Getting a Wine Education in Canada’s Okanagan Valley

While California earned its reputation for producing some of the world’s best wines back in the seventies, it isn’t the only area in North America that has gained world-wide recognition for excellence in wine cultivation. Canada’s Okanagan Valley has rightfully earned its spot on the map as a destination for wine-lovers around the world. Even those unsure about the craft of making wine can enjoy themselves in this beautiful locale in the interior of British Columbia – it’s a lovely place to start your wine education. Here are our tips on making the most of your trip to the stunning Okanagan Valley:

Put aside any feelings of inadequacy when visiting wineries in this region. Some wineries are indeed majestic, housed in lovely, grandiose buildings with impressive facilities. But other wineries are just a garage. Both are worth visiting! The beauty of the building does not determine the taste of the wine. Even your wardrobe does not have to be formal – many people travel to the area to do a bike tour of the wineries, and therefore are wearing clothing more appropriate to a high level of physical exercise.

Limit yourself to one part of the Okanagan Valley per trip. Select Kelowna, Penticton or Oliver as a base, and remain in that area for two or three days. Kelowna offers the amenities of a small city. Penticton has a lovely resort atmosphere, and Oliver is very rural and pastoral. All are worth a visit, but it may be difficult to fit all three cities in one trip.

Ask questions. Determine what kind of grapes they grow in their vineyard, and why they chose those particular grapes. Find out what ‘wooded’ means. Ask what makes a wine heavy versus light. All winemakers want you to get to know their product, and most of them are delighted to share their passion. The staff at each winery will do their best to explain their craft.

Budget to bring some bottles home. Ask for an empty carton at the first winery you visit, and gradually fill it up with bottles, buying a personal favourite from each place you visit. Long after your trip is completed, you will have fun rediscovering each bottle and remembering the story of your visit to the winery where that bottle was produced. Hint: If you do not like any particular wine at a winery, look for a collection jar for a cause supported by that winery – most of them have one – drop in a toonie and move on.

If you would like to make the most of your trip and receive some one-on-one tutoring, you may want to visit when the valley is quieter. May, June, September and October are all good months to go. July and August are probably fine too, but expect a larger pupil to teacher ratio!

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