Explore British Columbia's Okanagan Region With These 14 Wineries

Did you know that the Okanagan Valley wine region in British Columbia has almost 200 licensed wineries? Did you also know that Canada has a desert? Last one: Did you know that parts of the Okanagan Valley get two hours more sunlight per day than the Napa Valley? There's plenty to uncover in this gem of a region.

The growing season is short but hotter, with a massive diurnal shift. From hearty Syrahs to prickly Rieslings, the valley's unique geography ― cool in the north with lush rolling green hills, and a literal desert in the south (complete with rattlesnakes!), with 155 miles of microclimates in between — it is possible to grow a wide range of grapes. The latitude between the 49th and 50th parallel is shared with Alsace and Champagne in France, and the Mosel and Rheingau in Germany — all known for cool climate grapes. 

Yet, heat-loving varieties do just as well in the southerly desert regions. The length stretches from Osoyoos, which borders Washington, to Vernon, British Columbia. While the topography and climate changes throughout the valley, one thing remains the same — it is arresting in its beauty and charm. We put together a list of some of the best wineries to check out in this stunning region.

CedarCreek Estate Winery

Overlooking Lake Okanagan in the north part of the valley and surrounded by mountain views, CedarCreek Estate Winery is nestled in the craggy hills of their Home Block Vineyard. It is an organic, sustainable, cool-climate-focused winery making top-notch cold-loving grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Merlot. However, they are able to successfully grow Cabernet Sauvignon in their Haynes Creek vineyard, where the sun beats down until well after 10 p.m., producing grapes with rich berry ripeness and ripe tannins.

Winemaker Taylor Whelan and viticulturalist Kurt Simcic share the spotlight with the estate Scottish Highland cows, bees, and chickens working with the ecosystem. Before lunch at their on-site restaurant, Home Block, take a stroll through the vineyards to meet the animals and give Deo, their 132-pound farm dog, a pet. He works hard to protect CedarCreek's animals by chasing away coyotes and bears.

Mission Hill Family Estate

A keystone of the Okanagan wine region, Mission Hill Family Estate has been operating for more than 40 years and helped to put the area on the map. Their organic, award-winning wines come in three ranges: the Reserve Collection, which is their line of wine made from hand-selected blocks; the Terroir Collection, which is a long song to the Okanagan, with each wine telling a tale of the soil, climate and vine clone that makes it; and finally, the Legacy Collection, which only uses the top 1% of grapes from their vineyards. These wines are imposing and age-worthy, and this range is where their pièce de rèsistance, Oculus, can be found.

The striking architecture almost eclipses the stellar views. The 120,000 square foot grounds are home to a 12-story bell tower, Terrace Restaurant overlooking the vineyards and lake, the wine cellars formed out of volcanic rock, and a hilled amphitheater where concerts are held, all scatted with sculptures and fine art.

NK'MIP Cellars

As the first Indigenous-owned winery in North America, NK'MIP Cellars has done a lot to shine a light on the Osoyoos Indian Band and the wine industry (among others) within it. The word Nk'Mip which translates to "Bottomland" in English, was chosen because the winery is located at the southern end of the Osoyoos reservation in the desert region. The long hot summer days followed by cool nights create a diurnal shift perfect for ripening grapes to their greatest potential.

Nk'Mip has three ranges of wines: Winemaker's Tier, which is your standard favorite bottlings; Qwam Qwmt (which translates to 'achieving excellence') are wines made with estate grapes from their 40-year-old Inkameep Vineyards; and the Mer'r'iym (meaning marriage) range, in which there are only two wines — a red blend and a white blend. In addition, they offer guided tastings, wine pairing dinners, and a cozy patio where you can sip on your own accord while looking out over the lake.

Quails' Gate

Lovely wines with a gorgeous view? There seems to be a trend here. Quails' Gate has been in operation since 1989, but its owners, the Stewart Family, have been in the wine industry for 60 years. Located in Kelowna, the restaurants and tasting areas have panoramic views of the lake and mountain ranges. Dedicated to sustainability, all of its 200 acres are hand-harvested and watered using drip irrigation. They also use cover crops to reduce evaporation and keep the soil healthy without chemicals; they use compost, organic fertilizers, and Agrotherm tech to control pests.

They do your standard Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, etc., which are all great but don't sleep on their Maréchal Foch — a French hybrid, or their white blend featuring Chasselas — a grape mainly grown in Switzerland. They have two restaurants and a market, plus they also host private dinners in the vineyard. No need to Uber home if you've enjoyed one too many — there is the option to stay at one of their vacation rentals — the Lake House or the beach-front cottage named The Nest. Both have views of Okanagan Lake.

