Fun fact: October is actually BC Wine Harvest month — aka, the perfect excuse to check out one (or more!) of BC's nine wine regions.
Yup, that's right. With more than 280 wineries spread across the landscape, Canada's most beautiful province is also one of the country's most premium wine producers.
Since there's something unique about every part of BC, it's totally understandable if you need a little help learning about each distinct region and narrowing down your options. That's why this handy guide covers what makes each region unique, complete with places to eat and stay, fun things to do, and — of course — some of the top BC wineries to visit!
1. Enjoy Some Hot Sun, Fresh Fruit & World-Class Wine In The Okanagan Valley
Why You Need To Go: When you think of BC wine, there's a very good chance you're thinking of wine from the Okanagan Valley. As the province's largest wine region, it's home to 84% of BC’s vineyard acreage and is often ranked high at international competitions alongside the world’s finest. This region spans over 250 kilometres with four subregions (called sub-Geographical Indications), and each offers its own unique soil and climate conditions perfect for growing a number of sought-after varieties.
The Okanagan Valley is a major tourist destination so you won't find a shortage of accommodation options, but the Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort and the Summerland Waterfront Resort Hotel are two great options, alongside winery accommodations in both Naramata Bench and Oliver. Check out the villas at Hester Creek Winery as one example. Many of the region's wineries also have their own highly reviewed restaurants, such as Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek or Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill in West Kelowna. For a winery break, give Salt & Brick in Downtown Kelowna a try.
With more than 180 wineries in the Okanagan Valley, each with something different to offer, you won't have time or energy for them all! Painted Rock Estate Winery in Penticton features a bright, modern tasting room with breathtaking views of Skaha Lake. You also don't want to miss CedarCreek Estate Winery in South Kelowna, with its large wine portfolio, lake views and new tasting room and restaurant. Or, for a quiet, more personal experience, visit a boutique winery like Laughing Stock Vineyards located in the Naramata Bench wine region. If you're into all things organic, check out beautiful Kalala Organic Estate Winery in West Kelowna.
2. Get The Best Of Both Worlds In The Fraser Valley, Where City Meets Country
Why You Need To Go: The Fraser Valley region is super convenient for a quick wine tasting day trip because of its proximity to so many cities in the Lower Mainland; the region comprises Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, New Westminster, Delta, Langley, Aldergrove and Abbotsford. Winemakers there are proud to offer a diverse selection of styles and varieties, such as sparking, table, fruit and fortified wines. A unique feature of the area is its experiences like bistro dining and farm tours. Grapevines are planted on a whopping 200 acres of the Fraser Valley, due to its favourable conditions: low risk of winter damage and frost.
If you're looking for a place to spend the night, the Rockwell Harrison Guest Lodge in Harrison Hot Springs is an interesting option (don't miss the hot springs while you're there!), or for something more urban, try the Moda Hotel in downtown Vancouver. There are plenty of amazing restaurants in this region, two of which are El Santo in New Westminster and Vancouver's Bao Bei. There is never a shortage of things to do in the Fraser Valley region, just be sure to make enough time! From outdoor activities like hiking, paddling and biking to museums, shopping or exploring neighbourhoods and cafes, there is something for everyone.
With so many Fraser Valley wineries to choose from, you might not know where to begin. Some good ideas are the Township 7 Vineyards & Winery in Langley, Blackwood Lane Vineyards & Winery in Aldergrove, Whispering Horse Winery in Chilliwack, and Pacific Breeze Winery, a cute "garagiste" located in Richmond.
3. Go Organic In The Similkameen Valley Mountains
Why You Need To Go: Located west of Osoyoos, the Similkameen Valley is truly special with its small farms and rows of vineyards positioned perfectly along dramatic and rugged mountains. Most of its vineyards are near Cawston and Keremeos. As a matter of fact, this region is known as Canada's organic capital: dryness, a river and wind help 1) vineyards stay free from disease and pests, 2) moisture decrease in vines and soil to minimize mildew, and 3) irrigation evaporate before it touches the ground. So, if an organic diet is important to you, this may be your ideal wine region.
