Traveling the bench as a tourist

Traveling the bench as a tourist

There is a common pattern for visitors in Penticton. First, come for a visit — as a kid or an adult, as inevitably you will come back, and eventually say, “I remember coming here as a kid, it was awesome!” Second, decide to move here.  Then your refrain changes to, “We came here, loved the scenery, and decided to make this our home.” Third…you become a tour guide, and you get used to texts, Facebook messages, and Skype chats that start with, “We’re coming to visit, what wineries should we visit?”

Suggestion? Keep a list of favourite libations hot spots, plus restaurants, on digital sticky notes for easily copying and pasting. And, take time out of your own work schedule to travel the region with your guests so you can see Penticton through fresh eyes, like those of Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo, founders of Messina Hof Winery and Resort in Texas. They visited the Naramata Bench for the first time this spring and are already planning a return trip.

Waking up to sunny skies and Okanagan Lake each morning with a view to Naramata in the east, the Bonarrigos took a day to tour “the bench”, getting a taste — literally and figuratively of — the terrior and the local vibe.

First stop, Lake Breeze Vineyards where the team was busy bottling the winery’s next vintage. Then, a pop down to Deep Roots Winery for an impromptu history lesson on farming on the bench, first from orchards and now to vineyards, the wine tasting led by father and son and in red solo cups due to a technical blip (no one minded).

Then, off to Legend Distilling for some “small town spirits”, sips of gin and vodka while a table was set for a hyper-locally sourced lunch at the onsite bistro, Urtica Eatery. Stinging nettle pesto, anyone?

After a leisurely sampling from the menu, a jaunt down the road to La Frenz Winery in search of pinot noir, then Upper Bench Winery and Creamery for more wine tasting and figuring out how to get cheese home to Texas, plus an invite to tour the crush pad and a chat about the new wood-fired pizza oven.

You might think you’re just heading out to a few wineries for a tasting, but you never know what the day might bring for you and your guests, and the experience will most certainly be memorable, bringing everyone back for more exploring sooner than expected. And it’s not a bad day off from the office.