Learn about the spring wines of the South Okanagan through a virtual tasting inspired by sunny forecasts


Virtual spring wine tasting

With recent provincial health recommendations asking residents to stay close to home and restrict non-essential travel, many in the Okanagan and beyond might be missing the opportunity to sip and savour the sunshine at South Okanagan wineries.

But Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country is working hard to bring that experience into homes from afar, through its podcast series and ongoing virtual tastings.

This Tuesday April 27 at 7 p.m., join the second of their seven-episode live virtual tasting series with Moss Scheurkogel of the Vinstitute, focusing on the perfect wine for spring and summer: Rosé.

Scheurkogel will explain methods that local winemakers use to produce the beloved beverage, and feature rosés from Bartier Bros. and Culmina Family Estate Winery. He will also delve into some other similar styles, like the sparkling Zinfandel from Covert Farms Family Estate Winery.

Follow along for free on Facebook Live here April 27 at 7 p.m. To taste along with Scheurkogel, source the featured wines listed here locally or order direct from the wineries — and check out his list of suggested food pairings to make your at-home tasting experience complete.

Tips for South Okanagan residents to prep their gardens for spring planting

Get your garden spring-set

“It’s perfect weather for getting outside and getting into the garden.”

Gardeners in the South Okanagan are itching to start planting, and with the warm weather projected to continue throughout the next week, Pentictonites are looking for a reason to get their hands in the dirt.

Plant specialist Scott Austin with GardenWorks, said the increased interest in developing a green thumb has been evident in the community for the past year, and while people want to get going, now is the time to focus on preparation.

“This year people are really, really anxious to get out and get outside and start doing things in the garden,” Austin said.

“Anything that you can do now to get that cleanup done and get everything ready, you can get your plants in and get it all done and then July and August, you’re sitting in your back garden with a nice glass of Gewurztraminer and enjoying it.”

It’s a little early to begin direct seeding, but Austin said soon the cool season crops could be placed in the ground as long as the soil is dry enough.

“Take a fistful and squeeze it together, if it falls apart when you poke it with your finger, you should be good to go.”

Working on your lawn can go ahead as long as it isn’t still a bit squishy underneath, otherwise wait for it to dry out and then begin raking.

It’s also a good time for pruning to get the garden ready, as long as it’s not spring blooms.

“Something that blooms in the spring is blooming on last years wood…but pruning, certainly clean up. I see a lot of people cleaning up their ornamental grasses and their flower beds which is fine if your soil is dry enough.”

The main suggestion he has is to plan and get what you want in your garden early.

“Demand for our product is very, very strong, and suppliers are having trouble keeping up,” Austin said. “Don’t say I’ll come down in May and pick them up, they may not be there. We hope that they are but they may not be just with the way the past year has gone.”

If you really want to plant something immediately, Austin suggests planting some flower bulbs that do alright with a bit of frost, like daffodils and pansies, that will give your garden some early colour to enjoy.

And for those first-time gardeners, here are some tips to cultivate your green thumb.

“Just focus on the things that you like to grow,” he said. “Most of the garden vegetables, I’d say 90 per cent of them are really really easy, even for first-timers. If it doesn’t work out the first time, gardeners are nothing but stubborn, just keep trying until we get it right.”

Whether it’s fresh veggies or a collection of flowers you’re after, the key planting time with be coming in the next three to five weeks to get the garden going.

BC government provides funding for South Okanagan “situation table” to focus on crime prevention and vulnerable individuals

Plan to prevent crime

A new community-based team of front-line workers will be set up in Oliver to serve the South Okanagan, thanks to a $30,000 provincial grant announced Friday.

“We want to see all people, particularly those who are vulnerable and high risk, receive the right support and services they need, when they need them,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“By investing in creating these teams in communities throughout the province, we’re helping front-line workers rapidly connect with people in crisis, while freeing up police to focus on serious and organized criminal activity.”

The teams will be known as “situation tables,” and will include representatives from health, public safety and social service agencies.

