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World class tourism and recreational region threatened - the Naramata Bench and its Brand

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

The Naramata Bench is a culmination of co-existing opportunities resulting in a one-of-a-kind, world class agricultural, tourism and recreation corridor, combining exceptional opportunities for wine growing, wildlife corridors, outdoor recreation, and scenic views

Within the boundaries of the region (see outlined map opposite), the area has;

54 wineries producing over 200,000 cases of wine annually;

  • 620 acres of planted vineyards;

  • Hundreds of acres of orchards growing a large assortment of fruit and vegetables;

  • Over 120 B&B’s, Vacation Rentals and hotels ranging from 5 star to cottage rentals;

  • A host of excellent restaurants offering a wide variety of food and beverage options;

  • 3 cideries;

  • 2 distilleries;

  • 2 cheeseries;

  • The Naramata Yacht club;

  • Water sport rentals;

  • Numerous beaches;

  • The KVR; and

  • Numerous hiking and off road biking trails.

The Okanagan wine growing area itself is unique. To quote Rhys Pender of the BC Wine Authority “BC is gifted with its climate. The bright sunshine and long days of the interior vineyards give amazingly intense fruit-driven wine; the low humidity and rainfall keeps fruit clean and disease-free; and the chilly nights preserve vibrant acidity. These are the stars of the vineyard show, a combination of elements that no other region in the world achieves so naturally and so easily.”

That description hits the nail on the head with respect to the distinctiveness of the wine growing environment, but falls short of painting a comprehensive understanding of the Naramata Bench; it is a value-added orcharding and wine growing area, making it an exceptional gem within the Okanagan wine growing region, the province, and indeed, the world.

In comparison to California’s well-renowned Napa Valley wine growing region which has had decades to develop its brand, targeted management has resulted in a somewhat contrived Mediterranean landscape. In comparison, the Naramata Bench needs no such artificial intervention. The wine and orchard lands are sandwiched between scenic Okanagan Lake below and forest above with wine growing, wine tasting and recreational opportunities.

Okanagan Lake provides the scenic foreground to the Naramata Bench, from which it can be accessed for boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing. Its shoreline provides a variety of opportunities including beaches and swimming, adjacent to near-vertical silt bluffs whose dramatic drop-off creates yet another awe-inspiring vista with vineyards above and a sparkling lake waters below.

The area above the agricultural area is a rugged, scenic wildland. In comparison to other regions in the world, it is still a relatively natural area, something that Canada is renowned for world-wide. It is host to a variety of wildlife species, some of which are endangered. Wildlife and bird-watching opportunities can be found here, along with other recreational opportunities such as quading and snowmobiling.

Indeed, the land-based biking and hiking opportunities traverse both the rugged, rocky forestlands and the vineyards and orchard, while providing forest, vineyard, and lake views. All of these opportunities can be accessed from the Naramata Bench on the same day within a relatively small area. The assemblage of opportunities found here is difficult to find anywhere else in the world – there is no other place like it. The Naramata Bench is an area that should be co-managed to preserve and enhance all these opportunities. Clearly, urban subdivisions with access roads blasted out of rocky outcrops do not belong here.

Based on an estimate provided by the BC Wine Grape Council, the region encompassing the Naramata Bench, Penticton and Kaleden areas produced 4851 tons of grapes in 2018. Currently there is not a breakdown between the regions at this time. In order to attempt to calculate the actual amount of grapes produced from the Naramata bench and the corresponding amount of wine produced, an assumption has been made that many of the wineries on the Naramata bench also have vineyards elsewhere in the Okanagan and that the 4,851 ton value is somewhat representative of the amount of grapes that the Naramata bench wineries process each year.

Considering that an average ton of grapes produces approximately 720 bottles of wine, and 4,851 tons of grapes are processed each year by the 54 wineries, this results in an estimate of 3,492,720 bottles or 291,060 cases of wine. This further translates into approximately 5,390 cases of wine per winery assuming 54 wineries.

A study completed in 2017 by the BC Wine Institute on Canada’s Wine Economy, (see infograph below) indicated that an average bottle of wine generates $48.17 of which $33.84 is business revenue, $8.91 are wages, and $5.42 is tax. It can therefore be extrapolated that if the Naramata Bench wineries produce and sell approximately 291,000 cases of wine annually, it also contributes approximately $170 - million to the economy. This number may be conservative as it does not include items such as hotels, B&B’s, restaurants and other food and recreational establishments.

It can therefore be concluded that the Naramata Bench farming community makes a very large economic contribution to both the City of Penticton and the Provincial Government. If this very valuable resource is destroyed or threatened, it could detrimentally and severely affect the City and the Province as many visitors will not want to spend their valuable dollars in sight of a high density housing development.

Considering that no agricultural suitability assessments have ever been done on the area in question, it is recommended that an evaluation be done to better understand the nature of the agricultural capability of this land before any housing development is considered.

In addition, a detailed economic analyses needs to be conducted outlining what the Naramata Bench contributes to the City of Penticton as a whole and how the Spiller Road development could affect the Economic contribution that the Naramata Bench makes to the City of Penticton and the Province. An attempt could also made to create a stewardship council and / or a technical committee to preserve all of the opportunities on the Naramata Bench so they can continue to co-exist and enhance the opportunities that exist there, which includes agriculture, habitat, tourism, recreation. The area straddles City, Regional District and Crown Lands so is currently not being managed from an all-inclusive point of view or even recognized as the unique, world class area that it is.


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