Jun 10, 2019

Scenic Sip: Ultimate Guide to Lake Country Wineries from Your Kelowna Hotel

Ex Nihilo winery (photo courtesy of Kelowna Tourism)

Ex Nihilo winery (photo courtesy of Kelowna Tourism)

Wine wonders never cease to amaze in the Okanagan, and this is especially true when you visit the region of Lake Country. Let’s call this area pristinely non-ostentatious. It has all the charm, without any “over-the-top” extravagance. The same could be said about the area’s wines and wineries. With winding roads that lead you past mom and pop orchards and extensive vineyards, you can enjoy the labours of world-class winemakers, accompanied by some delectable food, in natural and awe-striking surroundings.

Guide Quick Links:

Lake Country Wine History

Lake Country Wineries

Okanagan Wine Apps

Wine Tour Packages

A Landscape Like No Other

Located in between the cities of Vernon and Kelowna, and just minutes away from the Comfort Suites Kelowna hotel and Kelowna International Airport, Lake Country is a municipal district that includes the communities of Oyama, Carrs Landing, Winfield and Okanagan Centre.

One of the Okanagan’s burgeoning wine regions, Lake Country has a diverse topography — a mixture of residential and agricultural along with forests, rolling hills, rocky cliff-sides, and glittering lakes.

With a long history in fruit production, Lake Country’s many sun-kissed orchards and vineyards cover the vales and hills around the region, with many of them featuring a backdrop of Okanagan Lake.  

Other major water bodies in the region include Kalamalka Lake, known as the lake of many colours, and the adjoining Wood Lake, which is popular for boating, fishing and water sports.

History of Winemaking in Lake Country

It’s hard to believe, but Lake Country was once home to only one winery. Established back in 1976, Gray Monk Winery still stands to this day as a testament to its founders Trudy and George Heiss.

Gray Monk Winery

Gray Monk Winery from Google Street View

Naming their winery after the English translation of the Austrian name for Pinot Gris, the Heiss’ introduced the first Pinot Gris vines to the Okanagan, which they sourced from the Alsace region of France. That move would not only mark the start of the wine growing movement in Lake Country, but throughout the Okanagan.

Today, Lake Country is home to eight wineries and that list continues to grow.

Wines available in Lake Country

Lake Country experiences more than 2,000 hours of sunshine per year, with temperatures reaching in the mid-to-high 20°C in summer. The area also has the perfect soil conditions for growing grapes —a mixture of sandy silt, or loam, with some clay, limestone and granite thrown in for good measure.

According to the 2017 Annual Crop Report prepared by the BC Wine Grape Council, the 10 most grown wines in Lake Country include:

1. Pinot Gris 6. Chardonnay
2. Riesling
7. Bacchus
3. Pinot Noir 8. Kerner
4. Pinot Auxerrois 9. Rotberger
5. Gewürztraminer 10. Pinot Blanc

Okanagan wine varieties

Lake Country Wineries

Gray Monk Estate

Purchased by Peller Estates in Sept. 2017, Gray Monk is one of the first family estate wineries to establish itself in the Okanagan and is Lake Country’s original winery. Its primary winemaker, George Heiss Jr., is the son of Gray Monk’s original owners, Trudy and George Heiss. Gray Monk continues to produce world-class wines, including its ever-popular Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Gewürztraminer varietals. The winery also produces the affordable and tasty Latitude 50 series of blended wines.

Set on a levelled estate that is fashioned after a small German chateau, visitors can taste all of Gray Monk’s wines in its spacious tasting room then walk down to the winery’s renowned Grapevine Restaurant, open April to October, which offers spectacular views of the vineyard and Okanagan Lake from its covered patio.

Arrowleaf Cellars

Located just up the road from Gray Monk, Arrowleaf Cellars has grown immensely since it first started growing vines here in 1996. Established by Swiss–born family, the Zuppigers, the winery is named after the yellow-flowered arrowleaf balsamroot that grows prolifically on hillsides in the area. True to its name, Arrowleaf produces most of its crisp and aromatic wines from grapes grown just outside its doors.

Make sure to visit the winery’s modern and open tasting room that also features a kitchen and bakery (open June to October), where you can pair your wine with homemade pastries or with crusty bread accompanied by cheese and charcuterie.

