This post by Sheila Hansen was originally published on the Hello BC blog.
It might be snowing and blowing outside, but inside there’s much ado about wine. Fresh off their fall harvests, many of British Columbia’s 275-plus grape wineries turn to cosy comforts, holiday-themed treats, and festival showcases. Here are our top six picks for wine touring with a winter twist.
Soup Saturdays at Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard
Perched on a (usually) sunny slope in the Cowichan Valley, the 45-acre Blue Grouse Estate is no stranger to cold, dark days. Enter this season’s chill-stomping soup and wine offering ($14 CAD/person). Homemade with local seasonal ingredients, each steaming bowl is perfectly paired with a glass in the fireside tasting room. Try the squash-and-apple combo with the 2016 Quill Off-Dry White, or mushroom-beef-barley with 2015 Quill Red. Make a night of it and tuck into the brand-new—and simply adorable—two-bedroom Grouse House with vineyard views.
Light Up the Vines
Pop the cork on the holiday season during this lively and much-loved local event. From Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and Okanagan Crush Pad to Evolve Cellars and Dirty Laundry Vineyard, the 23 members of Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive Association open their decorated doors for tastings, tidbits, and tunes. Take advantage of holiday specials (think: get a jump on gifts) while basking in the festive lights. Tasting fees may apply.
Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival
This milestone event returns with fan favourites like the Progressive Tasting (120-plus BC wines to be had!) and Comforts of Grilled Cheese and Wine (housed in the recently renovated Bento’s Day Lodge, renamed The Annex). But you’ll also want to catch new seminars like Iconic and Collectible Wines of BC with John Schreiner, Exposure Beyond “Auto” (with fine art photographer Bill Fell), and Vin & Fromage—Les Deux Amis (with David Beaudoin, a.k.a. BC’s cheese poet).
Vancouver International Wine Festival
See how BC wines compare to those around the world at this fest celebrating four decades of vino and vittles. Spotlighting the wines of Spain and Portugal, the 2018 shindig showcases some 177 wineries from 15 countries. That’s 1,500-plus wines poured over 51 events! What’s more, with one-third of participants being festival first-timers, the event presents a grand opportunity to expand one’s palate, not to mention cellar.
Discovery tastings at CedarCreek Estate Winery
Sample three wines of your choice over a cheese and charcuterie plate during CedarCreek’s daily Flights & Bites ($25 CAD/person). Step it up with a thrice-daily sommelier-hosted Platinum Experience Tasting in the wine shop’s private tasting room ($30 CAD/person). Or step down, way down, into the cool confines of the barrel-lined cellar for a Seated Food & Wine Paired Tasting (weekends only, $30 CAD/person). Here, savour exclusive portfolio wines, such as the 2016 Platinum Block 3 Riesling or 2015 Syrah, alongside gourmet goodies like caramelized pear honey and goat cheese. Online booking now available.
Activity-based wine tours
Rather start the day off dashing through the snow? Roots & Vines Tour Co.’s Winter Wine Tour combines snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the morning with three to four Westside Wine Trail tastings in the afternoon ($149 CAD/person; lunch at either Quails’ Gate Winery or Volcanic Hills Winery extra). Or hop on Distinctly Kelowna Tours’ ATV and Wine Tour for a mountain-and-lake-view ride, followed by tastings at Kalala Organic Estate Winery and Little Straw Vineyards ($224 CAD/person; lunch at 19 Okanagan Grill + Bar extra). Transportation included on both tours.