When it comes to finding the perfect combination of entertainment, education, and self-indulgence, it’s hard to beat the intoxicating bliss of losing yourself in wine country. Immersing yourself in the rolling splendor of the vineyard landscape is a rejuvenating experience unlike any other. Quails’ Gate Winery is a must-stop on your list of Kelowna Wineries to visit.
Wine tourism – known to maestros as Enotourism or Vinitourism – ticks all the boxes by giving you the chance to get down and dirty in absorbing the process of creating some of the world’s finest wines all the way from the soil to the bottle. It is also a masterclass in sophistication, as you learn firsthand how to identify the subtle notes of a delicate vintage, as well as what delicacies to pair them with.
For more than six decades, the Stewart family (no relation to our founders!) have pioneered Canada’s wine industry from the nutrient-rich volcanic soils of West Kelowna. Steve and I just had to go and see for ourselves, and of course, bring back the scoop for our readers – straight from the grapevine!
Welcome to this award-winning Kelowna Winery: Quails’ Gate Winery
The Rich History of Viticulture at Quails’ Gate
The Stewart family boasts the unique accolade of being one of the very first family-owned estate wineries in Canada. They are true pioneers, and through three generations of family passion, they have personally shaped Canada’s wine industry and become pillars of the Okanagan Valley wine community.
We’ll start from the very beginning. In 1908 Richard ‘Poppa Dick’ Stewart Sr. settled in the Okanagan Valley and shaped the land into one of the area’s most celebrated nurseries.
Built on an ancestral love for the local soil, the first grapevines were planted here in 1961. The success of this project saw the farmland evolving into Quails’ Gate Winery in 1989. Before the next two decades were out, the whole family had dedicated itself to becoming one of the most prestigious producers of premium VQA wines all of British Columbia.
Their secret? Generations of knowledge, passion, and sustainable techniques that flourished alongside the unique agricultural topology of Okanagan Valley. And the very best thing? Quails’ Gate is open to the public – not only to sample their goods in the environment that birthed them, but also to pass on the wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm that made them a household name!
What Makes the Vineyards of Quails’ Gate One of the Best Places in the World for Wine?
While passion, practice, and a prudent understanding of the wine growing process will take you far, there are other reasons why wine from Quails’ Gate is renowned in British Columbia and beyond.
The 200+ acres of vineyards at Quails’ Gate are blessed with some of the best agricultural conditions for wine in the world. The climate in Okanagan is optimum for grape growth, with a balance of cool periods and long stretches of summer sun, an astounding variety of grapes thrive here. In fact, the latitudinal location of the valley gives it access to some of the highest sunlight exposure rates in the world! The vineyard’s beautiful neighbouring lake even takes the valley’s unique climate one step further by providing a moderating weather effect on those hot summer nights.
As any sommelier will tell you, one of the most interesting things about wine is that everything from the chemical composition of the soil, the climate, the grape species, and even the barrel the wine is aged in will determine the taste of the final product.
West Kelowna, where the Okanagan Valley can be found, enjoys a location right next to Mount Boucherie: an extinct volcano almost 60 million years old! The soil here is rich in minerals from volcanic rock, gravel, clay, and glacial till. All of this contributes to the unique character, strength, and depth of flavour of Quails’ Gate vintages.
Quails’ Gate Wine Tasting Opportunities
What better way to understand the complexities of British Columbia’s leading vintages than to try them for yourself?
Quails’ Gate offers a variety of tasting experiences (and the opportunity to take away your own bottles!) in their tasting room which is open daily between 11 am and 6 pm.
Whether you want to sip wine surrounded by sweeping views, enjoy a romantic stroll through the vineyards, or sup sophistication during a private taste experience in the Wine Library, Quails’ Gate has something for you. An expert sommelier will always be on hand to provide the perfect match for your palette.
Their Estate Selection, Reserve Series, and Collector Series also allow seasoned wine enthusiasts the opportunity to sample 4 award-winning wines or even rare vintages, as well as panoramic views of Okanagan Lake and the sprawling estate vineyards. They even waive the tasting fee if you buy a bottle to take home with you – and we dare you to try and resist!
