It is day 2 of my Okanagan Spring Wine Festival tour, and I am ready to get out and discover more amazing BC wines. Day 1 was fantastic as we made our way from Kelowna to Summerland and Penticton. Today is all about the Naramata Bench Wineries, and there are a lot of them to explore. At last count, thirty-nine wineries call the Bench home. We are not planning to visit all thirty-nine, but we are hitting a couple of new wineries to me and some old favourites. First, we must start the day with coffee and some breakfast at The Bench Market before we begin wine touring the Naramata Bench.
It’s a rare day in the Okanagan that starts with rain, especially during the Spring and Summer wine touring season. However, the season has gotten off to a hot and dry start so a good dousing overnight was appreciated by gardens and vineyards alike.
We drive along the lakefront to make our way to The Bench Market. An institution where all the locals come for coffee, baked treats, breakfast, and lunch. This is the place to say hi to your neighbours while you get caffeinated for the day ahead of you. We are no different. It’s a Chorizo Breakfast Burrito for me with baked treats offered by Chef/Owner Stewart. I may have also picked up a couple of their famous Peach Raspberry Scones.
Prepared for the day, we are off to visit our first winery, La Frenz Winery at 1525 Randolph Road. Greeted by owner and winemaker Jeff Martin we immediately hop into his farm truck for a short ride into one of his vineyards. Two things you learn about Jeff in the first five minutes. One is that he is Australian and the second is his passion for farming and winemaking.
He puts all his energy and passion into the soil and vines so that come harvest time he and his team are working with the best grapes possible. He’s so passionate about his farming practices he even scooped up some earth and smelled it to show us how the terroir affects vine health.
Back over at the wine shop we sit outside on the newly renovated patio. For this wine touring season, you will be able to sit outside on the patio and the tasting room team will bring the wine to you. How civilized and relaxing. We started off with the 2015 Semillon and ended with the 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir. All amazing, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be the reserve Pinot Noir hands down. One of the best in BC.
I could have stayed here all day, but it is time to head off to our next stop, D’Angelo Estate Winery just up the street at 979 Lochore Road. Owner and Winemaker Sal D’Angelo walks us through a tasting of his wines. We start with the one white wine he makes, a 2012 Viognier and then work our way through his portfolio of reds.
It is hard to pick a favourite, but if I had to pick the 2012 Sette Coppa stands out for me. A Meritage or Bordeaux blend it is full bodied, complex and priced at just $35 a bottle. I’ll take two, please.
Our next stop boasts one of the best patio views in the entire Okanagan. We, of course, are talking about Bench 1775. A welcome glass of Pinot Gris to cheers our arrival and then we whisk off to a secret beachside patio for a picnic lunch of meats and cheeses paired with Bench 1775 wines.
Under the careful ministrations of winemaker Val Tait, we taste our way through a good portion of the Bench 1775 portfolio. Sparkling, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and even a delicious Icewine to end the tasting. If you care about awards, Bench 1775 wins a fair amount, but what I love about their wines is their approachability, pricing, and easy drinking no matter if they are with food or on their own.
From one of the best views on the Naramata Bench to one of my favourite wineries, Upper Bench Winery & Creamery. At 170 Upper Bench Road South, you will find the perfect pairing of BC wine with BC Cheese made by husband and wife duo Gavin and Shana Miller.
It doesn’t get any better than wine and cheese pairings and at Upper Bench, they are made to go perfectly together. From start to finish we sampled the entire portfolio of wines including the awarding winning Merlot, Pinot Noir and the latest addition the Yard Wine. The Yard Wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It pairs beautifully with Shana’s Grey Baby, Italian Gold and King Cole cheeses.
Our last stop of the day is dinner at Poplar Grove’s The Vanilla Pod Restaurant. We start the night off with the 2015 Pinot Gris and settle into some dinner chat while we await our four-course meal. A special menu offered just for the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival.
The first course is a lovely Spring Asparagus Salad paired with Poplar Grove’s sister winery Monster Vineyards 2015 Skinny Dip. Our next course is a flavourful Sable Fish in a delicate Tomato and Fennel Broth paired with the Poplar Grove 2015 Blanc de Noirs.
Our final dish before dessert is Rack of Lamb paired with the Poplar Grove 2012 Benchmark Red. A decadent and delicious meal paired with great wines. The last course is a fruit filled Tart with Mascarpone Cheese and that pairs perfectly with the Poplar Grove 2012 Late Harvest wine.
The perfect place to end the day on the Naramata Bench is at Poplar Grove. Drinking wine in the gorgeous tasting room while watching the sun go down is one of life’s magical moments.
There is still one more day to go on this wine touring adventure. Today it was about wine touring the Naramata Bench, tomorrow it is all about Okanagan Falls, Oliver, and Osoyoos wineries. I better get some beauty sleep it is going to be a full day tomorrow.