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Flair Airlines flight review: A safe local wine trip to Kelowna BC! Okanagan Executive Rentals car hire, helicopter tour.

vancouver airport yvr entrance outside drop off departures terminal

“Masks are required…” As they should be, whether you’re at the airport or not!

Oh, how it felt exhilarating to board an airplane for the first time since late February. Let me assure you straight off the bat — this was a short and safe local flight with Flair Airlines, within my province of British Columbia. My mission: to report on the outstanding wine region of Kelowna, in the Okanagan. 

(Note: I traveled with Flair in early-mid October 2020, when BC was in Stage 3 of re-opening and greenlighted mindful local travel. Keep in mind that guidelines may always change, so please be diligent when planning  trips). 

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Did you know that British Columbia, Canada has a world-famous wine country, located under an hour’s flight east from Vancouver?

Read on to see what I experienced at two of the the coolest indie vineyards, Kitsch Wines and Frequency Winery(I couldn’t resist posing amidst the grapes, in a Towers Swimwear top.)

(And I’ll share my honest experiences with flying on Flair Airlines… along with a 25% off code [LACARMINA25] that you can use on future flights!) 

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This trip wouldn’t have been nearly as seamless and stylish without Okanagan Executive Rentals & Concierge. The wonderful owner, Jeremy Giroux, has a fleet of luxury and exotic cars that you can rent, or hire him to drive.

Thanks to Jeremy’s kindness and expertise, I got to visit off-the-beaten-path vineyards in Kelowna — and even take a helicopter ride! (Keep reading to see my epic landing at Kitsch Winery.)

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But let’s begin at Vancouver Airport (YVR). I haven’t flown in eight months, which feels like a lifetime for a travel writer who usually averages a trip per month. To my relief, the airport felt empty, and had all the precautions in place (Plexiglass, distancing, hand sanitizer, etc). 

It was my first time flying with Flair Airlines, a Canadian company that offers domestic flights at low prices. As the cheeky sign indicates, they “fly to (too many destinations within Canada to fit on this thing) for less.” These cities include Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary.

flair airlines plane airplane vancouver kelowna airport

After a smooth check in and zero lineups, I boarded this aesthetically-pleasing Flair jet. The flight from Vancouver to Kelowna takes less than an hour — yet it brings you to a very different region of British Columbia, filled with dozens of top-notch wineries. 

flair airlines seats seating chart interior

As you can see, Flair’s modern interiors gave me plenty of room to distance. Masks are required for all passengers, and everyone on board was great about wearing one. (I researched HEPA filters and circulation, and was reassured to hear that the air on planes actually tends to be cleaner than in restaurants and stores.)

Flair Airlines also gives passengers the option to keep the middle seat next to them empty for an extra $49. 

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I settled into my seat, and enjoyed the view from the wing. I felt relaxed throughout the entire ride, and before I knew it, I had landed in Kelowna. 

Flair Airlines already offers low fares, but they’re letting me share a promo / discount code that brings prices down even further. ** Enter “LACARMINA25” when booking a flight on their site, and you’ll receive 25% off the base fare. (This promotional voucher is valid for all Flair flights for booking and travel until Dec 15, except between Nov 6-15.)

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Kelowna is a small and laid-back destination, so it only took 10 minutes to go from the airport to Hyatt Place Kelowna. The hotel opened up a few months ago, and the location is perfect — close to all the major Kelowna wineries, and within walking distance to excellent sushi. I was delighted with the Hyatt’s spacious rooms and modern amenities, including a pool and gym that guests can book in advance, to keep within safe capacities. 

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Above all, the Hyatt Kelowna staff was wonderful. I loved getting to know the front desk team, who gladly brought up extra towels and packets of Tazo tea. And how lovely to find this gift in my room: reserve chardonnay from local producer Mission Hill, and a bouquet of flowers. 

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The Hyatt was excellent at following safety guidelines and maintaining a clean environment. For instance, every morning, guests could take up a packaged hot breakfast box to eat in their rooms. I’ll be staying here again the next time I visit Kelowna. 

kitsch vineyard mansion manor house

Kelowna doesn’t have Uber, and driving yourself isn’t recommended if you’re planning on doing wine tastings. The brilliant solution: Okanagan Executive Rentals & Concierge! Owner Jeremy Giroux can drive you to multiple vineyards in a day — in a luxury car — meaning you can simply relax and enjoy (and imbibe).  

