What you should know before you go on a Self Guided Wine Tour.
You may have seen a picture or an ad for a winery in a tourism publication that looks like one you wish to visit. Certainly consider those as well as finding the wine tour routes also advertised. How do you choose from the 40 wineries in Kelowna and Lake Country and the 16 wineries in West Kelowna? If you are staying in Kelowna , you may visit wineries as far south as Summerland, Naramata and Penticton in a day trip. When you pick up the map you can also talk to the friendly guest services staff at the hotel or tourism outlet to help you sort out the ones to visit. They may have some good suggestions. Our online MAP has links to wine route maps that can be used with your smartphone GPS and navigation. Take note of the wineries the guided wine tour companies have chosen on their website for their routes, they are typically the best ones to visit.
Wineries tasting fees on average are $52 to $10 per guest and go up to $25 per person at some wineries. You taste 4 or 5 wines and consume a minimum of 15 ml (about a tablespoon or 1/2 ounce) of each wine. With four samples, that is at least ½ a glass of wine per person, per winery. Typically you would get around 1 ounce of wine per tasting so the amount consumed could easily be double. Ice wines are more expensive and may not be included for the standard tasting fee that range from and extra as little as $5 for one wine. Tasting fees are typically waived, but not always, if you purchase a bottle of wine.
Self-Guided touring is a good choice if you are planning on visiting one or two wineries for tasting and tour. Some people will be legally intoxicated or at least impaired after doing tasting at 4 wineries, the equivalent of at least 2 glasses of wine. A designated driver should be planned for in those cases. In BC there are serious consequences if you’re caught driving with a blood-alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.08. These include steep fines, having your license suspended, and even losing your car. Consider the option of a guided wine tour.
Wine shops and tasting rooms at the winery typically open between 10 am to 11 am. If you start out in the morning, by the time you visit a couple of wineries it is a good idea to go for lunch after the first two. If you plan ahead you can make reservations at one of the wineries restaurants. If you choose a restaurant not at a winery and along the route, reservations are typically not required. Guided wine tour companies are required to call wineries ahead of time to schedule tastings for their group or make lunch reservations at the winery. Small groups of 4 or 5 don’t need to call the winery ahead of time for a tasting and it is not expected from non-guided tour groups. When staying in Kelowna, the further away you go for your tour, like Penticton or Naramata, the harder it will be to schedule your time.
Winery Restaurants vary in fare from fine dining, appetizers, charcuterie or cheese plates served by the restaurant. Some wineries without a formal restaurant sometimes have a picnic area that you can bring your own picnic lunch or you can purchase cheese, meat and crackers or sandwiches from their deli counter or fridge. At the wineries with the picnic areas you can consume wine purchased at the winery, they will provide glasses. Just take home the rest of the bottle to enjoy later.
Purchasing wine on the tour is recommended. Much, if not all of the wine produced by the small wineries is sold through their wine shop. Many wineries don’t produce enough for liquor store distribution. You may find an award winning wine or one that particularly suites your taste that you can only get at that wine shop. Buy a bottle or a case at each winery if you find something you like. It is not recommended to store wine in the trunk of a hot vehicle so bring a cooler and some ice from the hotel. Wine tour companies typically provide cooler storage in their vans or busses for wine clients purchase. Wine cannot be shipped to the US for your typical consumer.