Accessed off Naramata’s main road by a farm-lined lane, most people fall for the winery long before they’ve even set foot in the tasting room. It begins when they are greeted atop the clay bluff that the winery rests upon by a panoramic view of Lake Okanagan, spanning from the south shores of Penticton north to Okanagan Mountain Park. From this breathtaking lookout, patrons are whisked down a garden-lined path, with the cooling breeze from the lake at their back, down to the wineshop, cellar, patio restaurant, and several other buildings clustered together in a Tuscan-style that can quickly make one feel as if they’ve just discovered a small Italian villa hidden along the Naramata Bench.
This is a winery that, much like its grapes, is well rooted in both Naramata and the Okanagan Valley’s viticultural history. Standing atop nine acres of what was, at one time a cherry orchard, Lake Breeze was one of the first five wineries along the Naramata Bench, and it has been a leading figure in the town since the BC wine industry’s infancy. Despite this however, the winery has chosen to remain a small operation, producing only 10 to 15,000 cases a year – depending on the harvest of course. This has afforded winemaker Garron Elmes a greater freedom to focus on attention to detail with all 15 labels that leave the cellar. And this commitment to small scale production has also allowed for Lake Breeze to maintain its relationships with local grape growers that have lasted, in some cases, for over 15 years. All of this has allowed Lake Breeze to emerge as a pillar to the Naramata viticultural community.
In fact, Elmes himself is rooted in this winery’s long history, having been with the winery since the beginning after coming to Canada following the completion of his winemaking education in South Africa, an influence that still shows prominently in many of his wines. Elmes has helped Lake Breeze to strike a notable balance between producing wines that the Okanagan is particularly well known for, such as the light-bodied Pinot Blanc and the heavier Merlot (a wine for which, Elmes is particularly passionate of), with lesser known varietals such as Semillon, Ehrenfelser, and Pinotage (for which, Lake Breeze was the first in the Okanagan to cultivate).
It is exactly this commitment to a rich array of complicated and diverse wines, coupled with two decades of investment in the community and its focus on small scale production that has allowed Lake Breeze Winery to develop into this paradise overlooking the lake. It is also these aspects which assured the winery of its title as the “Best Small Winery in British Columbia”. And it’s fitting that this title should be bestowed on them during their 20th anniversary. Because like great wine, it’s the aging process that makes a winery that much better.
2014 Semillon – $18.90
A classic, albeit rare French varietal which couples an off-dry body with a medley of citric and herbaceous notes reminiscent of grapefruit, melons, and fresh cut grass. The Platinum medal winner at the National Wine awards of Canada, this wine is soft to the palate and complex, leaving a nutty presence that pairs nicely with classic Greek dishes as well as more modern Aegean-influenced seafood.
~ Blake Allen