How To Choose The Best Kelowna Wine Tour Package
Planning a wine tour in Kelowna, B.C. should be an exciting experience! Serving as the largest city among a back drop of rolling hills and lakes, Kelowna is at the heart of Okanagan wine country. A small city with a “big city” feel, there are dozens of wine tour packages to choose from across a spectrum of wine tour operators.
While it’s hard to make a bad choice, choosing the perfect wine tour package can be daunting. With so many options and locations available for your tour, you can quickly become confused and frustrated. Fear not though, we’ve put together our tips outlining everything you need to know about how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package based on location. In this article we are going to focus on the 3 main Kelowna wine tour locations / regions; Lake Country, West Kelowna and East Kelowna. Let’s Explore!
Before We Begin
Before exploring how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, you may want to identify if you’re looking for a half day, full day or sunset wine tour experience. All 3 are available in each of the Kelowna wine tour locations we’ll be discussing. While each location serves all of these packages well, you may be better off deciding on the type of wine experience you’re looking for first.
For example, if you’re wanting a sunset wine tour, you’ll likely want to choose a location that offers the best views, irregardless of the wine portfolios. Or perhaps you’re looking for a half day Kelowna wine tour, but have other plans later in the day. In this case, it’s likely best to choose a location that is relatively close to your Kelowna accommodation.
Each location in this article will go through what you can expect throughout the day on your Kelowna wine tour. We’ll be discussing not just the general wine region, but also specific wineries. It’s a good practice to research the wineries in the location you’re interested in to learn first hand from other wine lovers how their experience played out. The good, the bad and the ugly. Typically reviews on Google, Trip Advisor and Yelp will offer authentic and honest approaches to how the day went. A little research goes a long way when deciding how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package!
What is Your Wine Tour Budget?
All the wineries in the Kelowna region offer incredible portfolios of whites and reds, friendly staff and jaw dropping views. Prices for tastings and experiences can differ significantly though so it’s important to chat with your crew to ensure everyone is comfortable with tasting fees.
Tasting fees across the city vary from $3 – $100 / person. That’s a significant spectrum and nobody like’s surprises so make sure to visit each wineries website and look up their tasting fees. Some wineries do waive the tasting fee with the purchase of a bottle, however most Kelowna wineries have gotten away from this practice. When planning your perfect day on how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, make sure to take your budget into account!
Location, Location, Location!
Alright, let’s get into it! Now that we’ve gone through a few preliminary steps to ensure success for your day in Kelowna wine country, let’s dig into each region and learn about what makes them different, what you can expect and the types of wines you’ll enjoy tasting throughout the day. Your guide on how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package begins now!
Lake Country Scenic Sip Wine Trail
Located only 15 minutes north of Kelowna International Airport (or 30 minutes north of the downtown core), Lake Country offers wine lovers the traditional rolling hills, mountain and lake views typical of other wine destinations. Big on country charm and a heavyweight in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production, Lake Country is often seen as the “gem” of the Kelowna wine scene.
Offering the most relaxing wine trail in the city, the wineries along the Lake Country Scenic Sip will simply take your breathe away! While grape production is taking over, this is also Cherry, Apple and Peach Country. By mid-summer, expect dozens of fruit stands as you navigate the country roads between wineries, a nice little bonus on a wine tour! In the summer months, Second Bloom Farms also operates a traditional wood fired Sourdough operation, a “must try” stop if you’re touring on a Saturday!
Featuring 8 unique wineries, the Scenic Sip wine trail offers a diverse portfolio of wines and experiences for novice to expert wine lovers. By 2024, a new winery will join the Scenic Sip as O’Rourke Family Estate opens to the public!
The 8 Lake Country wineries include Arrowleaf Cellars, Intrigue Wines, Ex Nihilo Vineyards, Ancient Hill Winery, 50th Parallel Estate Winery, Blind Tiger Vineyards, O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars and Gray Monk Estate winery.
While Lake Country wineries specialize in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, you’ll also indulge in tasty Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, Reisling, Rosé and several styles of Bubbles! In fact, some of the best sparkling wines in Okanagan wine country are produced in Lake Country. When looking at how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, make sure to know the varietals available at each winey for tasting.
