British Columbia is fast becoming the California of the north in its production of exceptional wines. There are three regions in the province where oenophiles can find their appetites sated, and the rest of us can sip some excellent vintages at decent prices. Getting from winery to winery couldn’t be easier, just follow the burgundy and white “Wine Route” signs.
Most wineries invite visitors for wine tastings and tours. Some even serve delicious food to complement their wine. As you tour, you may view the entire process, from crushing to bottling, each winery uniquely different. Where better to sample and select your favourite wine than the winery itself. Be sure to take a bottle of the region’s finest when you leave.
Throughout the world, wine producing countries have set standards by which to judge their products and recognize the best. The VQA put British Columbian wines to the test of meeting premium-quality standards. This seal is awarded to British Columbia’s superior wines, and is an assurance to the consumer of a certain standard in wine excellence.
Greater Vancouver & Fraser Valley
The vast fertile Fraser Valley is the agricultural heartland of the province, and home to several wineries within easy driving distance from Vancouver. There are also bus tours available from Vancouver – enjoy a lovely daylong excursion from the city, allowing you to taste, relax and leave the driving to them. The first winery on your tour will be LuLu Island Winery in Richmond – they make both fruit and grape wines, while Westham Island Estate Winery makes a wide range of fruit wines as well as a much anticipated fall pumpkin wine, spiced with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.
From Richmond, the next stop on this tour is Andres Wines of Port Moody. Andres Wines produces quality wines such as Bighorn Vineyards & Peller Estates. A short drive southeast to Langley is Township 7 Vineyards and Winery, follow the Wine Route markers to Glenugie Winery. Next is Domaine de Chaberton, and their award-winning wines and lovely vineyard. Continue on to St. Urban Vineyards in Chilliwack. Just south of Chilliwack the Columbia Valley Classics Winery is situated near scenic Cultus Lake. This winery produces fruit wines as well as jams and jellies.
The Okanagan Valley is the oldest and most prolific wine growing region in the province. Its arid climate and naturally terraced landscape make it ideal for the production of excellent vintages. In fact, the Okanagan is responsible for putting Canada on the vintner’s map. The summer, fall, and spring offer up a veritable bacchanalia of wine events, festivals and tastings. There are over 70 wineries in the Okanagan producing wines that are often unavailable anywhere but the vineyards in which they are made.
The Okanagan is also a prime fruit growing area, where orchards may also be visited for fruit buying and picking. Spectacular mountains and beautiful lakes surround the wineries where visitors experience a world class wine touring holiday in an unparalleled setting.
The Central Okanagan Wine Tour begins at Kelowna. In this town you will find the Calona Vineyards, an old winery offering detailed information about wine growing in the region, as well as a Wine Museum, which offers a wealth of information on the local wineries, history and events held each year. Directly across the floating bridge on Okanagan Lake are the wineries of Little Straw, Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, and Mission Hill Estate Winery. Mission Hill is one of the Okanagan Valley’s largest wineries and offers three levels of guided tours for visitors, with each tailored to a different level of wine knowledge.
The next route out of Kelowna unfolds south along Pandosy Avenue. From this street one can fan out in every direction and discover a winery. Summerhill Estate Winery, St. Hubertus Estate Winery and Cedar Creek Estate Winery are all accessed from Pandosy and Lakeshore Drive (Pandosy becomes Lakeshore Drive). A third tour takes you through beautiful countryside from the Highway 97 and Highway 3 intersection to House of Rose Winery, Arrowleaf Cellars, and Gray Monk Estate Winery. Winery visitors can enjoy a wide range of culinary treats from light lunches to gourmet dinners served at several of the wineries.
The South Okanagan Wine Tour begins in Penticton heading south to four wineries in Okanagan Falls; Wild Goose Vineyards, Stag’s Hollow Winery, Blue Mountain Vineyards and Hawthorne Mountain Estate Winery. From there, meander along the east shore of Okanagan Lake and discover eighteen wineries operating along or just off the Naramata Road. For many wine tourists, Naramata Road is their number one destination in the Okanagan – no where else can you cover as many wineries with as little time spent driving. Naramata Road stretches only 20 kilometers from Penticton to the village of Naramata, so anticipate more time tasting than driving! If you would prefer to leave the driving to someone else a number of bus tour companies serve the wineries of the Naramata Bench. The scenery is breathtaking; lovely sandy beaches and mountain vistas, and of course first class wine. A jog north and you’ll find several more wineries at Summerland and Peachland. Many of the vineyards have their own restaurants or bistros with outdoor patios.
At Oliver there are currently thirteen vineyards in a row what is known as the Golden Mile of Highway 97. New wineries and additional lands are being put into production in what is expected to be a growth industry for the next five to 10 years. The Golden Mile, named for the agricultural richness of the land is an area that holds 10% of the country’s wineries and roughly 60% of British Columbia’s grape-growing acreage. North on Highway 3 will take you to Crowsnest Vineyards at Cawston and St. Laszlo Estate Winery at Keremeos.
