British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley had already established itself as a bountiful agricultural region and resort destination before winemaking took off in 1990s. Today, the area is home to about 120 wineries between Kelowna, which sits on Okanagan Lake, and Osoyoos, along Osoyoos Lake. Consequently, wine-tasting opportunities abound throughout the Okanagan Valley. The northern valley’s cool conditions allow varietals such as pinot noir to thrive. And its white varietals, including chardonnay, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, riesling and sauv blanc, tend to retain strong acidity levels.
The hot, dry southern valley is one of the Canada’s few deserts. Here, the temperatures are warm enough to ripen big reds, including cab sauv, merlot and syrah. But even these retain decent acidity levels, thanks to the southern valley’s cool desert nights. The wineries along the southern valley’s eastern Black Sage Bench and western Golden Mile Bench are especially noteworthy.
Okanagan Lake is considerably larger than Osoyoos Lake. But both are surrounded by beachside resorts. And the beaches and mountains surrounding each lake create a variety of options for watersports and outdoor recreation. These are the main reasons why families from across Canada, particularly British Columbia and Alberta, flock to the valley each summer. Meanwhile, the Kelowna-area’s ski resorts, Silver Star and Big White, are big winter draws. In general, the pace is a little slower and more laid back in and around Osoyoos. But the latter offers easy access to the southern valley’s premier wineries.
You’ll find the most, in terms of hotels, restaurants, lively beaches, nightlife and recreation in and around Kelowna. Penticton, near Okanagan Lake’s southern tip, also offers a lively resort-town vibe. And the entire valley is a golf mecca, with several outstanding golf courses between Osoyoos and Vernon, the latter near Okanagan Lake’s northern tip.
Osoyoos is just across the Canadian border from Oroville, Washington, about 300 miles northeast of Seattle. And Kelowna is about 75 miles north of Osoyoos. Alaska Airlines and Air Canada are among the carriers offering flights to Kelowna International Airport (YLW), about 9 miles north of downtown Kelowna. Map it.
Photo: Courtesy of Black Hills Estate Winery.