Many years ago, Matt and Shannon Wentzell spent some time exploring the Napa Valley, packing lunches of cheese, fruit, and baguette, and tasting wine at a variety of different vineyards. They enjoyed the combination of food and wine so much that they made a promise to themselves: if the couple ever started a wine tour company, they would emulate that experience for their guests. Fast-forward to 2017, and the couple’s passion for food and wine remains at the centre of their life and business.
Matt and Shannon fell into the wine touring business naturally–Matt previously worked in the restaurant business and then for another tour company while Shannon was a wedding coordinator at an Okanagan winery. Both learned a different aspect of the wine business from their other roles, and their passion for wine was already well-established (Matt was actually trained as a sommelier by our own DJ Kearney!), so starting a tour company just made sense. Now in their 6th year of business, with twins and a new baby, the family and business are both thriving and growing.
Experience Wine Tours offers a variety of tours throughout the Okanagan Valley. Whether guests select Naramata or Okanagan, or private or group tours, Matt and Shannon’s goal is the same: to show off the Okanagan while showing people a good time. Each tour includes a meticulously planned day of events that feels relaxed and effortless. All guests are picked up at their homes or hotels and driven to the various wineries of the tour, and in true Napa style, provided a picnic lunch that features the best local ingredients–produce, meat, cheese, bread, and spreads–sourced from local farms and markets.
When asked why he chose to start a wine tour business, Matt is quick and confident in his answer. “Shannon and I live and breathe wine and food. That’s what we do, that’s what we’re passionate about, and that’s why we started this business.” This passion translates into every aspect of the tours. “As [Okanagan] vines get older, they’re garnering more international acclaim and investment, and attract more high-calibre winemakers,” says Matt.
Do guests or tourists carry any misconceptions about the Okanagan? “People are often surprised by the quality of the wines–and that B.C. produces more than just Icewine!” Matt chuckles. He considers Okanagan tourism a way to invite guests into our very patriotic wine industry: showcasing the diversity of our varietals as well as the best wines of the valley. For Matt, that would be the Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinot Noir at the moment. “But we also have amazing Albariño, Tempranillo, and Grenache! There are so many outstanding different varietals, I don’t want to pick just one!” he clarifies.
This article was originally published in Modern Vintner Issue 01. Request a copy here.