VIP Tours: Are they worth it?

At the height of summer, wine touring in the Okanagan can get pretty busy. But as the region evolves, so does the range of tasting options. A nominal tasting fee is now the norm—almost always refunded with a purchase.

Yet, at a few wineries you can escape the crowds by spending a few dollars more for a distinctly VIP experience.

As a rule, it’s well worth the extra cost.

 

Why VIP?

Above all, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the journey from vineyard to glass.

You’ll get to taste some premium or lesser known wines. They also likely won’t available at the regular tasting counter.

Moreover, you’ll often enjoy a private VIP setting, away from the bustle of the tasting room. Sometimes, you may get to taste with the wine-maker or an owner.

If you’re a BC wine aficionado, these VIP tastings make sense. Consider booking a tour in the morning, when both you and your palate are at your best.

 

 

Black Hills Estate Winery

VIP Black Hills Food and wine

Black Hills food and wine pairing

The Black Hills experience is one of the best in the valley. They also up the ante considerably with well paired wines in good crystal glassware. Plus some tasty small plates brought by savvy servers. From the outset, Black Hills has focused on the whole wine and food experience. The Wine Experience Centre enjoys superb valley views, is relaxed but polished and sophisticated.

Explore the various tasting options and info at blackhillswinery.com

 

Fitzpatrick Family Estate

VIP tasting, The sweeping lake vista from Fitzpatrick Family Estate

The sweeping lake vista from Fitzpatrick Family Estate

Travellers to the Okanagan are familiar with the spectacular scenery between Penticton and Summerland. The stretch is also home to Great Ranch, now reincarnate as Fitzpatrick Family Estate.  

The family sold their pioneering Cedar Creek winery to Mission Hill. But they smartly decided to hold on to Greata Ranch. It is indeed a remarkable setting with a commanding lake vista north to south.

The Fitzpatricks offer a One of a Kind Sparkling Wine Tour.  Visits to the vineyard, crush-pad, barrel room, caves and more. Offered only at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with a maximum of 12 people, so book ahead. ($30)

VIP tasting, Twilight on the patio at Fitzpatrick Family Estate

Twilight on the patio at Fitzpatrick Family Estate

I was lucky enough to enjoy dinner here recently, on the patio. It was truly dazzling—as was the fried chicken!

More at fitzwine.com

 

Culmina Family Estate

The best way to experience state of the art Culmina is to book in to their Vineyard & Winery Tour. This includes a vineyard visit and walk through the winery. That’s followed by a sit-down tasting in the VIP room overlooking the Fermentation Hall.

Few people have had such a profound impact on the new Canadian wine industry as Don Triggs. If you’re lucky you might have a chance to meet him.

By appointment only, call 250-498-0789 to book. Maximum 6 people, 90 minutes, $25 per person. culmina.ca

 

Quails Gate Estate Winery

VIP Tasting, The panoramic view from Old Vines at Quails Gate

The panoramic view from Old Vines Restaurant at Quails Gate

Quails Gate offers several choices, none of which will leave you wanting. However, the best VIP pick is the Taste the Estate Tour. This is an all encompassing look both at the vineyard and behind the scenes.

The visit concludes with a visit to the Stewart Family’s Private Library. It’s a delightful, quiet and intimate setting, overlooking the barrel room. The mood is hushed and the room comfortably cool.

VIP tasting, Quails Gate premium wines

Quails Gate premium wines

You’ll taste three Reserve and Collector wines. well paired with small bites. The delicious food comes from award winning Old Vines Restaurant next door. You’ll probably want to dine there. No doubt, it will prime your appetite!

Noon and 3:30 p.m. daily. $55 plus tax; book at quailsgate.com

(This is not intended to be the definitive list. There may well be others not mentioned here.)

 

Mission Hill Family Estates

VIP tasting, Mission Hill's cellar is just one focus of their Behind the Scenes Tour

Mission Hill’s cellar is just one focus of their Behind the Scenes Tour

I’d be remiss to not include Mission Hill, which arguably offers more tour options than anyone else in the valley. The winery itself is quite remarkable. A pinnacle in the VIP  range if the Behind the Scenes Tour, which is truly comprehensive. Highly detailed and personalized, with a winemaker as  guide.

($125) Max 10 adults. Full details

 

The Pop-up Option

While they don’t involve a winery tour, these new rooms do offer a chance to taste some hard to find wines.

Mission Hill’s exclusive CheckMate artisan winery in Oliver is making some of the best Chardonnay in the country. (Also, CheckMate Merlot came out on top in last week’s third annual Judgment of BC.)

You can now taste at CheckMate’s new tasting room. This pop-up was designed by Tom Kundig (the celebrated architect behind the parent winery).

Nominal tasting fee varies. Daily from 10:30 am – 6:00 pm. No reservations.  https://www.checkmatewinery.com/

Vanessa Vineyards has just opened a tasting room in the heart of its spectacular Similkameen vineyard. As these excellent wines are hard to find, you’ll want to make a note to stop by: http://vanessavineyard.com/

 

Find more touring choices here