These award-winning BC wineries will change your life...or at least your next vacation!

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By Claire Newell: Travel Expert, media personality, corporate spokesperson, author, worldwide wanderluster. Over 24 years of experience on all things travel." Follow Claire on Twitter or Facebook

The Best of BC Wine Country annual awards are basically the people’s choice awards of wine. Every year, tourists and locals vote on their top wineries around BC, making this a true consumer-based award, and not just more expert criticism. Each of these wineries had something special and unique to offer, so let’s take a look at the winners!

Dirty Laundry Winery – winner of the best overall experience, best patio, best place to bring out-of-towners and best Hush rosé, wow! This vineyard started out as laundry for cowboys, but after realizing that they barely changed their clothes… the owners opened a bordello. Nowadays they offer wine and craft beer with a “naughty” theme, so even if you’re not a wine lover, you’ll be sure to have a good time!

Other region winners of overall experience include Enrico Winery (Vancouver Island), Orofino Winery (Similkameen Valley), Backyard Vineyards (Fraser Valley) and Fort Berens Estate Winery (Fraser Canyon).

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Mission Hill Family Estate Winery – winner of the best tour, best view, and best architecture, this vineyard really has it all! The owner took six years, with the help of a team of international architects, designers, and craftsmen, to create his landmark winery. They even have an outdoor amphitheater with seating for over 1,000 guests and a 12-storey bell tower.

Other region winners of best winery tour include Seven Stones Winery Cave Tour (Similkameen Valley), Backyard Vineyard (Fraser Valley) and Fort Berens Estate Winery (Fraser Canyon).

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery – winner of the best accommodation, this winery features 10 guest rooms, complete with private fireplaces and balconies overlooking the vineyard, an outdoor pool and a fireside lounge. Combined with all the amenities of a winery, I can’t think of a better weekend getaway!Another accommodation winner is Orofino Winery (Similkameen Valley) for their Vineyard-suites.

Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery – winner of the best kept secret, this vineyard is perfect for you wine connoisseurs who have already been to many of BC’s wineries and are looking for somewhere new. Overlooking Vaseux Lake in the Okanagan, you can enjoy both Merlots and Pinots thanks to the ridge that runs through the property creating a cooler south-facing slope.

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If you’re looking for another area to visit, other winners of the best kept secret were Corcelettes Estate Winery (Similkameen Valley), Backyard Vineyard (Fraser Valley), Enrico Winery (Vancouver Island) and Fort Berens Estate Winery (Fraser Canyon).

Thinking of showing off one of these amazing BC vineyards to out-of-towners, or maybe you’re an out-of-towner yourself looking for a staple BC adventure?

Consider visiting one of these most-impressive winners per region: Dirty Laundry (Okanagan), Enrico Winery (Vancouver Island), Orofino Winery (Similkameen Valley), Backyard Vineyards (Fraser Valley) and Fort Berens Estate (Fraser Canyon).

I can’t wait to go back to some of the incredible vineyards I have visited on this list…and of course, try out some of the ones I haven’t yet experienced! We are so lucky here in BC to have so many award-winning wineries in our backyard, so let’s take advantage of them!


Dazzling and delicious makes BC Wine Country unique.

nikki_headshot1.jpgBy Nikki Bayley – Award-winning Travel Writer, Guide Book Author, Wine, Spirits and Cocktail Journalist, Nikki writes B.C. Living's 'B.C. Wine 101' column, and writes regularly for the B.C. Wine Institute about wine, culinary, and everything else that makes B.C. wine country unforgettable.

I’m heading to the U.K. next month and (shh!) my suitcase will be clanking with well-wrapped B.C. wine. One taste for my friends back home and I know they’ll be hooked; especially when I break out my photos of what visiting a winery is like in B.C. See, we’re spoiled here, we assume that maybe B.C. isn’t so very different in the general scheme of things: that in other parts of the world the service is great, the views are breathtaking, and the wines are wonderful too. And yes, you can absolutely find those things, but all at once? And almost everywhere? Never! Yet beautiful B.C. delivers the whole package.

It’s those extraordinary winery experiences which pull us back time and again to explore this dazzling and delicious part of the world. Which neatly lets me jump to what I’ve been asked to write about, the ‘Best Atmosphere’ category in the Best of B.C. Wine Country Awards—essentially the ‘People’s Choice’ of the B.C. wine award world. Whether it’s the great tasting room staff who take time to talk to you about the wines, and (patiently) answer all your questions without making you feel silly, or if it’s the cute puppy who gambols up to greet you with a lick and a wagging tail as you stroll the vines, it’s those small moments of personal connection that go to build the best experiences, and the people have spoken and voted in droves!

With more than two dozen winners and runners-up across this category, this should probably form the basis of your next few planned visits to B.C. wine country, but let me tip my hat to a few of the highlights which for me, truly show what happens when a winery, its wine, the people and surroundings come together to create a harmonious whole that lifts a good experience into a truly great one.

Let’s start with the Architecture category, I remember how my jaw hit the floor the first time I visited Mission Hill Family Estate Winery thanks to its elegant beautiful design, no wonder they scooped a prize here —and a first in ‘best view’ too— sharing honours with Vancouver Island’s Blue Grouse Estate Winery; and if you’ve not visited this glorious spot in the Cowichan Valley yet, what are you waiting for? Go see the soft sloping hills cradling the vines running downhill from the sleek modern tasting room where you can try their terrific fruit salad-y Ortega!

