Valhalla Helicopters in West Kelowna operates half-and-full-day heli-wine tours in the Okanagan’s stunning wine region. STEVE MACNAULL PHOTO
by STEVE MACNAULL
Unequivocally, helicopter is my new favourite way to visit wineries.
Everyone takes notice when you arrive via the whup-whup-whup of a Bell 206 JetRanger.
People anxiously await your arrival, hand you glasses of champagne upon landing and lead you on the most amazing tours and tastings.
My wife and I are on a Valhalla helicopter wine tour in the burgeoning and beautiful Okanagan wine region just outside Kelowna, B.C.
Of course, we’ve wine toured before by boring old car.
But, we’ve never had the VIP treatment a heli-wine tour affords.
“Whenever I deliver a group to a winery, people on the ground crane their necks to see who are these rock stars arriving by helicopter,” our pilot Devon Zanussi said.
Bystanders, naturally, are disappointed we are an utterly average couple of baby boomers instead of George Clooney and Amal.
However, this day we can preen, after all, we have a helicopter at our beck and call.
We lift off from Valhalla’s hangar in West Kelowna and soar over forests, the graceful arch of Okanagan Lake Bridge, the sailboat-dotted lake and the city of Kelowna.
Before we know it, Ex Nihilo in Lake Country is in sight, the tidy rows of grapes marking its locale.
We descend, hover and Zanussi showcases his piloting prowess by landing smoothly on an impossibly small 10-foot-square heli-pad right beside the vineyard.
Winery staffer Megan Fleming is waiting, her hair blowing from the force of the ‘copter blades, with two glasses of Ex Nihilo’s SX Tous sparkling rose.
We stride to a special table on an elevated lawn with a view of the lake at the winery’s Chaos outdoor restaurant.
Owner Jeff Harder meets us there for gourmet pizza and tastings of pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, the Privada red blend and finally merlot icewine.
My wife asks for more of the elegantly-oaked chard to go with her pizza, I opt for additional lush-but-dry riesling.
Alas, there’s a schedule to keep.
So, it’s off to The Vibrant Vine in East Kelowna.
We’re met at the heli-pad at the edge of the pinot gris vineyard by hosts Connor Charlesworth and Joanne McGregor and escorted through the rows to the tasting room.
Upon entering we’re offered 3-D glasses because this is the world’s only 3-D tasting room.
Indeed, it’s a trippy experience with all the art and wine labels popping in three dimensions.
We taste six wines, pausing over Woops, the delicious white blend with the upside-down, shrink-wrapped label. Initially a mistake, the winery now embraces the blooper as a packaging gimmick.
Sated, we climb back in the helicopter for a final bit of aerial aesthetics before returning to Valhalla’s hangar, vowing we’ll never be able to wine tour again without a helicopter at our disposal.
NEED TO KNOW
— The half-day Valhalla Helicopters heli-wine tour costs $1,575 for four passengers. Check out ValhallaHelicopters.com.
This article originally appeared on Canoe.