Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country’s 4,000 acres of vineyards in South Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, represents more than half of the wine produced in Canada. Within that space is Nk’Mip Cellars, North America’s first Indigenous-owned and operated winery, led by Osoyoos nation member and winemaker Justin Hall. The diverse mix of nationalities in the area helped shape the region through their winemaking heritage and agricultural knowledge.
Some, like Kismet Estate Winery, even have on-site restaurants where their British Columbia wines are paired with traditional Native Canadian cuisine. At Phantom Creek, Napa veteran Mark Beringer puts his touch on the region’s winemaking. Beyond his knowledgeable approach to this fledgling area, Phantom Creek features a hidden wine cave where guests can dine in luxury underneath a custom-designed Chihuly sculpture crafted to represent the evolution of the winery.
Jennifer Busmann, executive director of Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country, told Travel + Leisure what makes Oliver Osoyoos an undiscovered gem among other Canadian wine regions is “the diversity in terroir and all the microclimates. In one tiny region we can grow beautiful pinot noir, then a mile down the road we’re growing some of the world’s best syrah, across the valley, we have three wineries growing cabernet franc that compete on a world stage.”
And now you can collect stamps on a digital passport to track which of the 50 wineries and tasting rooms you’ve visited, unlocking exclusive experiences, discounts, and prizes. Here’s how to plan a trip to the underrated Canadian wine region.
Best Hotels and Resorts
Watermark Beach Resort
Steps from Osoyoos Lake, Watermark Beach Resort features condo-style suites with expansive patios and views of the beach and mountains. Adding to the charm are two swimming pools, outdoor hot tubs, an on-site spa and yoga/pilates studio, and a marina nestled against the shores of Canada’s warmest lake. The central location offers easy access to the award-winning wineries, as well as a walkable downtown with coffee shops and small boutiques.
Spirit Ridge Lake Resort
Spirit Ridge Lake Resort at Nk’Mip winery sits amid Canada’s only desert (sacred to the Osoyoos nation) with gently sloping vineyards, Osoyoos Lake, and Anarchist Mountain wrapping around. Each of the 226 adobe-style suites features spacious kitchens and cozy fireplaces, and some are even pet-friendly. Check in at Solterra Desert Spa for a sacred mud wrap or test your game at the on-site Sonora Dunes Golf Course. The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre’s exhibits teach about the history of the nation, as well as the land and traditions through multi-sensory theater experiences. A campground, RV park, and cabins located right on the lake below the winery are also available to rent.
Hester Creek Villas
The six Hester Creek Villas overlook rows of wine grapes, orchards, and a panoramic view of the South Okanagan Valley. The Mediterranean-style suites come equipped with two electric vehicle charging stations, a homemade breakfast, and stunning sunrises over the vineyard. “The on-site restaurant Terrafina has a fantastic menu,” Busmann said. “You can also take cooking classes, and make charcuterie and cheese boards to enjoy out on the patio, listening to live music while your kids run around the grass. Hester Creek really makes every day a special occasion.”
Burrowing Owl Guest House
Busmann also recommends the Burrowing Owl Guest House with its 10 spacious rooms. Each space has a cozy fireplace, a private deck overlooking the 140-acre environmentally sustainable vineyard, and a daily wine country breakfast. Get in some laps at the 82-foot outdoor pool or soak after a long day of biking around the vineyards in the all-season hot tub.
Best Things to Do
The Festival of the Grape
Canada’s only grape stomp happens annually in September in Oliver Community Park. Food trucks, an artisan market, art show, and live entertainment sit alongside 50 wineries from across the region to celebrate The Festival of the Grape. Busmann added, “It’s family-friendly, and it reminds people that wine doesn’t have to be pretentious. We have fun, make memories, and break bread together while highlighting all the great winemakers of our region.” The feature of the event is the stomp where teams compete to crush the most grapes, just like in the scene from I Love Lucy.
