ende
ende
menu
ende

You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

The Okanagan #Winelover Valley: Top Travel Stories from a World Class Wine Destination.

The Okanagan. “You are going where, Elena?” Three weeks into my Western Canada travel adventures, exploring both Vancouver & Vancouver Island, as well as Seattle to the south, I am standing at Vancouver airport, heart pounding for two reasons. It’s goodbyes with my dear friend Janett, who has travelled with me and is now going back home to Germany. It’s also a time where I am just short of reaching my next travel destination in British Columbia, the Okanagan Wine Valley, about four hours’ drive east of Vancouver.

However, at all the car rental counters: “Sorry, Miss, but there are no more cars available.”

What? Caught out with all my luggage, I stand staring at my phone: There must be options. And then: “You are lucky. We actually have a flight leaving for Kelowna at three, and I can see it’s a bit delayed, so you’ll be able to make it just fine.” (That’s the Air Canada ticketing officer at Vancouver airport, smiling breezily just after two o’clock in the afternoon.) I take up his offer and decide on flying over driving instead. My heart stops pounding once I reach the boarding gate. Phew!

 

Never in my life have I bought, and taken, a flight within an hour of the plane’s scheduled departure. It’s exhilarating, yet also very natural these days, I find.

“If you can’t rent a car, it’s because something much better is about to happen to you …”, my dear Marc writes to me as I go over my decision-making. Naturally, he is right. Well yes.

Take a look at these views as we fly over the Rocky Mountains, with glorious snow-capped Mount Baker at the horizon …

Take a look at these views as we fly over the Rocky Mountains, with glorious snow-capped Mount Baker at the horizon …

 

… landing in Kelowna, the gateway city to the Okanagan only an hour later: Already from the air, we can see that the area’s topography and microclimate have created a very special region for cultivating fruit, and wine, above all. The very reason why I am here: #Winelover celebration time it is!

… landing in Kelowna, the gateway city to the Okanagan only an hour later: Already from the air, we can see that the area’s topography and microclimate have created a very special region for cultivating fruit, and wine, above all. The very reason why I am here: #Winelover celebration time it is!

 

Check out this map for a better idea of where exactly the Okanagan valley is located in British Columbia, just north of the border with the United States and their #winelover state Washington:

 

My 24 hours in Kelowna: Where to sleep and sip wine, beer or coffee in style.

So how to organize yourself on such a spontaneous flying #winelover visit to an area you’ve barely had the time to read about prior to your trip? My answers are: Google search based on your interests (wine tours), booking accommodation over your iPhone app, tweeting out to @TourismKelowna for immediate tips & travel ideas on what’s happening in town. Easy as, right. Even, or especially, in such a well-connected winelover travel destination as the Okanagan.

If you enjoy the atmosphere of meeting like-minded travellers, I can recommend you to stay at SameSun Kelowna, a hostel right by Okanagan lake in downtown Kelowna: Free breakfast & WiFi included!

If you enjoy the atmosphere of meeting like-minded travellers, I can recommend you to stay at SameSun Kelowna, a hostel right by Okanagan lake in downtown Kelowna: Free breakfast & WiFi included!

 

Love the Free Street Pianos on my first evening walk around the yacht club here …

Love the Free Street Pianos on my first evening walk around the yacht club here …

 

… if out for breakfast, head over to Kekuli First Nation café in Westbank either by car or bus: Been lovely to meet with you Sharon, and your "Breakfast Bannock" (traditional-style bread) is delicious!

… if out for breakfast, head over to Kekuli First Nation café in Westbank either by car or bus: Been lovely to meet with you Sharon, and your “Breakfast Bannock” (traditional-style bread) is delicious!

 

A little later, it's digging deep into the history & culture of wine: Over time, the number of Okanagan wine producers went from only 10 to a staggering 270, with just over 300 wine growers in the whole of British Columbia (photo: Sandhill Winery) …

A little later, it’s digging deep into the history & culture of wine: Over time, the number of Okanagan wine producers went from only 10 to a staggering 270, with just over 300 wine growers in the whole of British Columbia (photo: Sandhill Winery) …

 

… where winemaker Jonathan Tischer explains the location of Sandhill Winery’s six vineyard sites to the north and south of the valley, covering an area of 600 acres altogether …

… where winemaker Jonathan Tischer explains the location of Sandhill Winery’s six vineyard sites to the north and south of the valley, covering an area of 600 acres altogether …

 

… resulting in very different wines altogether, such as this Viognier, Gamay (Beaujolais), Barbera (based on Italian grape imports) or "Sovereign Opal", a blend of Muscat and Marechal Foch grapes. All very exotic to the ears (and taste buds) of an Austrian #winelover like myself!

… resulting in very different wines altogether, such as this Viognier, Gamay (Beaujolais), Barbera (based on Italian grape imports) or “Sovereign Opal”, a blend of Muscat and Marechal Foch grapes. All very exotic to the ears (and taste buds) of an Austrian #winelover like myself!

