(photo:Proprietors Jitske & Richard.)

Ancient Hill Winery across from the Kelowna Airport in the Ellison area is cradled on land originally planted to grapes more than 60 years ago. Much of the property had been converted to orchards when Richard and Jitske Kamphuys arrived in 1992 after “tiring of big city life in the Netherlands.” Perhaps it was an omen that several abandoned vines of the 1940s’ planting remained and still survive today. While the couple aspired to “a lifestyle more in tune with nature” through orcharding, the returns proved erratic. The vines beckoned so they replanted vineyards, building their winery named Ancient Hill as a nod to “the natural forces that created the terroir.” This somewhat cooler site dictates the wines’ flavour profile and with talented consulting winemaker Christine Leroux,  Ancient Hill has developed a portfolio of aromatic whites and unique reds that capitalize on those characteristics. Such thoughtfulness carried through to the winery’s design for which well-known architect Robert Mackenzie of Penticton was engaged. Just down the road from Sunset Ranch Golf & Country Club, a European-style warmth awaits. The panoramic valley views from the picnic area and intricate gardens allude to the gracious reception.

From the substantial wood-carved doors with wrought iron accents to the stone fireplace and lighting that whispers of bygone castles with fine paintings by Jitske adorning the walls, the wine shop radiates welcome. After touring the museum-like surroundings, sidle up to the massive wooden tasting bar to taste firsthand the approachability of the wines. Most familiar is the Baco Noir, its barrel-aged flagship red and top seller and the recently released 2011 sustains that tradition. Additionally, the Rosé 2012 is an excellent summer wine with more intensity than most thanks to Baco Noir in the blend. For a lighter, unoaked red, the 2010 Lazerus is suitable for any occasion.

~ Roslyne Buchanan