With 2,400 hectares of planted vineyards and over 60 varieties of grapes growing, the Okanagan Valley is home to Canada’s second largest wine growing region after the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario. The wine production overall is still small compared to any of the major wine regions of the world but it’s impressive to have such a variety of grapes and wines in a country nicknamed ‘the Great White North.’ One of the biggest concentrations of wineries in the Okanagan is on the Naramata Bench, just outside of Penticton. At the time of writing, there are over 35 Naramata wineries in a stretch of less than 20km. There’s no other place quite like it!
2018 update – Planning your own tour of the Naramata wineries? Check out my brand new Wine Lover’s Guide to the Naramata Bench eBook, featuring every single winery as well as touring tips, accommodation advice and a specially made map. It’s all you need to explore this beautiful region to the full!
naramata bench wine tour: A must-do in Penticton
With the Okanagan Valley being the land of good food and wine, we couldn’t miss doing a wine tour around the Naramata Bench. In early August, we had both friends and family visiting so it seemed like the perfect time. After all, they say that nothing is better than good company except good company and wine!
Half day wine tours around one of the southern Okanagan wine areas (Okanagan Falls, Summerland, Naramata, Oliver and Osoyoos) start at around $75 a head – this includes tasting fees, transportation and the attention of a guide/driver. There is also a shuttle service in Naramata and Oliver four days of the week, running at around $65 per person.
an alternative option: walking the naramata bench
At almost $400 for a group of five, we decided there must be another way to go on a wine tour. After all, it was likely we would want to buy some wine too and that would push the total much higher. So as we all love walking and doing things the off the beaten track way, a walking tour of the Naramata Bench seemed like a great alternative. With the Naramata Bench (the closest wine area to our home) being uphill, it seemed sensible to take a taxi as far as we felt like going and then walking back.
cheese and wine, the perfect pairing
What a better place to start a tour than with a good breakfast at the Bench before heading to our first winery. All coffee’d up, we were ready for our adventure. Bench 1775 was the perfect place to start, with 30 acres of lakefront property with amazing views of the lake. Walking to the next Naramata winery, around 600m down the road, I realised the downside of a walking wine tour….the heat. But it made the chilled white wines taste even better!
A few wineries later, we were starving. Most of the wineries sell snacks and/or some fresh deli items to purchase but a few have full restaurants open for lunch and dinner. We took a DIY route and wandered on down to Poplar Grove Cheese (not to be confused with Poplar Grove Vineyard). As it turned out, there was also a (completely unexpected) winery at the same location. We were able to taste wine with paired cheese before buying our own to eat outside with a view of the lake. Can’t beat that for a lunch spot!
A successful walking wine tour of the naramata wineries
Our tour ended at Perseus Winery, around 6pm. Perseus was our 11th winery, but it was a particularly nice one to finish at since we consider it our local winery. It’s just a very short stroll up the road from our home. Finishing our day with a swim in the lake and a barbeque on the beach, it was close to a perfect day in the Okanagan.
Wine, cheese, swimming and a sunset on the beach….Penticton is quite a lovely place to live indeed.
A complete guide to the wineries we visited:
Bench 1775 – Awesome Sauvignon Blanc, amazing panoramic views from patio.
Tightrope – Beautiful modern tasting room.
Howling Bluff – Family run, friendly vibe.
Quidni (‘why not’ in Latin) – Friendly and laid back, located directly on main road. (Closed for tastings as of 2017)
Hillside – Large, popular winery (good choice of wine) with bistro and pretty gardens.
Lock and Worth – Combined with Poplar Grove Cheese. Few wines but great quality. Paired tasting of cheese and wine.
Red Rooster – Impressive building, wide choice of wines.
La Frenz – Small winery set back from the main road, amazing views.
Township 7 – Low-key winery. The Queen once purchased wine from here to serve at state dinner.
Monster – Fun, young winery with great bottle designs.
Perseus – Our local! Fairly new. Can bring own food to eat on patio with wine. Great Gewurztraminer.
the details: naramata walking wine tour
Our taxi cost $23 to travel from the Bench Market to Bench 1775. A straight walk back would have been around 7km. Our actual route required us to venture on and off the main Naramata Road and the total distance was more like 9km total. A walking winery tour is a cheap way to see and experience the Okanagan wineries – for the same or similar price of a tour, we were able to pay for a taxi, tasting fees, lunch and a bottle or two (or three) of wine. Cheers to that!