My 8 Favorite Okanagan Wineries and Distilleries

My 8 Favorite Okanagan Wineries and Distilleries

We knew when we moved to the Okanagan valley in BC that we were moving to wine country. There was just one problem – neither my husband nor I were big wine drinkers. Or drinkers at all really. Though my husband did have a soft spot for whiskey.

Lucky for us, lots of our friends and family love wine and spirits. After several years of ferrying them to all the local recommendations we gathered, plus a few skillful Google searches, I’m pleased to report we’ve developed a love for local products. We’ve even got a few favorite haunts.

We spent a lot of time hosting this summer, and we devoted a lot of it to visiting our favorite places, and discovering new ones. Instead of a play by play – because we visited SO many places – I’ve decided to highlight our favorites with this post. And hopefully support some great local businesses in the process!

Truck 59 Ciderhouse

I never used to like the taste of alcohol. Sometimes it really bothered me. My friends talked a lot about cocktails and wine vintages while I just smiled and nodded. Then I discovered cider.

I can’t tell you what it is about cider that clicked with me. It could be that its simple. Or that it tends to be sweeter than most wines. It could be its wide flavor diversity. Whatever the case, it was the first alcoholic drink I took to. And luckily, the Okanagan has no shortage of interesting cideries.

My top favorite is a new discovery from this summer – Truck 59. They’re relatively new on the scene, but already have a wide variety of creative and adventurous flavors available. They are most certainly a craft cidery, experimenting with new tastes and combinations that push their locally sourced ingredients to new limits.

It’s hard to pick a favorite recommendation. If you drop by, be sure to check out their Blackberry Bourbon – which is aged four months in Kentucky Bourbon barrels. Likewise, their Jamaican Rum Plum is aged in rum barrels! Both are excellent examples of the cidery’s creativity.

But I think my absolute favorite is the Raspberry Hibiscus, which is infused with a touch of Hibiscus tea. Tea and booze – what’s not to love?

BC Tree Fruits Cider Co

Prior to our discovery of Truck 59, my husband and I agreed that BC Tree Fruits was the best cider we had ever tasted. It’s still a close second, edged out just a tad by the fantastic creativity inherent in Truck 59’s flavors.

Still, BC Tree Fruits makes solid cider. BC Tree Fruits is a cooperative, made up of more than 400 local produce farmers. Their Broken Ladder ciders are made from 100% fresh fruit – with no added water, sugar or artificial flavors. And boy does it make a difference! I don’t know how many ciders I’ve tasted only to pucker at the artificial taste.

Every time we have company, drive off to visit friends, or just want a refreshing summer treat, we visit BC Tree Fruits to fill our growlers. They recently started experimenting with new flavors – their ginger cardamom tastes a lot like chai tea! Their flavors are a little safer and a little less adventurous than some others, but never disappoint. And the best thing is, you aren’t drinking a ton added sugar whenever you enjoy one of their ciders – just the sweetness that comes from the apples!

If you’re in the area, be sure to drop by and taste what they have on tap. You can’t go wrong with a can of Pears and Peaches!

Meadow Vista Honey Wines

In the novel American Gods, Shadow describes mead as “sweet pickle-juice wine.” (Mr. Wednesday describes it as “drunken diabetic’s piss,” and goes on to say “it’s terrible stuff.”) So I was a little nervous the first time we stepped into a meadery.

Mead is often called Honey Wine because it’s made from honey. Meadow Vista makes its meads from honey taken from bee hives they keep around town. This means they also cultivate bee-friendly gardens to sustain their hives. One of which, you can visit on the meadery’s grounds.

Like cider, mead was one of the first alcoholic drinks I really enjoyed, despite my initial uncertainty. It’s sweet and it lacks tannins (the bitter taste that results from dissolving grape skins, especially present in red wines). But what I like best about Meadow Vista is that they have a mead for every occasion.

On hot summer days (common here in the Okanagan), settle down with a crisp, refreshing cyser (an early precursor to cider). For spring and fall, try their specially spiced meads, called Ostara and Mabon respectively. Like most places around here, they use all local ingredients in their mead. Plus, they’re taking care of bees!

The Vibrant Vine

The Vibrant Vine is the world’s first (and only as far as I’m aware) 3-D winery! Be sure to don your 3-D glasses on the way inside.

