Kelowna's Wine Culture: A Journey Through the Okanagan Valley

Winery at sunset.
Destination BC/Andrew Strain


Kelowna is a city known for its breathtaking landscapes, outdoor recreational opportunities, and, most notably, its flourishing wine culture. The area's diverse microclimate and fertile soils contribute to the creation of unique wines, bringing global recognition to the Okanagan Valley. The region's wine culture is a combination of innovation, community, and rich history, which create an intoxicating blend that wine lovers cannot resist.

History and Wine Industry Growth

Kelowna's journey to becoming a prominent wine-producing region started in the early 20th century. However, it was not until the 1980s that the industry truly blossomed. In 1988, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) triggered an industry-wide shift, leading to the replacement of hybrid grapes with high-quality vinifera. This change, coupled with the vision and efforts of local vintners, ushered in a new era for Kelowna's wine culture. Today, the Okanagan Valley is home to 186 licensed grape wineries and 9,617 acres of vineyard, with Kelowna at its heart, producing world-class wines that rival those from more established wine regions.

Terroir and Wine Varieties

The Okanagan Valley's distinctive terroir is key to the richness and diversity of its wines. The Valley is blessed with warm summers and mild winters, while the large, deep Okanagan Lake moderates temperatures. The varying altitudes and the valley's orientation towards the sun create unique microclimates, fostering a broad array of grape varietals.

Kelowna's wines are as diverse as its landscapes, from sun-drenched vineyards to the sloping hillsides. The region is renowned for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay due to the cooler climates of its northern parts. However, the hotter southern parts yield excellent Bordeaux-style blends, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and ice wines also play a vital role in enriching Kelowna's wine portfolio.

Wine Tasting and Tours

The wine tasting experience in Kelowna transcends the act of sipping the exquisite nectars. It's an immersive journey that engages all your senses. From the feel of the sun on your skin, the sight of rows upon rows of lush vineyards, the sound of a gentle breeze rustling the vines, to the intoxicating aroma and the taste of the world-class wines, a journey through the Okanagan Valley is an unforgettable encounter.

Many wineries offer guided tours, where experts share the stories of the vineyards, the winemaking process, and the unique characteristics of each wine. Whether you're a novice exploring the world of wines or a connoisseur with a refined palate, these tours cater to all levels of wine enthusiasts.

The Wine Culture

Kelowna's wine culture extends beyond the vineyards. It's interwoven into the fabric of the community and is reflected in the city's lifestyle, culinary scene, and events. Wine is celebrated throughout the year, with festivals like the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society's Spring and Fall Wine Festivals, where wineries release and showcase their new wines. The Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon is another event that perfectly combines the love for wine and the scenic beauty of the region.

Local restaurants champion the farm-to-table philosophy, serving dishes prepared from locally-sourced ingredients, which are thoughtfully paired with local wines. This symbiosis of local food and wine enhances the dining experience, giving visitors a taste of Kelowna's terroir on their plates and in their glasses.

Famed Wineries of Kelowna

The Okanagan Valley is home to an abundance of wineries, each offering a unique story, atmosphere, and selection of wines. The following wineries stand out as some of the most notable destinations for wine enthusiasts:

Mission Hill Family Estate: This winery is not just known for its award-winning wines but also for its stunning architecture, featuring a 12-story bell tower and an outdoor amphitheater. Visitors can partake in a guided tour that encompasses the vineyard, wine cellars, and a private tasting. The winery's restaurant, The Terrace, offers panoramic views of the valley and a menu designed to complement the estate's wines.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery: Committed to organic and biodynamic winemaking practices, Summerhill is renowned for its sparkling wines and the unique aging process in its on-site pyramid. The winery's Sunset Organic Bistro offers exquisite meals featuring locally sourced organic ingredients.

CedarCreek Estate Winery: Twice named "Winery of the Year" by the Canadian Wine Awards, CedarCreek impresses with its selection of Bordeaux-style wines and Rieslings. The tasting room offers breathtaking views of the vineyard and the Okanagan Lake.

Quails' Gate Winery: One of the oldest family-owned-and-operated estates in Canada, Quails' Gate is famous for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery's Old Vines Restaurant is a fine-dining destination, serving dishes created with locally-sourced ingredients and expertly paired with the estate's wines.

Tantalus Vineyards: Tantalus is the oldest continuously producing vineyard in British Columbia, established in 1927. It is renowned for its Rieslings and traditional method sparkling wine. The eco-friendly winery also features a gallery of Indigenous art, enhancing the wine tasting experience with a cultural touch.

Each of these wineries adds a unique flavour to Kelowna's wine culture, promising unforgettable experiences for every guest. Their commitment to excellence in viticulture and winemaking, along with their dedication to sustainable practices, embodies the essence of Okanagan Valley's wine scene. By sampling the wines and exploring the estates, you'll not only taste the terroir but also experience the passion and craft of Kelowna's wine artisans.


Kelowna's wine culture is a captivating blend of scenic beauty, diverse wines, and a vibrant community. It's an example of the region's dedication to nurturing its terroir and crafting exceptional wines. The Okanagan is a sensory delight, offering a rich and immersive experience that leaves a lasting impression.

So, whether you're an ardent oenophile or a curious traveller, consider a journey through the Okanagan Valley - where every sip tells a story, and every vineyard holds a new adventure.