There are so many wineries in the region, you could realistically spend the entire week just touring and tasting. In fact, visitors come from all over the world to immerse themselves in the whole local wine scene at the Okanagan Wine Festivals. Okanagan Wine Festivals have become synonymous with celebration of the spring growing season and the annual fall harvest, as well as the new Icewine Festival. They provide an experience for the truly serious wine lover, and those keen on experiencing the character of the festivals. The annual Icewine Festival runs for three days in January. The annual Spring Festival runs for 4 days through the first weekend in May each year, and now features more than 40 events. The annual Fall Festival takes place over 10 days in early to mid October featuring over 110 events. The Okanagan Wine Festivals have been recognized as being among the Top 100 Events in North America for the past five years. From grape stomping to consumer wine tastings, the celebrations pay tribute to winemakers and their product. Restaurateurs serve up their finest to complement the contending wines while wine-lovers are treated to gala evenings of superb dining accompanied by award winning vintages.
Vancouver Island and the BC Gulf Islands
MooBerry Winery on Morningstar Farm produces a wide variety of high-quality fruit wines handcrafted on Vancouver Island. Winemaker Phil Charlebois keeps busy creating new batches of flavourful wines and invites you to come by for tastings and tours. Located on a working dairy farm, there’s lots to do, see and taste! Open daily from 9am to 5.
We invite you to discover B.C.’s fastest growing Wine Country. Enjoy our wineries and cideries, taste the latest vintage, picnic in a vineyard or orchard – all with a backdrop of verdant hills and scenic landscapes.
The Saanich Peninsula lies just a few minutes north of Victoria. Considered Vancouver Island’s latest viticultural hot spot, the Saanich Peninsula boasts the Island’s only certified-organic vineyard. Your next wine tour starts in the Cowichan Valley which is reached via the Trans Canada Highway or if the prospect of negotiating the steep Malahat Drive is daunting, B.C. Ferries operates a regularly scheduled service from Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay.
The wine tour starts in the Cowichan Valley which is reached via the Trans Canada Highway or if the prospect of negotiating the steep Malahat Drive is daunting, B.C. Ferries operates a regularly scheduled service from Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay.
Your Cowichan Valley wine tour is your opportunity to sample something truly special! The Vancouver Island wine route begins at Mill Bay, at the Merridale Ciderworks, and then heads north to Cowichan Bay / Cobble Hill and the Cherry Point Vineyards. Cherry Point offers guided tours three times a day that provide an in-depth look at grape growing and wine making at a “farm” winery. Next stop is Venturi-Schulze Vineyards and the nearby Blue Grouse Vineyards. Follow the Wine Route markers, it is a fifteen-minute drive north to the southern end of the city of Duncan and Echo Valley Vineyards, Godfrey Brownell Vineyards and Zanatta Winery. Just north of the city is Alderlea Vineyards.
A half-hour drive north to Nanaimo is the Chateau Wolff Vineyard, and farther north in Port Alberni is the Chase Warren Estate Winery, the first winery in Port Alberni and the northernmost tip of the Island’s wine growing region. While the vineyards, wineries, breweries, and distilleries in the Central and North Central Island regions are less concentrated than in other areas of the islands, the passion is just as strong and you’ll find many of the shops and restaurants proudly offering fine locally crafted vintages, brews, and distilled spirits.
Between Parksville and Qualicum Beach in the shadow of Mt. Arrowsmith is Morningstar Farm, home to MooBerry Winery and Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. MooBerry Winery produces a wide variety of high-quality fruit wines. Winemaker Phil Charlebois keeps busy creating new batches of flavourful wines and invites you to come by for tastings and tours. Located on a working dairy farm, there’s lots to do, see and taste! Open daily from 9am to 5.
No two vineyards are alike; each has its own special favourites, as popular as Chardonnay or as rare as Agria. The region also boasts near-perfect conditions for growing premium quality cider apples. The Cowichan Valley mirrors the climate and soil conditions of the famous cider-growing regions of England and France.
Located in the lee of Vancouver Island, between the island and the mainland of British Columbia, are the Gulf Islands, and their near Mediterranean climate. The Gulf Islands are currently home to 12 vineyards, many Gulf Island wineries supplement their production with grapes grown in the Okanagan Valley. Each of the Gulf Islands seems to be a world unto itself; travelling between the Southern Gulf Islands and Northern Gulf Islands can be accomplished in small hops – each island deserves at least a day or two for exploring.
On Saturna Island are the Saturna Island Vineyards, the only island vineyard and winery in Canada with a resort and restaurant facilities. On Saltspring Island, be sure to visit Salt Spring Vinyeards and Garry Oaks Winery, located between Ganges and Fulford Harbour. To the northwest of Saturna Island is Thetis Island, location of Thetis Island Vineyards. Visit Morning Bay Vineyards on North Pender Island, Gabriola Island Winery and Hornby Island on the east coast of Vancouver Island is home to three wineries. Gulf Islands ferries have a few sailings each day, so plan ahead. Diehard wine trekkers will want to hit all the wineries scattered about the islands; your best bet is to bring a bike and a tent for some serious Island Hopping.