Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News. Western News file photo

Okanagan Taste: Take a tour near home

It’s been kind of a rough start to the spring and eventual summer season, am I right?

But, perhaps this is a good reason for us locals to get out and support local businesses, including our wineries, breweries, distilleries and restaurants.

Despite the subdued start to the season, many events continue to sell out early, and some wineries are already running low on their popular bottles and vintages. And, as happens when thoughts turn to vacation time, our friends start to ask some combination of the following: what wineries are new? Where should we go on a wine tour? Can you take them to your favourite wineries?

So, to answer those questions, a brief primer on areas to explore, all within a short drive of Penticton.

Bottleneck Drive, Summerland

The twists and turns of the roads in this area lead to a few surprises. Wineries are on both sides of Highway 97, and above Summerland proper, and have a wide variety of bottles.

Highlights: TH Wines for “by hand” small lot wines that frequently sell out. Take in the view at Evolve Cellars Head to Sumac Ridge for bubbles, and finish the day with dinner at Local on Lakeshore.

Naramata Bench, Penticton/Naramata

Wineries, distilleries — new ones pop up weekly, it seems. Most have spectacular views, and this is an “out and back” wine tour. Hit a few wineries along the road to Naramata; head all the way into the village to try out the new dining options at the Naramata Heritage Inn.

Highlights: Poplar Grove for the wine and the view. Hillside Estate for the Muscat Ottonel. Give fruit wines a try at Elephant Island and fruit brandies a shot at Maple Leaf Spirits. Pick up gin at Legend Distilling.

Okanagan Falls

Straddling Skaha Lake on both sides — Eastside Road on one, Kaleden on the other, and reaching in and around the village of Okanagan Falls itself, these wineries have been quietly growing their portfolios and reputations.

Highlights: Kraze Legz for thoughtfully made wines and the exceptionally friendly cat and dog. Wild Goose for barbecue at the Smoke and Oak Bistro, and Liquidity for the view, the wines and the art. Noble Ridge for their bubbles.

All three areas are within 15 minutes or so, from Penticton. Pick one area to get to know, or choose one or two in each area and create your own B.C. wine circle tour.

Save the date

June 4 and 5, West Kelowna: The wineries of the Westside Wine Trail celebrate Sip Into Summer: a white wine adventure. Wineries will host blind tasting challenges and have live entertainment.

June 9, Penticton: Play Estate Winery hosts its Spring Release Party. New wines, dishes from their bistro, live music and an art auction.

June 11, Kelowna: The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra hosts Concert in the Cellar with Tantalus Vineyards, featuring dishes from Okanagan College culinary arts students.

June 18, West Kelowna: Indigenous World Winery hosts the book launch for Proud to be Metis, with authors David Bouchard and Dennis J. Weber.

June 26, Penticton: Liquidity Winery and Okanagan College present Wine Talks: An International Perspective on Wine Marketing, featuring five experts.