You’ve heard the old Willie Nelson country music song with the lyrics, “On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on the road again…”
I just can’t get that tune out of my mind. I want to tour Wine Country and do more research.
Consider a summer or autumn jaunt to the Okanagan wine region in British Columbia. It’s possibly the most scenic wine region in North America and a place where RVers and other normal people can afford to taste wine (nudge, nudge Napa).
Wine tasting here is as much about the surroundings as the wine itself. Wedged between the Cascades and the Columbia Mountains, the Okanagan Valley enjoys hot summers and mild winters unique to Canada—it constitutes the country’s only temperate desert region.
The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape-growing region and boasts more than 130 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles across distinct sub-regions each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals.
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The Okanagan Valley is the oldest and most productive of the BC wine regions attracting tourists year-round for its wineries, orchards, golf, mountains, and lakes.
Located in the southern interior the Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The mountains are lined with ponderosa pine which gives way to cacti, tumbleweeds, and fragrant sagebrush.
The region receives a mere 10 to 12 inches of rain annually and is geographically considered a semi-desert—the hottest and driest place in Canada. But the sandy slopes are the foundation of an ever-expanding industry that is producing world-class, award-winning wines.
Come September colorful foliage backed by blue skies make touring the Okanagan a glorious experience. Because of the size of the region and the number of wineries, covering the entire region in a day or two is impossible.
From world-class operations to family-run boutique vineyards, Okanagan wineries are rich with character and consistently ranked among the world’s best at International competitions.
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Some of the most notable wineries are Mission Hill, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Burrowing Owl, Hester Creek, Nk’Mip Cellars, Quails Gate Estate, Hester Creek, and Tinhorn Creek. If you’re pressed for time the Penticton Wine Shop pours just about every wine made in the Okanagan.
It’s a mountain region so obviously there’s plenty of hiking and biking but the area is also home to numerous golf courses including Fairview Mountain near Hester Creek Winery and Nk’Mip Canyon Desert. Or if you want to take a day off from wine tasting and enjoy the agriculture, Covert Farms is a relaxing rustic farm with an in-house restaurant and acres of produce you can pick.
The Okanagan is the warmest part of Canada (relative, I know, especially when compared to Palm Springs or Yuma). That means it’s a winter home for Canadian snowbirds from the really cold parts of the country (think the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) who want milder climes without having to RV to Arizona.
So yes, Canada might not be the first place you think of when considering a wine-tasting vacation. But if you’re more into the quality of your experience than name recognition it’s a tough destination to beat. The wines are good, the food is fresh, the scenery is unbeatable, and it won’t cost you a fortune. It might not be a connoisseur’s first choice as the wines here are good but not internationally known. But for most of us, we’re just there to have fun.
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As wonderful, affordable, and delicious as the Okanagan Valley is, it’s also not exactly right next to a major population base.
Tell you what, though, it’s a great RV trip from Southern California or Arizona. As snowbirds, it’s an annual journey over emerald mountains into rough desert hills, along streams, down windy roads, and through lush valleys. The road sometimes slims to just two lanes and drivers might slow to do crazy stuff like bask in the scenery. But if you’ve got some time during the summer and autumn months when the mountain roads are clear of snow this is absolutely the way to do it.
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Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time. Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event.
―David Hyde Pierce