“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.