Visiting the Naramata Bench is like a ride in the country but with benefits. Naramata is the bourgeoning "sub-appellation" of the Okanagan Valley that features some of BC's very best independent winemakers. We visited some of our favourite wineries on a glorious sunny day last week. Whenever it's possible to speak with one of the proprietors for a few minutes, we get a quick download on what's happening with their business and the surrounding region.
As we always only visit a maximum of four wineries (three is preferred) we settled on Lake Breeze Vineyards, Marichel Winery, Hillside Estate Winery and Nichol Vineyard. Lake Breeze and Hillside are more substantial operations and big wine tourist draws. Each has an accompanying eatery staffed with a professional chef and very pleasant servers; lunch at either venue is highly recommended.
By comparison both Marichel and Nichol Vineyard wineries are comparatively small operations. Both are run by a husband and wife team who pour their souls into what they bottle. Interestingly, both of these small wineries feature the Syrah (or Shiraz) grape as one of their core varietals. It's a grape that requires the summer heat that the microclimates of the Naramata Bench provide. Both Nichol's and Marichel's Syrah wines are simply some of the best bottles of BC wine you will taste.
Lake Breeze Vineyards hold the crown for the most consistently fresh and crisp Pinot Blanc wine in the province. Achieving "double gold" medals and Lieutenant Governor Awards hasn't let them sit back on their laurels, however. Lake Breeze are stepping up their efforts on red wines as well. In fact, it's a point of pride for co-proprietor Gary Reynolds that visitors are now making Lake Breeze reds their reason to visit.