Long­est-serv­ing wine­maker in Canada re­tires

Penticton Herald - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE MacNAULL Steve MacNaull is The Okana­gan Week­end’s busi­ness re­porter and colum­nist. But he also loves to eat and drink, thus his new Fill ‘er Up col­umn on the Wine & Dine page. Reach him at steve.macnaull@ok.bc.ca.

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.

Pic­nic bar

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.”

Dou­ble gold

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.

STEVE MacNAULL/The Okana­gan Week­end

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.

Con­trib­uted pho­tos

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)

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