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Because it’s B.C. we can skip from bucolic beauty and Tuscan elegance to the mischievous folk at the Dirty Laundry and their award-winning patio, who seduced fans with their flirty undies on the line, saloon-style tasting bar, and the Kettle Valley Railway trail chug-chug-chugging past the vines below, smoke billowing above the lake.

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From the irreverence of Dirty Laundry Vineyards to the pioneering folks at Lillooet’s first winery, Fort Berens Estate Winery, who scored best Tasting Room in the Emerging Regions category. True story: I got pulled over by the police the first time I visited—I was dumbstruck by the swooping mountains and gleaming turquoise lakes and so busy gawking, I veered over the other side of the road. Fortunately, it’s a small town and there’s not much traffic, but you get my point. Gorgeous! Go see them.

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Finally, to the cutest category: Winery Pet, of course I can’t recommend a favourite here; puppies and hedgehogs, goats and chickens all bring joy to the winery experience (and awards for their owners!), but I can recommend checking out the whole list: it’s a roll-call of guaranteed good times in the world of B.C. wine. 

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Bring your appetite and your corkscrew!

Best of BC Wine Country honours the best in BC cuisine

joanne_photo.jpgBy Joanne SasvariJoanne is a food, drink and travel writer who contributes to Postmedia publications, Destination BC and WestJet Magazine, and is the author of the forthcoming Wickaninnish Inn and Vancouver Eats cookbooks. 

Wine country is more than just a sip of Semillon or Syrah. It is a way of life, a celebration of all the pleasures of the table, of lively conversation, generous hospitality and fine food, as well as the liquid in our glass.

And so we raise that glass to the culinary winners of the Best of BC Wine Country Awards.

Even though the Okanagan Valley has long been BC’s orchard, it was only recently that it became a foodie destination. The wine came first; the chefs followed, drawn by the extraordinary quality of the local produce. Now visitors can enjoy terrific wine country dining experiences from Vernon to Osoyoos, Vancouver Island to the Kootenays.

Many of them made the Best of BC Wine Country Awards. Nearly 2,000 consumers cast their votes over four weeks, and of those, 30 per cent voted on multiple wine regions. Clearly, wine lovers like to get out and about, and they’re hungry for delicious new experiences. Here are the winners that best satisfied their appetite.

Best Winery Restaurant: Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery

The Stewart family has been growing grapes here in West Kelowna for three generations, so by now they have a pretty good idea of what they’re doing. Just over a decade ago, their smart idea was putting Chef Roger Sleiman in charge of their restaurant. Since then he has quietly been cooking up top-notch local ingredients in an approach he calls “fresh simplicity.” As a result, the food on the plate is as spectacular as the view from the dining room; plus it pairs seamlessly with winemaker Nikki Callaway’s elegant wines.

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Honourable mention: Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards; Liquidity Bistro at Liquidity Wines.

Other region winners: Unsworth Vineyards; Crowsnest Vineyard; Bacchus Bistro at Domaine de Chaberton; and The Kitchen at Fort Berens Estate Winery.

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Best Restaurant Showcasing Local Foods: RauDZ Regional Table  Raudz.JPG

Sourcing local has been chef Rod Butters’ mission since long before it was fashionable. He had the first restaurant rooftop herb garden in Vancouver in the early 1990s, built a network of farmers and fishers at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn a few years later, and in the Okanagan has discovered a whole valley full of local delights that end up in the kitchen at RauDZ. From bacon to beets to blackberries, if it grows here, he finds some delicious new way to serve it.

Honourable mention: Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery; Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards; Liquidity Bistro at Liquidity Wines.

Other region winners: Unsworth VineyardsBacchus Bistro at Domaine de ChabertonThe Kitchen at Fort Berens Estate Winery and Grist Mill and Gardens.

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Best Local Food Product: Poplar Grove Cheese

Say cheese! Wine lovers adore their fromage, and they have plenty to choose from in BC wine country. Their favourite? Poplar Grove, a boutique cheesery owned by Gitta Pederson and nestled amid the vineyards on the Naramata Bench. Swing by the tasting room and sample cheesemaker Louise Pearson’s truffly, creamy Okanagan Double Cream Camembert, complexly earthy Harvest Moon Washed Rind, mild Naramata Bench Blue and the rich, intense, mouthwateringly salty Tiger Blue. cheeseplatter.jpg

Honourable mention: Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan Inc.; cheese from Upper Bench Winery & Creamery.

Other region winners: Little Qualicum Cheeseworks cranberry pepper cream cheese; Harker’s Fruit Stand organic tomatoes; Vista D’oro jams; pork loin from Spray Creek Ranch in Lillooet.

Best Overall Culinary Experience: Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery

It’s not just the food. It starts with that view, sweeping up and down the valley, over the rolling vineyards and the lake sparkling below. It continues in the tasting room, where thoughtful staff lead guests through the crisp whites, delicate Pinot Noirs and irresistible rosé. And then the experience moves on to the dining room, elegant and understated, surrounded by gardens and that breathtaking view. Here chef Sleiman prepares farm-to-table fare – think roast pork chop with Tiger Blue cheese or herb gnocchi and squash in sage butter – with the understated finesse that earned Old Vines a spot on the list of Canada’s top 100 restaurants.

Honourable mention: Vanilla Pod Restaurant at Poplar Grove WinerySonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate WineryMiradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

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Other region winners: Orofino Winery dinner series in the Similkameen Valley; Enrico Winery on Vancouver Island; The Kitchen at Fort Berens Estate Winery.

Other region honorable mentions: Benja Thai in Keremeos, Similkameen Valley; The Terrace at Monte Creek Ranch Winery.