Would it be unfair to call the rise of Painted Rock Estate Winery in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley meteoric? Over the course of about a decade, proprietor John Skinner and his winery have jumped to the forefront of premium Okanagan Valley wines.
In 2004, Skinner and co. purchased 60 acres of land east of Skaha Lake — just south of Penticton. At the time, the land was owned by another winery and been planted as an orchard, but had lay fallow for many years.
Skinner brought in consultants from California and France to assess the area’s air movement – including cooler air masses that move down from nearby mountains — and other climatic factors before planting began in 2005. The rest, as they say, is history.
Painted Rock’s focus has primarily been on red Bordeaux grape varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc — with Syrah now commanding serious attention thanks to the grape’s rise in popularity in the Okanagan Valley. The winery has some Petit Verdot and Malbec planted as well, while Chardonnay is Painted Rock’s primary white grape focus.
Painted Rock’s 2013 Chardonnay came from three micro harvests — meaning grapes from the same plot were picked at different times.
The three portions were aged differently — in new French oak, first-fill French barrels, and stainless steel — bringing a profound cross-section of ripe peach, crunchy red apple, spice and creamy vanilla notes on the medium-plus bodied palate.
On the red side of things, the 2012 Syrah spent plenty of its own time in barrels — 18 months, to be precise. Like some of the best B.C. Syrah, the Painted Rock expression marries brambly black cherry and wild raspberry notes with slightly leafy, savoury notes and just the right amount of oak, tipping the hat to some of the best reds from France’s Rhône Valley.
Then there’s the 2012 Red Icon. Amazingly, this vintage doesn’t contain Cabernet Sauvignon — rather, it’s 31 per cent Malbec, 28 per cent Merlot, 26 per cent Cabernet Franc and 15 per cent Petit Verdot. The whole lot of it gets 18 months in oak — half of which are new French barrels — but the deep black fruit, dark chocolate and mocha flavours have got more than enough guts to grapple with the big tannins and oak.
In the half-dozen years or so that their wines have been commercially available, they’ve done well in picking up hardware at competitions both in Canada and beyond. Their most recent achievement was being named winery of the year at the 2014-15 InterVin International Wine Awards in early October, beating out strong contenders from every corner of the globe.
Oh, and if you’re in the Okanagan Valley, be sure to make it to their stunning tasting room, which opened last September. The view is unbelievable, the facility breathtaking, and the wines sublime.
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.