If you think our Okanagan trip ended on the Golden Mile Bench, you’re wrong. We decided to venture further north, driving more than 50 km, to Penticton, and visit another famous wine region – Naramata Bench. That area has just as many, if not more, wineries as Oliver/Osoyoos. We only had time to check out four wineries, so it was really difficult to shortlist from the dozens of wineries in the area.
Wines Along the Naramata Bench
The wineries in this area are situated above sand cliffs that rise from the Okanagan Lake, with vineyards sloping up to the mountains behind. While you are enjoying some great wine, you will also get to take in a gorgeous view of the Okanagan Lake. Here is a recap of the wineries we visited, and wines we liked and didn’t like, strictly from a personal preference standpoint.
While most wineries in the region compete with each other over attractive signage, or even grandiose wine shop and tasting room, Nichol goes for the opposite. Located at the north most end of the Naramata Bench, if you don’t pay close attention, you might actually miss the turn-off to the winery.
It’s a neat little wine shop at the top of the vineyard, and it looks just like someone’s house. But it has some patio seating that allows you to enjoy a glass of wine, or even your packed lunch, over this view:
Because they sold out some of the varietals over a busy summer, we only got to try 4 of their wines. The Pinot Gris is definitely the gem in the lineup. The grapes were gently crushed and left to settle on the skins for 36 hours, giving the wine this salmon hue and a hint of tannin. It’s dry, citrusy, with the aroma of stone fruit. I usually prefer slightly sweeter white but I really enjoyed this one.
I was hoping to try its Cab Franc but it wasn’t available for tasting. Now I need to try finding it elsewhere; I think I will like it as well.
Winery website: www.nicholvineyard.com
Bench 1775 Winery
Remember I talked about the lack of flashy sign for Nichol? What caught our attention about Bench 1775 was its successful use of signs — “Canada’s Best Pinot Gris”, “The Best View of the Lake” — now we’re intrigued.
Bench 1775 certainly has a great view! What makes it better is that its patio is extended right to the water so you are much closer to the Okanagan Lake and the water view is quite spectacular.
And the winery has received numerous awards for its wines, including a Double Gold for its Pinot Gris. It was quite good, a bit too dry for my liking, but the citrusy note definitely came through. Its white blend Chill is made up of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Semillon and Gewurtztraminer. I thought it would be a winner for me but, while it smells good, it’s a bit too acidic.
I especially enjoyed its Glow Rose. It’s a Malbec, which I don’t usually see in a Rose. And since I’m a big Malbec fan, I was immediately drawn to it. And I liked it. It would be quite awesome to be drinking a Malbec Rose in the summer, then Malbec in the fall/winter.
It looks like Bench 1775 is getting ready for some champagne bottling! There were rows of bottles being placed upside down at an angle, sitting on a rack. I wonder how it would turn out.
Winery website: www.bench1775.com
Red Rooster Winery
Part of our selection strategy was to visit some of the bigger wineries. To some, their wines maybe a bit more generic, boring, but they would have a larger lineup of offerings and we would be more likely to find something we like. So we arrived at the door of Red Rooster.
It’s a decent sized winery, and the display of art pieces adds some character to the space.
I mentioned my trip to my coworkers and honestly Red Rooster didn’t get the best review. Wines here are not too cheap. When you are comparing the quality of wine for the price you pay, I thought Road 13 offers a better deal. The reds were alright, the Reserve collection was better, but I wouldn’t necessarily pay up to $29 for them. The whites were better and we liked the Reserve Gewurtztraminer and Reserve Rose (mostly Malbec and Cabernet Franc, two varietals that I enjoy a lot).
Winery website: www.redroosterwinery.com
Blasted Church Vineyards
Technically this is not on the Naramata Bench, but at the north end of the Corkscrew Drive Wine Trail in Okanagan Falls; but since we visited these four all on the same day, it’s worth a mention here.
According to their website, and the staff at the wine shop, the name Blasted Church literally comes from a real story of blasting a church back in the 1920s. And their labelling reflects the story of the blasted church.
Blasted Church produces a large variety of wines. Some are actually only available at the wine shop, and some are highly sought after by famous hotel chain. So it’s a treat to visit the wine shop and taste some of these unique wines.
What we liked:
- Gewurtztraminer – Sweet with a lychee note. One of my favourite Gewurtz that I’ve tried on this trip.
- Big Bang Theory – This is a blend of 7 different varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Lemberger, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. Complex with great flavours, yet still easy drinking.
- Nothing Sacred – The Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. This has the full body and berry, vanilla note. I actually quite liked it, but I thought $41 might be too much for my wine consumption.
Winery website: blastedchurch.com
If you haven’t been keeping track, we found at least one wine at every winery we visited on this Okanagan trip along the Golden Mile Bench and Naramata Bench. If you are a wine lover, these areas just have so much to offer, and I know we will be going back for more. Happy to report that we returned home with a trunk full of great, local wines.