Montakarn Estate Winery on Black Sage Road in Oliver will be a new winery that should not be missed. The view will have you clicking your camera throughout your stay in the wine shop. While there are other wineries located on the same ridge above Oliver, Montakarn is the only one to make full use of the western view. You can see the valley from McIntyre Bluff to the south end of the Golden Mile, including right down to the Okanagan River. 

“We purchased it in 2003. It had peaches and apricots,” says co-owner Gary Misson who, along with his wife Montakarn, began removing the trees in favour of vines that now include Merlot, Chardonnay, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and small amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. “I’ve made wine since I was 20,” says Misson. “I love the smell of the cellar.” 

While the plans for a winery took shape slowly, the execution of the plans seemed almost overwhelming. “That was an eye-opener!” Misson exclaims, referring to all of the small details that go into building a new winery.

Most of the details, including the design of the winery building itself, were completed by Misson, who earned a degree in architecture technology as part of a career change. Misson had spent many years at sea on ice breakers in the north and in BC’c coastal waters hauling log booms before buying the property that would become Montakarn Estate. 

“Everything is grown here, picked here, and fermented here,” explains Misson. “The vineyard that you walk through is the wine that you drink.” For their debut vintages, those wines will be hand-crafted blends rather than a large collection of single varieties. “We just find that blends seem to be the trick to this valley,” says Misson. The white blend, Tippy Toe, is composed of 70% un-oaked Chardonnay, 22% Sauvignon Blanc, and 8% Viognier. All were blended at crush and fermented in stainless steel tanks. “The Sauvignon Blanc is really snappy here. It’s the clay and silt that does it.” Having Daniel Bontorin as a consulting winemaker, and who is familiar with the terroir from working multiple vintages at other nearby wineries, is definitely an asset. 

The terroir variations on the property also help explain why the Malbec ripens significantly earlier than the Merlot. “Our Merlot is in a low clay pocket, like a pond that had dried out,” Misson explains. “It’s a little cooler there and the Merlot takes a little longer to come about. The Malbec is up on a sandy knoll and it gets a little more heat there, which the Malbec likes. You can almost split the vineyard down the driveway. On the north side is a little more clay and the south side is more rocky.” A red blend of Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot will also be available this season. 

~ Luke Whitall