Get a "bird's" eyeview of the Okanagan and taste some world-class wines on a Valhalla Helicopters taste-and-tour.
Sometimes, you just need to see things a different way. That is how I found myself in Kelowna about to embark on my first helicopter flight. Rather than heli-skiing or fighting fires, my day would involve visiting wineries by helicopter.
The half-day tour, organized by Valhalla Helicopters, included visits to three wineries. The adventure starts with a welcome safety demonstration for nervous helicopter newbies from our friendly and capable pilot “Chinook” McLean which can be summed up with “do what I tell you” and “stay away from the whirly bits — especially the big one in the back.”
Our first stop was Mission Hill Family Vineyards for a tour and tasting. I’ve been to Mission Hill before, but there is something special about getting off a helicopter and going to taste wine. The “Big-Shot” feeling aside, the adrenaline rush from the flight means the senses are sharp and the wine even more delicious.
From Mission Hill, we flew over Myra Canyon which was devastated in the 2003 Okanagan fires but is bouncing back eight years later and is again a very popular spot for cyclists and hikers.
Our next vineyard stop was at St. Hubertus and Oak Bay Estate Winery, where we landed right in the vineyard. In the winery, we tasted a selection of excellent whites and reds before heading to the vineyard to taste some Schönberger grapes.
Finally, we headed north past Kelowna to Ex Nihilo Vineyards. A relative newcomer to the Okanagan wine scene, Ex Nihilo is already well known for top quality wines which we enjoyed in a casual setting with the proprietor Jeff Harder.
Valhalla runs both full- and half-day winery/sightseeing tours, with about 30 participating wineries for guests to choose from.
The half-day winery tour typically includes about an hour of flying and around two hours visiting two to four wineries, depending on the wineries chosen and their relative locations. The cost for the half-day tour is $1,300 for up to four guests.
The full-day tour costs $2,500 and includes two hours of flying time and four hours at the wineries. This is perfect for visiting wineries further afield, such as those in the Similkameen or Osoyoos areas.
The options are nearly limitless and Valhalla is able to help you customize your trip based on which wineries you want to visit and how much time you have. Perhaps the best option is to have the helicopter pick you up (and later drop you off) at your first winery of the day in Kelowna. It is the perfect opportunity to surprise family or friends with: “That? Oh, that’s our ride!”