If Hamlet had popped by for glass of chilled Ad Lib, a delicate blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, he may have dropped the entire revenge scenario. “Alas, poor Yorik, too bad you didn’t have a chance to spend time at Play Estate Winery…” Heck, the Prince of Denmark would have upped sticks and bought a home in Skaha Hills.
The winery’s playful name and branding are perfectly suited to its founder Jason Pechet, CEO of Stagewest Hospitality who along with long time collaborator and sommelier Mohamed Awad launched this unique winery set as a showstopper entrance to a unique new resort-style community. Skaha Hills, with its spectacular view of Skaha Lake, is a joint venture between the Penticton Indian Band and Greyback Construction Ltd.
It’s Act One for Play Estate and reviews are strong for the recently opened $5.2 million winery and vineyard featuring a wine shop, tasting lounge, indoor/outdoor bistro space and 14 acres of vineyard planted in Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscat.
“Our vision is to produce good quality, honest wine with integrity,” says general manager and winemaker Mohamed. “We set out to over-deliver on quality for the price point and are really living up to our goal.
“We don’t want to come across as too serious reflecting the other meaning of our name,” he says. “People come here to have fun and play. They are on vacation or are walking over from their home to do a tasting or have lunch and a glass at the Bistro with its view.”
The winery features three white and three reds. In addition to the 2014 Ad Lib, the off-dry 2015 Moscato is a blend of three unique Muscats including White, Orange and Ottonel. The third white is a 2014 Viognier, kissed by new French oak barrels for four months. The reds include the 2014 Improv, a Merlot and Syrah blend, a 2014 Syrah which Mohamed describes as true cool climate Syrah with minimal interference and the premium wine in the series, and the 2014 Applause, a Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend aged in French oak.
“We are honest about winemaking,” Mohamed says. “We let the grapes make a great bottle of wine and are as natural as possible.”
Being involved in building a winery and vineyard from the ground up is a dream come true for Mohamed who is a familiar face in the Okanagan wine scene with experience managing Spirit Ridge Resort and Vineyards in Osoyoos and Black Hills Estate Winery.
The Skaha Hills lifestyle resort community that Play is centre stage for is something new to Penticton and the first master planned resort-style community in the South Okanagan, says Curt Jansen, vice president of Skaha Hills.
“It’s all about lifestyle. Residents can take advantage of walking trails, enjoy the vineyard, Skaha Beach, golf, access the Kettle Valley Railway trails, play in the sport’s courts and pools, take their dog to the off-leash park and enjoy a glass of wine at Play and lunch at the Bistro.”
Skaha Hills is lifestyle-focused, the views are outstanding and owners are getting great value for money, Curt says. The homes are scaled up the hillside in such a way as to ensure unobstructed views of the lake and surrounding hillsides. “Greyback, the developer, has done an outstanding job and are winning awards. Skaha Hills is the most energy efficient housing development in all of Canada,” he adds.
Like a popular vintage of wine, the homes are going fast and interest is so high that its necessary to register for the next phase of homes, Phase IV, Curt says.
“It’s really fun to see how Play is becoming central to the community,” says Curt. “Some homeowners are even working in the vineyard. There is a real pride in ownership. On any given day you will see residents at the Bistro with guests in tow showing off their new special locale.”
As Hamlet would say, “To be, or not to be at Play: that is the question.”  One look at the view and the answer is clear.