My sister and I drove the four hours along the Crowsnest Highway on Friday night to attend this weekend’s O! Osoyoos Celebrates, an inaugural food and wine festival in the South Okanagan. On Saturday, we joined up with a small group of media to experience a winery tour, visiting vineyards in Osoyoos and neighbouring Oliver, where 55% of BC’s grapes are grown.
Greg Byron from Great Horned Owl Eco-Tours picked us up in his van and was our guide for the day. As we rolled by roadside orchards and fruit stands, he told us a variety of information about the region — from the importance of desert species like the Antelope Brush to the history of the highway. At each stop we hopped out to do tastings and upon our return, boxes of purchases in hand, Greg organized them for us in the back of the van.
The views are incredible as you pull off the highway heading east toward Grand Forks and turn into Moon Curser’s lot. Formerly known as Twisted Tree, they’ve done well with rebranding and sticking with the moon curser theme with wines like “Afraid of the Dark” and “Dead of Night”. A tasting flight is $5 but that is waived upon wine purchase. Highlights were the Tempranillo, their soft Malbec, and their peachy Viognier.
Stoneboat stood out on the first night of O! Osoyoos Celebrates during the red carpet event that paired local restaurants with wineries. Their wines are smooth and crisp, with grapes grown in the rocky and calcium-rich soil of their estate along the lower black sage bench. Highlights were the Faux Pas Rose (I love a rose that it’s too sweet) and the Pinot Gris (another one of my favourite varietals).
Tinhorn Creek is known for its Merlot, which is a must-try, however there’s much more to explore during your visit than the wine tasting counter (even though that is the main attraction). Our highlight was eating out picnic lunch (packed by Dolci Deli in Osoyoos. Patio umbrellas provided shade from the hot afternoon sun as we sat between the main building and the demonstration vineyard. Walk between Gewurztraminer vines and Pinot Noir grapes, getting to know the fruit that goes into your glass. Bring your glass down from the tasting room, purchase cheese and crackers, and have your own picnic in the vineyard like we did.
Road 13 Vineyards
Location: 316 Avenue, Oliver
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Another slope-side view of the valley, another selection of fabulous wines. The castle-like tasting room building is filled with barrels full of wine and wine accessories. Highlights for the group was another sampling of wines like the Stemwinder and the dark and rich Rockpile blend.
After driving us around all day, Greg was also a designated shuttle driver for the O! Osoyoos Celebrates lobster event down at Gyro Beach on Saturday night. He provided rides until 1:00am making sure that the community (and our group) got home safely.
If you’re doing wine tours (to some of the over two dozen wineries in the South Okanagan) you can also catch a shuttle from various stops around town for a one-day flat rate. Many of these wines are available in Vancouver stores (like Liberty Wine Merchants, Legacy Liquor Stores, Everything Wine) but there’s nothing like being in the vineyard for a tasting. Visit Destination Osoyoos to learn more about South Okanagan wine country and to plan your next trip.