At Hester Creek Estate Winery this season, the emphasis is on honouring their old vines as they prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their estate vineyard. As one of the pioneers of the South Okanagan wine industry, they are proud of their historical connection to this spectacular landscape.

This story begins with Joe Busnardo, an Italian immigrant, who in 1968 was searching for the ideal spot to plant the vinifera vines he’d brought over from the old country. Those were nascent days for the BC wine industry, but Joe recognized the opportunity to grow premium wine grapes. He carefully selected a sun-drenched place on an east-facing slope, now known as the Golden Mile Bench, just south of the old town of Oliver. Half a century later, the classic varietals Joe planted — the Cabernet Franc, “Italian Merlot,” Pinot Blanc and Trebbiano — thrive, along with other suitable varietals that have been planted since to complete the 105-acre estate.

Traditionally grown in northern Italy, the Okanagan Valley’s only Trebbiano is created at Hester Creek. An elegant wine, it offers scented notes of apple, pear and tropical fruit supported by a unique minerality. Perfectly balanced, it tastes of grapefruit, with a bright acidity and a lovely crisp finish. It pairs wonderfully with goat and soft cheeses and is exceptionally well priced at $23.95.

The winery’s Block 3 Reserve Cabernet Franc is a classic example of how heritage vines enhance the flavour of a wine through their consistency and boldness. Here the aromas are of autumn leaves, fresh dill and bright raspberry followed by flavours of red berry, earthy cocoa and spice. This is a wine destined to be enjoyed with seared duck, rich meats and intriguing conversations over dinner. It’s attractively priced at $28.95.

To mark this significant anniversary year, the winery is introducing a premium Bordeaux style red blend of five varietals: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It’s named Garland, for Hester Creek’s owner, Curt Garland. The wine will be released Saturday May 12 for Bench Club Members at their annual Crush Pad Party. This commences an exceptional wine season jam-packed with amazing festivities such as live music, culinary events, a revival party weekend and much more.

Wine aficionados won’t want to miss senior winemaker Rob Summer’s old vines seminars. Offered during the Spring and Fall Okanagan Wine Festivals, these informative sessions will be highlighted by tastings of the original varietals as well as a chance to learn about the distinctive Golden Mile terroir and what makes these historic vines so unique.

A 50th anniversary is a tremendous milestone. A time for toasts to the future, reflection and celebration. A chance to observe the past and appreciate one’s humble beginnings. This is especially true for a winery that prides itself on “having roots that run deep.”


~ Lesley Buxton