How to make the most of your vineyard journey through the Okanagan Valley
By Rebecca Peterson, Staff Writer
Unless you’re hopping on a tour bus with a knowledgeable guide of the area, planning a wine tour takes no small amount of strategy. The following tips should help you get the most out of your money and your time while exploring one of the most beautiful regions of our province this summer.
Plan your destinations in advance
You can, of course, wander aimlessly through the Okanagan and wander into whichever winery happens to catch your eye—it’s a fun, relaxing way to approach wine touring. If you’re in this to win, however, you’ll want to chart a course in advance. Many tourist spots in the area have wine touring maps that show where all the wineries are located. From there, pick the wineries you really want to visit, and plan accordingly. You’re less likely to get lost this way, and as long as you don’t try to cram in too many winery visits in one day, it should help alleviate some stress from the trip.
Make sure you have a designated driver
If you aren’t on a tour bus, bribe a friend or family member to take the wheel. One of the best parts of winery touring is trying samples of different wines from all over the valley. Be safe, and don’t drive after trying that third sample of chardonnay. Reward your designated driver handsomely for their sacrifice.
Set a budget, stick to the budget
Wine is expensive. Good wine is really expensive. Especially after a few “tasters,” you may be tempted to shell out a little more than you can afford. If you really can’t trust yourself, withdraw the amount you plan to spend in cash. Once you’re out, you’re out. It may not be a bad idea to hand your wallet off to your designated driver, either.
Bring a camera
If you’ve never visited a vineyard before, you might not be prepared for how gorgeous many of them are. Wineries like Burrowing Owl, Moon Curser, and Red Rooster sport some amazing views over the valley and the Naramata Bench region. It’s a perfect place to take photos of friends, family members, and significant others, as well as a perfect shot of yourself!
Only buy wines you can’t find in-store
This requires a little bit of pre-planning. Many of the wines you’ll sample on your tour are actually available in BC Liquor Stores across the province. To make the most of your budget, limit your purchases to wines you know you won’t find back home. Many wineries will advertise which wines are winery-exclusive, so don’t be afraid to ask if you aren’t sure!
Don’t ignore the cheese
A lot of these wineries will provide small samplings of fine cheeses and crackers to pair with the wines you’ll be sampling. Not only is snacking a good idea when spending the day sampling wines, but some of these wineries also make their own cheeses. If you’re looking to stock up on gourmet cheese that happens to pair perfectly with the rosé you just bought, try the wares at the Upper Bench Estate Winery or Poplar Grove.
Follow the Bead Trail
If you’re looking for a keepsake from your winery-touring adventure, how about a charm bracelet? Many of the wineries in the Okanagan sell charms unique to their wineries, as well as a bracelet to string them on. If you buy a bracelet at your first winery, you can keep collecting beads throughout the day to show where you’ve been. It’s a fun way to keep track of your journey, as well as something to carry home with you at the end of the day that’s bound to last longer than the wine and the cheese.