 

If you are into (craft) beer, I can also recommend visiting Tree Brewing Company in Kelowna for their tasting flight of pairing four craft beers with corresponding snack-sized meals. Yum!

If you are into (craft) beer, I can also recommend visiting Tree Brewing Company in Kelowna for their tasting flight of pairing four craft beers with corresponding snack-sized meals. Yum!

 

Altogether, an astounding variety of 86 (!) white & red wine varieties are grown in the entire Okanagan valley, covering an area of 11.000 acres on a north-south extension of 160 kilometres. Very little is known or tasted abroad, as virtually none of the wines are exported further afield than British Columbia, or Canada, for that matter. Several microclimates come together here to create a very unique setting for wine growing: The cooler influences of the nearby Rocky Mountains, lakes and rivers, as well as the (semi) desert of the Sonora valley, where the Okanagan joins up with the US border & wine growing areas of Washington.

Fascinating. I love being here and learning more about this special part of Canada, only an hour’s flight east of Vancouver and still under the influence of the Pacific Ocean climate, shielding it off from more “Arctic outbreaks” to the north. After all, we are at a latitude of almost 50° north, which has many of us wonder: Wine doing well here?

 

Wine is doing incredibly well here. Charming Lyse Collins, of Winelicious Tours, has a way of telling that story by taking us out to selected wine producers along Naramata Bench and Summerland areas.

Lyse is one of those people who is like a friend you simply haven’t met yet. In just about no time, she is able to create a warm-hearted, welcoming group atmosphere between people, keeping the size of her operations deliberately small to focus on a better engagement and tour experience for us. At no point are we hurried along, and it always feels as if she is taking us to her friends around the valley: Small-sized, family operations focusing on quality (wine) storytelling.

Come & meet dear Lyse Collins (on your right) …

Come & meet dear Lyse Collins (on your right) …

 

… starting off our tasting at 1775 Winery, on Naramata Bench, an area whose fame has risen to a point where the cost per acre is now higher than in the Californian Napa valley, apparently (!) …

… starting off our tasting at 1775 Winery, on Naramata Bench, an area whose fame has risen to a point where the cost per acre is now higher than in the Californian Napa valley, apparently (!) …

 

… boasting beautiful views and encouraging its just over 40 family-run wineries there to diversify into new offers, such as weddings and restaurants, as one way to offset a part of the cost of doing business …

… boasting beautiful views and encouraging its just over 40 family-run wineries there to diversify into new offers, such as weddings and restaurants, as one way to offset a part of the cost of doing business …

 

… the Okanagan now being a prized #winelover destination for national and international travellers alike.

… the Okanagan now being a prized #winelover destination for national and international travellers alike.

 

Surprise, surprise: Tasting Canadian Maple Wine for the very first time …

Surprise, surprise: Tasting Canadian Maple Wine for the very first time …

 

… moving on to more quaintness …

… moving on to more quaintness: Winery dogs …

 

… as well as tasting excellent red wines at Van Westen Winery …

… as well as tasting excellent red wines at Van Westen Winery …

 

… and relaxing for lunch at their nearby pizza place.

… and relaxing for lunch at their next-door pizza place.

 

In the afternoon, we pay a visit to Ruby Blues Winery which plays 60s music to stimulate its grapes in the vineyards …

In the afternoon, we pay a visit to Ruby Blues Winery which plays 60s music to stimulate its grapes in the vineyards …

 

… and continues its call as being "the funkiest winery" in the Okanagan!

… and continues its call as being “the funkiest winery” in the Okanagan!

 

A true off-the-beaten track discovery that day is stopping for a beautiful wine & balsamic vinegar tasting at a winery called 1117 …

A true off-the-beaten track discovery that day is stopping for a beautiful wine & balsamic vinegar tasting at a winery called 1117 …

 

… where local Alois, a German sausage maker by trade, has landed himself in a position to claim the title for the best vinegar in the valley ! Cheers to that, dear Alois!

… where local Alois, a German sausage maker by trade, has landed himself in a position to claim the title for the best vinegar in the valley ! Cheers to that, dear Alois!

 

Quality production is a big focus these days, as the NAFTA North American Free Trade Agreement had suddenly put better wines at a comparable or lower price on the table. Today, the region prides itself on astounding awards, such as the "best Pinot Noir for under $25"!

Quality production is a big focus these days, as the NAFTA North American Free Trade Agreement had suddenly put better wines at a comparable or lower price on the table. Today, the region prides itself on astounding awards, such as the “best Pinot Noir for under $25”! Okanagan: I like you.

 

Hungry? Head out to “The Bench Market” in Penticton for either breakfast or dinner after all these lovely wine tastings in the area.

Hungry? Head out to “The Bench Market” in Penticton for either breakfast or dinner after all these lovely wine tastings in the area.

 

Grape Escapes Tours & Wine School: Moving on to exploring the Okanagan Falls wine region.

My second #winelover exploration day in the Okanagan continues with a private tour with Dino, of Grape Escapes Tours & Wine School. As he picks me up from my accommodation in Penticton, we take a quick stop at the visitor information centre for a “wine discovery tour”, which sets the palate for visitors like me before actually heading out to tasting wines. During the quieter months of the year, from November until March, Dino and his team also run a “Wine School”, giving sensory evaluation as well as wine & food pairing courses. I make a mental note of coming back for that one day!

