Penticton BC Canada
It’s official. Penticton BC is the new Napa, scoring higher temperatures, less rainfall than its US counterpart, and with Penticton’s wineries growing in numbers and reputation, it has become a major tourist destination for Canadians, Americans and visitors from Europe and beyond. Predominately known in the past as a fruit growing region, and with towns like Summerland and Peachland fringing the Okanagan Lake, the success of its wineries has culminated in summer and autumn wine festivals, where local vineyards compete for the coveted gold standard awards.
However, the discerning wine buff has to be ahead of the pack as many of the best wines don’t make the Okanagan wine festival, and are sold out months ahead. Wine tours are frequent and popular and probably the best way to gain an insight into the wines of the region. With a drink driving zero-tolerance, being on an escorted tour or having a designated driver is a must.
Winery names like SYL, (See You Later), Red Rooster, Soaring Eagle, Black Widow, Dirty Laundry and Laughing Stock, always have an interesting story attached. The ‘See You Later’ is supposedly named because the farmer’s wife departed with those words to her husband, as she left to join her farm hand lover and never return again. ‘Dirty Laundry’ was so named because the site where today’s winery is was once where a laundry catered for the washing of ladies with a certain reputation.
Most wineries have a small charge for wine tasting which can be off-set against purchases or donated to some local worthy cause. The drink driving zero-tolerance law has affected pubs and restaurants in the region much as the smoking ban affected the Irish pub trade, but enterprising restaurants now offer a takeaway service. Everything in Penticton is within a ten minute drive, that is on a heavy traffic day, so takeaway trade works effectively.
The town sits between two lakes, the Okanagan lake to the north and Skaha lake to the south and lays within 70km of the US border in a valley gouged in the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. The larger town of Kelowna is to the north of the Okanagan lake and one may travel onwards from there to Revelstoke and the beginning of the Canadian Rocky Mountain range.
Summer temperatures are a comfortable 25 to 30 degrees and rainfall is light in Penticton. Sandy beaches and safe bathing are plentiful with many beaches to choose from, even a nudist beach which we stumbled upon by accident. The beaches have seated picnic areas, toilet and changing facilities and most have trees providing shade.
Bathing and swimming areas are clearly designated and some parts of the lake have diving board platforms set out a short distance from the beach. Water sports of all kinds are enjoyed outside the swimming areas and all types of boats, including canoe, kayak or jetski are generally available for hire. There’s lots of free water-based entertainment such as floating down the channel on a tyre or blow up raft, great family fun.
The whole town and surrounding areas turn out for the Grads, a great family event. There are Rose Gardens in town where the teenagers dressed in their finery have their photographs taken and then they process through town in a variety of vehicles, horse drawn carts and carriages, tractors, trucks, sports cars – in fact anything with wheels and the more bizarre the better. They celebrate ‘Dry Grads’ in Penticton with all the businesses coming on board, presenting gifts to be drawn for at the Grads Ball where no alcohol is allowed. It’s illegal for alcohol to be consumed by anyone under 21 and the rule is strictly adhered to.
The town has golf courses open to visitors and is a mere 30 minutes drive in winter time from ski slopes. The Okanagan Iron Man has been running for over 30 years and attracts participants from all over the world including two from Dublin in the 2011 Iron Man which took place August 28th in a blistering 33 degrees. The other main festivals in the town are the annual Jazz Festival and the Elvis Festival but smaller festivals, growing in popularity, take place throughout the year.
There is a direct flight into the centre of Penticton, via Vancouver, British Columbia or by bus from Vancouver. Penticton is about an hour’s drive along the lakeside, south of Kelowna, where there are also direct flights from other Canadian cities.