Jeremy knows all the best local spots, and offers concierge services to help you plan a ski trip, spa getaway, wine tour, and other experiences in the Okanagan. His fleet of luxurious vehicles (for rent or car service) include a Range Rover, two Porsches, and Lincoln Navigator.

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Jeremy is able to make special arrangements for his clients — including a helicopter ride above Kelowna! In partnership with Private Sky Aviation, he made it possible for me to experience a short tour of the skies with Coldstream Helicopters.

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Coldstream Helicopters is a Canadian company with a wide selection of aircraft — from the large red Airbus Super Puma (Firecat), to a small Bell 4-seater. Whether you’re traveling with a group or alone, for pleasure or for business, they’ll have a rotorcraft for your needs. 

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As soon as I met chief pilot Albin Neururer, I knew I was in expert hands. He has over 15 years of flying experience, and it shows in the calm and clear way he taught me how to safely get in/out of the copter, what to expect, and ways to be aware at all times.

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A smooth liftoff later, I was taking in these spectacular views of Kelowna and Okanagan Lake. Albin pointed out notable sights, such as a Swarovski spa resort and new housing developments by the water.  

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Top Gun vibes, anyone? This aviation headset let me communicate with the pilot, while cutting out noises. (My updated pink face-framing dyed hair is by Chad Evans of BlameChad in Vancouver.)

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Such a delight to watch Albin work the controls with ease. I think these views are enough to convince you to add a helicopter ride to your Kelowna bucket list. 

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After about 40 minutes in the air, we landed in style. Touching down in Kitsch Winery, I felt as if I were one of the ritzy characters in the HBO “Succession” TV show. 

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The helicopter’s descent was so smooth that I didn’t even notice when we were on the grass. (This is the lawn right by the Kitsch manor — what a way to make an entrance!) 

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A wave goodbye to Coldstream Helicopters. Jeremy can arrange a journey like this for you too, which can land at nearby ski slopes or resorts.  

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I was greeted with a smile by Ria Kitsch, who runs Kitsch Wines with her husband Trent. They’re successful entrepreneurs that also founded underwear and cannabis businesses — and they’ve brought their signature edgy fun to their namesake winery. 

Kitsch is a local family business throughout, with Okanagan roots that go back to 1910. When the helicopter landed, Trent and Ria’s two children ran over and brought pink flowers as a greeting! 

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I was thrilled to do a private “moke” vineyard tour at Kitsch (which anyone can book, for an in-depth and personal experience). This 90 minute VIP tour let me explore the grounds and taste various wines, with expert guide Katie (@katies.wine.life on Instagram).

kitsch vineyard tour private tastings

Kitsch specializes in small batch, sustainably-grown wines — and they’re known for their playful and non-elitist attitude (they love to blast 90s hip hop, for example!). Their patio attracts a young artsy crowd in the summer, and the family plans to expand their operations to include other creative experiences. 

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Let’s taste. As a Chablis lover, I was a fan of their natural oak chardonnay. I also loved the Maria’s Block Riesling, which has sweeter citrus notes.  

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Katie drove me around Kitsch’s grounds in this Moke, an electric front-wheel drive recreational vehicle favored by California surfers. What a treat to see the process from grape to glass, and take in these gorgeous views.

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She taught me that pinot noir is known as the “heartbreak grape,” since it can be delicate and difficult. I sampled the dark grapes on the vine, followed by the silky wine that reflected East Kelowna’s unique terroir. 

Kitsch Winery. Trent and Ria owners east kelowna

Cheers to Kitsch’s Blanc de Blancs chardonnay champagne, a joyful glass of barely-there bubbles.

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Kitsch’s tasting room is closed for the winter season, but they’ll be back in spring 2021. Until then, you can pick up bottles of wine from their web shop.

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Kitsch grows Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. I got to walk through the fields and try grapes straight from the vines — something that most vineyards don’t offer. (Unlike grocery store grapes, these fruits are small with seeds, and full of deep flavor.)

