Experiencing a wine tour of the Naramata Valley in British Columbia
“Who wants a Gewürztraminer slushie?” asked James. From a place that produced some of the tastiest white wines I have ever tried, it was an easy answer. By the time we made it to Kettle Valley Vineyard, our fifth of our tour, we were quickly becoming friends. However, it had something more to do than just the free flowing wine.
I was on a wine tour of the Naramata Valley in British Columbia, Canada, with Experience Wine Tours. Ranked as Tripadvisor’s number one thing to do in Kelowna, the major city in this wine growing region, I knew this was something I had to experience for myself.
Even though I am by no means a wine affectionado, I have done wine tours in both Australia and France, and I find that they provide a complementary way to discover the countryside while simultaneously exploring your senses.
The Naramata Valley is an hour south of Kelowna, and it has all the ingredients to make it one of the best wine growing regions in Canada – a good amount of moisture in the air and plenty of sunshine.
A few decades ago you would have found only apple orchards in this region, but wine production and the changing techniques involved have propelled the Okanagan and the Naramata Valley into one of the fastest growing and most exciting wine regions in the world.
Matt – a renowned sommelier in Canada and co-founder of Experience Wine Tours with his wife Shannon – picked us up early in the morning at 9am to start our tour.
The format of the tour was simple – Matt picked a vineyard, explained why it was one of his favourites, and drove us there so we could try their portfolio of wines (spitting was at the individual’s discretion); simple yet extremely effective.
The first stop on our tour was La Frenz. The vineyard is in a perfect location, so much so the view used to be depicted on the back of the Canadian $100 bill. Also, they produced a 2012 Merlot that was to die for.
Next up was Laughing Stock vineyards. Obviously there’s a pretty quirky story behind a name like that.
The vineyard is owned and run by David and Cynthia Enns, two former stock brokers from Vancouver. It is said that when they told their friends of their plans to open up a vineyard in the Naramata Valley they became a laughing stock, hence the name.
As a nice nod to their former lives, on the label of each bottle of wine is the ticker tape from the Canadian Stock Market of major Canadian companies from the day it was bottled; a nice touch that.
By vineyard three, Lock and Worth, we were starting to get hungry. Luckily for us, Matt put on a beautiful spread.
Keeping within the local philosophy, all the vegetables, meat and cheese Matt supplied were sourced from British Columbia or from Canada. With a lake and the mountains as our backdrop (or perhaps we were influenced by the wine at that point), everything was delicious.
Once we had finished lunch, we were back on the road again and on our way to Serendipity (that’s the name of the vineyard; we weren’t that drunk by that point).
Serendipity gave us another quirky story. They produced a nice blend called ‘Red Handed’. The story behind this one is the owner of the vineyard caught her husband red handed mid-act. In revenge, she decided to humiliate him by telling everyone the story. It also gave her the inspiration for ‘Red Handed’, one of Serendipity’s best-selling wines. That’s quite a selling point.
Our penultimate stop, Kettle Valley Vineyards, was where you could pick up the unusual white wine slushie, and with the sun blazing and beautiful views, why wouldn’t you? It also produced a stunning Viognier (though saying that, all the Viogniers were exceptional in the Naramata Valley).
All too soon, we reached our final destination. Finishing as we started our tour, the views from Prospect Winery were other worldly, and it was easy to see why there was a restaurant in such a picturesque spot.
While we were driving from vineyard to vineyard, Matt gave us the history of each one as well as going into the geography and history of the local area. Every sentence that he spoke was filled with a genuine passion for the area of the Okanagan and the Naramata Valley and its delicious wines.
Matt was the perfect guide and host. We all started the tour as strangers and we ended as friends (that’s what happens after trying nearly 50 different wines at six different vineyards).
If you’re looking to experience a wine tour in the Naramata Valley or in the Okanagan, then you can’t go wrong with Experience Wine Tours; it’s all in the name after all.