(pssst! Keep your eyes peeled for my new leave behinds!)
One of my favourite things about living on the westside is how much more accessible the South Okanagan is compared to living in the Lower Mission where my roots are. Uptight city vibes melt away as you cruise through the historic districts of Peachland and the string of Summerland Wineries and Cideries. The rugged alluvial bluffs of the central Okanagan provide awe-inspiring scenery that brings one right into the heart of Penticton, the gateway to the famed Naramata Bench. Not yet designated as its own Appellation (which it deserves to be in this writer’s opinion!), the Naramata Bench offers a splendid array of remarkably diverse local wineries. Every time I gaze across looking towards the eastern wall of the valley, I am always amazed by the closely sandwiched pockets of elevated vineyards punctuated by plunging cliffs and sparkling blue waves crashing up against the shoreline.
I had the opportunity on my weekend (known to most as Monday) to scoot down to this gem of the valley along with my Better Half to explore, sip, and savour for a few hours of what I like to call a ‘makeshift vacation’ / research and development for the blog. Its my favourite way to spend a day off - cruising to local tasting bars, discovering all the new offerings from the latest portfolio releases, all while browsing at the plethora of real estate on the market! After dropping off a couple Mashtuns for retrofitting at a local fabricator (a quick bit of work before the fun!) we decided to hit up the Bench for lunch on the patio at Hillside. I hadn’t had a chance to visit in over two years, and the entire experience was everything I remembered and then some.
Hanging out at Hillside
In the tasting room we were captivated and equally impressed by the hospitality of the entire staff as well as the quality and consistency exhibited by the wines. some of our favourites included the 2015 Merlot-Malbec (a phenomenal year for reds that are really just coming into their own now!) and the latest 2018 Viognier. A heavenly boutique of tropical fruits and blossoms are complimented by a fresh, clean mouthfeel and invigorating acidity that cleanses the palate. We enjoyed a glass on the patio with warmed olives and crispy pork belly paired with goat cheese polenta, and the crisp freshness of the Viognier cut through and beautifully contrasted the full, rich flavours of the cuisine. The service on the bistro was super friendly and full of great local advice for the best beaches in the area. Rumour has it 3 Mile still maintains a nude beach if you know where to go - and after a few glasses in the scorching summer sun we were almost convinced to strip off and go for a dip! ;)
Dreams Don’t Come True, Dreams Are Made True
After a lovely visit at Hillside we treated ourselves to a stop at Little Engine Winery, and my oh MY are we both glad that we did! I had heard great things about Little Engine for a while now, and so we decided we had to see it for ourselves. The winery boasts a beautiful fairytale-like setting with rolling lush vineyards and a mesmerizing vista that melts away into a horizon of sparkling cyan waters and navy waves of mountains. It honestly reminded me of a real-life setting for a Hobbit Shire!
I was most impressed by the focus of the wines themselves, as the entire portfolio consisting of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Merlot - with the exception of one stand alone Sauvignon Blanc that almost literally knocked my socks off with its intense aromatics. The vision of the French family proprietors is the forefront of the winery identity: everywhere you look you find the signature phrase Dreams Don’t Come True, Dreams Are Made True which is visually captured by the iconic image of a ladder climbing to the stars as well as in the name Little Engine as a symbol of the struggle of the pursuit of one’s dreams. This phrase rings true in my own life as I continuously pursue my dreams and ambitions related to wine, writing, and eventually owning my own craft beverage business in the future! Needless to say, I am beyond happy to have discovered this Naramata Hidden Gem.
Have you read the latest from BC Food and Wine Trails!?
Check it out for the latest from myself and a slew of talented writers for more on the food and wine scene around the Okanagan!
On the next blog:
Let me tell you about my favourite neighourhood Cidery… only a brisk 10 minute walk away from Gellatly Bay, this hidden gem of the Okanagan is just waiting to be discovered by all - especially those thirsty local cider enthusiasts and wine lovers whose palates are sick of the endless parade of summer roses and patio whites…
Stay tuned for more!