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Okanagan wine regions map including wineries

The Okanagan Valley Wine Region

Food and Wine Magazine describes the Okanagan Valley as “a place of dramatic contrasts.” 

“Formed by glaciers and volcanoes, it’s a destination where lakeside beaches meet bluffs and steep hillsides striped with vines give way to valley floors speckled with stone-fruit orchards.”

“It’s long been a playground for city dwellers in Vancouver and Calgary, who pop over for weekend jaunts, but now, its wineries and farm-to-table restaurants are calling to travelers from all over the world.”

We couldn’t describe it better ourselves. 

If you fly into the valley via Kelowna International Airport, you’ll first be struck by Okanagan Lake, which cuts a stunning 135 kilometre swath through the surrounding hillsides. But be prepared for a lot more drama as you explore the valley and the ecological wonders it has to offer. The communities from the north part of the region south to the American border at Osoyoos are connected via Highway 97.

The Okanagan Valley is the largest of the nine Geographical Indicators in the province and contains 11 of the 12 sub GIs. It is part of the Okanagan Thompson Indigenous area where the NLaka’pamux, Okanagan and Secwepemc First Nations culture is bound to its desert landscapes, fertile soil, dense forests, mountains, and fresh water. Indigenous cultural experiences are countless and winemaking plays a significant role.

Click on titles below to view regional information and maps

Common varieties grown: Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc

Key Wine Events: Festival of the Grape (September), Half Corked Marathon (May), Okanagan Spring Wine Festival (June), Okanagan Fall Wine Festival (October/November)

Average Daily High Temperature (July): 30C

Average Hours of Sunshine: 2039

Average Annual Rainfall: 250mm 

Acreage: 6200+

Soil: Deep sand over bedrock, gravelly loamy sands

 

The most southerly region of the Okanagan Valley is an ecological wonder when it comes to grape production and has long been recognized as the Wine Capital of Canada.

It comes by that designation honestly, with more than 6,000 acres planted, making up half of the total acreage in the province. It also has the highest concentration of wineries – with 66 between Oliver and Osoyoos.

There are various areas where vineyards are plentiful, most notably the Black Sage and Golden Mile benches. The latter was the first sub-geographical indication (sub-GI) recognized by the BC Wine Authority in the province. Located on the western slope of the valley, it is bathed in morning and early afternoon sun, while late day shade cools off the vines and helps the fruit retain its desired acidity. That bench alone is home to nine wineries and has almost 800 acres of vineyard.

Meanwhile, the Black Sage Bench stretches along the eastern slope and feels the afternoon heat. It is here where many of BC’s most powerful reds are grown.

The Oliver/Osoyoos area is as arid as it comes in Canada. That’s because it is in a desert belt – an extension of the Sonoran stretching up from Mexico. Cacti and rattlesnakes were once more at home here than vines. Little would actually grow here if it weren’t for irrigation, which has breathed life into the region and created a mecca for orchards and vineyards.

The southernmost point in the valley is the town of Osoyoos, which is located on the shores of the warmest lake in Canada.  It’s a border town with easy access to the U.S. 

The producers here take pride in their craft and every year the gather to celebrate the harvest with the Festival of the Grape in Oliver in September. This family-friendly event attracts 4,500 attendees.

 

South Okanagan: Osoyoos and Oliver winery map

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Common varieties grown: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer

Key Wine Events: Okanagan Spring Wine Festival (June), Okanagan Fall Wine Festival (October/November)

Average Daily High Temperature July: 29C
Average Hours of Sunshine: 1925
Average Annual Rainfall: 297 mm
Acreage: 530+
Soil types: Terraced slopes with clay, sandy loam, gravel

 

If you’re looking for a great day trip but don’t want to spend a lot of time on the road, the Okanagan Falls-Kaleden area located just south of Penticton features a cluster of fine wineries within a fairly short distance.

The area is known for having a unique microclimate and thus Okanagan Falls has been recognized as a Sub-Geographical Indication of the Okanagan Valley. There are terraced slopes and soils can vary significantly here from gravel, to clay to sandy loam, each lending themselves different characteristics in the glass.

Many of the wineries have embraced this unique terroir to craft products with individual signatures to critical acclaim. You’ll find organic, biodynamic, rustic and sophisticated wines made here.

