A mere few decades ago, if you told a sommelier that world-renowned wine could come from BC’s Interior valleys, they’d likely tell your that you were either nuts, misinformed about Canada’s climate, or just plain strange. Yet, if you were a ‘strange’ visionary, you likely are now reaping the delicious rewards of your years of labour, patience and impeccable foresight into one of Canada’s most luscious wine-producing areas.
Ah, to be ahead of the times. Before the late ’80s, most of the wine produced in BC’s now famed Okanagan Valley was nowhere near the calibre that it is today, and most wine aficionados had written the stuff off as local backyard brew that couldn’t hold its own in international competitions.
Then came the fateful year of 1988, when new Canadian trade policy laws allowed cheap and flavourful international wines to make their way into Canada. This resulted in more competition for BC wines, and thereafter, a rallied effort by both the government and winemakers to change how wine was made in the Okanagan. With help and faith from all sides, those cunning few who knew there was a future for some incredible varietals, started hunting for the best vines – and began growing grapes that entered the valley into a ‘Golden Age’ of fine wine.
Soon great red and whites were popping up everywhere, and the unthinkable happened: In 1994, Mission Hill’s 1992 Chardonnay won the coveted ‘Best Chardonnay in the World’ award at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.
So shocking was this win that, in the blind tasting, judges decided to do a second round of tasting– just to make sure. And of course, even the second time, the award-winning wine still reigned supreme. Not only were the judges stunned by the quality of wine, but so was the rest of the wine world (who now had good reason to take this flourishing BC wine area seriously). Zoom forward a few more decades and you’ll find amazing wineries stretching all the way from Victoria, Langley, Penticton, Osoyoos, Naramata, Kelowna and beyond.
With wine as one of the biggest tourist attractions for the Okanagan Valley area these days, you can find a whole vino culture just ripe for the picking here. From excellent tours, tastings, pairing events to annual festivals, celebrations and harvests, there is never a dry moment.
This meteoric industry change has caused a chain reaction within other industries in the area too. Our very own hotels have seen a vast shift in how wine, hospitality and accommodations are connecting together to create an entire experience for visitors.
“We’ve definitely witnessed a lot of change with both the wine and hotel industry up here over the years,” says Kelly Watt, General Manager of Sandman Hotel & Suites Kelowna. “Things are much more consumer focused with tons of variety – whether it’s concerts, restaurants, great tasting rooms, accommodation and tour packages – they’re all connected to create the ideal vacation experience. The tasting rooms especially – they are very inviting and welcoming. They have amazing views and often display local art. It’s very engaging.”
No longer do wine tasters breeze in and out of mom-and-pop shops for a quick sip. Instead, large groups can experience pairings with food, they can go on long guided tours, and they can enjoy local wine from the comfort of their hotel rooms. “The potential in the valley is vast,” says Irene Burrell, Front Desk Manager at Sandman Hotel Penticton. “For us, the Naramata Bench continues to grow with new wineries that are exceeding everyone’s expectations… and with that growth people want to come here for longer periods of time. It’s not just about the wine anymore; it’s about experiencing the entire area – with wine.
And the area doesn’t dissapoint. From gorgeous lake side beaches to vast hiking trails, plus one of the most coveted foodie scenes in Canada, many compare the OKV (as the locals say) to Napa Valley.
“It really is amazing to see how well everyone in the hospitality, wine, and tourism industry works together here,” remarks Burrell. “We all believe that the perfect stay includes elements of all industries… you can taste, explore, eat, relax… and of course with us, get a good night’s sleep.”
Now that’s one blend that goes down easy.
To see the Sandman Hotel & Suites Kelowna Wine Lovers’ Package, click here: http://ht.ly/bK4ut
Nearby Kelowna wineries:
• Vibrant Vines
• Summer Hill Pyramid Winery
• Spierhead Winery
• Sperling Vineyards
• Cedar Creek Estate Winery
• St. Hubertus
• Tantalus Vineyards
• The View Winery & Vineyard
• Rollingdale Winery
• Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery
• Volcanic Hills Estate Winery
• Little Straw Vineyards
• Mission Hill Family Estate
• Gray Monk Estate Winery
• Quails Gate Estate Winery
To see Sandman Hotel Penticton’s Wine Lovers’ Pick-a-Perk Package, click here: http://ht.ly/bK4F5
Nearby Penticton wineries:
• Monster Vineyards
• Poplar Grove Winery
• Township 7 Vineyards & Winery
• Black Cloud
• La Frenz Estate Winery
• Red Rooster Winery
• Spiller Estate Fruit Winery
• Ruby Blues Winery
• Hillside Estate Winery & Bistro
• Laughing Stock Vineyards
• Black Widow Winery
• Elephant Island Orchard Wines