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Escape to wine country this year

SUMMER in this city is spectacular - with no shortage of beachfront to lie on, views to admire, and leafy trails to take shade in.
Mission Hill Family Estate will host a summer concert series that includes jazz artist Chris Botti, Lyle Lovett and Chris Isaak.

SUMMER in this city is spectacular - with no shortage of beachfront to lie on, views to admire, and leafy trails to take shade in.

Still, a change of scenery is a good thing, and for food and wine lovers, the obvious getaway is just a few hours east: the Okanagan.

As the wine industry has grown - from just 14 wineries in the 1980s to more than 120 today - so have the opportunities for activities and adventures more sophisticated than those that "Holidayland" was known for in past decades (as in: boating and channel floating).

This year is no exception. The Okanagan Summer Wine Festival spread out through the valley last year, rather than being concentrated into one weekend at Silver Star Mountain Resort as it had previously.

In 2012, it offers up 10 days of tastings, dinners, outdoor picnics and parties from Osoyoos to Kelowna, from July 6 to 15. There is so much to choose from (more than 100 events), it's hard to know what to highlight, but here are a few:

Valley First Pops The Cork takes place July 7 in the Arts Common beside the Rotary Centre for the Arts in Kelowna, and includes wine tasting, live music and light tapas.

The Valley First GranFondo Wine Tasting, on July 8, takes place in Gyro Park in Penticton, and will feature more than 300 wines for sampling along with light tapas, cheeses and breads to cleanse the palate.

Here's one I'd like to hit: on July 11 and 12, Memphis Blues Barbeque House serves up a southern barbecue buffet on the outdoor patio at Okanagan Crush Pad Winery in Summerland. Tickets also include a tasting of the wines of Haywire, Bartier Scholefield and Bartier Bros. Get info at

The "All You Need Is Cheese & Wine The Beach Party" kicks off at 7 p.m. on July 13: hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and taking place at the Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos, guests will be treated to great wines, cheeses and music.

There is so much more. For details, including ticket prices and how to buy them, visit

Music has also become a big draw in the valley - with wineries signing on to host multiple concerts throughout the summer.

The Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Canadian Concert Series features some of Canada's top talent at the winery's outdoor amphitheatre. The Boom Booms will open the festival on May 26. On June 23, Acres of Lions will perform and July 28 will see Redeye Empire. Said the Whale caps off the four-part series on Aug. 25. Find out more at

The Hester Creek summer concert on July 6 (also part of the summer wine fest) will feature Trama playing classic rock cover tunes, new hits and classics. Tickets are $50 for a seat on the patio or $35 on the lawn. Details are at

Mission Hill Family Estate's summer concert series includes award-winning jazz artist Chris Botti on June 24, Lyle Lovett on July 12 and Chris Isaak on July 27. Dinner and concert packages are also available. Find out more at

Want to combine your sipping and sampling with some outdoor activity? Into the Vineyard, is a "wineinspired travel company" that is offering a new luxury road bike trip in the southern Okanagan this year in collaboration with local cycling outfitter, Arbutus Routes. The extended weekend getaways spend four days riding and wine tasting in Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Black Sage and the Golden Mile.

For dates, pricing and further details, visit or

Finally, if you're a food and wine writer, cookbook author or culinary blogger, the Okanagan Food & Wine Writers Workshop takes place June 12-15.

Based out of the iconic family-run boutique Hotel Eldorado in Kelowna, the four-day workshop includes in-depth culinary writing sessions by instructors like award-winning reporter and food writer Liane Faulder; cookbook author, blogger, tv cooking show host, radio personality and food writer Julie Van Rosendaal; Scout Magazine editor, cookbook author, food writer and editor Andrew Morrison; awardwinning photojournalist Bruce Kemp; social media maven to the food and wine industry Allison Markin; and food writer and author Jennifer Cockrall-King.

The workshop also includes hands-on cooking classes, sustainable seafood discussions and oyster shucking practice, sparkling wine sabreing, meals, tastings and more.

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For more information,visit okanaganfoodandwine