We highly recommend making Ex Nihilo Vineyards and O’Rourke’s Peak Celallars a stop on your tour if you are choosing Lake Country for your Kelowna wine tour. Both vineyards offer seated, private tastings with options of cheese pairings or charcuterie. The tasting experience is unrushed and they both offer the largest wine portfolios found in Lake Country.
When visiting Ex Nihilo Vineyards, reserve the Memor Vivo tasting and pair it with locally sourced Charcuterie prepared by their Chef. The tasting runs $25 / person and you’ll have access to their “members only” wines such as their XXX Syrah and their flagship Bordeaux style blend, Night.
At O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars, several seated tasting options are available in their sprawling tasting room. Opt for a table looking over the vineyard or pull up a chair at their wine bar and prepare to learn about Lake Country wines. We recommend reserving the “Cheeky Peak Pairing” offering a journey through three of their top tier wines paired exclusively with culinary bites from their Chef.
When you’re researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, you’ll likely find several mentions of the views from Arrowleaf Cellars. We’d agree, this is the best view along the trail, sitting elevated above the lake with incredible views heading north. After your tasting is complete, purchase a glass, a bottle or a cream puff, grab a seat at their picnic tables or on the patio and enjoy the quintessential Okanagan lifestyle with incredible views. While this article focuses on how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, Lake Country has been the most visited option across the board for the last 2 years.
West Kelowna Wine Trail
Welcome to the Westside wine trail! By far the most iconic destination for wine lovers in the city, West Kelowna is where the most popular names of the Okanagan wine scene are. Mission Hill, Quail’s Gate, Frind Estate. When researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, you’ll find this is the land of the heavy hitters!
Located only a short 15 minute drive from the downtown core, West Kelowna wineries have been producing wine for decades. Primarily located along the “Boucherie Road” core, there are now over 20 wineries calling West Kelowna home.
In contrast to the experience in Lake Country, West Kelowna wineries are located in close proximity to private residents and offer a much more urban and modern feel. There’s a certain type of energy along the Westside trail that’s unlike anywhere else in Okanagan wine country. When looking at options on how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, it’s important to understand the vibe of each location and make decisions accordingly!
Compared to the Lake Country wineries, West Kelowna is 45 KM south, offering a slightly warmer climate and a few extra hours of sunshine annually. Pinot Noir and Riesling still do well here, as does Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.
As mentioned earlier, this is the home to iconic Canadian wineries such as Mission Hill and Quails Gate. These properties are a testament as to what can be accomplished, even as a cold weather climate wine region. With flagship wines and international awards, these large wineries put West Kelowna on the map. Now though, other wineries are following in their footsteps with West Kelowna offering the most diverse portfolio of wines and wineries in the entire Okanagan Valley.
Frind Estate Winery, The Hatch, Black Swift Vineyards, Volcanic Hills, Indigenous World Winery, Mt. Boucherie Estate, Off the Grid Organic Winery and Little Straw Vineyards are examples of the next wave of Kelowna wine producers.
Unlike the experience in Lake Country, the tastings rooms and wineries along the Westside wine trail are fairly modern. It’s a sharp contrast from the “old world” feel north of the city. Here you’ll find bright and spacious tasting rooms, floor to ceiling glass windows, a mixture of concrete and steel and some amazing architectural wonders.
When researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, decide if your group is looking for a more traditional, relaxing approach to the day in wine country, or if it’s all about keeping the energy high and exploring modern winemaking. If the latter is the answer, then a West Kelowna wine tour is what you’re looking for. Here are 3 West Kelowna wineries that should be on your list when exploring the Westside wine trail.
Only minutes off Hwy 97, Black Swift Vineyards‘ modern tasting room and panoramic view of the valley welcomes wine lovers with a casual, yet informative tasting experience. Offering one of the strongest red wine portfolios in the entire Okanagan, Black Swift is part of the Jason Parkes group of wineries.
Indoor or outdoor seated tastings are the norm here, as are generous pours and experiential wine tastings held by youthful and energetic staff. The folks at Black Swift Vineyards don’t take themselves too seriously, rather they bring a casual and humorous flair to downright amazing wines. We highly recommend their Monarch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah’s as well as their Desert Valley Merlot!