Half Corked Marathon
In late May, the roads fill with wine-fueled runners competing in Canada’s buzziest race, the iconic Half Corked Marathon. The 13.1-mile course winds through the vineyards, valleys, and along the Okanagan River with winery stations on the route to keep the cheer flowing. T+L even covered the event, reporting, “The event’s laidback wine tasting vibe speaks to the approachable and unpretentious nature of wine touring in the valley — you can still pop in to many of the valley’s wineries without a reservation, and tasting fees rarely top $10 CAD per person.”
The Pig Out Festival
Wine and barbecue? Yes, please. The annual Pig Out Festival is another family-friendly event that showcases local ingredients, wines of the region, and casual outdoor fun every May. Busmann elaborated, “All of the dishes are pork-focused and we always incorporate a theme like ‘May the Pork Be With You’ where everything was inspired by Star Wars. It’s outdoors, there is world-class food from top chefs around Canada, there’s award-winning wine, and you’re in this juxtaposition of being in a beautiful vineyard while eating with your hands.”
Catch a performance at Venables Theatre — the modern community theater featuring a wide range of performing arts events from dance and music to shows and children’s events. Visitors can enjoy “Venables Alive!,” a local artist series featuring musicians, actors, dancers, comedians, and spoken word poets between November and March.
International Hike & Bike Trail
Whether you are cycling on a traditional bike, e-biking, or just looking for a beautiful walking path, the International Hike & Bike Trail features some gorgeous views. The 12.5-mile trail begins at Osoyoos Lake’s north end and follows the Okanagan River Channel through farms and vineyards. It’s well-maintained, relatively flat, and is accessed at the wooden bridge on Road 22.
Kismet Winery’s Masala Bistro is unlike anything else you will find in Oliver. The modern restaurant sits amid a picturesque vineyard with mountain views. The classic Indian menu features favorites like butter chicken, lamb vindaloo, whole fish cooked tandoori-style, and so much more. Each dish has a suggested wine pairing and the knowledgeable staff can guide you with bottle selections. Busmann loves this place and added, “They do some North Indian dishes, which we don’t see a ton of here, and it’s all outstanding.”
TacoRiendo Mexican Cantina
Originally from Mazatlán, Mexico, Jany Lopez moved to the area in 2002. She and her husband opened TacoRienda in 2021 and it has been bursting at the seams with customers ever since. The menu features comforting classics like tortas, tostadas, and tacos, and the portions are ample. Busmann brings people from all over the world to eat at this humble eatery. “I love it. I love to eat and eat and eat and eat. They make a really mean burrito, and I’m a sucker for their enchiladas,” she said.
The Restaurant at Phantom Creek
For an ultra-luxe experience head to the Restaurant at Phantom Creek Estates. The winery produces delicious bottles of single-vineyard Bordeaux reds, Alsatian whites, and varieties of viognier and syrah from certified organic vineyards. The glass-encased restaurant offers sweeping vineyard, desert, and lake views while dining on Indigenous-inspired dishes. For something really special, book the Founder’s Cellar Experience in the hidden wine cave where guests dine underneath a custom-designed Chihuly sculpture crafted to represent the evolution of the winery.
The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
At Burrowing Owl Estate Winery you feel the care locals have for conservation — each aspect is dedicated to preserving and growing the local population of burrowing owls. The Sonora Room overlooks the 140-acre vineyard and features a seasonal menu filled with organic produce, artisan bread and cheeses, and thoughtfully prepared meats and seafood that highlight local farmers. The wine list rotates to include a selection of Burrowing Owl library wines no longer publicly available for sale alongside other Okanagan wines.
Best Time to Visit
Fall is bountiful in Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country. The sunny skies and mild temperatures make the perfect atmosphere for biking around the vineyards, getting out on the lake for some stand-up paddleboarding, and meandering through the vines of the approximately 50 vineyards.
And September is harvest season. “There’s melons, peaches, and apples. Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are coming alive,” Busmann said. “Then of course there’s wine harvest. On any day, you can go to a winery and get an impromptu interactive experience on the crush pad. Sometimes they’re sorting grapes, or pressing them — there is always something going on in September Including the annual Festival of the Grape.”
Don’t discount winter in Oliver Osoyoos though — many wineries put on special events from lighting up the vines, to mulled wine pop-ups, to fondue parties amid the backdrop of snow-capped vineyards. And the Half Corked Marathon in May brings all the Spring revelry.