The area was recognized for its potential back in 1984, when Agriculture Canada and the Association of British Columbia Grape Growers published a book that is still referred to today. It identified the best places for planting vines and sites around Okanagan Falls and Kaleden had some of the best potential. 

The producers here are proud of their accomplishments and have formed their own association which focuses on marketing and promoting its members in the Skaha Lake and Vaseux Lake. It describes the region as the “Okanagan’s Well Kept Secret for Wine Lovers.”

Despite the growth in the industry, the Okanagan Falls and Kaleden area remains unassuming, free of big city influences. 

The area is a huge draw for nature lovers as a large selection of wildlife lives in the area, with many unique desert flora and fauna for naturalists to explore. A bird sanctuary is situated at Vaseux Lake just south of the town, complete with an interpretive centre. 

 

South Okanagan, Kaleden and Okanagan Falls winery map

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Common varieties grown: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc

Key Wine Events: Okanagan Spring Wine Festival (June), Okanagan Fall Wine Festival (October/November)

Average Daily High Temperature July: 29C

Average Hours of Sunshine: 1923

Average Annual Rainfall: 299 mm

Acreage: 1000+

Soil: Glacial lake sediments components of silts and fine sands

 

The city of Penticton’s name comes from a word in the Okanagan language that is translated as “a place to stay forever.”  And if you’re a wine enthusiast, you may very well wish to.

Penticton is sandwiched between Okanagan and Skaha Lakes with miles of sandy beaches and clear, inviting waters. There are nearby hiking and biking trails, a world-class rock climbing area, known as Skaha Bluffs, and a water channel winding through the city that gives new meaning to the concept of “lazy river” floating. The city itself offers plenty of urban amenities, without losing its small town charm.

What’s more, wineries started being established in 1990 and are continuing to crop up along the flats and slopes surrounding the city. There are key areas north of the city, on the east side of Okanagan Lake – an area known as the Naramata Bench – located on the unceded traditional territory of the Sylix (Okanagan) people – and south on the east side of Skaha Lake, in an area known as the Skaha Bench.

There are few places that will tick all the boxes like these ones. Both benches are recognized sub-appellations (sub-GIs) of the Okanagan Valley and offer incredible views, pastoral settings, and unparalleled access to handcrafted wines.

Along the Naramata Bench you will find 52 grape producers. It’s a place where a day trip on an electric-assisted bike will leave you spoiled for choice. The Skaha Bench covers a 10-kilometre stretch from the outskirts of Penticton and along the eastern shore of Skaha Lake. It is still developing, but there are half a dozen wineries that have established themselves here and expect more to come.

 

South Okanagan; Penticton and Naramata

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Common varieties grown: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir

Key Wine Events: Grand Sommelier Express (June), Okanagan Spring Wine Festival (June), Okanagan Fall Wine Festival (October/November)

Average Daily High Temperature (July): 27C

Average Hours of Sunshine: 2057

Average Annual Rainfall: 307 mm

Acreage: 300+

Soil: Fertile ice age clay and rich volcanic soils.

 

The waterfront communities of Summerland and Peachland have long been synonymous with fun in the sun, as their idyllic settings make them ripe for summertime getaways.

Set along the shores of Okanagan Lake and featuring miles of clean sandy beaches, water sport enthusiasts and families have been drawn to the area for decades. Although not densely populated year round, the numbers swell during the warmer months as tourists flock to take in the ample sunshine and enjoy the waterfront, as well as the many walking, hiking and biking trails.

The location is also ideal for wine producers who have established wineries in pockets along the slopes and in the hills in and around Summerland and Peachland, most within an easy drive off Highway 97.

It also now contains three sub Geographic Indicators, added in 2022. The Summerland Bench is located on the western shores of Okanagan Lake and is appreciated for production of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. Summerland Lakefront is a small stretch of land along the western shore of the lake that enjoys a unique microclimate. While Summerland Valleys includes some of the highest elevation vineyards in the Okanagan.

Enthusiasts will be especially drawn to the “Bottleneck Drive,” a meandering path that winds from the outskirts of Peachland and in and around Summerland. It leads visitors to 16 grape and fruit wineries, cideries, and distilleries. The association provides tour suggestions to make the most of your visit, such as ways to cycle around to the various tastings room; creating a tour based on sparkling wine, art, or ciders and spirits; and dog friendly locations to visit. 