The goal is to proactively identify vulnerable individuals who have a high probability of engaging in criminal activity, or being victimized, and connect them with services that can help.

Funding is provided by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach. There are currently 10 situation tables operating in B.C., with work underway on 11 more.

Mayor Martin Johansen of Oliver is thrilled.

“Often the root of crime problems is found in addiction and mental health issues,” he said.

“The towns of Oliver and Osoyoos, rural areas A and C, and Osoyoos Indian Band will benefit immensely through the establishment of the South Okanagan situation table. On behalf of all local governments, I extend a sincere thank you to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General in providing supportive funding to launch this important program.”

Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, explained how the situation tables have been shown to help.

“To better connect vulnerable people with the services that can prevent crisis, crime and disorder, situation tables problem solve one case at a time, so at-risk individuals get the help they need. In 2019, 54% of situation table cases were transferred from police to social services, so police could focus on criminals instead.”

South Okanagan named top place in Canada to visit post-pandemic by Vacay.ca

Post-COVID travel top pick

The South Okanagan is the place to be post-pandemic, according to Canadian online travel magazine Vacay.ca.

The site has launched a list of the 20 best destinations to travel to in Canada in 2021, once restrictions lift, and the South Okanagan nabbed the number one spot.

They note that unrestricted travel will likely begin just as the fall harvest season kicks off, and note the South Okanagan as a perfect spot to enjoy the end of summer and early autumn.

“This year, given what the world is going through, the South Okanagan was a clear choice for the number one spot in our rankings because of all of the outdoor activities it offers and the sense of safety you feel once you’re there,” Vacay.ca co-founder Adrian Brijbassi said.

Vacay points to the likelihood that road trips and nature escapes to smaller destinations will still be popular this summer as vaccines roll out but social distancing is still in place, making communities like Naramata, Oliver, Summerland, Okanagan Falls and Kaleden particularly enticing.

“We are thrilled to receive this recognition,” said Brad Morgan, marketing director of Travel Penticton and managing partner of Visit South Okanagan.

“The diversity of experiences and the connectivity of the partner communities is what attracts visitors to the South Okanagan. We have something for everyone and the scenic route that connects us makes for a day-tripper’s paradise. We look forward to welcoming visitors when the time is right.”

Vacay notes the more than 70 wineries that operate in the 100-kilometre stretch between Penticton and Osoyoos as a particular selling point.

The ranking consists of data from a survey of travel journalists country-wide.

Kelowna also made the list, coming in at the 19th spot. B.C. destinations earned five spots, more than any other province.

The full ranking is as follows:

1. South Okanagan, BC
2. Cape Breton Island, NS
3. Banff National Park & Lake Louise, AB
4. Dawson City, YT
5. Victoria & Cowichan Valley, BC
6. Prince Edward County, ON
7. Gaspereau & Annapolis Valleys, NS
8. Quebec City-to-Tadoussac, QC
9. St. John’s & Irish Loop, NL
10. Charlottetown, PEI
11. Golden & Revelstoke, BC
12. Niagara Region, ON
13. Georgian Bay, ON
14. Gaspesie, QC
15. South Shore, NS
16. Shediac-to-Saint John, NB
17. Tofino & Pacific Rim National Park, BC
18. Saskatoon & Prince Albert National Park, SK
19. Kelowna, BC
20. Pukaskwa National Park, ON


“More to explore” is a 10-part collaboration between Castanet and Travel Penticton, a follow up to the popular “Tourists in your own town” series. Watch for it every Monday morning.

Let Penticton be your hub city for a longer stay to explore hiking, golf, adventure and wine tasting in the South Okanagan. Penticton is ideally located in the heart of South Okanagan and has a lot to offer only a 30 to 60-minute drive in any direction.

There may not be any international travel right now, but some of the 100-plus wineries in South Okanagan can make you think you are in Tuscany at Serendipity Winery on Naramata Bench or visiting a castle in Scotland at Road 13 in Oliver.

Time travel back to the groovy ‘60s, where VW vans and tie dye are where it’s at when having fun tasting at Ruby Blues Winery on Naramata Bench.

