Wine Culture Magazine

K Mountain rises above the vineyards in the Similkameen Valley. Photo courtesy of Similkameen Independent Wineries

When headed to BC’s interior, I often wonder if my trusty (pre-GPS) Toyota is nonetheless programmed to take Hwy 3. Compared to its faster—and steeper—alternative, the Crowsnest lures for many reasons. Not the least being its more leisurely pace and gradual shift to bucolic scenery.

From Manning Park through Keremeos the road follows the Similkameen River into the heart of its namesake valley to Cawston and beyond, a destination now truly blossoming as its own, distinct wine region.

One of just nine B.C. formalized Geographic Indications, the valley is unusual in the province, in that it starts from east to west (then turns north to south). Framed by soaring, steep mountain ranges with schist foothills, and with growing degree days (GDD), among the highest in the region, its rock formations help retain heat for hours after the summer sun has left. Moreover, often windy conditions keep moisture to a minimum, making the spectacular valley ideal for sustainable and organic agriculture.

Indeed, renowned as Canada’s Organic Farming Capital, the Similkameen holds dear its agricultural roots. Here the people and experiences are always connected to the land—whose glacially formed, calcium and mineral packed soils help define the distinctive terroir.

Yet, while it may be laid-back, Similkameen is anything but sleepy. In spite of the pandemic the pace has been picking up, as wineries explore new opportunities. Hugging Tree (which sold its original vineyard and orchard in favour of Upper Bench Road properties) has opened a new winery and tasting room just east of Becks Road. Nearby, Clos du Soleil’s recently acquired Whispered Secret Vineyard is now certified organic. And western neighbour Corcelettes has been busy sculpting its dramatic, high elevation Sunshot Vineyard while their newly opened Sunshot Guesthouse takes full advantage of the valley panorama.

The Similkameen’s organic mantra is embraced by numerous wineries, including fully certified Robin Ridge, Forbidden Fruit and multi-tasking Harker’s Organics Rustic Roots Winery and Cidery. Much of the valley’s appeal does indeed lie in its diversity. Between wineries, drop by Twisted Hill’s geodesic-domed tasting room to discover authentic organic ciders. Or, take time out for lunch or dinner at farm to table-driven Row Fourteen at Klippers. Here too you can taste a flight of the house Untangled Cider or order from a range of local labels on the wine list.

As the valley has grown so has the choice of places to stay. Klippers also offers luxurious accommodations surrounded by prolific orchards. You can taste through Orofino’s wines (don’t miss the Rieslings!) before checking in to a vista-kissed suite with vineyard and mountain backdrop. A comfy-cosy room at Crowsnest Vineyards Guesthouse comes also with the chance to taste flights and local fare, including home baking and house charcuterie. (Plan a weekend visit to catch pizza patio nights, often paired with live tunes from a local band.)

Once rested and refreshed, if you’re continuing east and beyond, don’t miss tasting at award-winning Vanessa Vineyards, or the chance to tour the unique cellars and taste at Seven Stones.

From farm-gate popups to taste-filled tables and welcoming hosts—not to mention wicked wines from a unique terroir—signs are everywhere that the Similkameen has ‘arrived’.

So maybe you should, too!

Supported by British Columbia’s Buy BC Program

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