Four Days in Kelowna: Savour Fine Wine in the Napa of the North

By Sandra MacGregor March 12, 2018

Ringed by mountains and verdant forest, Kelowna is not only one of Canada's most picturesque towns, it's also at the heart of the country's most dynamic wine and food regions.

Kelowna's palate-pleasing riches are thanks to its enviable location at the center of the fertile Okanagan Valley. Once known as “Canada's fruit bowl," in the last decade the region has earned the moniker “Napa of the North" due to its vast number of world-class wines.

With more than 40 wineries and five distinct wine trails within 20 minutes of Kelowna, oenophiles will have more than enough to keep their taste buds tingling for the course of four days.

Day 1: Hello, Kelowna

Spend the morning familiarizing yourself with the vibrant city of Kelowna. A great way to start your day is with a breakfast at Bohemian Cafe & Catering Co — famous for its pancakes and homemade sausage. Follow your meal with a walk along the wide boardwalks of Waterfront Park, where you can take advantage of the city's stunning lake views.

Begin your tour of the area's wineries at the Mission Hill Family Estate, one of the regions's most famous vintners. Perched high above the valley, its commanding hilltop spot offers some of the most stellar views in the region and, in conjunction with its imposing architecture (complete with 12-storey bell tower), its hard not to admire the producer's dominance.

Once you've completed a day of tasting, head to Mission Hill's Terrace Restaurant where its superb menu is complete with ever-changing, local options that focus on fresh seafood and Canadian wagyu beef. Be sure to pair your meaty meals with Mission Hill's 2013 Crosswinds Syrah, or stick to the winery's signature Chardonnay and Merlot, renowned favourites.

If you're traveling with friends, consider indulging in the Chef's Table experience, which begins with an intimate winery tour and sampling, and culminates in a seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings.

Day 2: Appreciating the land

Start your second day of wine touring by learning about First Nations peoples. One of only a handful of aboriginal-owned wineries in North America, the Indigenous World Winery is run by Robert Louie, former Chief of the Westbank First Nation, and his wife Bernice. The couple produces a range of red and white vintages, most notably a Pinot Noir Rosé that took gold at both the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

For lunch, don't miss the chance to enjoy authentic indigenous cuisine at the winery's Red Fox Club. Chef Andrea Callan has been known to forage nearby fields for ingredients like wild mushrooms, berries and horseradish.

When you're ready for your second stop on day two, head over to Quails' Gate, another of the Okanagan's premiere wineries. This family-run estate was one of the first to introduce Pinot Noir to the region.

For dinner, the splurge-worthy Old Vines Restaurant is considered one of the best dining establishments in the country, featured in Open Table's top 100 restaurants in Canada in 2016 and 2017. The winery also offers accommodation, with two luxury lake-front, chalet-style homes for rent, (one of which has a private dock and concierge service). In the summer, Sunday brunch on the outdoor patio overlooking the garden and vineyards is especially popular.

Day 3: Sacred geometry

Once you arrive at the Summerhill Pyramid Winery, you'll have no trouble spotting what this vintner is famous for—a large, whimsical sculpture of a floating bottle of bubbly at the entrance. Despite its grandeur, the property's most striking feature is the four-story pyramid that's used to store the vintner's wine.

Owner Stephen Cipes believes that the “sacred geometry" of the structure imparts a clarifying effect on his vintages; it's hard to argue given his Cipes Brut is one of the most acclaimed wines in the country. This certified organic wine producer also has a restaurant featuring products sourced from Summerhill's biodynamic gardens, where there are flavourful options for gluten-free and vegan diners.

Lunch at the Winery's Sunset Bistro is an affordable way to sample the fare after satisfying wine purchases from the last two days. Spend the rest of your day relaxing with a bucolic stroll through the lovely Kasugai Japanese Garden. Or, get to know more about Kelowna's cultural side with a trip to the Kelowna Art Museum, which has over 700 works by local and provincial artists.

At night, explore more of the local food scene with a fine-dining meal at RauDZ, which also has an impressive list of hand-crafted cocktails and local wines.

Day 4: Rolling hills, saving owls

On your last day of wine exploration, it's worth the hour and a half drive from Kelowna through picturesque rolling hills to experience this gem.

The Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is known as much for its award-winning wines as it is for its passionate conservation efforts, most notably to help save the winery's namesake, the burrowing owl. Over the years, the owners have donated nearly a million dollars to the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia.

Foodies would do well to treat themselves to a meal at the property's highly regarded Sonora Room Restaurant, with outstanding vineyard views and local meat and produce. The winery also offers well-appointed accommodation, ranging from elegant standard rooms to a stately penthouse suite with a gourmet kitchen.

At the end of these whimsical four days, your belly will be satisfied and heart full.

Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of CIBC or their partners.

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