Longest-serving winemaker in Canada retires
What does a winemaker do when he retires after 37 years with the same company? He pulls the best bottles out of the cellar and throws a party, of course.
That’s exactly what Howard Soon did when he hosted his final soiree before retiring from Sandhill Wines at Oak+Cru at the Delta Grand hotel in Kelowna.
Guests mingled with Soon at Oak+Cru restaurant’s private lagoon-side patio to start and enjoyed Sandhill’s 2016 rose paired with a spot-prawn appetizer.
From then, there was a steady flow of wine and small plates from the 2016 Pinot Gris with seared sablefish and 2016 Chardonnay accompanied by roast chicken to 2014 Merlot matched to beef tenderloin and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot with little lamb chops served in a martini glass.
The group then ambled over to Oak+Cru’s wine-experience cellar for vertical flights of 2012 and 2014 Sangiovese and 2008 and 2009 Petit Verdot paired to chocolate deserts.
The Grand’s executive chef, Iain Rennie, custom-designed the menu to match Soon’s wines.
Soon started with Calona Wines in 1980 and has been with the company through its ownership change to Andrew Peller Estates, which includes the Calona, Conviction, Peller, Wayne Gretzky, Red Rooster and Sandhill labels.
With 37 vintages on his resume, Soon was the longest-serving winemaker in Canada.
Along the way, Soon won many awards for his winemaking and wines and innovated in the vineyard and winery.
The day after officially retiring, Soon took off on a trip to England with his wife, Wendy.
He expects to travel and garden more, put some miles on the Porsche and spend more time with his family and grandkids in retirement.
He’s also open to some wine side projects and getting involved with wine education.
The celebration of Howard isn’t over.
Another invite-only reception is scheduled for Aug. 17 at Sandhill.
These Okanagan wineries are so micro you’ve probably never heard of them before.
They all have limited production of under 2,000 cases a year and have names like Bottega Wine Studio, Nagging Doubt, Black Market, Forgotten Hill, Lariana, Off the Grid, Pipe Dreams, Tall Tale, Origin and Saxon.
As such, they qualify as garagiste, a French term for a rebel or maverick small-scale winery, possibly diminutive enough to run out of a garage.
To celebrate the bitty-in-size, but big-in-quality nature of the movement in the Okanagan, the Garagiste North Wine Festival returns to Penticton Aug. 27.
From 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., dozens of these artisan commercial producers will pour their wines in the garden market area of the Canadian Tire store on Railway Street.
It’s a fitting locale because Canadian Tire is, after all, the biggest garage of them all.
The $49 ticket also includes a grilled-cheese sandwich or smokie tasting from the Peter Ze German food truck and live music by Luke Whittall.
Because all these wines have limited production and distribution, the festival also had the ingenious idea of an on-site pop-up store so you can buy your favourite bottles.
In 2015, the London Financial Times named Garagiste North as one of the best five wine fests in the world
Tickets at GaragisteNorth.com.
Order something off the barbecue or grab a wrap, panini, salad, cheese or charcuterie plate.
It’s all possible now with the opening of the picnic bar at Evolve Cellars in Summerland.
You can eat, and, of course, enjoy a glass of Evolve wine, on one of the winery’s patios or on the grounds overlooking vineyards, Okanagan Lake and mountains, seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“These new food offerings are an exciting addition for wine lovers, friends and family of all ages who are exploring Evolve Cellars and the other Bottleneck Drive wineries,” said retail and guest services manager Kerri-Anne Sexton.
Evolve is also getting the messaging out to potential visitors from Vancouver and Alberta who may have been scared off by recent news.
“We want everyone to know Okanagan wine country is open for business,” said Sexton.
“The wildfires aren’t in this area, and although there’s been some smoke, the water has been amazing and skies are clear.”
When a gold medal doesn’t adequately reward how spectacular a wine is, there’s the double gold designation.
That’s the praise being heaped on the 2013 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red from Oliver’s Tinhorn Creek Vineyards by the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
The competition’s double gold rating is reserved for only the finest wines in the world.
To earn the prize, the Tinhorn Bordeaux-style blend had to rise to the top of the 4,200 wines entered from 31 countries.
The competition’s panel of judges and wine critics also gave 2Bench Red a score of 94 points out of 100.
“The Oldfield Series 2Bench Red is one of our greatest achievements,” said namesake and Tinhorn CEO and founder Sandra Oldfield.
“Our goal has always been to inspire innovation and improvement with every vintage and this award makes us very confident in the work we’re doing.”
The Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes for the 2Bench Red were aptly sourced from two of Tinhorn’s benchland vineyards – Black Sage and Golden Mile, both in Oliver.
It’s powerful and full-bodied, but balanced with a complex aroma and taste profile from spice and herbs to tobacco and dark fruit.
The $30.50-a-bottle wine, which can be enjoyed now or cellared for up to 15 years, is available at the winery or online at Tinhorn.com.
What does a Miami vibe, synchronized swimmers, a vintage swimsuit fashion show and a hot, on-site DJ have to do with Okanagan wine?
Lots, when it’s the Midsummer Night’s Dream Party at Oliver’s Black Hills Winery.
On Aug. 12 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. guests can relax poolside, on the Wine Experience Centre patio or in the vineyards, while sipping Black Hills’ vintages.
They will eat barbecue and sip more wine in the vineyard.
And they will gather poolside while DJ Chloe Morgan spins tunes during the swimsuit fashion show and performance by the glamourous synchronized swimming troupe, the Aqualillies.
“This event is already the only one like it in the world,” said Black Hills hospitality manager Pauline Gagnon.
“It has really come to define the season for us, a chance to celebrate summer, with a lot of style.”
Tickets at BlackHillsWinery.com are $135 and include shuttle pick up and drop off at Osoyoos hotels.
The final event Sandhill winemaker Howard Soon, left, hosted before his retirement this week was a nine-wines-andsmall-plates soiree at the Delta Grand hotel’s Oak+Cru restaurant. Chef Iain Rennie customized the menu to pair with Sandhill Wines.
Daniel Bontorin, left, the winemaker at Bottega Wine Studio, will pour his wines at the Garagiste North Wine Festival Aug. 27 in Penticton. So will Ron Westbury of Nagging Doubt Wines.
Black Hills Winery’s Midsummer Night Dream Party on Aug. 12 features vineyard barbecue, wine, synchronized swimming performance, swimsuit fashion show and DJ.
Evolve Cellars has opened its picnic bar so you can enjoy food with your wine at the Summerland winery.
Tinhorn Creek 2013 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red ($30.50)