Exploring The Boutique Wineries of Naramata Bench
Thousands of years ago, the Naramata Bench region of British Columbia formed the shallow coastline of prehistoric Okanagan Lake, gathering the rich sediments needed to grow a diverse range of grapes and wines. Today, Naramata Bench is home to 50+ wineries, each of which offers its own unique delights of the viticultural variety against the stunning backdrops of SouthWest Canada.
Nestled amidst rolling hills, towering mountains, and sweeping vistas, Naramata Bench is the ideal destination for wine enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Today, we meander down the old country road of Naramata Bench in search of the most enticing reds and whites. Here are a few of GC’s favorite wineries (and suggested pairings) along the way:
Ruby Blues Winery – The “Liveliest Tasting Room”
John Schreiner, Canada’s most prolific author of wine books, refers to the Ruby Blues Tasting Room as “one of the liveliest tasting rooms on the Naramata Bench,” and we couldn’t agree more.
The doors of this tiny tasting room open to brightly-colored walls, Victorian-inspired furniture, lively murals, and a selection of quirky-yet-stylish stilettos and pumps designed by the owner.
“Daisy,” the Volkswagen bus that’s permanently parked at the laneway entrance, sets the stage for the fun, free-spirited wine tour to follow. The wines of Ruby Blues offer a similar flavor: sweet, fun, and easy to enjoy.
There’s a Ruby Blues Red that’s making a big splash in the wine community: Red Stiletto. This signature blend is crafted from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and pinot varieties. Red Stiletto grapes are harvested from the Ruby Blues vineyard and aged in American and French Oak barrels. Ruby Blues describes this vivacious red as an “easy-sipping wine that’s light and fruity with a smoky nose.”
Red Stiletto can be sipped on any occasion and pairs beautifully with salmon barbecued on a cedar plank or a square (or two) of dark chocolate infused with a hint of chili peppers.
Black Widow Winery – The “Gravity Flow” Winery
Black Widow’s “Gravity Flow” vineyard is built into a steep hillside, which apparently comes in handy for the “gentle movement of wine during production,” we’re told.
Adjacent to the barrel room, you’ll find the tasting room, where wine lovers swirl glasses and sip classics like Red Back, Sauvignon, Syrah, and Spiderling. Venture onto the outdoor patio to savor your favorite varietal as you admire grand views of the Okanagan Lake below.
At Black Widow Winery, it’s all about terroir. “We only use grapes that are fully ripened on the best sites of the Naramata Bench,” said Dick Lancaster, Owner & Winemaker at Black Widow Winery. “We assess the grapes, which vary from vintage to vintage, and make the best wine they will offer.”
Black Widow’s flagship wine is the Hourglass Bordeaux, which is matured for 21 months in French Oak barrels. “Our Hourglass Bordeaux is not fined or filtered and is 100 percent Naramata Bench wine,” Dick tells us. “This wine can be enjoyed now, but steadily improves with up to six years of bottle age.”
Black Widow’s Hourglass Bordeaux is delicious on its own or when paired with meat, particularly roast beef, lamb, or steak.
Bench 1775 – Bold Reds & Artisanal Flatbreads
With breathtaking lake and mountain views all around, Bench 1775 sits on the eastern bank of an ancient lake bed that overlooks Okanagan Lake. Sip leisurely in the tasting room, or relax in the bistro while you enjoy fresh flatbreads and roasted dishes paired with a Bench 1775 red.
When it comes to wine, Valeria Tait, General Manager & Winemaker at Bench 1775, focuses on “capturing the true expression of the grapes, which means making wines naturally and with minimal intervention,” she tells Garden Collage. “As a winemaker, I strive to create wines that reflect the climate of the vintage and embody delicacy, complexity, and texture.”
Cabernet Franc: 2013 Vintage
When we asked Valeria to pick her favorite wine, she had trouble narrowing it down, and we can hardly blame her. “There’s a time and a place to enjoy every one of our wines, but if I had to pick one, it would be the 2013 Cab Franc that we just released,” she said.
Bench 1775’s 2013 Cab Franc is delicious with braised lamb shanks and roasted vegetables sprinkled with lots of thyme and rosemary.
Tips From A Local
Naramata Bench is the ultimate destination for casual sippers and wine connoisseurs alike. With a range of vineyards, each with their own unique philosophy on winemaking, there’s something for everyone in this region of the Okanagan Valley.
If you plan to visit the wineries of Naramata Bench, Tanya Roberts, our British Columbia-based writer, suggests booking a wine tour, especially if you’re traveling in a group.
“My favorite wine tour company is Grape Friends,” she said. “The owner picks you up at your hotel in a spacious SUV, so you don’t have to worry about transportation. The staff is fun, friendly, and full of great recommendations. If you’d like to visit the local breweries or distilleries, they can roll that into your tour, too.”
In the words of Andre Simon, French-born wine merchant and writer: “Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” Cheers to that!
For more tips on traveling to the Naramata Bench wine region, visit the Naramata Bench Wineries Association website.