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You won’t find any snootiness at this vineyard. Kitsch’s staff is young and energetic, with a genuine passion for wine.  

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I went at the tail end of the season (in October), which let me avoid the high heat and crowds of visitors that congregate in Kelowna in the summertime. (Wearing a skeleton print surf top from Towers Swimwear.)

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I wish I could have taken more bottles home in my suitcase! (If you can only choose one, the pinot rose is a universal pleaser.)

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Before you go, be sure to take photos in front of the impressive manor. Thanks Kitsch Wines — I think you can tell I learned a lot, and had fun on their tasting tour.

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Jeremy was stationed and ready to whisk me off to the next vineyard. His company provides exotic car rentals and shuttle services, with outstanding customer service. As a long-time local, he has a wealth of knowledge about local spots, and can tailor the trip to best fit your needs. 

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Right now, Jeremy has winter pricing in effect (it’s the off-season, so it’s a great time to contact him). He excels in luxury ski shuttle services — he can take you to nearby slopes at Big White, Revelstoke, Sun Peaks, and more. Jeremy also does wine tours year-round in Okanagan. 

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Very glad I had Jeremy to provide expert advice and take me around, so I didn’t have to worry about directions or logistics. Reach out to Okanagan Executive Rentals & Concierge to learn more about his services — I can vouch that he’ll make your Kelowna trip all the more enjoyable! 

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I was keen to feature offbeat and lesser-known BC vineyards, rather than the big-name ones. Jeremy recommended Frequency Winery, which I had never heard of. As soon as I saw the psychedelic bottle labels and Jimi Hendrix art at the entrance, I knew this was my type of place. 

recording studio winery, Music Wine Experience

Owner Tony Lewis studied audio engineering, and he combines his love of music and wine in a single space. Frequency has an impressive recording studio, where local artists come to make magic. 

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Tony held jam sessions in the barrel room of his family’s vineyard. He noticed that the wine closest to the drums was settling faster than usual, due to the sounds and vibrations. This inspired him to start Frequency, a winery that infuses wine with music.  

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Anyone can come in to sample Frequency’s “Thank You” wines. The white is a “supergroup” of seven varietals, which come together in a grassy citrus harmony. The red is a warm and smooth gamay noir — a grape that tends to fly under the radar, much like this winery. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be the rose, a floral “fab four” of sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, viognier, and merlot.

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I also loved the Grateful Vine sparkling wine, which uses wild fermentation (from native yeast found in the vineyard). The bottle is covered in the names of people who contributed to Frequency. As Tony said, “Here is to letting go of limiting beliefs, and finding gratitude as our permanent attitude.” 

Anyone is invited to help move the wine’s sediments with music of their own. There are several pianos and a drum set that anyone can play… witness my amateur attempt at percussion! As you can see, Frequency is one special place with a unique philosophy. 

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A clink of wine glasses to Hyatt Place Kelowna — a welcoming and modern home away from home. 

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I’ll forever remember my Coldstream Helicopters ride that landed in a vineyard. A million thanks to Jeremy Giroux of Okanagan Executive Rentals for making all these Kelowna experiences possible.

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This is only the “first pour” of my Flair Airlines wine trip to Kelowna… I have much more coming your way, including tastings at Naramata Bench and Penticton.

And I’m eager to fly again with Flair Airlines — if you have any questions about the experience, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to reply! 

Don’t forget, you can book a Flair flight using my promo code at checkout —LACARMINA25 for a 25 percent reduction from the base fare. (Valid for flights for bookings and travel up to Dec 15, except Nov 6-15.)

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Have you flown recently? If so, what was your experience like?

(Feels like eons since I did an airport OOTD: Backpack Spiral UK, yellow Minions suitcase Away Luggage, mask by Josie Stevens, crop top Cryptic Apparel, satanic joggers Long Clothing.)

PS, thanks for registering for my upcoming TED Talk — tickets are now sold out! Can’t wait for you to hear my TEDx speech about Goths on November 15, and it’ll be up on the Ted.com site in the months after. Til then, you can see my TED promo video here on @lacarmina YouTube.

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