Black Swift is a great winery to visit with a large group of family and friends with plenty of room to spread out, tell tall tales and be yourselves without worry of having to “keep the noise down”!
Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery
Without question one of the most popular wineries in West Kelowna, Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery is a leader in modern wine tasting experiences. Featuring a brand new tasting room and restaurant; The Modest Butcher, you could spend hours at Mt. Boucherie Estate between casual tastings and dining.
Most wine lovers that are researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package look for wineries that offer relaxed settings that compliment the wine portfolios well, have incredible atmosphere’s and a large portfolio of wines. Mt. Boucherie Estate accomplishes all of these and more!
With incredible and fun staff, seated tastings on their patio and a “high energy” buzz not typical of other wineries, Mt. Boucherie Estate offers not only incredible wines, but also a great place to hang out and enjoy the Okanagan. It’s also important to note that there tasting room is open later than most other wineries in Kelowna. During the summer months, this is one of the only places to pop in for a tasting after 6:00 PM.
The most popular West Kelowna winery over the last two summers, Frind Estate Winery is also the only beachfront winery in North America. Set on a sprawling property with virtually endless adjacent vineyards, Frind welcomes wine lovers with a casual atmosphere, yet sophisticated wines.
Without a doubt, Frind is a “must visit” when you’re wondering how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package. Offering the largest portfolio of wines in West Kelowna, both red and white offerings from Frind Estate will leave you craving more. This is also the only winery in the area that allows guests to choose the wines they’d like to taste. It’s a nice twist and lets you play “choose your own adventure”. We love this approach!
Access to Frind Estate Winery is by road or boat. The only winery that can boast nautical access, pulling your boat up to their public dock, enjoying a tasting and indulging in Charcuterie or a wood fired pizza is a tough experience to beat.
As with other wineries on our list of how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, Frind Estate offers dining options at Annie’s Beach Cafe and Lounge. Featuring a large patio, decadent pastries and large menu, Annie’s is quickly becoming one of the most popular restaurants to visit in the region.
On the wine side, we highly recommend trying their Sparkling Brut, now one of the top selling sparkling wines in Canada. Other tasty options include the Baronesse and the Premier Syrah!
To round out our list of how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, lets head to the historical vineyards or East Kelowna and the Lakeshore wine route
As with Lake Country, the winery experience in East Kelowna is rural. Featuring rolling hills, large properties and a slower pace, we look at East Kelowna as the hidden gem of Kelowna wine country.
Big on charm and also featuring some big name wineries such as Cedar Creek Estate and Summerhill, the real highlights of this area are the smaller, family run wineries such as Nagging Doubt, The View and Priest Creek.
Its easy to get lost in the hills of East Kelowna as you travel through large estates, apple and cherry orchards and eclectic businesses. Wineries in this part of the city focus on Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In fact, some of the most sought after Pinot Noir in Canada is grown here. When looking for how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package, East Kelowna is a sure bet for those looking to experience a more relaxed pace, incredible Pinot Noir and only travel 15 minutes from downtown Kelowna.
While industry giants such as Martins Lane an Cedar Creek are found along this route, we suggest exploring the smaller producers and the incredible wines they’re producing. Always greeted with a smile (and sometimes by the owners), it’s the small, charming wineries that put the soul into the East Kelowna experience.
For Wine lovers seeking a strong red portfolio, Nagging Doubt is tough to beat. Set amongst a private and remote vineyard, this unassuming winery packs a big punch! From single varietal Pinot Noir to big blends such as their “2020 The Pull”, you’ll be impressed at the vision and structure this small producers puts into crafting their wines.
Priest Creek Family Estate Winery is another powerhouse East Kelowna winery and a relative newcomer to the scene. What they lack in age, they make up in quality with some of the best red wines found throughout the Okanagan Valley. With a bright tasting room, knowledgeable staff and several reds to choose from, Priest Creek is quickly becoming a favourite of those looking for quality, small batch Canadian red wines. We highly recommend their “Hat Trick”, a Bordeaux style blend that packs a punch!
with over 200 wineries in Okanagan wine country, it can be tricky and frustrating when deciding how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour package. We hope the information in this article makes it a little easier to decide where you’ll be heading on your next wine adventure. Enjoy!