Winery tours and tasting season is back! With the COVID regulations being lifted across British Columbia, it’s going to be a busy season for all the wineries in our province. I’m so stoked to take a trip back to the Okanagan Valley this season and go for some wine tours and tastings. It is a great opportunity to a) see picturesque views of our local wine country, b) support our local winegrowers, c) improve your knowledge of wine and the winemaking process, and d) of course, discover some great wines. There’s many gorgeous wine properties in the valley like Phantom Creek, Mission Hill, Summer Hill Pyramid, and Black Hills Estate Winery (check out this blog post to discover some amazing Okanagan wineries). It just comes to show how much work and care goes into operating a successful winery because it’s not just about the wine – it’s about the experience. Our local wine industry really prides itself on providing a full hospitality experience to give them that competitive advantage over other wine regions around the world that are more well known, so take advantage! Whether you plan on going to 1 or many wineries, it’s important to be strategic about how you go about it. Here’s some tips while you’re planning your wine tours to get the most out of your experience.
1. Book A Reservation
PLEASE, PLEASE see if the wineries you want to go to require reservations!! If you want an elevated experience like a tour or want to dine at the winery’s restaurant, you will definitely need reservations. Even if you want to go in just for a wine tasting, we’re still in a pandemic and every place of service has limited capacity, so this is not the time to be spontaneous with your wine adventures (unfortunately). As well, be sure to allot enough time to get to each winery. When I was a Sommelier, I can’t tell you how many people came to the winery late and were denied their tasting or tour because we were fully booked and couldn’t reschedule. Plus, the guests already pre-paid for their experience. Lesson here guys, planning is key to having a smooth day.
2. Research Wineries
There’s 185 wineries in the Okanagan and 44 wineries just in Kelowna. The average person probably knows up to 5 wineries off the top of their head. So if you’re wanting to adventure and discover new wineries, do your damn research. Make a list of wineries you want to visit and see how many you can fit in your schedule based on the experience you want and what distance each winery is from the others. A good starting point is my blogs under the Wine Recommendations category where you can read about some fantastic wines made right in BC.
3. Book With A Wine Tour Company
If you want to do winery hopping with a group, booking with a wine tour company is one of your best options. They come with a complete itinerary so it'll save you the hassle of building a schedule for each wine tour and commuting, booking reservations, and dealing with getting to each location. Not to mention, the Okanagan has limited cabs and there’s no Uber or Lyft, so during peak season, it’s not unusual to see people complain about long wait times for cabs, which can cause them to be late for their reservations. As well, you’ll have a designated driver so no one in your party is left out of the tastings. There’s a lot of companies to choose from like Wicked Wine Tours, Okanagan Wine Tours Country, and Uncorked Okanagan Wine Tours. In short, for simplicity and ease, book a wine tour.
During wine tours and tastings, people love to take photos. Many times they have their hands filled and holding a wine glass is just another item that will occupy your hands. If you want to sip your wine while keeping it on you hands-free, buy the Wine Glass Baby Carrier (aka Wine Yolk) in my store. I had one of these while I was at the Vancouver International Wine Festival and it was truly a lifesaver when I was eating, drinking, and taking photos at the same time. After all, who doesn’t love to be a Wine Mom or Dad?
5. Don’t Buy Wine Till You’ve Done All Your Wine Tours
I mentioned the number of wineries there were just in the Okanagan. With all the wine varietals each of them make, there’s plenty of different wines produced right in our wine region. You’re going to try a ton of wine, so make sure you keep track of each wine you love before you buy. All wineries have an online store and many offer free shipping with a certain minimum purchase, so take advantage of the savings when you don’t have to spend gas money to get your wine home and let the winery take care of it. It’s easy to go to the wine shop at each winery and buy a bunch of wine that you go home with more or too much wine. Unless, you do a tasting where the winery reimburses you with a voucher to their wine shop or they have a special promotion while you’re there, just know that there’s no rush to buy and you can always purchase the wine online later.
6. Pace Yourself
Wine tastings appear innocent like people can enjoy a lot without getting drunk, but that’s far from the truth. Unless you have a crazy high alcohol tolerance, most people need to watch how much they drink because it’s easy to get intoxicated fast during wine tastings. Especially, if you’re winery hopping, this is a very important tip to remember so you can enjoy the wines and moments at each location. Be sure you’re having food in between tastings and staying hydrated throughout your adventures. Some people are at wineries to taste and learn about wine, while others are there to get drunk. Either way, this tip applies to both types of people. Know your limit, play within it!
Thanks for reading my tips! I hope you find these useful for your wine adventures this summer.