If you're looking for a place to stay in the area, you can kill two birds with one stone with both the suites and wineries at Orofino Winery or Corcelettes Estate Winery. When you're feeling peckish, Row Fourteen Restaurant in Cawston and the Grist Mill and Garden in Keremeos will leave you satisfied (and while you're there, check out the rest of this unique heritage site). When you've had your fill of wine and food, take a stroll next to the Similkameen River, a backcountry horseback ride or hike, or visit the farmers' markets and fruit stands in Cawston and Keremeos.
Along with the wineries mentioned above, Clos du Soleil Vineyards, EauVivre Winery, Hugging Tree Winery, Liber Farm & Winery, Little Farm Winery, and Seven Stones Winery are others in the area you're sure to enjoy. Find more on the Wines of BC Explorer app.
4. Sip Wine & Explore The Coast On Vancouver Island Time
Why You Need To Go: Vancouver Island's lush valleys, densely forested mountains and amazing ocean views make it a must-see region! While it may not come to mind for wineries, the island truly is an ideal place for winemaking with its minimal frost risk and lengthy growing season. Most of Vancouver Island's vineyards are located in the Cowichan Valley, but you'll also find some near Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula and Nanaimo.
There are plenty of accommodation options in the area, such as Oceanfront Suites at Cowichan Bay or the Best Western PLUS Chemainus Inn. You're sure to work up an appetite from all the wine tasting so don't miss Genoa Bay Cafe, right on the water in Duncan. While you're visiting, explore the area's shops and markets or learn about its Indigenous culture at Cowichan Knitters or the Duncan Totems. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the hiking and biking trails of Mount Tzouhalem, Maple Mountain, Mount Prevost and Cobble Hill Mountain.
A number of fantastic wineries can be found on Vancouver Island, but don't miss out on Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Unsworth Vineyards, Rocky Creek Winery, and Church & State that offer modern facilities and stunning views.
5. Experience A Myriad Of Water & Wine, All Over The Kootenays
Why You Need To Go: Southeastern BC's Kootenay region is known for water, with its stunning rivers, waterfalls, beaches, mineral hot springs and lakes — including the province's fifth largest, Kootenay Lake. This lake has affected the region's vineyards since grapes began growing in 1995. If you're a fan of Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris or Maréchal Foch, this is your region, as these are the most commonly planted grape varietals here.
For a unique experience, check out Nelson's historic Hume Hotel & Spa or Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort. Even if you don't stay there, be sure to check out the hot pools at this Ainsworth resort, about 40 minutes from Nelson. Some great restaurants in this wine region include Mexican food (including brunch!) at Nelson's Cantina Del Centro and family-run Black Salt Cafe in Crawford Bay. The Kootenays has its very own coffee culture, so don't miss the many cafes in and around Nelson and Kaslo. And, for you outdoor enthusiasts, there are some great hiking trails in the area, such as Pulpit Rock in Nelson and Gibson Lake Trail in Kokanee Glacier Park.
With a number of wineries in this region, you may have a hard time choosing! Let the Wines of BC Explorer app help you out. Creston's Baillie Grohman Estate Winery features small-batch wines and a lovely patio with vineyard mountain views, while Columbia Gardens Vineyard & Winery offers cottage accommodations with wines to match.
6. Dramatic Mountains, Waterfalls & Scenery Welcome You To The Thompson Valley
Why You Need To Go: The Thompson Valley region is situated amid the North and South Thompson Rivers in and around Kamloops. There is great opportunity for creative winemaking here, with semi-arid conditions, diverse microclimates and high mountain shadows. The region's most planted grapes are Riesling, Marquette, Maréchal Foch and Chardonnay, so if you're a fan, this is the place for you.
For a quaint riverfront, boutique stay, try the South Thompson Inn and Conference Centre or book a cozy cabin in Wells Gray — perfect for some relaxation after hiking and waterfall viewing. And while you're in the Thompson region, don't miss the biking and hiking trails at beautiful Sun Peaks Resort. Looking for something delicious after your tastings? ROMEOs Kitchen, Brownstone and Cordo have great options for everyone.
