Our exclusive selection of 10 celebrated BC wineries that have won prestigious awards at the most renowned wine competitions… any wine-lover will be sure to add these to their “must-visit” winery list!
Though BC wineries are famous worldwide, British Columbia actually arrived late on the global winemaking scene. Although the first vines were planted in the Okanagan to make sacramental wine during the mid-1800s, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the province’s commercial wine industry began to develop. Much more recently, in the 1990s, BC’s wine industry really began to take off.
Under the premiership of W.A.C. Bennett from 1952-1972, the provincial government began to show an interest in promoting the BC wine industry. (W.A.C. Bennett was one of the original partners in what today is known as Calona Vineyards.) Between 1961 and 1970, the grape harvest in BC increased from 1,600 tons to 9,038 tons, while the first estate winery license was issued in 1978.When the new free trade agreement between Canada and the USA triggered the threat of inexpensive Californian wine saturating the local market, the federal and provincial governments funded a costly and widespread pull-out of old vines, replacing them with vinifera varieties.
In 1994, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery surprised wine experts and wine lovers around the world when this West Kelowna winery won “Best Chardonnay” at the esteemed International Wine & Spirit Competition. Since then, our homegrown wineries have competed strongly at the world’s most reputable international competitions.
And the best part? BC’s wine country is less than a five-hour drive for many British Columbians. No border crossings, no mind-numbing flights…just incredible, award-winning wine amidst spectacular landscapes.
Check out our exclusive selection of 10 celebrated BC wineries that have won prestigious awards at the most renowned wine competitions.
A regal, caramel-coloured building sits on a sunny, southwest facing hill, overlooking vineyards and the Okanagan River in the valley below.
This popular, well-known winery bubbles with activity, welcoming more than 100,000 visitors annually. The Burrowing Owl’s expansive deck features a fine-dining restaurant that offers romantic vineyard and mountain views. There’s also a10-suite guest house features a large, outdoor pool and hot tub.
In 1993, Jim Wyse, Burrowing Owl’s founder, moved from Ontario to the Okanagan, where he bought land and planted vineyards on the Black Sage Bench. Five years later, he built Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. Today, Jim’s son Chris is Burrowing Owl’s president. Named after the endangered owls, the winery donates proceeds from its tasting fees to burrowing owl conservation and rehabilitation centres.
Burrowing Owl boasts a lengthy list of awards from esteemed national and international competitions. The recipient of several B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Awards, Burrowing Owl was also awarded Silver for its 2010 Syrah at France’s prestigious Syrah Du Monde in 2013. At Chardonnay du Monde in 2012, the winery won Silver for its 2009 Chardonnay. At the 2013 Los Angeles International Wine Competition, the winery was awarded Gold and Best of Class for its 2009 Merlot and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Hailing from South Africa, Bertus Albertyn has been Burrowing Owl’s senior winemaker since 2010.
500 Burrowing Owl Place
1-877-498-0620 / 1-250-498-0620
Tucked away amid rows of vines, a palatial family home and neighbouring tasting room are home to Desert Hills Estate Winery.
There to greet you is a gigantic but affectionate Mastiff named Ali, often stretched out in front of the tasting room’s entrance, and proprietor Randy Toor. With its friendly, down-to-earth vibe, Desert Hills is a favourite stop on the Black Sage Bench.
Randy, Jessie and Dave Toor are the passionate and proud owners of Desert Hills Estate Winery. For several decades, the hard-working brothers grew grapes for other vineyard owners, gaining a deep understanding of what it takes to produce superb wine. In 1989, the Toor Family purchased Desert Hills Estate Winery. After a major planting effort, the Toor brothers produced their first wine in 1996.
Desert Hills Estate Winery has won more than 400 industry awards, including two Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for excellence in winemaking. The winery’s 2011 Gamay was voted Gold and Best of Class in the 2013 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition. At the 2012 Los Angeles International Wine Competition, Desert Hills’ 2007 Mirage received Gold, while its 2011 Viognier was voted Judges’ Choice at the 2012 Wine Access International Wine Awards.
