In Canadian winery years, 20 years is a fairly long life. In that time many brands, labels and even grape varieties have come and gone.
Well, for 20 years the family-owned winery that is Stag’s Hollow has been producing high-calibre wines at its Okanagan Falls facility. Owners Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger, along with winemaker Dwight Sick, place an emphasis on reflecting the unique microclimate that exists in and around Okanagan Falls. A relatively open vineyard canopy allows plenty of sun to hit the berries, resulting in great intensity of fruit.
The winery has been making wine in a way that respects their pristine plot of land and the people on/around it long before it became the widespread movement it is today. When the new winery building came to be in 2005, Stag’s Hollow was one of the first in the region to incorporate geothermal systems and other key environmental initiatives throughout.
Stag’s Hollow has consistently shown well at wine competitions, most recently at WineAlign’s 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada. The winery placed 8th in the competition’s inaugural list of best small Canadian wineries (10,000 cases or less), and 16th overall in the list of Canada’s 25 best wineries.
While judging at the National Wine Awards of Canada, I was lucky enough to have a few Stag’s Hollow wines come across my table during the competition’s final rounds. In a flight of red single varietals that included Grenache, Carmenere, Malbec, Zweigelt and Baco Noir, the single-vineyard Stag’s Hollow Tempranillo stood out with its beautiful blackberry, vanilla, ash, plum and dark chocolate notes that sang with a splash of acidity on the full-bodied palate.
Another of the award-winning Stag’s Hollow wines I tried was the 2012 Cabernet Franc. There’s a definite Old World, Loire Valley vibe going on here, with licorice, anise and cassis notes working well with an earthy, slightly leafy/tomato plant note that’s both highly drinkable and completely charming.
Among other wines available at My Wine Canada that medaled at the competition were the 2013 Grenache (which also took home a silver) as well as bronze-medal winner the Stag’s Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir.
But while the medals and awards are nice, the hardware certainly doesn’t count for everything — give the Stag’s Hollow wines a try and see why visitors to the Okanagan call it a hidden gem.
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.