This area offers a truly grassroots feel and artistic vibe. Expect to be entertained by local musicians, and enjoy the works of artists and crafters. This is an area rich in creativity.

peachland and summerland wineries

 

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Common varieties grown: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay

Key Wine Events: Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon (June), Okanagan Spring Wine Festival (May), Okanagan Fall Wine Festival (October/November)

Average Daily High Temperature July: 26-28C

Average Hours of Sunshine: 1949

Average Annual Rainfall: 347 mm

Acreage: 1000+

Soil Type: Sandy loam, clay and limestone

 

The Central Okanagan is often highlighted by international wine media as a must visit in BC wine country. Food & Wine Magazine recently likened the area to the highly-revered wine regions of Alsace and the Mosel.

The Central Okanagan is certainly an area to be reckoned with when it comes to wine. It is home to some of the province’s most state-of-the-art wineries featuring impressive architecture, gravity-flow winemaking operations, outdoor ampitheatres, education centres and some of most critically-acclaimed restaurants. 

It’s hard to envision the humble wine roots in the Central Okanagan that gave this now impressive industry its start in the province.

Father Charles Pandosy first planted grapes at the Oblate Mission in Kelowna in 1859 for the making of sacramental wine.

What was produced served its purpose. But nobody expected the wines to set the world on fire. They somehow managed to lead to a wine-growing revolution in BC that nobody saw coming for at least another 100 years.

For decades, questionable labrusca varieties dominated the vineyards. It wasn’t until the 1990s that growers began turning their attention to quality and less desirable grape varieties were replaced with vinifera vines.

Today, the Central Okanagan contains three of the province’s sub-Geographical Indicators: Lake Country, South Kelowna Slopes and East Kelowna Slopes. All three were added in 2022. East Kelowna Slopes comprises over 200 hectares of vineyards overlooking Mission Creek and is revered for its sparkling wines. Lake Country consists of slopes facing west above Okanagan Lake and is known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. While South Kelowna consists of 130 hectares on the slopes of the eastern shore of the lake where Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling vines thrive.

As far as destinations go, the Central Okanagan offers the convenience of an urban setting for all those who crave the city life. Yet the area teems with scenic wonders with Okanagan Lake at its heart and surrounded by mountains and forests. 

For the hardcore wine enthusiast, there are wineries located in the downtown area and southeast part of Kelowna and several clusters can be found along the lake and in the hills of West Kelowna. Further to the north, Lake Country wineries are making a name for themselves and many of them offer unsurpassed waterfront and mountain views. 

Lake Country wineriesWest Kelowna and Kelowna Wineries

 

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Common Grape Varieties: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Ortega, Pinot Gris, Siegerrebe

Key Wine Events: Okanagan Spring Wine Festival (May), Okanagan Fall Wine Festival (October/November)

Average Daily High Temperature (July): 26C

Average Hours of Sunshine: 2026

Average Annual Rainfall: 333 mm

Soil Type: Gravelly, Sandy loam, limestone and clay

 

While the South Okanagan can serve up blistering heat in the summer, visitors to the North Okanagan will appreciate a more moderate climate while still offering up long, blissful days of sunshine.

The area is very scenic with glistening lakes, mountains, woodlands and grasslands. And there are terrific little pockets of wineries producing highly-acclaimed wines for all palates.

There is a small collection of producers making ciders, meads and grape wines around the Vernon, Enderby, Armstrong area. Vernon itself is a small city, the oldest in the BC interior, with a strong sense of community. It offers great shopping and dining experiences, as well as nightlife and entertainment.

One dazzling attraction in the North Okanagan is Kalamalka Lake, a large body of water on south side of Vernon, stretching down to Lake Country, where calcium carbonate deposits form sparkling crystals that reflect sunlight, creating breathtaking blue colours in the water from deep navy to vivid aquamarine. There are sandy beaches and stunning rock faces plus a 2,420-acre provincial park. It’s paradise for anyone who appreciates nature.

The North Okanagan is home to Silver Star Mountain Resort, which beckons with an all-season playground and offers wine centred events at different intervals during the year.

North Okanagan wineries

 

 

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Okanagan Valley Greatest Hits

Featured People and Places

Where to SIP in the Okanagan Valley

Where to EAT in the Okanagan Valley

Where to STAY in the Okanagan Valley

THINGS TO DO in the Okanagan Valley

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