Harper's Trail Winery is just outside Kamloops among dramatic hoodoo formations, rolling sage hills, and the South Thompson River. Don't miss Kamloops’ largest winery, Monte Creek Ranch, which was voted Kamloops’ Best Winery and Wedding Venue in 2020 and features award-winning wines and unique architecture. Finally, Privato Vineyard & Winery is another stop to explore and offers a Christmas Tree farm on-site along with some welcoming wine pets that you won’t soon forget. Check the Wines of BC Explorer app for more.
7. Desert Ranches Within Reach Of The City Await You In Lillooet
Why You Need To Go: You'll find Lillooet, one of BC's oldest towns, about four hours northeast of Vancouver. This wine region experiences long, hot, and dry summers but with cooler nights, which helps preserve crisp acidity in wines. If you enjoy Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, the region's most planted grapes, Lillooet may just be your calling!
If you need a place to stay while in the area, try Lillooet Sturgeon Lodge B&B or Reynolds Hotel. Though there aren't a lot of restaurants in the area, you'll find a variety of eats at the Lillooet Inn Restaurant, or The Kitchen at Fort Berens Estate Winery (which is recommended, too, as it's #7 winery of the year for 2019/2020!). While in Lillooet, don't miss the historic Lillooet Miyazaki House and the South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park.
8. Relax On A Shuswap Houseboat With Some Vino
Why You Need To Go: One of North America's most northern grape-growing regions, the Shuswap region has been producing wines since 1997, mostly those that do well in cool climates. Majestic Shuswap Lake dominates the region, on which many people enjoy houseboating. (In fact, Sicamous is known as the houseboat capital of Canada).
For a gorgeous lakefront stay, look into Carmel Beach Private Lodges, or you might enjoy the private beach and golf course at Quaaout Lodge and Spa in Chase. If you've worked up an appetite from wine tastings, Bayside Marina & Grill in Blind Bay and the Shuswap Pie Company in Salmon Arm are great choices. Boating is a huge pastime for people in this region. Tsútswecw Provincial Park, about 40 minutes northwest of Salmon Arm, protects artifacts and is home to the Adams River Sockeye Salmon Run, one of the largest in North America.
Baccata Ridge Winery in Enderby specializes in premium cool climate grape and blueberry wines, and Celista Estate Winery boasts over 88 medals over 10 years from national and international competitions. If you're looking for other wineries, including Recline Ridge, Larch Hills and Sunnybrae Vineyards & Winery, the Wines of BC Explorer app can guide you.
9. Savour The Moment & Unwind On The Easygoing Gulf Islands
Why You Need To Go: The Gulf Islands are not to be missed, with their rolling hills, luscious orchards, ocean vistas and, yes, scenic vineyards. You'll want to visit the area for some quiet rest and relaxation, and recreation to enjoy the amazing surroundings. These islands are tucked into the Georgia Strait and are connected by small ferries and floatplanes. The Gulf Islands are home to 12 local wineries. You'll find vineyards throughout Salt Spring, Pender, Saturna, Quadra and Bowen Islands.
There are many B&Bs on the Gulf Islands, such as Saturna's East Point Resort Ocean Cottages or the Wetherly Inn on Salt Spring. When you've had your fill of wine and need some grub, grab some pizza at Woods on Pender. The Saturday market in the Ganges on Salt Spring Island is a must-do, and you can't go wrong with the fantastic kayaking, artisan galleries and farm-to-table food on these islands. You have a number of options on the Gulf Islands, as you'll find on the Wines of BC Explorer app, which also features accommodations, routes, lists, restaurants, pet-friendly, family-friendly and elevated tasting experiences. Salt Spring's Garry Oaks is big on sustainability, and Sea Star on Pender Island has vineyard and ocean views you won't want to miss.
BC is incredibly lucky to have nine wine regions and countless more wineries within them.
Before you plan your trip, be sure to enter the Wines of British Columbia’s Harvest Sips and Trips Contest, in honour of harvest time in BC. You can win one of nine three-day, two-night BC wine getaways for two to explore a beautiful BC wine region!
Each package features locally crafted BC wine, dairy, seafood, hotels and dining experiences — a true local adventure. The contest runs from October 1-31. Enter on the official contest website, and grab some additional entries through the Wines of BC Explorer App.