Ex Nihilo

Known for its artistic sensibility, Ex Nihilo, meaning “out of nothing,” first hit the scene in 2008 when it partnered with rock band The Rolling Stones to produce its Sympathy for the Devil icewine. Since then, the Mediterranean-style winery, owned by Decoa and Jeff Harder, has become a popular spot for those wanting to look at locally made fine art (the tasting room features a number of galleries amongst the wine barrels) while sipping Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and other selections.

Enjoy happy hour Thursday to Saturday, Sunday brunch, a three-course prix fix menu, and food and wine pairings at the winery’s courtyard Chaos Bistro.

Blind Tiger Vineyards

Situated on a farm overlooking Wood Lake, in between the communities of Winfield and Okanagan Centre, this small organic winery owes its name to the prohibition era, when a speakeasy was also known as a blind tiger.

Indeed you can get a feeling for the winery’s prohibition roots in its small tasting room that features vintage-style merchandise and Speakeasy Red, Hush Up Blush as well as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and other organic wines. Why not grab a bottle and enjoy Marno's authentic wood-fired pizza made onsite?

Enjoy a refreshing sip with views of Wood Lake. Photo courtesy of Blind Tiger Winery.

Enjoy a refreshing sip with views of Wood Lake. Photo courtesy of Blind Tiger Winery.

50th Parallel Estate Winery

Located in Carrs Landing, which sits in the northern part of Lake Country on a hillside overlooking Okanagan Lake, 50th Parallel stands out not only for its brand-new glass and steel encased tasting room, production facility and its buzzed about regional-seasonal Block One Restaurant, with cantilever covered outdoor sitting area, it also has some of the friendliest service around.

Expect a welcoming glass of crisp Riesling, Gewürztraminer or the perfect summer sip, Pinot Noir Rosé. End your visit by sampling the Unparalleled Pinot Noir.

Intrigue Wines

Opened in 2009, Intrigue is a boutique winery located right across the road from The Chase Wines off Okanagan Centre Road East.

Intrigue is known for producing award-winning vintages, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Social White and Red blends and also its I Do sparking wine.

The Chase Wines

Owned by construction maven Denis O’Rourke, O'Rourke Peak Cellar is actually evolving into two wineries, with plans in the works for a brand, new underground facility that is being built into a granite hillside at Carrs Landing and Commonage Roads.

In the meantime, patrons can enjoy O'Rourke Peak Cellar, the newest winery off Okanagan Centre Road East. The brand, new 4,000 sq. ft. production facility features a tasting room, restaurant and event space.  Savour a sip and meal in O'Rourke Peak Cellar's Garden Bistro located right beside the vineyard with panoramic views of the surrounding orchards, Okanagan Lake, and mountains.

Ancient Hill Estate Winery 

Part of Lake Country’s Scenic Sip, Ancient Hill is located just 11 kilometres northeast of the Comfort Suites’ accommodations in Kelowna’s Ellison area behind the YLW International Airport.

Easily accessible by bike on the new Okanagan Rail Trail, the European-style boutique winery grows all its own grapes at its on-site vineyard and specializes in aromatic wines, which can be sampled it its tasting room with old world charm. Guests are welcome to pack their own lunch to enjoy on the winery’s patio, which captures incredible views of the surrounding valley.

Get Downloaded for Wine Time

Looking to embark on a self-guided Scenic Sip tour from our hotel in Kelowna or want to know when and where any Okanagan Wine Festival events are taking place? Get some help by downloading one or all of these helpful wine apps, either from the Apps Store or Google Play, which will help you navigate Okanagan wineries with ease.

They include:

Lake Country Wine Tour Packages

Hop on board an air-conditioned vehicle with a professional wine guide to navigate your way to the best Lake Country wineries. 
The Comfort Suites Kelowna offers customized Okanagan wine tours through its three partner wine tour operators.
They include:
Okanagan wine tours

Our wine tour packages can be custom built for your Lake Country exploration. The package includes:

  • Your tour, including tasting fees, water, snack, and informative commentary
  • Accommodation in our spacious and well-appointed Junior Suite
  • Complimentary hot breakfast buffet
  • Access to our indoor pool, waterslide, hot tub and 24-hour fitness centre
Comfort Suites Kelowna Hotel

To learn more about wine tours in partnership with our Kelowna accommodations, please contact us at 250-861-1110 or email gm@comfortsuiteskelowna.com