4078 Black Sage Road
Overlooking flowing vineyards and sun-soaked mountains, Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery is located on the Golden Mile between Osoyoos and Oliver.
With a beautiful wine tasting room and an adjacent picnic area, this family-owned winery has a welcoming feel that beckons you to relax and enjoy.
Established in 1985, Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery is one of the oldest wineries in the South Okanagan. Born in British Columbia, Walter and Gordon Gehringer developed and fine-tuned their wine expertise at leading viticulture schools in Germany. Among the founders of wine in this region, Gehringer Brothers Winery has a repertoire of 22 premium wines, including award-winning Canadian icewines.
As its website boldly declares, Gehringer Brothers Winery is “King of Platinum”. At Wine Press Northwest’s recent 14th Annual Platinum Judging competition, Gehringer Brothers won 11 Platinum medals, amassing a total of 43 Platinums throughout the competition’s history, more than any other winery. In 2013, the All Canadian Wine Championships awarded the winery Gold for its Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Dry Riesling, Private Reserve Riesling and Private Reserve Pinot Blanc. At the Indy International Wine Competition in 2012, Walter was honoured as Wine Maker of the Year.
Owner Walter Gehringer is the master winemaker at Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery.
876 Road #8
Set against a sagebrush-speckled hillside, a castle-like building with a mini drawbridge, giant wood doors and a fortress wall greets visitors. In contrast to the castle replica that the original owners built, a sleek, ultra-modern tasting room features floor-to-ceiling windows and a panoramic view of lush vineyards and the valley.
In 1998, the Serwo Family opened Golden Mile Cellars (the winery’s original name). In 2003, Pam and Mick Luckhurst bought the winery and 23 acres of vines. Since this time, the couple has purchased and planted additional parcels of land in the valley. Road 13 releases wines under three labels: Honest John’s, Road 13 and Jackpot.
Voted the number sixth winery in Canada by the Canadian Wine Awards in 2011 and earning the B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Award in 2012 and 2009, Road 13 Vineyards has won the recognition and respect of industry experts and wine lovers everywhere. Among its many awards, the winery received Platinum medals for its 2011 Syrah Malbec and 2009 Sparkling Chenin Blanc at the Wine Align National Wine Awards in 2013.
J-M Bouchard has been the skilled winemaker at Road 13 Vineyards since 2011.
799 Ponderosa Road
Perched on a sun-dappled hill, this lavish winery boasts magnificent views of Okanagan Lake.
Upon arrival, you pass through a set of stunning arches beneath a 12-storey bell tower that houses four bronze, hand-crafted bells from France. In the Wine Education Centre, a one-of-a-kind tapestry by Marc Chagall greets visitors. Surrounded by breathtaking vistas, a 1,200-seat outdoor amphitheater hosts Jazz and Opera concerts. Voted one of the “Top Five Wine Restaurants in the World” by Travel + Leisure Magazine, Terrace Restaurant overlooks sloping vineyards and glistening Okanagan Lake.
The Story Mission Hill’s Vancouver-born owner, Anthony Von Mandal, was mostly raised in Europe. After completing a European apprenticeship in the wine trade, he returned to Canada as an importer and merchant of fine wines. Originally established by local businessmen in 1966, the abandoned Mission Hill Winery was purchased by Anthony Von Mandle in 1981.
In 1994, Mission Hill placed the Okanagan Valley on the radar of wine experts around the globe by winning “Best Chardonnay in the World” at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in the UK. In 2001, the winery earned North America’s only Gold at the distinguished Chardonnay du Monde event in France. In 2013, Mission Hill outshone more 14,000 wines from around the world at the Decanter World Wine Awards,, winning “World’s Best Pinot Noir”. Also in 2013, the Wine Align National Wine Awards voted Mission Hill “Canadian Winery of the Year”. The winery was also honoured as the “Canadian Wine Producer of the Year” at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2011.