But seriously, the Vibrant Vine was the first winery I visited that didn’t feel entirely stuck-up to me. Their laid-back atmosphere is enhanced by the 3-D art on the walls (which matches the labels on their wines). They often have live music and food trucks on the premises too, so it’s well worth checking their calendar when you plan your visit.

While wine still isn’t my favorite drink, the Vibrant Vine has some interesting ones. Their ice wine is particularly delicious. As is the Woops which is a blend of several different grapes from each year’s harvest. (Plus it has a delightfully hilarious story attached to it!)

The Vibrant Vine is one of my favorite places to visit and we always make sure to take new people there!

Frequency Winery & Sound Experience

If you like your wine with a side of music and science – this is the place for you! Sister to the Vibrant Vine (and run by the owners’ son), Frequency uses music to settle all its wines. In fact music, and sound, are a big part of this winery’s products from start to finish. They use sound waves on all their labels, and even designed their entire storefront to maximize its acoustics.

If that isn’t enough to prove how unique this winery is, they also have a sound studio that local artists can use for free! Because the owner firmly believes that having to pay out the nose for a recording studio causes small bands and artists to compromise their craft. He wants them to be able to focus solely on the art – a man after my own heart! Seriously, I’d love to write a novel in this place – it has fantastic energy!

When you visit frequency, you’ll not only taste delicious wine, you’ll get to experience a first-class science lesson. We visited with a physics teacher and even he was impressed! Be sure to visit when their sound engineer is on hand to explain how she designed the building for maximum acoustics!

Summerhill Pyramid Winery

You might be thinking, there are a lot of wineries on this list for someone who doesn’t like wine. And that’s true; my taste for wine is still developing. But I’ve cultivated this list at least partly based on my experiences at these various locations. Which is why I would be remiss if I didn’t include Summerhill.

Most of Summerhill’s wines are certified organic – which means that they don’t use chemical pesticides on their vines. There are a bunch of other requirements for the certification but, needless to say, it requires a ton of dedication by the staff. In addition, all their wines are barrel aged beneath their iconic pyramid, to take advantage of the energy of the sacred geometry.

My kind of place.

Not only do they have some truly fantastic wines, their organic bistro is amazing. The last time my best friend, Rowena, visited, we had a girl’s day brunch at Summerhill. It was right after I discovered I could no longer stomach cheese. The waitress happily informed me that they had a plant-based cheese board that was 100% safe for me to eat. So we ordered it. And LOVED it.

I know plant-based cheese sounds like an abomination, but these were actually fantastic. It gave me hope that my cheese-loving life isn’t entirely over. All the other food was amazing too and, as usual, locally sourced!

Okanagan Craft Distillery

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of my husband’s favorites. As I mentioned, he’s a whiskey man. I think it’s safe to say his favorite local distillery is Okanagan Craft Distillery. Their Liard of Fintry is so popular you have to enter a whiskey lottery in order to gain the distinction of buying it. Every time they announce a new variant, my husband is willing to make a shopping deal in order to secure it. (That’s how I got my new monitor!)

In addition to their fantastic spirits, they have a line of fruit liqueurs made from local produce. I’m quite happy to have the rhubarb on my shelf, though the haskap is probably my favorite!

What first drew us to their storefront, though, was their Absinthe, which is called “Taboo.” Sadly, I don’t like the taste of liquorice enough to truly appreciate the stuff, but it’s interesting to speak with the staff, receive a history lesson and experience the brew.

Urban Distillery

Urban Distillery was one of the first locations we discovered after moving here, and it is also one we’ve followed with great interest. Their whiskey may not be as popular as the Liard, but my husband assures me it provides an excellent drinking experience. Their Spirit Bear Vodka is some of the smoothest I have ever tasted.

So if you wonder what I got up to this summer – wonder no more! It’s safe to say we visited all of these locations at least once (sometimes more).

This is only a small selection of the wineries, breweries and distilleries you can visit if you’re in our neck of the woods. I would love to shout out every local business that gave us a great experience this summer, but the list would be long.

I love the culture we’ve discovered here that celebrates local farmers, local ingredients, fresh flavors and creativity. It’s my hope that shouting out these local businesses will give a little back to them for the awesome experiences they’ve given us!

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