Wine Country with a TwistWords by Courtney Kellar
Explore Canadian Wine Country
Honeymooning or getting hitched in wine country often brings to mind California’s Napa or Sonoma valleys. While both are gorgeous spots with plenty to offer, a hipper, edgier destination with standout wineries, a locavore food scene, luxurious resorts and tons of outdoor activities is British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.
Stretching 124 miles north from the border of Washington state, the Okanagan Valley has nearly 200 wineries, multiple lakes and the dynamic city of Kelowna perched on the sandy shores of Okanagan Lake, perfect for swimming, paddling, boating, water-skiing, and windsurfing. Parks and woodland trails around the valley provide picturesque hiking and a youthful population adds a creative buzz and lively vibe.
Depending upon your travel style, you can rent a car at the Kelowna International Airport to explore the area’s five wine regions, handily mapped out in Kelowna’s Wine Trails guide. Alternatively, numerous outfitters provide guided winery tours, such as Kelowna Concierge, whose private or day tours can include VIP access or an added focus on area breweries, distilleries, cideries or food.
In terms of where to stay, Sparkling Hill Resort, perched on a granite bluff overlooking Okanagan Lake, offers sybaritic splendor, particularly in one of the swanky penthouse suites. Gernot Langes-Swarovski envisioned this retreat, complete with 3.5 million dazzling Swarovski crystals sprinkled throughout the property. The sprawling spa features multiple steam rooms (including one scented with roses), saunas, pools and body treatments and Peak Fine Restaurant offers luscious, garden-fresh dinners.
For lavish downtown digs, Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort reigns supreme. Overlooking Okanagan Lake, the property has waterfront suites, an indulgent spa and Oak + Cru Social Kitchen & Wine Bar featuring inventive, farm-centric dishes.
For a smaller, boutique-style hotel, consider Hotel Eldorado. Built in 1926 on Okanagan Lake, the property has a warm, family feel and a porch-like waterfront restaurant serving seasonal bounty from area vineyards and farms.
British Columbia’s wine industry, most of which comes from the Okanagan Valley, has rocketed from just 17 wineries in 1990 to almost 300 today. New wineries are opening all the time and range from mom-and-pop vineyards to upscale operations like Mission Hill Family Estate, founded in 1981 by Anthony von Mandl, who modeled his winery after that of his mentor, Robert Mondavi. Mission Hill Family Estate offers numerous winery tours and tastings, including a private sommelier-guided tour, which you can cap off with an alfresco lunch at Terrace Restaurant with suggested pairings from the winery’s cellar. Other great wineries to visit include Meyer Family Vineyards for French-style Burgundy, Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards for bubblies, Kitsch Wines for Pinot Noir and Tantalus Vineyards for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a delectable, strawberry-hued sparkler.
Given the valley’s excellent wines, it’s no surprise you’ll find stellar restaurants, particularly in Kelowna. A few to consider include Waterfront Café for superb coffee, pastries and hearty pre-wine tasting breakfasts, like the crispy shredded potato cake topped with gruyere, bacon, poached eggs and white pepper gravy. Salt & Brick offers excellent wines to pair with comforting bites like mushroom-egg toasts and house-made charcuterie, while Micro Bar & Bites, a snug spot with a central bar, tantalizes with tapas like branzino crudo and duck crostini (don’t miss the duck fat popcorn). Waterfront Restaurant channels the current season with specialties like halibut with lentil gnocchi and Bouchons Bistro serves classic French favorites like cassoulet and steak tartare.
Celebrating your union in the Okanagan Valley offers you and your beloved a chance to explore a unique and strikingly beautiful part of the world. You’ll find outdoor adventure, fabulous food and endless opportunities to fill your glass with superb wines to toast your new life together.
Kelowna International Airport offers easy nonstop access from such hubs as Toronto and Seattle, Washington.
Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Tourism Kelowna / Heaton Photography (1st), Tourism Kelowna (2nd & 5th), Tourism Kelowna / Callum Snape (3rd) & Tourism Kelowna / Shawn Talbot Photography (4th)
This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Spring/Summer 2019 issue. You can order a copy here.
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