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.
8th Generation Winery proprietor Stefanie Schales with Stacey
Our first stop at 8th Generation Winery began a pleasant tour of "Bottleneck Drive", the marketing handle given to a route in Summerland, BC. It begins at Highway 97 and travels up a pleasant country road with a few turns to get to all your stops. On this day we visited one of our favourite stops – Thornhaven Estate Vineyards – and finished up at the lovely Silkscarf Winery.
8th Generation took us by surprise at the quality of winemaking, the smart pricing and the hospitable folks at their facility. 8th Generation refers to the eight generations of winemaking experience proprietor Bernd Schales – a native of Germany who has moved to the Okanagan – has in his family lineage. His wife Stefanie (seen above with Stacey) also runs the winery. She took time out to tell us about how they acquired an eighteen year-old planting of Riesling grapes in the Okanagan Falls area, eventually acquiring the Summerland winery formerly known as Adora.
8th Generation have definitely put their mark on this location. They're winning awards for their wines, including their exceptional "Classic" Riesling, produced in a dry German style (we picked up a few bottles). They had help from Brandever, the marketing and branding company headed up by Bernie Hadley-Beauregard. Stefanie said, "We already had the story – we knew it would be about eight generations. We just wanted labels that would stand out. We're very happy with the use of the numeral eight on all our labels."
Noble Ridge Winery's Leslie D'Andrea speaks with BCWineLover.com
It's all about the stories. That's why we do BCWineLover.com. It's also the reason writers like John Schreiner have so much zeal for exploring the BC wine scene. There are so many stories.
This week we had the pleasure to make our first stop at Noble Ridge Winery, which is located in the desert region just between Vaseux Lake (the protected nature sanctuary to their south) and Skaha Lake at Okanagan Falls, BC, to the north. It was a blazing hot July afternoon when we got to speak with Leslie D'Andrea, who along with husband Jim created Noble Ridge early in this decade. They first settled part-time in the area, living in a tent trailer and using an outhouse as a biffy, about 10 years ago. They've since built a fine wine tasting room which opened in 2006.
Leslie manages the business affairs of the winery, and along with Jim they are both on a quest to make the best wine they can. We can vouch for their tasty selections – in particular their Chardonnay.