Okanagan Wine Weekend #RDWineWeekend
September 12 – 15, 2019
Kelowna, BC, Canada
Earlier in September, two dietitians, both named Erin, had an Okanagan wine weekend. The two Erins spent a weekend traipsing through Okanagan wineries, exploring Kelowna breweries, and eating too much cheese. Laughs were had, wine bottles were shared, and (hopefully) an annual tradition was created – #RDWineWeekend.
Yes, I have a good friend named Erin. She is also a dietitian. She's also a University of Alberta alumnus, like me. And, we both love a caramel macchiato. Twinsies!
Many months ago, Erin and I hatched a plan to get out of the city and experience everything the Okanagan has to offer. We settled on a weekend in September, with the idea that we would hopefully avoid the summer crowds and the summer heat, while still enjoying the last of the season's sunshine. When the time came, we packed our bags, and, with caramel macchiatos in hand, hit the road.
Okanagan Wine Weekend Day 1 – West Kelowna
Quail’s Gate – Our Okanagan wine weekend kicked off at Quail's Gate winery. If I were to describe my experience here in two words, it would be easy and breezy. Both the tasting room and the restaurant overlook Okanagan Lake. The two rooms combine the pomp you would expect at a large winery with some laid-back lakeside vibes that I so love. Our tasting guide was an adorable man named Herb (I’m detecting some herbal notes on the nose, ba dum tschhh), who offered generous pours, and let us try more than the prescribed four wines. Overall, I loved the affordable, approachable wine from an Okanagan classic - Quail's Gate has been producing wine since 1956!
Mission Hill Winery – Hella fancy, and with drop-dead gorgeous views. Also, the Duke and Duchess, a.k.a William and Kate, are fans. I think Mission Hill only sells their expensive line of wine at the vineyard, because I certainly did not see any of their $15 bottles that I've seen on the liquor store shelves. Not surprisingly, all of the (fancy) wine we tasted was outstanding. Spend an afternoon here, and do the winery tour. It’s $30, but includes a tour among the vineyard, down in the cellar, and a private tasting.
Okanagan Wine Weekend Day 2 – Naramata Bench
Wineries visited…Honestly, too many. But my favourites were:
Laughing Stock – By appointment only, so book this one ahead. We started our day here, which may have been a mistake, because they set the bar HIGH. Truly gorgeous wines, and a tasting led by an enthusiastic and knowledgable sommelier. One of my favourites on The Bench.
Joie Farm – Visiting this winery was our #girlboss moment of the weekend. This is one of the only woman-owned and operated vineyards on the Naramata Bench. I have been drinking Joie wines for three years now, and their wine just keeps getting better and better. They now offer a funky orange gewurztraminer and I am OBSESSED. Erin and I ended up buying a bottle, along with a cheese board, and had a leisurely lunch in their charming picnic area. I bought more wine at this vineyard than anywhere else. Just doing my part to support female entrepreneurs, NBD.
Hillside Winery - A new stop for me, but recommended by Erin's mom (an aspiring sommelier herself). Hillside had a recent makeover, and now offers a cute tapas restaurant in addition to its tasting room. Unfortunately, we were fresh off of our cheese board at Joie, so there was no room in my belly for tapas. I went into this weekend looking to stock up on some red wines for the winter, and Hillside fit the bill. Delicious without breaking the bank, I picked up a couple bottles of their merlot cab franc.
Okanagan Wine Weekend Day 3 – Smile Cycle Tours
While I was planning the #RDWineWeekend, Smile Cycle Tours was recommended to me by more than one person. Every person who had done a Smile Cycle Tour said it was the highlight of her trip to Kelowna, and I'm happy to say that I can echo the same sentiment.
In a nutshell - Smile Cycle Tours is a tour of three breweries in downtown Kelowna. Okay, this portion of the trip technically does not involve wine, but I was not opposed to Okanagan Wine Weekend having some diversity. What sets the tour apart is instead of riding in a van or bus, we rode a 12-person bicycle! We (and our fellow guests) did the pedalling, while our tour guide handled the steering and the brakes. The bike comes equipped with colourful lights (to bring the party vibes), and a Bluetooth speaker that you can sync your own Spotify to. I took the honour of being DJ for the night, and P.S. Grease Lightning was a HIT.
Smile Cycle, I will be back.
The two dietitian Erins had a wonderful time, and overall our Okanagan wine weekend was a success. Back at home, summer is drawing to a close, my wine shelf is well stocked for winter, and I'm already planning next years' #RDWineWeekend.