Our insider tips for the ultimate Okanagan boutique winery weekend trip

We asked Mountaineer wine columnist Heather Hood to put together an insider's itinerary for the perfect off-the-beaten-path weekend winery tour to the Okanagan.

A crisp fall sunset at Liquidity Wines. Photo: contributed

It is Friday after work on a dreary October day and feeling the need to get out of town for a quick adventure. Why not take ladies weekend away to go wine tasting in the Okanagan on short notice? The next thought is, there are so many wineries in B.C., over 270 actually, so where should we go? Okanagan Falls is a great place to go for the weekend. Okanagan Falls is a small community of 2,000 people located just south of Penticton on Skaha Lake. The community is home to approximately a dozen wineries that make it the perfect place to spend a weekend. The plan is to set out on the road Saturday morning for the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Okanagan Falls or ‘OK Falls’ as the locals call it. OK Falls has a variety of accommodation options from the Okanagan Falls Hotel, the Holiday Beach Motel, various Airbnbs or the Bighorn Ridge Guest House. The alternative to staying in OK Falls would be to travel south to Oliver or return to Penticton for the night.

The itinerary: arrive in Penticton around lunchtime on Saturday and check out a local favourite for lunch called Il Vecchio. Il Vecchio is located on a back street near the Greyhound bus depot and is a small cash-only deli where you can order a fantastic sandwich. The line-up is usually to the door but the wait is worth the delicious deli sandwich made to your liking. With your belly full and your palates ready to be satiated with wine, get ready to start out on your wine tasting adventure.

A pano shot of the Liquidity Wines vineyard. Photo: contributed

The first stop is Pentâge which is a small boutique winery owned by Julie Rennie and Paul Gardner. The winery and tasting room is located above Skaha Lake with an impressive portfolio of incredible wines to sample. Julie and Paul planted the first vines in 1997 and have developed the property to maximize the land and incorporate the natural surroundings. A unique and stunning feature of this winery is the 5,000-square-foot natural rock wine cellar that has been built into the granite on the property. It’s really worth checking out.

As you continue on your adventure along Skaha Road which is referred to as corkscrew drive or as others know it as the road to go climbing at Skaha Bluffs, you can enjoy the undeveloped beauty that surrounds you and the road that is so close to the lake.

Blasted Church earned its name from an explosive church house episode. Photo: contributed

The next stop is at Blasted Church. This winery is the vision and ingenuity of Evelyn and Chris Campbell, who have transformed this winery into an incredible and quirky blessing to the wine industry. The marketing of their labels, winery and website are clever and unique. The wines are well made and there are some particularly wonderful blends of wines to sample. The namesake of Blasted Church comes from an event in 1929 where the church congregation along with their minister, headed off to the abandoned mining camp of Fairview outside of OK Falls, to disassemble an old wooden church and bring it into town. The plan involved boarding up the church windows and setting off a stick of suspended dynamite to loosen the nails. The plan worked and the church now the ‘blasted church’ stands in OK Falls and continues to this day to be utilized by the community.

From Blasted Church, continue towards Blue Mountain Winery, located just south of the town site of OK Falls. The winery is owned and operated by the Mavety family, and makes wine out of grapes that are 100% estate grown. This winery has been around since the early 1990s, and from inception the Mavetys have tended to the land and implemented practices to maintain the vineyard to winemaking system as a whole. This attentive care of the process generates wines that are beautifully crafted and complex. Their Brut has been my go to favourite since the first time I sampled it over a decade ago and I would be hard pressed to pick my favourite wine from Blue Mountain.

The Stag’s Hollow Winery building. Photo: contributed

The next stop is Noble Ridge which was started by the Leslie and Jim D’Andrea in 2001. The vineyard and winery site has a breathtaking view of Vaseau Lake which is a great place to sit, have a picnic and be surrounded by vineyard rows. The D’Andreas’ involvement and care of their vineyard and winery is evident in the wines that are produced. All of the wines are well made and make it hard to find a favourite, the Stony Knoll Chardonnay, Meritage and Sparkling are all fantastic.

If you are feeling like sampling from one more winery before dinner, check out Stag’s Hollow. Stag’s Hollow winery was established in 1995 by Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger. The owners have been involved in all aspects of their vineyard and winery since the beginning and have received many winemaking successes. There are a variety of wines produced by this winery which provide a great example of the diversity of grapes that can be grown in the Okanagan.

The last stop for the day is at Liquidity which is located just above Stag’s Hollow; it is an extraordinary place to enjoy wine in their tasting room and food at their bistro. Liquidity has created a magnificent experience for those who visit the property from the art installations, landscaping and the floor to ceiling windows that overlook the vineyard. The views from the bistro are gorgeous and having the opportunity to have a wonderful meal in a vineyard setting is a unique opportunity.

Welcome to See Ya Later Winery. Photo: contributed

Sunday morning before returning home, you could stop at See Ya Later Ranch located on the other side of the valley in OK Falls. The drive up to the wine shop is steep and windy which will hopefully make you excited for the view you are about to experience. The land was originally owned by Major Hugh Fraser who was a lover of dogs and enjoyed writing letters. Major Fraser apparently used to sign off his letters with the words, See Ya Later. There is a small dog cemetery located near the wine shop that Major Fraser established from the dogs that once lived on the property. The views will not disappoint and will provide a view of the wineries in OK Falls and both Skaha and Okanagan Lake. The tasting room overlooks the winery and has great views of the valley.

Stopping at five or six wineries makes time fly by and can be more than enough wineries to experience in one day. Most wineries maintain regular hours until the middle of October and after that either have modified hours or can be visited by making an appointment, I would recommend checking before you go.

The OK Falls wine tasting experience can be impressive because of the quality of wines, the diversity of each winery and the history that has been preserved. The commonality of most of the wineries in OK Falls is that they are small, family owned or run operations and their success have come from hard work and careful tending of the land. Many of the established wineries have expanded over many years and have evolved with the wine industry. It can be a pleasant experience staying in one area and enjoying this fantastic little gem of a community in OK Falls.