Or enjoy fire grilled pizza under the shade of vines on a pergola alongside bras and girdles at Dirty Laundry in Summerland, where the back story to this once brothel is as good as the wine tastings.

There are more than 100 wineries and four distinct wine regions in South Okanagan to explore – Naramata Bench in Penticton, Bottleneck Drive in Summerland, Ok Falls – Heart of Wine Country and the Oliver-Osoyoos Wine region.

Each winery has a story to tell, an ambiance to share and wines that linger in your memory long after the bottle is emptied. But with four wine regions and over 100 wineries, there are too many to try in just a weekend getaway.

Penticton has the accommodation options from the Lakeside Resort to motels that line both Okanagan Lake, Skaha Lake and Main Street. It also has quaint B&Bs, some right inside a vineyard, or overlooking one of the lakes. In Penticton, the culinary options are endless and with the ease of walking around, it makes Penticton an ideal home base for a long term stay with everything at your fingertips.

Hiking and biking adventures are plentiful with rugged mountain and desert terrain and sparkling lake vistas. You might even get up close to the majestic big horned sheep in your travels, or see and hear an alert rattlesnake.

The must-do hikes include McIntyre Bluffs in Oliver, Peach Cliff in Okanagan Falls, Giant’s Head in Summerland, Pincushion in Peachland and stop to view the unusual Spotted Lake from the pullout off of Highway 3 West in Osoyoos.

In Penticton, head up to Skaha Bluffs and climb horizontal among the jagged rocks while watching the climbers go vertical 100 feet up the many rock faces there. Then order a picnic charcuterie plate and eat among the vines at Painted Rock Winery at Skaha Bluffs.

Visit the famous Penticton sign at Munson Mountain on your way to Naramata Bench. Or take a bike tour along the scenic KVR Trail and do some wine tasting along the way.

If golfing is your thing, experience the diversity of the region from championship and executive 9-hole golf courses nestled between orchards, vineyards and panoramic lake views to the desert courses as you get down to Osoyoos.

Fairview Mountain golf course will take your breath away for its expansive greens as will Summerland Golf and Country Club and Penticton Golf and Country Club. For an executive 9-hole, check out Pine Hills in West Bench and for a desert experience with plenty of long greens play Osoyoos Golf Club.

When choosing which wine region to start with, the Naramata Bench is a great place to set the bar high for tasting experiences that still have a personal feel. As with all wine destinations during COVID-19, reservations are required.

The Bench is 15 kilometres of scenic road dotted with dozens of wineries spanning from Penticton to Naramata Village. The village is home to the historic Naramata Inn which recently had a total reboot now including fine dining with well-known Vancouver chef Ned Bell at the helm.

“Diners can expect a menu that is a love letter to the Okanagan,” said Kate Colley of Naramata Inn. “The focus at Naramata Inn is hyper local.  Using the very best flavours and ingredients available in each of the many micro-growing seasons. We work with farmers and suppliers that tell us what’s in season and what they need/want to sell.”

Sommelier Emily Walker was tasked with creating the most comprehensive Okanagan wine list possible, said Colley.

Many wines on Walker’s list come from the Bench.

“British Columbian wine enthusiasts who couldn’t visit France or Napa this year are discovering that Naramata Bench wines and the South Okanagan wine experience is to taste world recognized wines,” said Tina Baird, Marketing Director for the Naramata Bench Wineries Association.

“Naramata Bench is one of Canada’s premium wine regions and a top destination for wine enthusiasts.”

Wineries on the Bench have been winning prestigious national and international awards for several years now. Recently, Poplar Grove Winery took home four golds on the international stage at the London Wine Competition; La Frenz, which regularly wins national and international awards, was the #9 Winery of the Year  at the 2019  InterVin International Wine Awards;  as well as Deep Roots winning the Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence last year for its 2017 Syrah. Tightrope, Hillside, Lake Breeze, Bench 1775, to name just a few Naramata wineries, have taken home serious hardware in the last few years.

