I first met Steve Dale, the proprietor and winemaker of West Kelowna, BC’s Rollingdale Winery over ten years ago when I was managing Aurora Bistro in Vancouver. Chef Jeff Van Geest, now ably running the show at Miradoro in the South Okanagan, opened the restaurant as an homage to all things British Columbian; food, wine and craft beer. B.C. wine being good was still a relatively new thing to people, and while we had more than a handful of skeptics through the doors in those days, there were some who were enthusiastic for any opportunity to discover more and more of the ever-improving wines our province was offering.
I didn’t know who Steve was, but I do recall the first time he came in. It was towards the end of the evening one weeknight, close to the time when we were about to do last call for the kitchen. There were six or seven people with him, a colourful bunch of young folks full of cheer and energy, and they were looking to dive wholeheartedly into the menu and my wine list.
I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes on an idle weeknight when you’re close to the home stretch of your evening in a restaurant, the LAST thing you want is a big group of people with endless energy, bounding in for what would likely be the long haul. It was within the first few minutes, though, that this group’s energy and enthusiasm became contagious, and my ego was stroked by their curiosity and eagerness to wade through a good amount of wines from my list.
They say when you’re running the floor of a restaurant, to treat it as if you’re inviting guests into your home and entertaining them. Within an hour, it honestly felt like a house party. I’ve rarely had a more enjoyable time serving, and – of course – the fact that they were ringing up a big bill wasn’t lost on me, but the energy of Steve and his crew was about way more than that. They were those guests you end up hugging on their way out. The best.
A couple months later. Another idle, rainy Tuesday or Wednesday. We’re about to close down the kitchen after a pretty quiet night, and – once again – that whole crew came through our door like a tidal wave.
“THESE ARE THE PEOPLE I WAS TELLING YOU ABOUT,” I exclaimed to one of our servers. That initial night was basically re-lived; perhaps even amped up by about 20 percent.
As I recall, Steve and his crew came in about three or four more times during my time at Aurora, each time full of the most fun you can have with food and wine, drenched in hugs and cheer. On one visit, Steve had spoken briefly of being at the start of a new winery project in the Okanagan, but – to be very honest – I don’t recall many of the details. We may have ended up sharing a glass or two with him on a couple of occasions.
Fast forward 10 years. I was on an Okanagan road trip with MWC's founder, Jackie McLachlan. We were embarking on partnering up with Rollingdale Winery, and thought we’d drop in to visit Steve. As we got out of the car, Steve came walking up to greet us. Before, I could utter the words, “Hey, I don’t know if you remember me, but,” – he gave me one of the biggest bear hugs I’ve ever received. He then brought us into the winery, and suddenly our historic tables were turned. It was he who was pulling corks, constantly topping us up, introducing us to everyone he was working with. Though they’re not all related, it’s obvious that it’s very much a family operation.
Rollingdale is one of few wineries who feature certified organic wines. We tried their Pinot Gris, a classical ode to the quintessential variety of the Okanagan, chock-full of lively acidity and minerality. We sipped their Estate Marechal Foch, one of the biggest, intense reds in the region. And then, of course, a slew of the icewines that they specialize in, like the Pinot Gris Icewine and Merlot Icewine you can nab right here on the site.
Rollingdale’s wines are honest, full of cheer, and undoubtedly exuberant. Knowing who’s behind them, I’d expect nothing less.
Try Kurtis' top picks from Rollingdale by clicking on each bottle below!
Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at KurtisKolt.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.