The Ultimate Okanagan Vineyard Experience

By , On , In Wine Education
Looking towards the lake through grape vine trees during an okanagan vineyard experience

Discover the elements that give Okanagan its wine-savvy reputation

The Okanagan is well known as a desirable tourist destination. It’s lakes, mountains, and orchards draw people in from all over the country. And it’s wines, of course, are in a league of their own. Okanagan wines have attracted wine enthusiasts from all over since the early 1900s. For this, a special thanks can be attributed to its northern latitude, unique climate, and variety of soils. The sheer volume of award-winning wineries located in close proximity to one another also make wine touring a favourite pastime.

Summerland alone has dozens of fantastic vineyards to explore. The area offers beautiful scenery to admire, along with a community that warmly welcomes and appreciates its tourists. Among these vineyards is Heaven’s Gate Winery. Our family-run winery handcrafts wines using grapes grown on right on our property, a former peach orchard, giving the grapes a flavour unique to the land.

heaven's gate winery okanagan vineyard experience closeup of dark purple merlot grapes on the vine
Merlot grapes on the vine at Heaven’s Gate Winery in Summerland, B.C.

There’s No Place Like the Okanagan

The Okanagan has many communities that meander along Okanagan Lake, including Lake Country, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, and Oliver. The valley stretches over 250 kilometres and houses an astounding 86% of the province’s vineyard acreage, with over 200 vineyards to its name.

There are four official wine regions in the area, each with distinct soil and climates: Golden Mile Bench, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, and Skaha Bench. Every region offers something unique to its visitors, including wine tours and romantic dining options. These two upcoming events are worth looking into:

The Ideal Climate for Exceptional Wines

Every aspect of the Okanagan’s climate is conducive to producing beautiful wines. These aspects include the soil, land, climate, and natural surroundings.

There are many benefits to growing grapes in a cooler climate. Being so far north, the Okanagan Valley gets an incredible amount of sunlight. If you’ve ever visited Napa Valley’s vineyards, you know how much sunshine it gets. Here in the Okanagan, we get an extra two hours each day. 

Our dry climate, high altitudes, and a massive shift in temperatures between day and night gives our grapes a natural acidity unique to BC. Plus, the chilly, snowy winters allow the grapes to go through a genuine hibernation period, which improves their longevity. 

Summerland is known for its distinctive terroir, even within the Okanagan Valley. Thanks to nearby volcanic soils, hot summer days, and a constant lake breeze, Summerland offers a variety of unique vintages. With small-batch, boutique wines, connoisseurs are able to experience the area’s microclimate and flavours. Here are a few of our favourites:

  1. 2017 Merlot, Heaven’s Gate Winery
  2. 2017 Free Form Cabernet Franc, Okanagan Crush Pad
  3. 2016 88 Merlot, Summerland Estate Winery
A valley view of Heaven's Gate Winery in Summerland, B.C.
A valley view of Heaven’s Gate Winery in Summerland, B.C.

Discover Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive

You’ll find an array of charming vineyards along Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive. The area is 45 km from Kelowna’s downtown via Highway 97. From there, it’s hard to miss the winding road lined with orchards and award-winning tasting rooms. 

There are many well-known wine regions in the Okanagan, such as Kelowna, Naramata, and Osoyoos, but the lesser known areas have a lot to offer too. The Summerland region boasts numerous smaller boutique wineries, cideries, and distilleries along its many rolling hills. The vineyards follow Okanagan Lake, making it easy to schedule multiple stops in a day. As if the wine itself wasn’t good enough, the small-town warmth will certainly win you over.

The Best Ways to Get Around

You’ll find an amalgamation of wineries right on Bottleneck Drive. You could wing it and see where the road takes you, but it’s nice to plan your day and maximize your stops. There are multiple ways to explore the road of sweeping vineyards. 

A self-guided tour is a great way to see exactly what you want. Follow this map to situate yourself. There are also plenty of guided tours that value the area’s rich history and the distinct quality of the wines. A few things to remember to make your day memorable: each time of year has its advantages—summer is vibrant and spring is calm. Don’t visit too many vineyards in a day, you’ll want to take time to savour each experience. Finally, keep an eye out for estates with stunning architecture.

If you’re up for it, you can combine your wine adventures with a scenic bike ride to and from Summerland’s various vineyards. Just remember to drink responsibly, visit only a few wineries per ride, and stay safe on the road.

Heaven's Gate Winery showcasing the okanagan vineyard experience with the valley view, sunset over the lake, and vineyards in the foreground
Sunset over the Okanagan Valley, with Heaven’s Gate Winery tasting room in the foreground.

Come Visit Heaven’s Gate

We suggest adding Heaven’s Gate to your vineyard bucket list this summer. The peaceful, family-run estate makes an ideal stop for your trip to Summerland. Discover our many wines including our 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, 2020 Gewurztraminer, and award-winning 2017 Merlot. Book your tasting today!