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The car winds its way up a few thousand feet of road toward Sun Peaks Resort. Low-lying clouds cling to the edges of the valley, filling it like one, great white pond rising to meet each mountaintop. It’s the third day of our B.C. wine tour and while we may have left the Okanagan Valley, we certainly haven’t left the wine.
Tonight, the small village of Sun Peaks, located a scant 30-kilometre uphill climb from Kamloops, B.C., will host the 16th Annual Winter Okanagan Wine Festival. The thing about a B.C. wine experience is that it isn’t just about getting to know several glasses of superb grapes, it’s also about taking advantage of being in one of the most beautiful places in Canada. Want to hit some world-class slopes? No problem. Cross-country more your style? We got you. How about a day at the spa and a visit to a fine-dining restaurant? Yes, and yes. This picturesque little village has everything you need to have the weekend (or month, for that matter) of your life. Which, as we said, definitely includes wine.
We’re given a wine glass and a bracelet. Thirty separate wineries have set up booths all around this picturesque village, and every one of them is waiting to pour us a taste. There’s no drinking allowed outside, but the idea behind the festival setup is that you walk through the beautiful pedestrian streets of the resort, step into an art gallery, hotel lobby, or even a spa, and find one of the winery booths waiting for you. Yes, you are correct in thinking this sounds too good to be true.
We try some excellent Reserve Riesling from Mission Hill. Discover Tantalus Vineyards’ superb Pinot Noir. Get lost in a glass of Volcanic Hills’ Gewürztraminer. And if you’re counting, that’s only 10% of what’s being poured in the village. Yup, gonna be a long (and delicious) night.
Everyone is happy because it’s impossible not to be. The crisp, fresh mountain air between tastings makes you appreciate every time you step back inside for a small ‘wine escape’. Musicians play live music in a centre square, an artist stands in front of a block of ice, delicately forming it into a sculpture of a downhill skier, and young professionals (YPs) wander through the evening, glass in hand, with perma-smiles spread across their faces. The festival continues well after the wineries close up their booths and we end our night with a pint (hey, the palate can only take so much) in the hotel pub talking about – what else – wine with some inspiring local winemakers.
In the morning, the sun explodes over the mountain and before we gear up for the hills we hit the festival’s Wine Brunch. Several wineries are in attendance, pouring people a little hair of the dog and introducing them to some of the delicious flavours they may have missed out on the night before. After sustenance comes skiing. Sun Peaks is, after all, home to Nancy Greene Raine, and the current Senator and Canada’s Top Female Athlete of the 20th Century is willing to meet anyone looking for a challenge at the top of the lifts at 1pm. It’s not every day you get to slalom with an Olympic gold medalist.
It turns out that the best part about heading to B.C. for the wine is simply that you’re headed to B.C. With its raw beauty, friendly people, and bevy of outdoor (and indoor) activities, it’s one of the best year-round destinations you could hope for in all of Canada. Of course, it’s not like running into world-class wine at every turn hurts much either.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)