeping views of the vineyards and lake, and elegant wines to match.
Wines to try: Chardonnay and Syrah
Restaurant: Yes, the Vanilla Pod Restaurant.
LAUGHING STOCK VINEYARDS
Why: Anyone in the finance sector will appreciate this winery, with stock ticker symbols and prices from the time of production covering the bottles. If you’re a red lover, this is a must-do on the Naramata bench. Call ahead for reservations.
Wines to try: Any of the reds, but the Portfolio Bordeaux blend is our favourite.
- LA FRENZ WINERY, for a selection of fabulous wines that are reliably good visit after visit… after visit.
- LITTLE ENGINE WINES, for wines that match fruit characteristics with balance and complexity (the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are some of the best we’ve had in valley).
Okanagan Falls/Oliver/Osoyoos Wineries
As you drive further south towards the U.S.A. border, you’ll find another high concentration of excellent wineries in and around the towns of Okanagan Falls, Oliver, and Osoyoos. You could easily spend a few days or more in this generally quiet area of the province.
HESTER CREEK ESTATE WINERY
Why: Excellent service and a wide selection of wines that are ALL good, featuring a range of textures, bodies, and finishes.
Wines to try: All have pros, but the Trebbiano (the only in the valley), Rosé, and Garland (Cabernet-dominant red blend) are my faves.
Restaurant: Yes, Terrafina Restaurant.
BURROWING OWL ESTATE WINERY
Why: A classic (and classy) Okanagan winery, with high-quality wines and vineyards as far as the eye can see. The views from the tower are brilliant.
Wines to try: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Restaurant: Yes, The Sonora Room.
BLACK HILLS ESTATE WINERY
Why: This seated, by-reservation only wine flight experience featuring full-bodied wines with depth and complexity makes you feel fancy.
Wines to try: Viognier, Syrah, Carmenere, and Nota Bene.
STONE BOAT VINEYARDS AND PINOT HOUSE
Why: An intimate tasting experience with wonderful staff and a selection of wines offering diverse flavour profiles.
Wines to try: Allesio Pinot Blanc and Reserve Pinot Noir.
- MEYER FAMILY VINEYARDS, for a memorable and quaint tasting experience that deliciously pairs popcorn with buttery Chardonnays and chocolate with jammy Pinot Noirs.
- TINHORN CREEK VINEYARDS, for a reliably good selection of wines and welcoming tasting experience.
If you love reds…
I’ll be honest – good reds are harder to find in the Okanagan Valley than good whites. If you’re a red lover, a few wineries with multiple, consistently good red wines are: Cedar Creek in Kelowna, Painted Rock in Penticton, Laughing Stock in Naramata, Black Hills in Okanagan Falls, Hester Creek in Oliver, and Moon Curser in Osoyoos.
The Epic Grand Finale: the Top 10 Best Okanagan Wineries
Life is too short to drink bad wine. So here’s what I think are the VERY BEST OKANAGAN WINERIES based on both wine AND experience. I realize this is bold, opinionated, and subjective. But I’m excited, so here we go!
- Cedar Creek Estate Winery, Kelowna
- Quails Gate Winery, West Kelowna
- Hester Creek Estate Winery, Oliver
- Painted Rock Estate Winery, Penticton
- Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, West Kelowna
- Poplar Grove Winery, Naramata
- Black Hills Estate Winery, Okanagan Falls
- Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, Oliver
- Laughing Stock Vineyards, Naramata
- Lake Breeze Vineyards, Naramata
Well, I guess it’s time to book your wine tour or designated driver so you can sample some of these beauties! And like I always say, everything is better with a wine buzz.
Need more wine in your life? Here are my articles on wine tasting in Tuscany, Italy and Portugal’s Douro Valley. Looking for more on B.C.’s beautiful Okanagan Valley? Check out my post on Big White Ski Resort if you’re planning a winter visit.
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