Born and raised in New Zealand, John Simes has been Mission Hill’s senior winemaker since 1992.
1730 Mission Hill Road
West Kelowna, BC
Offeringa sweeping view of Okanagan Lake, this beautiful boutique winery rests on a sunbathed hillside in West Kelowna.
Known and respected for producing premium wine, Quails’ Gate Family Estate Winery was voted by wine and food experts as one of the “20 Best Winery Restaurants around the World” (dailymeal.com), Old Vines Restaurant offers exquisite dining and amazing vineyard and lake views. An important piece of Kelowna’s history can also be found on the Quails’ Gate property. Built in 1873, the oldest home in West Kelowna (Allison House) features the gift shop and serves as a meeting place for summer winery tours.
Hailing from a family of horticulturists with a long history of farming, Richard Stewart bought Allison Ranch in 1956, where he and his family planted grape vines and orchards. In 1989, Richard’s son Ben eventually launched Quails’ Gate Family Estate Winery, choosing to focus solely on wine production. Committed to growing grapes in an environmentally-conscious and sustainable manner, the Stewart Family uses organic fertilizers and nutrients, as well as a drip irrigation system to conserve water.
Regularly winning medals at the most respected, large-scale competitions, Quails’ Gate Family Estate Winery is recognized for producing some of the best wines in the world. At the esteemed Chardonnay du Monde in France in 2013, Quails’ Gate won Gold for its 2010 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay. At the Decanter World Wine Awards in the United Kingdom, the winery earned Gold medals for its 2011 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir and Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay. At the 2011 Mondial du Pinot Noir in Switzerland, Quails’ Gate won Double Gold.
After studying in Bordeaux and honing her skills in South Africa, Nikki Callaway became the notable winemaker at Quails’ Gate Family Estate Winery.
3303 Boucherie Road
West Kelowna, BC
1-800-420-9463 / 1-250-769-4451
Located in one of the most picture-perfect spots on the Naramata Bench, this impressive winery was the first to be designed by the talented architect Robert MacKenzie, who also designed Burrowing Owl, Red Rooster and Nk’mip Cellars.
Featuring a 72-foot tower, this impressive timber-frame building was constructed in 1997. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the winery also features an award-winning bistro with two patios and stunning views of vineyards, orchards and Okanagan Lake.
The Story In 1979, a European couple purchased the property and transformed the apricot orchard into a vineyard. In 1994, a group of investors bought Hillside Winery and expanded the winery by constructing the current building. Hillside is the original winery in British Columbia to produce Muscat Ottonel, a unique white wine.
At the 2014 All Canadian Wine Fest, Hillside Winery won Gold for its 2013 Gewürztraminer, as well as Silver medals for “Syrah over $25” and “Bordeaux over $25”. At the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships, the winery harvested a mountain of awards, including “Best of Varietal” for its 2012 Muscat Ottonel, Gold for its 2012 Gewürztraminer and Silver medals for its 2011 Viognier and 2010 Pinot Noir.
Kathy Malone is Hillside Winery’s expert winemaker.
1350 Naramata Road
Blending into the surrounding vineyards, La Frenz Winery’s tasting room is modern, yet modest.
Floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor terrace allow you to sample wine amid the abundant vines. With stellar views of sparkling Okanagan Lake in the distance, this small and intimate winery is a favourite among visitors.
Embarking on his wine career when he was only 18 years old, Jeff Martin honed his expertise in his home country of Australia while working for a well-known wine producer for 14 years. In 1994, he moved to the Okanagan and led production for Quails’ Gate Winery. After several decades in the industry, Jeff turned his dream of owning his own winery into a reality, founding La Frenz Winery.
