Hey ya’ll, I’m going to continue on with the summer theme because who can ever tire of that! Summer is a great time for road trips so I’m going to tell you about one of our favourite road trips that we have been taking for a few years now. It involves WINE!
Now that I have your attention, pop a cork and pour yourself a glass of your preferred vino before you settle in for the read. Go ahead… I’ll give you a minute…
Road trips are a time-honored summer tradition and so is wine which is why I’m going to tell you about the Okanagan region in beautiful British Columbia. If you live in the area, the drive is well worth it and if you don’t, then I would suggest you hop on a plane and fly yourself to Kelowna, BC and rent a car for a few days so that you can experience this truly amazing place. The Okanagan was recently named the second best wine region to visit in the world according to a reader’s poll conducted by USA Today beating out every other wine producing region in the Americas. That’s freaking amazing!
There are 3 sub regions within the Okanagan stretching along the valley from north to south. Kelowna in the northern area is known for a great selection of white and ice wines and as you drive an hour south to the Naramata area you will notice that red varieties begin to start showing their strength with Pinot Noirs being some of the best in show here. Finally, at the southern tip in the Osoyoos/Oliver area, also known as the Golden Mile you will find the presence of old world varietals such as Cabs, Cab Francs, Syrahs and Bordeaux style grapes.
I’m going to focus this post on the Naramata bench however, because this is where we have ended up visiting most often year after year. Why do we go there the most?
Naramata bench has over 28 wineries and you could drive this stretch of road in about an hour or so. This is important because, although you probably don’t want to visit them all in one day, it does give you the unparalleled ability to visit more wineries in one day than most other wine growing regions. This is why we have to keep going back again and again because we have yet to collect them all.
Our most recent visit took place in early June before the crowds begin to descend on the area. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the crowds but there was quite a few in our group and we wanted to ensure we did not have to wait too long between tastings. The day only has so many hours…
My wife and I, along with 10 of our friends drove to Penticton for the weekend which is the town located a few minutes drive from the Naramata bench. Our friend Tara was on point when it came to booking our transporation and accommodation nearby. There are plenty of hotels and B&B’s but we went with an Airbnb which has always served us very well no matter the destination. Did I mention it had a pool?!!
Since you are going to want to drink the wine, I recommend you don’t drive so there are plenty of wine tour companies that will take you around. Not a bad idea right? Do you want to hear a better one?
Hire a driver!!! They will take you where you want to be.
South Okanagan Charter service provides wine tours which are great for someone who has never been to the region. They choose the wineries you will visit and the amount of time you can spend at each one depending on how many you want to visit. Since we have been a few times before, we figured we wanted to be in full control of time and place. The idea was to revisit some of our favourites which include:
Poplar Grove- Try the Legacy, a jammy, lip smacking Bordeaux blend. Enough said.
Lake Breeze- The Spice Jar is fantastically aromatic but not sweet. Sounds like summer!
Perseus- The award-winning Invictus is worth the price tag. Trust me..
Hillside- Rose all the way here and it is also a great value. Often sells out
We also planned to check out some wineries we had not yet visited yet. Our driver Andy was spectacular; super friendly and very accommodating!
We all know food pairs with wine like horses and buggies so we had to make some time to stop for lunch. The cuisine here will not disappoint as many of the wineries have excellent chefs to design their menus and the setting could not be more stunning with beautiful lake views from the patio dinning areas. We stopped at Hillside Winery and Bistro for lunch and to give our taste buds a break from the tastings. Their menu is locally inspired with a hint of European influence. Oh, and it’s also extremely delicious.
There are a couple of places that I insist you visit!
I know this is a wine trip but the rules are yours for the making and breaking! Poplar Grove Cheese (not affiliated with the winery- long story but you should ask them to tell it) makes some killer cheese which you will need to buy for a midnight charcuterie snack. Trust me, not every wine bottle you purchased will make it home so you may as well enjoy it with some locally made cheese. The Tiger Blue is the winner for me and you will probably notice it on more than one winery’s menu.
There is also a little craft distillery doing some pretty cool stuff called Maple Leaf Spirits. They are located on the same stretch of road and you will be happy you took the short roll up their driveway. They focus on Kirsch and Kirsch liqueurs which is a brandy style spirit. The grapes and fruits are obviously locally grown and distilled and the flavor doesn’t lie. They will let you try all the offerings if you like so be careful because this tasty liquid packs a little more punch than a wine taster. Remember that pool I mentioned in our rental? I’m not saying it was the Kirsch’s fault, but we did end up having a late night wine pool party… I know it’s not classy and I never claimed to be but it was a super grapey good time!
I hope you make the time to visit this amazing place and experience what I have shared with you. Feel free to write and tell us what you think when you make it back because we would love to hear what you think. If you have already been, feel free to share some of your Okanagan or Naramata favorites with us!
Petey Pabs out…