There are several unique ways to sample the wine of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. // © 2013 Thinkstock
For clients wishing to visit British Columbia’s renowned Okanagan Valley wine country, these tour packages offer refreshing alternatives to the usual wine sampling tours. Guests can soak in aerial views of the gorgeous valley by plane or helicopter, zoom past mountains and vineyards on a zipline or ATV adventure, or hit the fairway for some golf — all before enjoying select wines at one of Thompson Okanagan’s famous wineries.
Wine Tasting by Helicopter
Heli-Wine Tours from Okanagan Wine Country Tours and Valhalla Helicopters fly clients over the scenic valley to their choice of wineries from more than 30 options around the Okanagan region. Guests can choose between the Full-Day Heli-Wine Tour, which lasts six hours and takes passengers to up to four wineries of their choice, and the Half-Day Heli-Wine Tour, a three-hour experience that takes guests to their choice of two wineries.
The operator also offers a nine-hour Heli-Bench Sunset Vineyard Dinner Tour, which begins around noon when clients take off from Valhalla Helicopters to tour three wineries throughout the Naramata Bench. Around 5 p.m., guests arrive by helicopter at Mission Hill Family Estate, where they enjoy a private tasting hosted by the winery’s sommelier and a sunset dinner at a wine-inspired fine restaurant before being escorted home in one of Okanagan Wine Country Tours’ luxury tour vehicles. Tours are offered year-round with prices based on the number of passengers.
“Catch the Cork” Floatplane Tour
With this alternative tour from Okanagan Wine Country Tours, guests board a floatplane that takes off from the shores of Lake Okanagan in Kelowna, and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the wine country. The plane flies passengers south through the area’s beautiful lakes and valleys before touching down on the beaches of Osoyoos Lake. Visitors are then driven through the valley in a luxury vehicle on their way back to Kelowna, visiting multiple wineries along the way and stopping for a vineyard lunch. The tour departs at 10:15 a.m. and lasts 7.5 hours with prices starting at $540 per person.
“Chip and Sip” Golf and Wine Tours
In partnership with Golf Canada’s West, Okanagan Wine Country Tours offers a golf and wine package that includes five nights at a Kelowna hotel and three rounds of golf. Clients can play at one of three nationally ranked courses in the morning, then spend the rest of the day sampling internationally award-winning wines during the Afternoon Delight wine tour, which includes transportation, facility tours and a sunset dinner at one of the select vineyards. For hotel accommodations, clients may choose from the Delta Grand Lakeside Resort, Manteo Waterfront Lakeside Resort and Best Western Inn & Suites. Prices for the complete package begin at $853 per person.
Marathon Wining, Dining and Running in Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country
The Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association invites visitors to “race” through Oliver Osoyoos wine country in the annual 11-mile Half Corked Marathon, May 23-25. Participants seek a good time — rather than the fastest time — as they run, jog or stroll through the course, stopping at wineries and food stations along the way. Runners are encouraged to dress up in costume, and prizes are awarded at the finish line for best individual costumes and best themed groups. The event features a pre-race pasta dinner as well as a picnic at the finish line. Due to high demand, the race is limited to 650 participants, and tickets usually run out quickly after they go on sale in February. The Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association also hosts the Winter in Wine Country festival in late November and “Pig Out,” an outdoor pig roast featuring local wineries and live music from local artists.
ATV and Zipline Wine Tasting Tours
Among its many Okanagan wine tours, Distinctly Kelowna Tours offers special adventure packages that give clients a chance to combine ziplining and ATV riding with wine tasting. The Zipline and Wine Tour allows guests to experience six thrilling cross-canyon ziplines followed by a relaxing picnic lunch. As an alternative, the ATV and Wine Tour takes clients on a cross-country journey as they ride through the Okanagan and take photos in front of stunning lake backdrops. While the two tours are separate, both last about six hours and finish with visits to the Kalala Organic Estate Winery and Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, where guests can sample wines and enjoy more of the gorgeous scenery. The zipline tour is priced at $207 per person and the ATV tour costs $191 per person.
Cruising on Okanagan Lake
MJO Tours’ Water, Wine & Wonder package begins with a four-hour cruise onboard Spirit of the Okanagan, a 42-foot passenger cruise boat operated by Cruise Okanagan. While on the scenic cruise, clients learn about the lake’s importance in local history from MJO’s experienced guides. Upon arriving in Lake Country, a luxury coach takes guests to Gray Monk Estate Winery, where they eat lunch at the Grapevine Restaurant, take a full tour of the winery and sample some of its vintage wines. For additional tastings, clients visit two more wineries, Ex Nihilo Vineyards and Arrowleaf Cellars, and a craft distillery, Okanagan Spirits. The tour runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May to August, and prices begin at $215 per person.