Tantalus Vineyards

Situated on the eastern slopes of the Okanagan Valley, overlooking the shores of Lake Okanagan and the City of Kelowna, sits Tantalus Vineyards. The 75-acres under vine is one of the oldest continuously producing vineyards in British Columbia, and it is now farmed sustainably. Since table grapes were first planted in 1927 to where the vineyard is now, the outcome has been very favorable.

Tantalus offers various takes on Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir and three different Piquette expressions — Old Vine Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier blend, and a Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay blend. (Piquette is a light and effervescent wine-based beverage that, as of 2022, is all the rage.) In addition, the bottles feature pictures of local artist Dempsey Bob's famous indigenous wood carvings representing his Tahltan and Tlingit First Nations culture. Tastings are available, as are tours of the vineyards and a chance to meet the estate bees.

Okanagan Crush Pad Winery

Located in the Summerland area, Okanagan Crush Pad Winery is an organic winery set amid both the desert and the verdant mountains. Crush Pad is home to four labels: Haywire, Narrative, Free Form, and Bizou + Yukon (named for their two Great Pyrenees dogs), making low-intervention wines using native yeasts and employing concrete tanks, clay amphorae, and large format neutral oak casks. They are proudly the first Canadian winery to join the International Wineries for Climate Action. The addition of chickens and ducks at some of their vineyards aid in organic farming by creating biodiversity. The importance of transparency is not lost on OCP — visitors can view the winemaking process from the tasting room.

Not one to follow stuffy traditions, you can expect fun wine formats such as cans and pouches to be enjoyed on their funky, multicolored patio or take them to-go and pop them open for a picnic. They just celebrated 10 years in business, and we hope to see decades more of OCP!

Indigenous World Winery

Another winery showcasing the talents of the Okanagan Syilx people, Indigenous World Winery harvested its first vintage in 2016. Although the winery is relatively new, the land their vines are planted on has supported the Syilx people for over 10,000 years. Their wine offerings run the gamut in terms of varietal; they distill their spirits and have crafted a gin, vodka, and a single-malt whiskey.

As with nearly every tasting room in the Okanagan, you can sip your wine and take in breathtaking views of the mountains and lake. The knowledgeable staff tells the story behind each wine during tastings, and indigenous crafts are for sale in addition to wine and spirits. The patio area is a perfect spot to relax on a nice day, and if you want a one-of-a-kind experience, reserve a seat at their next private dinner or tasting in the teepee.

Liquidity Winery

Located in Okanagan Falls, nestled between Lake Vaseux and McIntyre Bluff, Liquidity Winery is an exploration of textural and complex wines that can be enjoyed casually on the patio or alongside haute cuisine in the on-site restaurant. With a holistic approach to viticulture, the grapes are carefully hand harvested from the estate vineyards, and winemaker Amy Paynter crafts them into delicious bottlings. Born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand, Paynter honed her skills in Waipara, New Zealand, Santa Barbara, California, and Cape Agulhas, South Africa, before calling Liquidity home. For Viognier haters, her iteration will change your mind.

The tasting room is sleek and bright, showcasing an art collection of Canada's most celebrated artists. Outside on the patio and scattered throughout the desert landscape and vineyards are sculptures of varying materials and themes — such as the Mountain Dandelion (pictured) by Mark Baltes and Ken McCall. 

Martin's Lane Winery

As you approach Martin's Lane Winery, you will first notice life-sized cast iron androgynous figures seemingly watching an alien invasion. These eerie forms are the work of Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir and can be found in varying positions throughout the estate's compelling grounds. Owner Anthony von Mandl's obsession with redheads and Pinot Noir and the similarities they share (representing approximately 1.9% of their respective populations) inspired him to commission Douglas Coupland to make another statue called Vincent — an homage to Vincent Van Gogh.

The winery was built into the hillside taking advantage of the natural slope to produce wines using gravity — a delicate way to handle finicky grapes like Pinot Noir. Winemaker Shane Munn and viticulturalist Kurt Simcic work together to make fine wines with as little manipulation as possible. The wines are certified organic, made from estate grapes, and using native yeasts. With a surgical focus, Munn creates Pinot Noir and Rieslings of varying iterations that are vibrant and textural and sing of their terroir.

