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Wine column: A wine-soaked, fall weekend on the Naramata Bench

We've broken into the vault.

The Naramata Wine Vault to be exact.

And, while we revel in the imagined clandestine scenario, my wife, Kerry, and I have actually been invited into the vault by Ben Bryant and Katie Truscott, the owners and operators of 1 Mill Road Winery.

1 Mill has leased one of the 12 temperature-controlled vaults in this former fruit-packing plant for Bryant to make premium, limited-quantity Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rose.

The tasting room is an upturned wine barrel where Bryant tells us the winery's vision.

</who>Ben Bryant and Katie Truscott own and operate 1 Mill Road Winery, which is based in the Naramata Wine Vault.

"There's certainly a selfishness in the style because these are the wines we like to drink," said the winemaker with a laugh.

"But our wines also showcase the Okanagan. Our intention is not to do what everyone else is. It's to be unique."

That means only Okanagan-style varietals from the traditional powerhouse wine region of Burgundy in France.

So, we enjoy the nuanced-and-subtle 2022 Chardonnay ($45), the fresh-and-fine 2022 Black Pine Pinot Noir and the savoury-and-stoney 2022 Rose made of Pinot Noir.

1 Mill is very much a passion project for Bryant and Truscott.

They both have day jobs -- he as Western Canada director of operations for Andrew Peller Ltd. and she as sales manager for Kitsch Wines in East Kelowna.

Bryant made a huge name for himself as winemaker at Jacob's Creek in Australia before moving to the Okanagan to make wine at Mission Hill in West Kelowna and O'Rourke in Lake Country and then buying 1 Mill from David and Cynthia Enns, who started the winery as a Pinot project after founding another Naramata winery (Laughing Stock).

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1 Mill Road is actually the Enns address and Bryant and Truscott continue to harvest the grapes in the vineyard there to make the winery's home block wines.

While you can buy 1 Mill wines at a few private liquor stores and restaurants, 80% of its output is sold direct-to-consumer.

1 Mill doesn't have a wine club, but rather an 'allocation membership' that gives you first dibs on new releases in the spring and fall.

Sign up at www.1millroad.ca.

</who>Jess Hopwood owns and operates Tesla-fuelled Farm to Glass Wine Tours.

Tesla-powered tour

Kerry and I's visit to 1 Mill was part of a wine-soaked, fall weekend on the Naramata Bench -- the region just north of Penticton on the east side of Okanagan Lake that has an incredible concentration of over 40 wineries.

So there was absolutely no drinking and driving, we did our winery hopping with Farm to Glass Wine Tours.

Owner-operator-driver-guide Jess Hopwood has created a bespoke company that offers private, full-day wine tours of regions throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen for up to four people for $649.

Tours are done in a Model Y Tesla electric car she's named Lulita that soundlessly glides from stop to stop.

"We're Canada's first and only eco and sustainable wine tour," said Hopwood.

"And our tours are basically friends visiting friends."

Hopwood picks us up at our digs for the weekend -- D'Angelo Winery Guest House, where we're staying in the Malbec Suite.

Check out https://farmtoglasswinetours.ca/.

</who>raine winemaker Amber Pratt took a break from harvest to show off the winery's 2021 Pinot Noir ($31.50), left, 2022 Reserve Rose ($28) and 2022 Shipuchka Frizzante ($27).

Moraine, Roche and a mind-boggling general store

From there it's off to Moraine Winery to meet winemaker Amber Pratt, hear her tales of harvest 2023 and taste her favourites from the 2022 Shipuchka Frizzante ($27) and 2022 Pink Mountain Rose ($27) to 2022 Riesling ($25) and 2021 Pinot Noir ($31.50).

Then we head to Naramata General Store, a historic convenience store with a difference.

The store is using its rural-agency liquor license to sell an astounding array of local and international wines that you would never expect to see at such a small-town retailer.

"Yes, we aim to be unique and different and fun," said the store's sommelier Mike Bernardo.

"Basically, we're curated and convenience with a wine shop in the middle of a store."

</who>Sommelier Mike Bernardo shows off some of the Naramata General Store's incredible selection of local and international wines.

Of course, you can buy a bottle, or two, or three, or four, here.

But you can also join wine clubs at www.naramata.store to be shipped six bottles of BC and-or international wines four times a year at $225 a pop.

The store is where we also pick up sandwiches from the deli to walk over to Wharf Park to fortify ourselves for yet more wine tasting.

By the way, Naramata Wine Vault and 1 Mill are right across the street from Wharf Park.

After-lunch stops include Deep Roots Winery to sit on the patio and sample Pinot Gris, Rose, unoaked Chardonnay, Gamay and Syrah.

And then Roche Wines to sip through its Tradition, Vig and Amulet portfolios of wines at the glassy tasting bar with Roche's executive manager Eliana Bray, who also just happens to be Canada's first Indigenous sommelier.

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Dinnertime

Hopewood then drops us off at The Restaurant at Poplar Grove Winery for a dinner of seared scallops, halibut and crispy pork belly paired with the winery's 2021 Chardonnay, Rose and Syrah, respectively.

</who>The view from D'Angelo Winery Guest House.

Sunday

Sunday dawns a new day to take in the stunning view from D'Angelo Winery Guest House's Malbec Suite over the swimming pool, vineyard and Okanagan Lake.

We sustain ourselves with breakfast of eggwiches and yogurt and granola at The Bench Market before a visit to Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia-certified Tightrope Winery to sample 2022 Pinot Gris, 2022 Viognier and 2021 Fleet Road Pinot Noir.

And then, we cap off this ideal Naramata weekend with lunch on the patio at The Bistro at Hillside Winery -- perogy with Gamay Noir, Naramata salad paired to Rose, salmon with Viognier and a flat-iron steak to complement the Mosaic red of Merlot and Syrah.

Everything to organize your own wine-soaked, fall weekend is at www.discovernaramata.com.

Steve MacNaull is a NowMedia Group reporter, Okanagan wine lover and Canadian Wine Scholar. Reach him at smacnaull@nowmediagroup.ca. His wine column appears every Friday afternoon in this space.



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