I’ve got your wineries and incredible breweries but did you know the Kelowna distillery scene is booming?
Life nowadays is insane, isn’t it? Just last month I was so hopeful about the future of British Columbia but a recent cluster of outbreaks from visitors is threatening our progression. Just as my husband and I were planning date night we started hearing about the additional cases popping up in the downtown core. We had to get creative.
Visitors have been making it harder to socially distance. I suppose it is the thrill of vacationing after lockdown and the mix of local drinks, incredible scenery and being amid other people. They forget the importance of social distancing and it has been making me uncomfortable when I try to enjoy my city.
My husband and I wanted to get away but still wanted a drink and so we headed into southeast Kelowna. This area of the city is my calm away from the hustle and peak season traffic. Southeast Kelowna is like heading into the countryside and yet it is a short 15-20 minute drive from my home or downtown. It is also where many Kelowna distilleries are setting up shop.
I made an online booking for Wiseacre distillery looking to surprise my husband with a place we’ve never been and with no one else around. What better place than a farm?
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Upon arrival at Wiseacre you’ll also find signage noting Caldwell Heritage Farm. This property is brand new to Kelowna’s distilling scene – that is they opened this year but have been working at it for 3 years thanks to our insanely difficult ALR (agricultural land reserve) laws.
Julie & Jake Warkentin, purchased the southeast Kelowna farm-to-be back in 1990.
They slowly transformed the acreage into a small working farm with cattle, chickens and plenty of space for Jake’s tractor restoration pursuits. Sadly, Jake and Julie both passed rather young and suddenly their daughter Kristi and her husband James, both living in the Vancouver area with two kiddos, were faced with the choice of selling the beloved property or a drastic life change from urban to farm life. Luckily for us they chose the latter and made some serious additions including a gorgeous space for weddings, a distillery and water tower.
Now I, admittedly, am not a gin drinker. I enjoy my vodka sodas and stick to craft beer and wine. But my sister’s boyfriend recently left a gin soda in my fridge so I gave it a try. Turns out, gin isn’t as horrible as I once thought. In fact, it can taste like a delicious floral candy or a subtle juniper and cardamom elixir.
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Kristi gave us an incredible tour of the property introducing us to chickens, Valentine the cow and their two donkeys. But she also shows us the amazing antiques and old tractors including a crank tractor from 1919 which could be the oldest functioning tractor in Canada. Her father’s legacy as a restorer is preserved with the incredible collection of tractors on display.
After the tour Kristi led us to this impeccably kept tasting room and copper distillery room when she summarizes the lengthy process of mixing, editing and re-editing in order to achieve the perfect gin and vodka. The practice is considerably harder for gin No. 5 as theirs includes a mixture of 8 different herbs, spices and botanicals. Their latest result creates a smooth drinking experience with a sweetness akin to a delicate candy like Turkish delight but mixed with a dewy forest. Put simply, it made a gin drinker out of me!
If you’re in Kelowna looking to get away from the tourists and get involved with locals then book yourself a tasting at this Kelowna distillery! The Wiseacre Farms & Distillery experience leaves you with a great appreciation for the hard work that has gone into everything from the land and tractors to the gin and small details of the tasting room. Kristi and James Caldwell are warm hosts that look at their difficult path in building their own legacy with humour and love.
Looks like a lot of fun!
Thanks Holly, it definitely was a fun date night for us during the pandemic.