While Quails’ Gate try their best to accommodate walk-ins, their deserved popularity means its best to book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Immerse Yourself in the Stewart Family’s Unique Processes With a Guided Vineyard Tour
Tasting wine is undeniably great, but to form a true appreciation for the work that goes into bottling such refined sophistication, you really need to take a wine tour.
Learn firsthand how generations of expertise combine with ground-breaking modern techniques to create wines that are as eco-friendly as they are delicious.
We loved learning how the Stewart family uses innovative sustainable techniques to avoid some of the evils of modern agriculture. Our highlights included learning how they plant cover crops to distract insects and avoid pesticides and then use these same crops as environmentally-friendly fertilizers. They have also harnessed the latest technological advancements, such as using wireless irrigation systems to ensure sustainable water usage – but we’ll leave some secrets for them to bestow upon you!
Quails’ Gate offers two tours: The Collector’s Experience and The Estate Family Tour.
The Collector’s Experience:
The Collector’s Experience offers you the complete package. You will enjoy 75 minutes of guided wine and food bliss. With wine glasses in-hand, you will be led through the breathtakingly gorgeous vineyards to witness the Steward family process firsthand.
Afterward, you will ascend up to the private Wine Library for the privilege of sampling some cellared wine. Finally, the experience is wrapped up with four rare, collectible Anniversary wine samples, served alongside specially paired cheeses and charcuterie treats in the historical backdrop of Allison House.
The Estate Family Tour:
Slightly shorter but just as rewarding is The Family Estate Tour.
This 50-minute learning experience will see you imbibing the expansive history of the Stewart family vineyards and winery. You will come out the other side with a rich understanding of the scientific and agricultural processes that are poured into every bottle.
Of course, no wine tour would be complete without you being whisked away to sample four of the Stewart family’s award-winning vintages!
Refined Dining at Quails’ Gate
One of the best things about wine is how it can truly bring a dish alive when paired correctly. Unsurprisingly, the Stewart family knows a thing or two about how to get the most out of both your meal and the accompanying vintage.
The Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate is a culinary experience that is hard to rival. The ethical farm-to-table philosophy of Culinary Director Roger Sleiman maximizes the pleasure to your palette while minimizing your guilt.
Everything – and we mean everything – served at Old Vines is delivered with a focus on sustainability and supporting local farmers. The grapes for your wine are grown within arms-reach of the restaurant, the cattle can be seen grazing on the grass just across the lake, and the veggies are straight from the farm just down the road. Every aspect of your meal is imbued with the vitality, complexity, and vigour of the local volcanic earth. Even the seafood is caught in collaboration with Ocean Wise, who ensure every catch is ethically caught or sustainably raised.
We mentioned local farmers, but a word more is needed on the vegetables used by Old Vines. The restaurant works in partnership with the Kelowna-based Unearthed Organics, a certified premium organic farm specializing in produce that is healthy for you and the environment. Their pain-staking work with both soil and crops is designed from the ground up to maximize soil health and local biodiversity.
Fresh simplicity is the ethos of Old Vines, with dishes that encapsulate the classical tradition of regional Okanagan cuisine. The restaurant is open from 11 am to 9.30 pm daily and has special menus for tasting, lunch, Sunday brunch, and even happy hour!
Old Vines have even embraced providing culinary perfection for those most vulnerable members of society during the pandemic, with curbside pickup available for those who aren’t quite ready to brave a restaurant just yet.
If you want a sneak and peek at what culinary delights and fine wines await you at the Old Vine, you can view their menus online here.
Vacationing at Quails’ Gate
The best way to experience everything Quails’ Gate has to offer, in our opinion, is an extended stay in one of their two magnificent on-estate properties.
Not only does this give you enough time to enjoy your fill of tasting, dining, touring, and exploring the fascinating and beautiful Okanagan Valley; you will also be treated to the pampering of concierge services, private tastings and tours, shuttle services, and other luxuries to ensure the perfect personalized guest experience!
As the smaller of the two properties, The Nest offers the ideal location for romantic getaways, family retreats, or rejuvenating vacations for up to seven people.
This cozy lakefront cabin dates back to the 1960s, but has been entirely renovated to include:
- Three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
- An open concept living room and kitchen.
- Large decking area complete with hot tub and gas barbeque.
- Free Wi-Fi.
- Expansive flanking lawns, as well as access to nearby nature trails and a beach.
