Okanagan Falls Winery Association
We bring together the valley’s premiere wineries to offer you an exceptional tour and tasting of award winning wines. From the shores of Skaha Lake to the tip of Vaseux Lake, you’ll find a string of small wineries with big heart crafting big wines. Getting twelve very diverse and busy wineries together to form an association is a challenge in itself and it was years in the making to pull together the association and define the area it covers. What used to be known as Corkscrew Drive is mostly encompassed by our new touring route (see the map for current details).
The Heart Of Wine Country wraps around Okanagan Falls and covers wineries from Penticton to Vaseux Lake. Sandwiched between the northern wine regions of Naramata, Summerland and Kelowna and the southern regions of Oliver and Osoyoos, the Okanagan Falls area is famed for some of Canada’s top wine production with the highest quality wines in the valley. What has largely been a well kept secret, only sought out by those wine lovers in the know, these hidden gems of small wineries offer a taste of some of the finest wines, wonderful people and the heart of the Okanagan wine experience.
Why we call ourselves “the Heart of wine country”
Over tens of thousands of years a series of glaciers, up to 3 kilometres thick, carved a great valley out the of mountains that we now call the Okanagan. In places it is deeper than the Grand Canyon. The retreating ice mass left behind long benches of fertile soil and a series of spectacular lakes. Our region of the South Okanagan is a unique climatic zone know as a semi-arid steppe, the final stage of a desert area that extends up from the United States. Along with that comes long warm days and cool nights that retain the acidity in the grapes and helps shape their distinctive character and flavours.
The original name for Okanagan Falls was Dog Town because it is on the south shore of Skaha Lake. Until it was changed in 1930, the lake was called Dog Lake. It was renamed with the Shuswap word, “skaha,” which translates as dog. The town was renamed for the twin falls that once existed where the lake empties into the Okanagan River. The falls vanished after the rocks were blasted away to allow the installation of floodgates in the early 1950s. This was done because uncontrolled river flows had been disrupting the irrigation system downstream.
The locale of Okanagan Falls has always been at the heart of the community; it was a major meeting and trading centre for the aboriginal peoples. With non-aboriginal settlement in the Okanagan, the location was strategic for freight handling. The authors of The Story of Okanagan Falls wrote: “This village was a freighting centre and shopping place…” There was freight service from Okanagan Falls to Spence’s Bridge until 1989 when Canadian Pacific, which had taken over the Kettle Valley Railway, ended the service and pulled up the rails. Improved highways had made rail service uneconomic.
Fruit orchards became popular in the area with irrigation and the influx of soldiers looking to settle after the World War in 1918. Cattle ranching and fruit growing were the at the heart of the community for generations. With the interest in growing grapes for wine in the 1980′s, vineyards began to replace some of the orchards. Ian Mavety of Blue Mountain Vineyards has been growing grapes in the area since 1972.
Liquidity’s Ian MacDonald observes that “Okanagan Falls really is the heart of the Okanagan. It is the narrowest part of the valley and it gets a lot of heat units. This area is all about vineyards.”
With Okanagan Falls at its heart vineyards stretch northwards along the East Bench of Skaha Lake and across the water to Kaleden and then South over rolling hills above Vaseux Lake.