and the Naramata Bench While our friends headed directly back to VAN we decided to wander even further up the okanagan seeing how much we could take in in a few days. With nothing but time on our hands, we wandered aimlessly the long-way north to kelowna and somehow found ourselves in the similkameen valley, apparently the hidden gem of wine country we'd never heard of. The further we drove seemingly the more beautiful the region became.
While the lower okanagan was littered with vineyards mixed in with fruit trees (of all kinds), the similkaneem quickly takes on a more grassland ranch aesthetic with vineyards popping up in between. Driving along the river with the mountain literally flying up to our right and meandering through vista after vista, we felt like it could go on forever. Taking photos seemed all but impossible as the wall of mountains was simply too close to take it one shot.
We stopped at several wineries on the way through, not even tasting at each but talking with the families that run them and picking a few stops to come back to when we bring the vanfam back with us for another weekend retreat. We liked the slower paced and local feel and it's always better tasting the wine with the person who actually planted it, farmed it, harvested it and or turned it into a beautiful wine.
The silkameen finally spilled out back into the greater okanagan and we turned north toward kelowna and lake okanagan. In our minds eye kelowna was a small dot on the map but we were surprised to learn it's BCs largest inland city. Spent some time admiring the beach and parks, all with a sprinkling of people escaping their weekday in nature.
We opted to continue north to the naramata bench, where the wineries had been described as being "fancier" compared to the local farm aesthetic we just departed. It's a fair description and the contrast was fantastic. I had pulled out my computer in hopes of getting some work done during the drive but found myself putting it away every 2-3 minutes for another epic view. The terrain here on the bench is remarkable. The land itself is carved into fingers of land reaching out to the lake each separated by deeply cut grooves of clay cliffs and rock outcroppings. It's truly breathtaking and each turn had us eager for more. The architecture here is just as beautiful as each winery, tasting room and even the homes in between seem to take on a more modern and sleek style and are clearly designed by architects with a similar taste/style to my own. I have to find a way to get a project here...to design a small modern home overlooking these beautiful crevices and articulations in the land and looking down to the lake below. We could do this drive a few time a day for weeks and i would never tire of it. Mental note...it seems the perfect place to experience the wine country slowly via bike, meandering and tasting your way along and turning down side roads for better views as you go.
We kept going until the road all but ran out and finally turned back for another pass at the beauty we had just experienced. A few more wineries and a few more turns down side roads and driveways looking for the perfect shot and we finally left the bench and descended into Kelowna again. We stopped for a bite to eat and then headed back east looking for a spot to camp. We could easily spend a few weeks exploring the rest of the Okanagan, but our friends have us thinking of volleyball and vancouver and the sunshine has us thinking it's not such a bad idea.
We head only slightly back toward town and pull over along the river for a completely peaceful night under the stars and relaxing around the fire. We are so ecstatic to be back on the road and back to exploring!