The past decade has brought plenty of change to the Okanagan wine region of British Columbia. The food scene is emerging as a Canadian gem since the arrival of Waterfront Wines and the Canadian Culinary Championships. New breweries are popping up yearly with added plans to have the old Paramount Theatre landmark set to become a Craft Brewery Market within the next six months. Add to this a craft cocktail revolution at various lounges and bars, food trucks and a beach culture that feels like a slice of California and you’ve got a very busy tourist season come summer.
But Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley is known for its wine first and foremost. Since the 1980s when Canada entered the North American Free Trade Act spurring on a complete overhaul of the vines in the valley allowing growers to expand with vinifera with the help of government grants.
Since then the Okanagan has been adding new wineries and vineyards annually at a staggering rate. Each summer one can return to the Okanagan knowing full well there will be a slue of new wineries to visit and new wines to taste.
Recently, the Okanagan has been breeding a new kind of winery entirely: Hipster wineries. These are wineries with a laid back atmosphere catering to patrons that are seeking out smaller boutique wineries or perhaps “odd, rare and organic wines” as noted by John Erickson in Great Wine News.
These four wineries embody exactly that – odd, rare and sometimes organic or biodynamic wines with an open and wecoming atmosphere.
The Hatch Winery
The Hatch is a relatively new addition to the Okanagan wine scene in West Kelowna at the foot of an extinct volcano. Surrounded by iconic Canadian wineries like Mission Hill Estate and Quails Gate Winery, The Hatch is a small and unassuming winery you might zoom past on your way to its famed neighbours. No uniforms or script here. The small refurbished shop keeps bocce on the lawn, a small courtyard for picnics, and walls lined with antique tools. Aside from the eclectic yet rustic décor it is the artwork that will inspire you to buy a bottle before you even taste their wines. The artwork by ex-Okanagan native Paul Morstadt instills whimsy with inspired works featuring bird imagery. It’s a cool place to hang out over a glass of their Flipping the Bird Rosé this summer.
Located on the Naramata Bench, just a few minutes drive from Penticton’s waterfront, Monster Vineyards takes its name from the infamous lake monster, Ogopogo, that haunts the waters the vineyard overlooks. Their wines are delicious without pompousness and come in a convenient wine box despite some grimaces from wine snobs. Both wine connoisseurs and newbies will find Monster wines refined despite the laid back vibe. If you opt for a classic wine bottle as opposed to the box you may enjoy the added feature of each label glowing in the dark. Kitschy, fun and yet wines you’ll want to serve at your next dinner party or camping trip.
This winery is nestled within a vineyard converted from an orchard by Judy Kingston who deserted lawyer life for retirement in Naramata. Owned by a mother/daughter team, the winery is an intimate experience with a close-knit and fun group of employees. The labels are playful and striking with themes of good and evil, reason and doubt. A popular seller is their Red Handed, named for when the winery owner caught her husband red-handed. The proceeds were used to buy her husband out of his share of the winery. Go for the people, the stories and their passion that is clearly displayed in every aspect of the atmosphere.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Located in Kelowna, this is one of Canada’s most visited wineries mostly for their delicious sparkling wines and the replica of the Pyramid of Giza that they use to age their wines. With ideas of mysticism, astrology and paganism combined with organic and biodynamic wine making it is a true one of a kind in Canada if not the world. Their process is no gimmick or trend. Summerhill has been setting the bar for organic wine making and what that really means for years now. Take a tour of the winery and you’ll also get to step foot in the pyramid where they age their wines. It is said to intensify the characteristics of whatever is placed within its walls, for better or worse.