Over the past couple of years, we’ve been connecting with Kelowna and area residents to discover more about the people who call this region home, to learn about their favourite places, and to find out how tourism impacts their lives, while also highlighting the benefits a strong tourism sector creates for Kelowna and its surrounding communities.

Follow along with this ongoing series to learn more about Kelowna from those who know it best—locals.

Maxwell Brayer

Max Brayer - Love for Kelowna Article

During the summers while growing up, Max Brayer travelled from his hometown in Edmonton, AB, to go camping around BC with his family. 

"I have so many memories of those trips," Max recalls. "As I got older, we spent more and more time in Kelowna, so it was a natural choice to move here."

While the lifestyle and his love of wine drew him to the Okanagan, the pandemic was the final push he needed to make a move, as he was ready for a change of scenery, to get out of the big city, and to explore the area he fell in love with through all those childhood trips. 

Today, five years after moving to the region, Max works at Arrowleaf Cellars in Lake Country and Mission Hill Family Estate in West Kelowna, all while working to complete his Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma. He joined Arrowleaf in 2021, dedicating his time and energy since to learning everything he could about the industry. A short three years later, Max's growing wealth of wine knowledge has earned him recognition on the national stage.

Maxwell BrayerMaxwell at Arrowleaf Cellars.
"I was fortunate enough to win the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Top Young Sommelier Competition earlier this spring," Max notes humbly. From this win, he will go on to represent Canada in Portugal for the international competition in the fall of 2024. 

Arrowleaf Cellars and Mission Hill are two of the close to 40 wineries that operate in and around Kelowna, which is the birthplace of BC's wine industry. The Okanagan Valley represents 86% of BC's total vineyard acreage, with more than 222 licensed wineries operating in the region. As one of the more than 14,000 people employed in BC's wine industry, Max is connected to the tourism sector, with visitors to the region reinforcing "what a truly beautiful area we call home."

"Without tourism, we wouldn't have a wine industry," exclaims Max. "We welcome people visiting for conferences, concerts, sporting events, bachelorette parties, couples/families on holiday...the list could go on. I love tailoring the wine experience to enrich their stay in the Okanagan." 

As noted on the Wines of BC website, wineries in the province welcome almost 1.2 million visitors per year, generating $609 M in associated revenue for BC's economy.

Max Brayer - pouring wine

"Being in the wine industry, it’s fascinating talking with people from other wine-producing regions and hearing them compare and contrast our Okanagan wine with their local wine," he says, adding that visitors provide "interesting ideas I might never have considered" when it comes to food and wine pairings. He is also reminded not to take what he has, as an area local, for granted. 

One of the things he appreciates most about Kelowna is its climate (and its mild winters, specifically, as a native Albertan). The connection to nature nurtured by locals and visitors is also top of his list. 

"I find myself spending a lot more time outside since moving, especially in the summer," says Max. "There is so much great hiking and biking, as well as all the water activities."

In addition to the outdoor adventures, Max is grateful for the locally grown produce, which he says residents are lucky to have so readily available.

"I love the fresh fruit, the restaurants using local ingredients, and the active lifestyle the Okanagan encourages. As well as the grapes to make wine, of course!" 

Maxwell Brayer at Arrowleaf Cellars
Enjoying some wine and pairings on the patio at Arrowleaf Cellars.


Tour Area Wineries for Unique Experiences

"Being in the wine industry, I’m probably biased because my first recommendations are always food and wine-based! I try to curate my recommendations off people’s preferences and what they’re looking for, whether it's a technical long-form tasting, simply wanting to have a good time, or trying to find the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the valley—every winery has something unique to offer."

Picnic Experience at Arrowleaf Cellars 4
Spring picnic experience at Arrowleaf Cellars. Photo Credit: Ken Hagen

Discover Kelowna's Handcrafted Sips

"For beer fans, again there are so many great choices: Red Bird, which has great outdoor seating and live music, Vice & Virtue, and Jackknife are some of my favourites. For the fans of spirits, I always recommend Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery, located in the heart of downtown Kelowna."

Red Bird Brewing, Outdoor Music Event
Photo Credit: Red Bird Brewing

Savour the Best of Kelowna Eats

"Of course, I recommend pairing all of that my favourite cheese stores, Perseval & Young (Kelowna) and Wedge Cheesery (Vernon), as well as the wonderful Karat Chocolate + Pastry Boutique."

Maxwell Brayer Perseval & Young Cheesemongers
Sampling some cheese at Perseval & Young Cheesemongers.

Head out on an Outdoor Adventure

"If you want to earn that great food and drink, a hike at Knox Mountain Park, Spion Kop or Kalamalka Lake Park are my favourites. And a a trip here wouldn’t be complete without trying the different lake activities on Kalamalka and Okanagan Lake."

Spion Kop Hiking Trails
View from Spion Kop hiking trails. Photo Credit: Eric Saukarookoff

View more of what Maxwell loves about Kelowna