How to Get There
The Kelowna International Airport (one hour) and regional Penticton Airport (30 minutes) are the closest options to Oliver Osoyoos Wine Region. From there, most visitors rent a car and drive the picturesque route to Oliver, British Columbia. It’s also easily reached by car from major cities like Vancouver, and other parts of Canada. Because the vineyards are large and spread out, it’s best to have a car for getting around, though e-bikes are also available at most resorts and hotels. Oliver’s downtown is very walkable and has a number of coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants.
If renting a car is not an option for you, there is a bus service that runs between Kelowna and Oliver. Mountain Man Mike’s can be booked for $40-$55 and the journey takes roughly 2.5 hours. If you fly into Penticton, Mountain Man Mike’s runs routes to Oliver or you can grab a taxi ($65-$80 and 35-minute ride), or hop on the Line 40 bus ($2 fare and 40-minute ride).
Since 1959, Covert Farms Family Estate has been setting the pace for organic, regenerative agriculture. Gene and Shelly Covert operate the fourth-generation, 650-acre organic farm, vineyard, and winery. “Wine starts on the farm, and Gene and Shelly have done a variety of things over my lifetime of living here that leads the pack as far as sustainable practices,” Busmann said. Educational and immersive experiences including tours around the property in the red 1952 truck restored by Gene’s mom, tastings of their award-winning wines, and fields of u-pick fruit and vegetables make Covert a must-stop.
This family-owned, decade-old winery has a secret weapon: Catherine Coulombe, the winemaker at vinAmité, is also a trained chef who puts together perfectly paired bites and charcuterie offerings in the wine lounge. Busmann added, “The wines that they’re doing are amazing. Their pinot gris stands out in a very large group of producers here, and their pinot noir which has faded from the region is delicious. The unique wines, locations, and overall experience is just heartwarming,”
North America’s first Indigenous-owned and operated winery, led by Osoyoos nation member and winemaker Justin Hall, Nk’Mip Cellars presents the story of this place better than any other winery. Pioneers of riesling ice wine in the region, Nk’Mip has gone on to cultivate a portfolio of award-winning wines that reflect their dedication to preserving the land. “They kept their roots while growing, developing, and moving forward in the industry over the last 20 years,” Busmann said. “It’s a story that we don’t really see anywhere else in the world.”
Rust Wine Co.
Busmann calls them “New Kids on the Block,” even though the vineyard and the facility have been around since 1973. Like Oliver Osoyoos, Busmann said, “This one hasn’t quite been discovered yet, but they are getting lots of attention as their wines come online. Their zinfandel is especially impressive.” Rust Wine Co. features an outdoor patio, garden, and tasting room. Guests have the opportunity to submit photos that may become labels on bottles — artistic rust shots from all over British Columbia and beyond are poured over to find the shots that match specific varietals, and then the photographer’s name, subject, and location are printed on the back of the label.
Road 13 Vineyards
Rolling up to the Bavarian castle, you know you’re in for something different, and Road 13 Vineyards delivers. Plus, you can bring your pup along for the experience to chill in their “Barking Lot” equipped with biscuits and cold water. Rows of wine grapes fan out below the vineyard patio where you can enjoy a variety of targeted tastings paired with their signature harvest boards.
How to Get Around
There’s no getting around it, you need to rent a car to get the full experience here. Kelowna International Airport has all the major car rental companies like Enterprise, Avis, Budget, and more. Penticton has Budget and National car rental kiosks. Once in Oliver, there are a number of e-bike rental shops, as well as e-bike wine safari tours. Busmann agreed a rental car is a must, “We don’t have the infrastructure for public transportation, but if you’re coming in the Spring, Summer, or Fall, you can enjoy the outdoors using e-bikes for short day trips. It’s physically beautiful riding or driving around the region.”
Don’t forget to download the Wine Country Digital Passport to help plan your winery tours and experiences. Another helpful tool for navigating the region is the Wines of BC Explorer App, which provides information on grapes grown, maps, wine pairings for dinner, and more.