La Frenz is beloved among connoisseurs of superb wine. At this year’s Wine Press Northwest’s 14th Annual Platinum Judging Competition, this boutique winery amassed a total of six Platinum awards (three of which were double Platinums). With only gold medal winning wineries invited to participate, the Platinum Judging Competition represents the best of the best in the Pacific Northwest. In 2013, La Frenz Winery was honoured as “Small Winery of the Year” at the Riverside International Competition in California. At the All Canadian Wine Championships in 2013, La Frenz won Best Cabernet over $25 and Double Gold for its 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Jeff Martin is La Frenz Winery’s well-respected winemaker and proprietor. Jeff regularly judges at international wine shows in the US.
1525 Randolph Road
This sweeping vineyard cascades down the hill to the lake, making it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
Reminiscent of a charming European village, a cobblestone courtyard connects a cluster of quaint buildings. The restaurant’s garden terrace offers visitors an enchanting setting for dining on a hot summer day. Lake Breeze’s immaculate property, tidy landscaping and beautiful, traditional-style tasting room are proof of the winery’s commitment to perfection.
The Story with its first vines planted on the property in 1985, Lake Breeze Vineyards has some of the oldest vines on the Naramata Bench. Built in 1996, the winery was purchased in 2001 by a group of chartered accountants and an investment banker — Gary Reynolds, his wife and two friends. Since 2001, Lake Breeze has grown from less than 3,000 cases to more than 10,000.
Voted “Best Red Wine of the Year” at the All Canadian Wine Awards for its 2008 Tempest, Lake Breeze Vineyards has garnered increasing recognition from local and international wine connoisseurs. In 2014, the winery has experienced an avalanche of success, receiving a wealth of Gold and Silver medals at the All Canadian Wine Championships and the Riverside International Wine Competition in California.
Originally from South Africa, Garron Elmes is the talented winemaker at Lake Breeze Vineyards.
Like a rooster perched on top of a chicken coop, Red Rooster Winery boasts an elevated position that overlooks gorgeous Okanagan Lake and the surrounding hills.
A beautiful fountain stands in front of an impressive sand-coloured building and a statue of a naked man carrying a suitcase (Frank, the baggage handler) greets guests with a dose of light-hearted humour. Sitting above the vineyard and lake, an outdoor patio and expansive, grassy lawn entice visitors to soak in the incredible surroundings.
The StoryFounded by a couple from Switzerland, Red Rooster’s first vintage was released in 1997. Several years later, the couple built the gorgeous, current winery. In 2005, Red Rooster Winery was purchased by Andrew Peller Limited, a corporate wine company representing numerous brands.
Red Rooster boasts many prominent awards from national and international competitions, including multiple Lieutenant Governor’s Awards. In 2011, Red Rooster won Double Gold for its 2010 Gewürztraminer from the reputable Gewürztraminer du Monde event. Also in 2011, the winery earned Double Gold for its 2010 Riesling at the Riesling du Monde. At the 2012 Concours Mondial Bruxelles, Red Rooster took home Silver for its 2011 Chardonnay.
Karen Gillis has been Red Rooster’s master winemaker since 2007.
891 Naramata Road
Honourable Mentions: Hester Creek Estate Winery in Oliver, Sandhill Winery in Kelowna and Painted Rock Estate Winery in Penticton.
If there’s a winery that you think should be on this Top 10 list (or a winery that you feel doesn’t deserve to be mentioned), please post your opinion in the comment box below. We’d love to hear from you. Huge thanks to Scott Swetlicoe, manager at The Grand Liquor Store in Nelson, BC and Mike Shoniker, a local wine devotee, for sharing their intimate knowledge of BC wineries.
If you would like to visit any of these BC Wineries, we would be delighted to help you plan your trip and find you the perfect accommodation in Osoyoos, Kelowna or beyond. Call our Destination Experts on 1.877.902.1616 if you’d like to consider soaking up some summer sunshine in beautiful BC Wine Country!
If you're looking for more information on wineries in Osoyoos, read more here. If you'd like more suggestions for wineries in the Okanagan Valley, click here.