“The Okanagan”, Dino explains in his calm, soft manner, “means ‘valley floor’ in the native tongue of the First Nation people. It must have referred to the fertile aspect of the soil for planting. To this day, the Okanagan has managed to retain a certain quaintness, despite its recent rise to fame and development. There are still a number of what we call ‘bedroom communities’ between Penticton and Osoyoos, including lots of little ‘mom & pop stores’.” I like living here, he seems to add. And explains: “Grape Escapes allows me to fully live two of my three big passions: Telling people about the Okanagan. Sharing and tasting our excellent wines. Then later in the year, I go to the Caribbean for kitesurfing as part of living my third big passion.” He laughs: Another typical (Canadian)? story of how to work to live, not to live to work. They really seem to do that very well around here, especially in a place like the Okanagan …

… where wine, above all, accounts for a great lifestyle product …

… where wine, above all, accounts for a great lifestyle product …

 

… encouraging creativity …

… encouraging creativity …

 

… and heart-felt welcomes anywhere you go for tastings: Thank you Dino for taking me to Nighthawk Winery and their beautiful Gewürztraminer wines!

… and heart-felt welcomes anywhere you go for tastings: Thank you Dino for taking me to Nighthawk Winery and their beautiful Gewürztraminer wines!

 

Speaking of Gewürztraminer: This is the largest single varietal plantation of Gewürztraminer in the entire area, the wine doing really well in this higher elevation, cooler micro climate …

Speaking of Gewürztraminer: This is the largest single varietal plantation of Gewürztraminer in the entire area, the wine doing really well in this higher elevation, cooler micro climate …

 

… as do the Riesling varieties …

… as do the Riesling varieties …

 

… found at a place called Wild Goose Winery : Gewürztraminer and Riesling since 1983, the oldest plantations for these grape varieties in the valley.

… found at a place called Wild Goose Winery : Gewürztraminer and Riesling since 1983, the oldest plantations for these grape varieties in the valley.

 

Lovely to meet my German travel writer friend Ole Helmhausen there too, enjoying a fusion of Bison & Wild Boar meal at the winery’s Smoke Oak restaurant for lunch.

Lovely to meet my German travel writer friend Ole Helmhausen there too, enjoying a fusion of Bison & Wild Boar meal at the winery’s Smoke Oak restaurant for lunch.

 

A little later, it’s Painted Rock Wine Estate Dino and I head to …

A little later, it’s Painted Rock Wine Estate Dino and I head to …

 

… whose local winemaker John Skinner takes on a global perspective wishing to encourage "Terroir BC", a step up from the VQA Vintner's Quality Alliance, referring to grapes planted and cultivated in British Columbia only.

… whose local winemaker John Skinner takes on a global perspective wishing to encourage “Terroir BC”, a step up from the VQA Vintner’s Quality Alliance, referring to grapes planted and cultivated in British Columbia only.

 

Last but not least, we conclude our visit of the Okanagan Falls wine area by visiting this charming couple, Annette & Jorg, who have specialised in creating beautiful spirits made from Okanagan grapes & fruit. Go to them for a true local success story of recent migrants from Germany, who have added their skills and knowledge to the mix of producers and talents found here.

Last but not least, we conclude our visit of the Okanagan Falls wine area by visiting this charming couple, Annette & Jorg, who have specialised in creating beautiful spirits made from Okanagan grapes & fruit. Go to them for a true local success story of recent migrants from Germany, who have added their skills and knowledge to the mix of producers and talents found here.

 

And you, when will you head to the Okanagan?

 

I have also produced a travel video that highlights some of my travel adventures in Western Canada, all the way from Vancouver to the vast open plains east of the Rocky Mountains. A fascinating, funky take on what has truly been a life-changing journey. Enjoy with sound & smile 🙂

 

Disclaimer: I have been hosted by Winelicious Tours & Grape Escapes for exploring the Okanagan valley. All opinions are my own.

Spread the love

Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
Sleepless in Seattle: A Foodie Fun Visit of the Emerald City.
Banff & beyond: #ExploreCanada the local way.

5 Comments

  1. Hermann Paschinger

    Da möchte ich auch hinfahren!

    Reply
  2. Leeann Froese

     What a terrific #winelover overview of some of the Okanagan Valley. I do wish that you’d had a few more days to see places north of Kelowna, Summerland, and also further south, but that just means you’ll have to come back. (Also would like to be able to show you the islands Fraser Valley and some of our merging regions too…) 

    Reply
    • Leeann Froese

      Oops I mean ’emerging’ regions! 

      Reply
      • Elena

        Dear Leann,

        I would simply love to take you up on that 🙂 Thank you so much for your comment, I would love to come back and explore more with you! Will definitely be in touch ahead of time for that.

        Cheers and #winelover greetings,

        Elena 🙂

        Reply

Leave a Reply


Follow me on my travels: