Naramata Bench Wine Tasting

Since my introduction to Okanagan wine, the Naramata Bench has been my favourite place for a day of wine touring. Maybe it's the short distance between wineries, or the sheer number of them in such a small 15km stretch, but this place is something special. 

Made up of mostly boutique wineries, the Naramata Bench is spectacularly situated along the southeast shore of Lake Okanagan. Naramata Road winds its way from Penticton and dead ends 15km later in the village of Naramata. 

The number of wineries on The Bench continues to grow, and it would be difficult to visit them all in one trip, so here are our top ten winery picks so you can get the most from your visit. There are plenty of great experiences to be had, and barrels of great wine to be drank, so this is only our opinion. These are our picks after 10 years of living in this area and working with different clients in the wine industry. 

In geographical order from Penticton to Naramata: 

Poplar Grove Winery

Known for: Legacy Bordeaux Blend Red, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Gris


A spectacular view of Penticton and Lake Okanagan awaits you in the large and airy tasting room. Vanilla Pod restaurant is also located at the winery should you feel like staying for lunch or dinner.
Website | Map

 

Upper Bench Winery & Creamery

Known for: Merlot, Zweigelt, Pinot Blanc

One of the best places to stop for a snack. Drink some wine and eat some cheese on the patio or taste wines paired with artisan cheeses made on site.
Website | Map


 

La Frenz Winery


Known for: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Alexandria (Muscat)

Long a local favourite, La Frenz is very well known for their easy drinking white wines and for consistently delivering on all fronts red and white every year. Friendly staff and a great view round out the experience here.
Website | Map

 

Laughing Stock Winery


Known for: Bordeaux blend reds, Cote Rotie style Syrah, Chardonnay

Year-after-year, the Portfolio Bordeaux style red here delivers a knockout punch in the quality department. This is one of the premiere wineries in the Okanagan, and maker of some of the areas best wines. While Portfolio is king, the Blind Trust Red is a great value choice. Tastings are by appointment only.
Website | Map

 

Terravista Wines

Known for: Rousanne/Marsanne/Viognier Blend, Albarino/Verdejo blend

The latest venture from the creators of the legendary Nota Bene red blend. Since moving on from Black Hills Estate, the Tennants have gone on to create a limited selection of interesting and somewhat obscure white wines alongside a wonderfull Viognier. This is definitely one of the more interesting stops along this route.
Website | Map

 

Marichel Winery


Known for: Syrah, Viognier

One of the few truly boutique wineries left on the Naramata Bench, Marichel has been focused on producing the best Syrahs and Viogniers that the bench can produce since the 2005 vintage. The quaint tasting room and patio has one of the best views in the area, and the small winery feel combined with the quality of the wine is worth the visit.
Website | Map

 

Lake Breeze Vineyards

Known for: Pinot Blanc, Ehrenfelser, Meritage red blend

Their was a time where Lake Breeze was the only real lunch restaurant on the Naramata Bench. Over the years they have only gotten better, and despite the slough of new options, The Patio at Lake Breeze remains a favourite amongst locals and visitors. The wines here are also well known for their quality and value. A new addition to the property is the MacIntyre Heritage Reserve tasting room where an appointment is necessary to taste the family's premium Merlot and Chardonnay wines made on the Lake Breeze Estate. 
Website | Map

 

Elephant Island Winery

Known for: Fruit wine, Viognier

While fruit wine may not be on the menu for some people, this is an experience you should have at least once. The shaded patio tasting of local fruit wines is one of the highlights of the area, and pays homage to the orchardist past of the region. Their Naysayer grape wines are also well worth the taste. 
Website | Map

 

Joie Farm Winery

Known for: PTG Gamay Noir, Rosé, Riesling

Joie was long closed to the public, but has now embraced the avid wine consumer with a full tasting room and pizza patio with some of the best lunch eats on The Bench. Despite being a relatively new stop on the tasting tour, the experience here runs deep and the wine never disappoints. 
Website | Map


Nichol Vineyards

Known for: Syrah, St. Laurent, Pinot Gris

Getting here is a bit more of an excursion, but one you'll welcome after fighting summer "traffic" on the Naramata Bench. Known for interesting plantings like St. Laurent, and an orangey hued Pinot Gris, Nichol has long been an underground favourite of BC wine aficionados. Their Syrah ranks highly amongst critics and locals alike, and is one of the originals in the area.  
Website | Map

 

Newcomers to try:

Daydreamer Wines
Mocojo
Quidni
Little Engine Wines

 

Chris Stenberg is a photographer, filmmaker, occasional wordsmith, and traveller. In his spare time you can find him hanging out with his family and/or biking and boarding in the mountains of British Columbia.