Weekend Exploring the Naramata Bench

Your travel guide to spending a couple of days in the Naramata region of the Okanagan Valley – aka “wine country” – and surrounding areas.

The view from Laughing Stock Vineyards

One of the positives to come out of this crazy year, has been the opportunity to travel around more of our local province of British Columbia, Canada. In August, we spent two nights in Naramata, exploring the local area, and now we hope to make this an annual summer trip! Here’s why we loved it so much…

The Naramata Bench is where winemaking in British Columbia originated. The area is home to more than 40 highly acclaimed wineries, all in close proximity, whose wines regularly win both national and international awards. It’s a beautiful stretch of land, bordering Okanagan Lake, with vineyards, wineries and fruit orchards scattered across rolling green hills.

Naramata, along with other towns within the Okanagan Valley, offers hot, dry summers and mild winters – a far cry from much of Canada’s regularly snow-covered terrain! In fact, the area is actually classified as Canada’s only semi-desert region, being described visually as a blend of Southern Italy and Southern California. It certainly reminded us of being in Italy while we were there!

Dress is from The Mint Julep Boutique

During our weekend there, we visited five wineries and one cidery, along with spending some time at Okanagan Lake, walking to a great viewpoint, enjoying lunch in Penticton, cruising around Peachland, and stopping off at a cute market in Summerland. (It was also our friend’s birthday, which was the main reason for the trip, and we all stayed in a beautiful log cabin Airbnb overlooking a small vineyard, with incredible sunset views!)

We are by no means wine connoisseurs, but we really enjoyed learning more, and left with a good idea of which notes to look out for, and what our favourite classifications are. It was very satisfying to notice wines from our tasting sessions on drinks menus back in Vancouver – usually I’d just ask for a ‘Chardonnay’, or a ‘Pinot Gris’, but I’ve since been heard saying, “Oh look, they have The Spice Jar – my favourite wine from Lake Breeze!”

So without further ado, here are the wineries we visited, and how we found each experience:

Laughing Stock Vineyards

We had our favourite winery experience at Laughing Stock Vineyards, based on the beautiful views (as shown in the landscape photo above), their delicious wines, and the charisma of our tasting guide! Being here felt like a really special yet laid-back experience, and we certainly had lots of laughs while sampling their wines. We enjoyed their white wines, and although I am not usually a fan of red wine, I genuinely liked the taste of their Syrah 2017. I thought it tasted much more light, fruity, floral, and less bitter than a lot of red wines. We ended up buying a bottle of their Viognier 2019 and Pinot Gris 2019.

Laughing Stock Vineyards

Lake Breeze Vineyards

I’d read great reviews about Lake Breeze, so felt really happy to book in a courtyard tasting session here. Next time we’ll try to be more organized, so we can enjoy lunch at their Patio Restaurant. The views from there looked amazing! I enjoyed all their white wines, and we went home with a bottle of The Spice Jar 2018.

Elephant Island Winery

Paddy sampled his favourite wines at the Elephant Island Winery, as he’s a big fan of sweet dessert wine! Our tasting session took place in a lovely courtyard garden, speckled with trees and sunlight. It’s a very relaxed setting, and is welcoming of children and dogs. You have the option to sample either a flight of grape wines or fruit wines (wines made out of fruits other than grapes). We tried one of each, and we both enjoyed Paddy’s fruit wines a little more! We bought a bottle of their Framboise 2019 fortified wine.

Elephant Island Winery

Black Widow Winery

This friendly winery specializes in small batch, limited releases of high quality wines. We got a bottle of Black Widow Vintage One 2018 port-style red wine from here.

Tightrope Winery

The family-run Tightrope Winery is a short walk from the Black Widow Winery and La Petite Abeille cidery, and we were able to book in on the day. We didn’t end up purchasing any wine from here.

Tightrope Winery

La Petite Abeille Cidery

This was a great experience to shake anyone out of winery fatigue! La Petite Abeille sparkling ciders were more ‘special’ feeling than my usual association with cider. During our tasting session, our guide generously filled up our champagne-like glasses as she talked through the different notes we’d be able to taste, and the setting felt down-to-earth and unpretentious. We purchased a bottle of Sparkling Rosé Cider from here, made from tart Granny Smith apples and juicy blackberries.

Munson Mountain Lookout

Aside from wine tasting, we also spent some time exploring the local area. We walked up a hill in Penticton to Munson Mountain lookout, and I’d really recommend you swing by here too! The views of Okanagan Lake and surrounding area was stunning, and it’s only a five minute walk from where you park your car.

How relaxing the region is, summed up in this photo taken at Munson Mountain!
The view from Munson Mountain

Okanagan Lake

We also took our floaties down to Okanagan Lake, which looks extra beautiful during sunset golden hour. The lake is 135km long, between 4-5km wide, and reaches depths of 232m. Folklore cites that a monster referred to as Ogopogo resides in the lake, and you’ll notice representations of him around the Okanagan region!

Okanagan Lake Beach is a short drive from Naramata and is very family-friendly, with a giant inflatable playground called Wibit Waterpark floating on the water. This end of the lake is busier and less relaxing than the winery region, but is good fun for children. Paddy and I ate lunch at Salty’s Beach House, which overlooks the beach.

Bear tracks spotted down by the lake!

Summerland and Peachland

These areas are lovely to just drive around and enjoy the many fruit orchards. The region is as pretty as the town names suggest! There are some cute backroads, and the flashes of colour coming from the peaches, apples, pears, apricots, cherries and nectarines as you cruise past is really magical. I remember first coming here 10 years ago with my friend, and feeling like we were in a fairytale!

We swung by Little Acre Fruit Stand in Summerland to pick up some local produce, including Blueberry ‘n’ Brandy Syrup. I also enjoyed a delicious chocolate and peanut butter tart from Bliss Bakery in Peachland.

CritterAid Animal Sanctuary is also based in Summerland. Paddy and I actually sponsor a pig who lives here, but we totally forgot the sanctuary was located here when we were visiting… next time!! They are a great animal sanctuary to support, and you can also apply to adopt animals through them.

Next time we’re there…

On our next visit to Naramata, we’d love to hire bicycles and cycle between the wineries. This would be a great way to soak in the scenery more and enjoy the sunshine.

Pincushion Mountain Trail looks like a relatively short hike with great views, and you can get a photo with the Canadian flag at the top!

We’d be sure to return to Laughing Stock Vineyards and Elephant Island Winery, and we’d also book in for lunch at Lake Breeze, and visit the Critteraid Animal Sanctuary. I’ve heard good things about Hillside Winery and Bench 1775 too!

Have you visited the Naramata Bench? Which was your favourite winery?

Elsewhere on the blog: You might enjoy Paddy’s four-ingredient molten chocolate dessert recipe, to pair with your wine!

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