My trips to the Okanagan have changed a bit over the years. What used to be a vacation during summer break, where my family and I would head up to stay at the Safari Beach Resort, lay by the pool or beach and play some mini golf at the three courses Osoyoos used to have. Nowadays, they are still spent laying by the pool or beach, but also spent going wine tasting at the plethora of wineries that encompass the Okanagan region (also, I would love to hit up Rattlesnake Canyon to play some mini golf the next time I'm up).
This region has been growing in wineries for a while now and is quite the tourist attraction in the summer months when it's hot and dry. There are shuttles now to take you along on tours, bikes to rent to go on your own winery tour or the manual method by forcing someone to drive you around. I've never done the shuttle tour before, but I have brought my own bike up to do a tour and, let me tell you, make sure your bike is fairly lightweight, some of those hills are a slog. Plus, you'll be sweating so much in between stops, you'll never get drunk or at least I didn't.
Now, this won't be much of a sophisticated winery list, as it will be made up of the wineries that offer the best experience, according to me. So, don't come here looking for who has the best Pinot Noir or Meritage... cause I have no idea, I like what I like. On to the list!
1. Platinum Bench Estate Winery
The Bread! That's really all you need to know, this place has amazing bread baked on site and during your four wine taster, they pair the wines up with four different breads; Asiago Cheese, Gorgonzola & Fig, Double Cream Brie & Pear, and Soppressata & Swiss. Plus, they also have plain sourdough bread baked daily for purchase along with those other four, but get there EARLY!
Best Idea: Get up early and arrive when they open, buy a few loafs of bread, maybe some preservatives and cheese. When lunch comes around, you've got a perfect picnic. We went to Hester Creek with our bread, bought some supplies there and a bottle of rosé, then sat on their patio for lunch.
Wines I purchased: Mur-Fi's Red & Cabernet Sauvignon
2. Hester Creek Estate Winery
My favourite thing about Hester Creek is that upon entrance into the winery you are handed a glass of wine to walk around with. This may be because this place can get quite busy and they don't want their patrons just standing around waiting for their turn at the wine-tasting bar, but I think it's an excellent additive either way.
Along with the initial wine, once you reach the wine-tasting bar, you'll receive six more tasters, most of which are delicious. They also have a lot of meats, cheeses and preservatives for sale for you to enjoy on their patio.
Wines I purchased: Trebbanio, Cabernet Franc & Rosé Cabernet Franc
3. Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery
Right next door to Hester Creek is the Gehringer Brothers estate vineyard and one of the best things about this place is that they let you run the gamut of their wines (which from my count was about 12 to 15 wines depending on if they allow you to try the ice/dessert wines). A good place to stop in if the weather turns crappy as it might take a while to get through the list.
Also worth noting, is that they have a couple of wines not seen anywhere else such as the Auxerrois and Ehrenfelser, both of which are award winners.
Wines I purchased: Optimum Pinot Noir
4. Black Hills Estate Winery
There are a few reason why I like this winery and none of them have to do with the fact that "Brandon Walsh" is a part owner. Yes, this place is quite popular because of the hype surrounding it with Jason Priestly, but it's also quite a different experience than the rest of the wineries. Here, there are no standing room only bar-tops; instead you have seat on the patio and one of their sommelier's bring you the tasters and explains more about each wine in detail. You can choose from the Introductory tasting (which I have no idea what it includes as I've never chose this option) or the Portfolio Tasting (choose this option).
The Portfolio tasting is $20, but if you happen to carry a Visa Infinite card, show it to them and the tasting is free (at least it was last time I went), who doesn't like free. Plus, they have one of my all-time favourite reds, the Nota Bene! Last time we went over May long weekend and because It wasn't busy, we were able to sit in one of their cabanas by the water feature (not a pool).
Wines I purchased: Alibi & Nota Bene
5. Silver Sage Winery
Come here for their dessert wines and especially to try their unique aperitif, The Flame! This dessert wine has a chili in the bottle which gives it a spicy finish. Don't worry about it being too spicy, I'm a lightweight and I really enjoyed it. Plus, the server brings out pieces of cheese for you to have before and after having a taste. I'm not sure I'd ever actually buy a bottle, but it's certainly fun to taste every once in a while.
The rest of their dessert wines contain natural fruit flavours such as; Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Peach, Apricot and Black Currant all from the Okanagan fruit region. Their main selling point is that their wines don't contain any artificial flavours or chemicals which give their wine a more rich fruit flavour.
Wine I purchased: The Pearle
6. Bartier Bros. Winery
This was our first time at Bartier Bros. and what an enjoyable experience it was. There wasn't anything specific that stood out for me, the whole thing was just great. On the drive in, I had my wife pull over, so I could walk the rest of the way taking photos of the vineyard. Their tasting room opens up to the outdoor elements for you to sit and look out at the scenery while enjoying their wines, which I always believe is a plus. They also have neat little sail shades on their patio to block some of the sun out.
I also thought all of the wines we tasted were outstanding. This is another place which allows you to try their full list of wines, in total there was four whites and four reds to try. I will definitely be coming back here next time to see if my original experience holds up.
Wines I purchased: Cabernet Franc