There may be no better way to spend a summer weekend than to tour British Columbia’s world-class wineries. The beating sun warms your skin, the wine wets your parched lips, and the sweet smell of cherry and peach orchards flutters at your nostrils. Welcome to Naramata Bench.
The Naramata Bench is 20 minutes north of Penticton. This area is known for it’s warm, dry summer climate, which is why it is rife with wineries and orchards. Plus, the view over the Okanagan Lake is spectacular. A nice view certainly compliments a lovely vino.
There are a number of ways to experience the Naramata wineries. You can go on an organized winery tour, which will escort you from winery to winery, or take a cheaper hop-on, hop-off style winery tour. For a more cost effective approach, you could have a sober driver escort you (if you’re lucky enough to have a super fun friend who doesn’t drink wine… if you know where to find one of these, please let me know). The other fun and highly recommended option is to rent bikes and pedal your way around the wineries. Rental bikes are available from Naramata or Penticton, but there is a little more hill climbing if coming from Penticton. You can always treat yourself to an electric bike to ease the pain. Luckily the hills will be at the start of the day and not the end. However, by the end of the day you’re unlikely to be doing too much complaining and at least you’ve earned your wine.
There are many, many wineries to chose from, but here’s my top picks:
- Lake Breeze Winery – This charming winery will transport you to the European countryside. A small, intimate, tasting room will provide you with the gentle tastes of Naramata with both red and white wines to tickle your pallet. It costs $3 for a tasting (donated to charity), but waived if you make a purchase.
- Elephant Island Winery – The quirkiest winery of them all, provides not just your standard red and white, but a variety of flavorful wines that closer represent liqueurs than wine. There is no charge for the tasting, but you’ll want to take home a reminder of the flavors that lit your taste buds on fire. Cherry wine, anyone?
- Bench 1775 Winery – If you’re looking for the best patio in the Naramata Bench, then go no further than 1775 Naramata Road. A spectacular view of the Okanagan Lake, whilst sipping on a to-die-for Cabernet Franc Malbec is pretty much as good as it gets. There is a $5 tasting fee, but again this is waived if you make a purchase.
Wine tours make a fantastic bachelorette party activity or a weekend getaway with your friends. If you’re traveling by bike, look out for traffic and don’t drink so much you ride off the narrow countryside roads. You’ve been warned. Only 4 hours drive from Vancouver, this is a must for summer.