Bucket List This: Okanagan Valley, B.C.

Vivian Vassos | June 23rd, 2015

Wine, food and fun in Canada’s only desert.

In Osoyoos, in the Okanagan Valley, I discovered a one-stop shop: The Watermark Beach Resort.

The resort has smartly partnered with a few of the region’s forward-thinkers – when it comes to wine, food, and fun in this, Canada’s only desert. It’s also built for longer stays – great for snowbirds who may not always want to go south – with light-filled suites that feature apartment-sized square-footage, living rooms and kitchens and communal amenities such as a good gym and an even better pool, where you can breathe in the valley air and take in the lakeside views.

Spend an hour with farmer Gene at Covert Farms. Pick your own organic produce – we plucked juicy red strawberries right off the vine for our dessert – take a ride on the farm’s 1952 Mercury Truck, adding to the nostalgic appeal, through the vineyards and to meet some of the farm’s animal citizens and end up back at the ranch, so to speak, with wine and nibbles pairing.

Or take in a bit of the local lore: John Carmichael Haynes was an Irish-born constable, and after his arrival in Canada in the mid-1850s, he made his way to the Okanagan Valley. His daughter, Hester, was a gentle soul, and she had a great love of water, of fish, and of swimming every chance she could get. The creek that rambled through her father’s property still bears her name, christened as such by Haynes when he first purchased the land in this part of B.C. wine country. Hester Creek is also the name of the winery that now occupies much of the estate, its label sports a girl swimming, catching the tail of a dolphin, a homage.

And that’s the beauty of the Okanagan Valley, Osoyoos in particular. Grapes grow alongside desert-like dunes; low-lying golf course greens huddle between mountain peaks; winemakers and athletic types, chefs and farmers, retirees and up and comers, natives and new to the valley. All living in harmony.

Walking with the animals, farmer Gene at Covert Farms
Walking with the animals, farmer Gene at Covert Farms

The cowboy winemakers at Rustico
The cowboy winemakers at Rustico

Fresh berry sorbet at Covert Farms
Fresh berry sorbet at Covert Farms

Wine cocktails at Rustico
Wine cocktails at Rustico

Up at the castle at Road 13 vineyard
Up at the castle at Road 13 vineyard

Rooms with a spectacular view of Lake Osoyoos at Watermark Beach Resort
Rooms with a spectacular view of Lake Osoyoos at Watermark Beach Resort

Rolling out the wine barrels at Sumac Ridge
Rolling out the wine barrels at Sumac Ridge

More barrels of fun at Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery
More barrels of fun at Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery

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Dinner is Pasta Carbonara at Tinhorn Creek
Dinner is Pasta Carbonara at Tinhorn Creek