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First time to the Okanagan Wine Festival

Guzzle as much as you like or sip it slowly, this was Oliver’s Cornucopia



It’s almost shameful that I have never previously made an effort to attend the Okanagan Wine Festival. Considering my father grew up in Oliver, I have been vacationing there since childhood, and the festival is in its 24 th year I really don’t have an excuse.

But this year it only took a mere suggestion to a good friend and her fiancé to get the wine idea swirling: "Monica, would you and John be interested in going to the Okanagan Wine Festival with me and Chris in October? My parents have a cottage on….."

Faster than a cork popping Monica definitively answered "yes" and started thumbing through the festival guide. That was the hardest part of the trip; the rest of it poured out like a feathery chardonnay.

With so many wineries in the southern Okanagan and only a few days available to us, we had to utilize our time well. We looked over a detailed map and chose our route. For those traveling without the aid of brochures or maps there are distinguishing road signs on Highway 97 that read "Wine Route" to help you out.

The southern end of the Okanagan Valley has the largest concentration of wineries so finding accommodation in Okanagan Falls, Vaseaux Lake or Oliver is your best bet. Fortunately my parents own a summer cabin located smack-dab-in-the middle of wine country, on the south end of Vaseaux Lake. Heaven on Earth? Absolutely. The cabin has idyllic views of the lake from the north and epic views of MacIntyre Bluff from the south. MacIntyre Bluff has become the quintessential signature shot for the Okanagan wine industry pictured on many travel brochures and the homepage of

We drove south past Oliver and then worked our way back, stopping at chosen wineries along the way. Burrowing Owl was number one. Because consumers cannot buy Burrowing Owl in liquor stores, it remains one of the most popular destinations.

When we arrived there was a flurry of activity both by visitors and workers – it was a gorgeous sunny day for early October and the winery was deep into the harvest.

Burrowing Owl is perched on a high terraced point on the eastern side of the valley 15 km south of Oliver. There’s a dining room, wine shop and clock tower offering delicious views of the surrounding vineyards. The entire landscape is verdant until about half way up the mountains, where lush green turns Sonora Desert dry. Points of interest are marked out to help appreciate the vistas and the four grape varietals growing abundantly: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Monica and John were quite giddy remembering this place – it’s where they got engaged.