The Lake House:
To vacation like a true king or queen, there is no place better than The Lake House. This luxury property is one the of most beautiful in the Okanagan region and manages to be somehow both sprawling and snug – fitting up to fourteen guests!
The full list of amenities includes:
- Five bedrooms and three bathrooms.
- Eight parking spaces.
- A chef-standard kitchen.
- Steam shower and hot tub.
- Full air conditioning, a fireplace, and an outdoor fire pit.
- Dock access with a boat lift.
- Free Wi-Fi and cable TV.
- Laundry room.
Quails’ Gate’s Award-Winning Reputation
Quails’ Gate offers a one-of-a-kind experience when it comes to wine tasting, dining, and holiday vineyard breaks.
But don’t just take our word for it, the Stewart family and the Old Vines Restaurant have won a staggering number of awards for their commitment to quality and customer service over the years, including:
Well over 250 vintage Canadian wine awards placements, ranging from bronze to platinum since 2008 alone. We don’t have enough space to list them all here, but we heartily recommend taking a look at the full mind-blowing list.
- One of the Top 100 Restaurants, Outdoor Dining Restaurants, and Romantic Restaurants in Canada from Open Table.
- Best B.C. Winery Restaurant Showcasing Local Food from Best of B.C. Wine Country Awards.
- Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.
- Number 17 of the 20 Best Winery Restaurants Around the World from The Daily Meal 2013.
- Silver Medal Top Winery Restaurant in 2012, and Gold Medal Top Winery Restaurant in 2011 from Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards.
Honestly, with accolades like those, we’re sure you can understand why Quails’ Gate placed so highly on our must-see list.
If you would like any further proof of the quality at Quails’ Gate, you could always take a look at some online reviews.
Join the Quails’ Gate Wine Club
It is hard to go back to supermarket-standard wine once you’ve tasted what Quails’ Gate has to offer. Luckily, you don’t have to!
By joining the exclusive Quails’ Gate Wine Club, you can enjoy:
- Complimentary tastings for you and three other guests, all year round.
- Access to exclusive members-only wines, as well as first access to the newest Wine Library releases.
- Access to exclusive members-only wine events.
- 15% off everything at the on-site Wine Shop and online store.
- A free annual tasting curated to your palette, for you and six guests.
- Personalized concierge services for tastings, tours, restaurant service, and on-site accommodation.
- Personalized shipments of the wines you love, with orders crafted to your tastes.
Wine Club members will even enjoy these same benefits at the sister winery on the shores of Lake Sonoma in California!
There are three different levels of Wine Club membership: Cellar Door Club, Local Select Club, and Barrel Club.
Cellar Door Club:
This package provides you with shipments of painstakingly hand-picked vintages three times per year, which always include special Stewart Family Reserve, Wine Library, or private-release vintages.
This offer does not include club fees, simply excellent wine delivered to your door. You can even choose between 6-bottle moderation or 12-bottle indulgence!
Local Select Club:
This allows locals or frequent guests to pick out their own very favorite vintages, with a membership card that is refreshed with $200 three times per year for use in the on-site Wine Shop.
Members of the Local Select Club also get to enjoy all of the Wine Club benefits listed above.
Finally, there is the very highest grade of membership, for all your wine connoisseur needs.
This one is extremely prestigious and limited, as it supplies all of the regular Wine Club benefits alongside even more exclusive access to the very rarest and finest vintages, as well as special private event invitations.
Events at Quails’ Gate
Many vineyards and wineries suffer from the fact that some seasons are simply more exciting than others in the wine world – for example, who can deny that harvest time is the most exciting time to visit a vineyard?
Quails’ Gate, however, work hard to ensure that their vineyard is engaging and exciting all year round. As well as their special Wine Club exclusive events, they hold a variety of vineyard dinners, interactive seminars, festive markets, and other functions throughout the year! There’s always something new and compelling to see at Quails’ Gate.
As well as their own events, they also offer private functions to spice up your family gathering or add a dash of sophistication to your corporate retreat. These include:
- Private five-course wine-paired dinners in the Stewart Family Library for between four to six guests. These feature special menus with local seasonal ingredients, international wines, and – of course – champagne!
- Innovative virtual tastings, where wines are shipped directly to you and an expert sommelier is on-hand virtually to guide you and your gues