Checkmate Winery

Situated atop a mountain is Checkmate Winery, which focuses on age-worthy, terroir-specific Chardonnays and Merlots. When the winery won 'Top Chardonnay in the World' in the 1994 International Wine & Spirit Competition in London, it was clear that Chardonnay would be the star white. The climate and growing conditions were also perfect for growing and ripening elegant Merlot. Decades and a handful of perfect scores later, it's safe to say that deciding to concentrate on just two grapes was a good one. Today, some of their Chardonnay and Merlot clones are more than 40 years old and produce complex and distinguished wines. For all you ABC — "Anything But Chardonnay" people — this place will have you changing the phrase to "Adore BC Chardonnay."

Pointless to compete with the Okanagan's staggering views, the chess-themed winery's sleek design features walls of sky-high windows overlooking the region's beauty. The windows are sliding doors that can be opened, making it an all-season room.

Little Farm Winery

What happens when Canada's youngest Master of Wine (MW) and a renowned baker start a winery together in the Similkameen Valley? The answer is fantastic wines. Little Farm Winery owners Alishan Driediger and Rhys Pender MW released their first vintage in 2011 with only 56 cases. Using minimal intervention Little Farm makes gorgeous dry Riesling and Chardonnay. Their Mulberry Tree Vineyard Series is slightly more conventional than their Pied de Cuve Series in that the wines see light filtration, sulfur, and non-native yeasts if necessary. However, the Pied de Cuve is as hands-off as possible — nothing is added, and nothing is taken away.

In addition to straightforward Chardonnay and Riesling, Little Farm also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, a rosé made from Cabernet Franc, and an orange wine made with Riesling. The quaint little red barn tasting room sits on their four acres under vine with a backdrop of craggy mountains and blue skies.

Tightrope Winery

Tightrope Winery is a small, family-run, sustainable winery on the Naramata Bench. Owners Graham (viticulturist) and Lyndsay O'Rourke (winemaker) are incredibly passionate about sustainability and became the first Certified member of Sustainable Winegrowing BC. Since 2012, they have been producing outstanding wines while being stewards of the land. The 10-acre property is dominated by silt clay soils and numerous microclimates that allow them to grow a number of different grapes. Stylistically, their wines are striking in acidity and freshness, offering perfect sippers overlooking Lake Okanagan.

Their array of wines can be tasted and purchased in their tasting room. The tasting room also has a little shop full of local products and gifts. Sit on their patio and enjoy a bottle of wine with the fantastic view or take it in from the wraparound bar in the bright and modern interior. The ultimate tasting experience, however, is their long table dinners in the vineyard, complete with pairings.

Play Estate Winery

After extensive renovations and rebranding, Play Estate Winery and their on-site Italian restaurant, Sonetto, are back and wowing customers with incredible views of the Skaha Lake and surrounding mountains, small lot wines, and fantastic dining experiences. Play's look isn't the only thing that's new — Rebecca Ruggeri stepped in as winemaker in May of 2022. Ruggeri has well-established expertise in cool climate winemaking from years of winemaking in New Zealand, Australia, California, Ontario, and British Columbia. Play's 14 acres under vine are home to Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Muscat, and Viognier. The vineyards are nestled on Wild Horse mountain overlooking Skaha Lake.

The name Play is an homage to theater arts, and theatrical motifs are found throughout the facility and on their labels. The "play" on decor is clever and well executed. Luckily the only drama you'll encounter here is the dramatic views from the elevated patio.

Foxtrot Vineyards

With a deep passion for Burgundian wines, Foxtrot Vineyards owners, the Allander Family, crafted age-worthy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay since 2004. However, previous owners Donald and Carol Munro, planted many of the vines way before that. As of July 2018, Foxtrot has been run by Doug Barzelay and Nathan Todd, who continue the celebration of Burgundian varieties. In fact, in addition to the expertise of winemaker and vineyard manager Andrea Barker, Véronique Drouhin, head winemaker at Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy, serves as Foxtrot's winery consultant.

The focal point of the tasting experience is to identify the differences in the terroir and mesoclimates of each vineyard. It's remarkable to taste the variation of the same grape grown on different plots. The tasting room is easy-going, eschewing the stuffy vibe of other facilities.

Curious about the name? Legend has it that a black bear would appear during harvest each year, standing on his hind legs in a way that made it look like he was dancing. So they named him Fred, after Fred Astaire, which gave the Allanders the idea for the name Foxtrot — Fred Astaire's signature dance.