Taryn and I have lived in the Okanagan for close to 15 years and I can’t believe this was our first time scoring tickets to the Grand Sommelier Express in Summerland, BC. Only an hour drive from my house, I often wondered if the Kettle Valley steam train and in particular their wine train tasting events, was worth it.
Since the pandemic, everything has gone up in price and that includes events throughout the Okanagan. What once was a typical price of $99-$150 per person is now at a minimum of $180-$250 per person. Things ain’t cheap. Summerland’s Grand Sommelier Express is no exception standing at about $180 per person. This includes the Okanagan wine train experience, food, and music all set in a quaint old train station about 15 minutes from the highway turn off in Summerland.
I should mention that aside from the Grand Sommelier event held in partnership with the Bottleneck Drive, there are also miniature wine train events held once per month in July & August. You can expect a train ride while wineries of the Bottleneck Drive pour tastings as the steam train chugs its way through picturesque vineyards, orchards, mountain ranges and peakaboo lake views. I believe the only difference between the Grand Sommelier Express and wine train events is the amount of food and amount of wineries in attendance.
The “mini” Bottleneck Tasting wine train is only $55 per person.
The Bottleneck drive is made up of local wineries, cideries and distilleries all based in the Summerland area.
There isn’t a bad seat on the train with both indoor caboose seating as well as outdoor offered. Many preferred outdoor seating because…I mean the views and open air on this pristine summer day made for amazing photos.
Pro tip: How to get desired seats…
As soon as you arrive when the gates open I highly suggest getting a glass of wine to sip on then head to the area by the bathrooms. This is where the outdoor seating boards. Don’t crowd the gate they’ll need to open the gate anyways. But people swarm and it can get a bit competitive as people rush to get on board. Take a left and head to the open air cabooses. There are seats for 2 or seats of 4 – 2 on each side that face each other. When it comes time to pause 1/2 way on the train journey on the bridge many people save their seats as they take the opportunity to use the portapottys. So you probably won’t get the opportunity to sit outside on your way back if you had an indoor seat on the way there.
It has been very rainy here so any sunny day is worth celebrating. If you want unobstructed views be sure to sit on the left hand side of the train.
I have visited or passed through Summerland perhaps hundreds of times and I never knew that these views existed. It was stunning and an absolute feast for the eyes as the vibrant green vineyards, freshly rained on from the weeks before, were so lush.
After the train ride food from Penticton’s beloved Brodo Kitchen was promised and they delivered! Your classic burger made an appearance but always offering the unexpected, there was also grilled octopus, gnocchi with halloumi and saffron sauce as well as fried cauliflower with a cold noodle salad. And a pana cotta made with in season strawberries and rhubarb.
The experience should be on your Okanagan wine region bucket list if you’re new to the area or if you’re a local looking to book that one unique event for the summer…this is it!