The Okanagan Valley is Canada's second-largest wine producing area. Along with the nearby Similkameen Valley, the approximately 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of vineyards planted in the Okanagan account for more than 90% of all wine produced in British Columbia and are second in economic importance for wine production to the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario.
Vineyards can be found all along 135 km (84 mi)-long Okanagan Lake and many of its neighbouring lakes, including Osoyoos Lake, Skaha Lake, and Vaseux Lake. The Okanagan has diverse terrain that features many different microclimates and vineyard soil types, contributing characteristics which are part of an Okanagan terroir.
Wine production in the Okanagan dates to the 1850s, with the establishment of Okanagan Mission and the planting of grapevines to supply sacramental wines. In the early 20th century, prohibition in Canada wiped out many of the Okanagan's earliest wineries and the commercial wine industry in the area was not revived until the 1930s. From this time through the mid-1970s, the Okanagan wine industry was based entirely on the production of fruit wines and those produced from hybrid grapes.
Kelowna is a city on Okanagan Lake in the Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. The name Kelowna derives from an Okanagan language term for "grizzly bear". Urban and rural; nature and culture; playtime and downtime: Kelowna isn’t just one destination. It’s a whole bunch of them, located in one uniquely beautiful place.
Cradled within a glorious range of mountains, is a sanctuary filled with pristine lakes, pine forests, abundant gardens, orchards and vineyards, sandy beaches and superb amenities. Stretching from north to south for approximately 135 km (84 miles) is beautiful Okanagan Lake. The lake sustains several diverse communities along this corridor known as the Okanagan Valley. The city of Kelowna is the largest community and is located midway through the valley. It has a population of 127,500 and is the transportation, business and service hub of the valley.
The service industry employs the most people in Kelowna. In summer, boating, golf, hiking and biking are popular, and in winter skiing is a favourite activity at the nearby Big White and Silver Star ski resorts.
Okanagan College and University of British Columbia are the predominant centres for post-secondary education. Over 5,000 students attend Okanagan College and over 8,500 students attend the University of British Columbia Okanagan.
Exact dates of first settlement are unknown, but a northern migration led to the peopling of this area some 9,000 years ago. The Indigenous Syilx people were the first inhabitants of the region, and they continue to live in the region.
Father Charles Pandosy, a French Roman Catholic Oblate missionary, became the first European to settle in Kelowna in 1859 at a place named "L'anse au sable" (Bay of Sand) in reference to the sandy shoreline. Kelowna was officially incorporated on May 4, 1905.
The first vineyard planted in the Okanagan was at the Oblate Mission in Kelowna in 1859, planted by the same priest, Charles Pandosy, founded in 1932, was the first commercial winery in British Columbia and remains the oldest continuously running winery in the province. Eventually the use of French-American hybrid grapes took hold, led by the Stewarts of Quails' Gate Estate Winery.
Okanagan Lake is a large, deep lake in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. The lake is 135 km (84 mi) long, between 4 and 5 km (2.5 and 3.1 mi) wide, and has a surface area of 348 square km. Okanagan Lake is called a fjord lake as it has been carved out by repeated glaciations.
Many parks and beaches are found along the shores of the lake, which make boating and swimming very popular activities. The lake is home to several species of fish, including rainbow trout and kokanee. It is said by some to be home to its own lake monster – a giant serpent-like creature named Ogopogo.
The Okanagan Valley is a semi-arid climate, boasting long warm summers and short mild winters.
The average daytime temperatures during the growing season months of July and August are hot, often above 30 °C (86 °F) in the Southern valley to higher 20s °C in the Northern valley. Temperatures may surpass 40 °C (104 °F), often exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) for several days in a row. The region's Northerly latitude allows the vines to experience longer hours of daylight than the more Southerly vineyards of California, with the Okanagan summer providing some 14 hours daily of direct sun.
Each year, over 270 British Columbia wineries welcome more than 1,000,000 visitors. There are more than 80 varietals planted in British Columbia, but each has unique preferences. How much heat or sun it can tolerate, what soil it prefers, hardiness in the face of frosts and length of growing season are all factors.
British Columbia’s thriving wine industry attracts talented winemakers from around the world. Each of these trained professionals has brought his or her knowledge, passion and fresh ideas to our wine communities helping to shape an identity and style unique to British Columbia.
Boasting 84% of the province’s vineyard acreage, the Okanagan Valley is British Columbia’s premier grape-growing region. With an ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 250 kilometres, across sub-regions, each with distinct soil and climate conditions suited to growing a range of varietals from sun-ripened reds to lively fresh and often crisp whites.
With quiet family-run boutique vineyards to world-class operations, the Okanagan Valley wineries are rich in tradition and character, consistently ranking among the world’s best at international competitions.
In 2017, British Columbia wineries won more than 2,000 medals in national and international competition. With each new accolade, our wine regions continue to expand their reputation for quality and solidify their place amongst the best in the world.
Averaging over 2,000 hours of sun every year, Kelowna offers one of the longest, driest golf seasons in Canada. Vineyards, orchards, semi-desert terrain, rolling hills, and expansive lakes make the golf courses in the area some of the most picturesque in the country. That’s not all: many golf courses offer amazing dining experiences that range from casual to gourmet.