Just a 15-minute drive down Highway 97 will bring you to Bottleneck Drive in Summerland.

“Summerland is still off the beaten path for many people exploring the Okanagan wine regions, but you can spend a day immersed in the area,” said Cameron Walker, Bottleneck Drive’s marketing director and proprietor of Lunessence Winery.

“We have 15 boutique wine producers as well as four craft cideries  and a distillery, all of which are situated around Giants Head mountain, an extinct volcano that offers mineral rich soils optimal for vineyards and orchards. And climb Giants Head mountain for some of the best views in the valley.”

Nearly every winery offers a view, including Bottleneck’s newest winery Lightning Rock.

“There are a number of beautiful patios to enjoy your wine, whether at Dirty Laundry enjoying a pizza, at Lunessence overlooking the lake with a charcuterie board or enjoying poutine on the lawn in amongst the vines at Summergate.”

Down the hill is the Okanagan Crush Pad, home of wines: Haywire, Free Form and Narrative. Most of the wines are made in their concrete tanks that look like alien eggs. Learn about the way they sustainably manage the vineyard, using goats as mini lawnmowers and ducks for pest control instead of spraying.

A 30 minute scenic drive along Eastside Road from Penticton, will get you to OK Falls -the Heart of Wine Country.

At Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery, there’s three generations of family passion in winemaking that has produced award after award for delicious wines. If you’re a patron of the arts, see Liquidity Winery, where there’s another great dining option with an infinity pool view of Canada’s Nature Reserve.

Just next door is the Oliver Osoyoos wine region —  a collection of 44 member wineries. Desert-like landscapes and heat combined with one of the warmest lakes and cellar doors welcome you.

Oliver offers a wide range of wineries with dining options like Hester Creek Estate Winery with Terrafina and Tinhorn Creek Vineyards with Miradoro. The newest and largest winery to come to town is Phantom Creek Estates – visit just for the architecture and art alone.

For a completely immersed working farm experience, spending a day at Covert Farms is a must.

Taste award winning organic wines, pick berries and peaches, meet the farm animals and take in this 650 acre landscapes of orchards, vegetable patches and vineyards.

“We offer two different private tours.  Our “Hands on Harvest Tour” is geared to families and touches on all aspects of our organic farm.  Our other tour is our “Wine Enthusiast Tour” which is great for wine lovers and includes vineyard wine tasting/grape tasting, regenerative farming and winemaking and extensive patio tasting and pairings,” said owner Gene Covert.

On the way into Osoyoos, LaStella Winery has all the charm of Italy and the wine is pure bellissima. Travel to France at Le Vieux Pin Winery where vin is made the traditional way. According to the Osoyoos Oliver Wine Association, there is as much diversity in grape varieties as there is in wineries.

From Pinot Noir and Merlot to Tempranillo, Riesling and Viognier, the expression of terroir combined with winemakers’ creativity and know-how makes South Okanagan wines a real contender on the world stage.

Learn more by checking out VisitSouthOkanagan.com, a collaboration initiative between Visit Peachland, Visit Summerland, Discover Naramata, Travel Penticton, RDOS, Visit Oliver and Destination Osoyoos.

BC Housing Markets Bounce Back in June

Vancouver, BC – July 14, 2020. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 8,166 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in June 2020, an increase of 16.9 per cent from June 2019. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $748,155, a 9.1 per cent increase from $685,968 recorded the previous year. Total sales dollar volume in June was $6.1 billion, a 27.5 per cent increase over 2019.


“Sales around the province surged back to pre-COVID-19 levels in June,” said BCREA Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson. “While there are some temporary factors that may have pushed demand forward, we are cautiously optimistic that market activity will remain firm.”

Although listings activity has normalized along with sales, active listings are still down close to 20 per cent year-over-year and, as a result, many markets are seeing upward pressure on prices.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was up 0.6 per cent to $24.7 billion, compared with the same period in 2019. Residential unit sales were down 8 per cent to 32,875 units, while the average MLS® residential price was up 9.4 per cent to $751,722.