Beneath an extinct volcano bordered by a shimmering lake, is the town of Summerland, British Columbia. Rolling hills are covered by acres of colourful orchards, and rows of lush, green vines that soak up the desert sun. This small farming community is home to a growing wine region – literally.

Located 15 minutes north of Penticton on the shore of Lake Okanagan, Summerland has a history rich with First Nations Peoples and the Cariboo Gold Rush. Farming took root in the late 1800s with commercial orchards, and since the Kettle Valley Railway opened in 1915, the town has steadily grown into the wonderland that it is today.

Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive is a collection of 17 wineries and two cideries crafting some of the province’s best wines. Their route meanders through vineyards and orchards, across a heritage railway, and takes visitors off the beaten path into a world where time slows and patios beckon.

Okanagan Crush Pad Winery

Owned by Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie, Okanagan Crush Pad Winery is a custom crush facility for small wine brands, and is home to Haywire Wines and Narrative. A modest concrete building plays multi-purpose space beside the 10-acre organic Switchback Vineyard. They farm with the future in mind, including a 312-acre Garnet Valley Ranch (20 acres planted).

Okanagan Crush Pad focuses on natural wines that speak to the vineyard. Elegant reds and bright, fresh white wines come from concrete tanks, and projects include small lots from amphoras (a clay vessel used thousands of years ago). Enjoy live music as part of Bottleneck Drive’s Heard it Through the Grapevine series, or catch an educational session almost weekly.

Open daily through October.

Sumac Ridge

Around the corner on Highway 97 is Sumac Ridge, founded in 1979. The former golf course became a vineyard, as then-owners knew the site would produce high quality grapes for winemaking. In the 1980s, they produced one of B.C.’s first traditional method sparkling wines.

In the tasting room, the towering ceilings are bejeweled with chandeliers, casting a shimmer over the room like the sun on the lake. Beneath is a sparkling wine cave where visitors can see Steller’s Jay and Pinnacle sparkling wines as they sleep, years before release. Open seven days a week, Sumac Ridge offers guided tours and hosts events all summer. 

Sage Hills Vineyard

Toward the lake is Sage Hills Vineyard. The Thrussell family farms organically and is Salmon Safe – no chemicals can impact nearby waterways. This 11-acre former orchard, purchased in 2006, was transformed into a vineyard with gewürztraminer, pinot gris, and pinot noir. Sage Hills sources organically-grown syrah from further south to complement the portfolio.

Their small, contemporary winery boasts a cheerful tasting room overlooking Lake Okanagan and the vineyard. Low production means these wines don’t travel far, so visiting the winery is your best bet for a taste.

Open daily through October.

Saxon Estate Winery

South and west along Bottleneck Drive – near those railway tracks – is Saxon Estate Winery. Named for Paul and Jayne Graydon’s English heritage, the winery has a 10-acre organic vineyard. Travel through a storybook-like setting, complete with farmland and livestock, to find a quaint tasting room and inviting patio set among the vines. Visitors will likely see one of the owners behind the counter.

Sustainable practices are woven through the business from vine to bottle. Aromatic white wines and medium body red wines make up a small, but diverse portfolio.

Open daily through October.

Evolve Cellars

North of Saxon on the lake is Evolve Cellars, opened in 2015 by Summerland wine pioneer Harry McWatters and his daughter Christa-Lee. With a focus on fresh, fruit-forward wines, Evolve celebrates the province’s wine journey from yesterday through tomorrow. The vineyard has five acres of merlot, gewürztraminer, and pinot blanc and is grown with responsible farming practices. Their portfolio of wines is lively and fun.

Two sunny patios overlook Lake Okanagan and the vineyard, where seasonal lunches are available from the winery restaurant. New 2015 wines include a beautifully pale rosé that begs for summer sipping.

Open daily through October, with midday food service beginning in June.

Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa

After a day on Bottleneck Drive, visitors will find rest at Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa. Located on Lake Okanagan 45 minutes from Kelowna’s airport, the resort plays equal parts family vacation or couples retreat. Cycle the waterfront path, grill dinner on the barbecues, and watch the sun play across the lake before falling into bed for the best home away from home sleep yet.

The full-service resort has a swimming pool and beach, fitness room, and conference facilities for up to 120 people. Rent a water toy or indulge at Beyond Wrapture Day Spa, luxuriating in a full-day treatment. Pick up fresh baked goods at the seasonal Bistro or visit a nearby restaurant for a local farm-to-table meal. It’s all here.

With endless country roads and a story around every bend, you’ll soon see what – and who – makes Bottleneck Drive the special place it is. Take your time and stay a while. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Visit Bottleneck Drive online for news on seasonal events and celebrations.

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