Tucked on a hillside overlooking the stately Similkameen River sits Vanessa Vineyard, a small artisanal vineyard that specializes in growing five grape varieties for its limited-edition reds. The vineyard only produces 3,000 cases a year — available exclusively online, at their tasting room and at high-end restaurants like Hy’s, the Hotel Georgia and the Wedgewood Hotel.

Vines grow everywhere on the 74.55-acre estate, row after row planted in accordance with the terrain, rooted in the rocky sloping landscape. The natural incline provides good air drainage and minimizes risk of frost. Each element of the west-facing vineyard — its topography, climate, and soil — contributes to creating grapes perfect for crafting outstanding wines. Ask winemakers what the key is to making great wine and they’ll tell you it’s great grapes. What they might not share is the expertise required to get there. Like in theatre, those working behind the scenes at a winery set the magic in motion.

A decade ago, the estate was considered too difficult to plant because of rocky soil formed by glacial meltwater and deposited by fluvial fans. With advice from vineyard developers Robert Goltz and Richard Cleave, this obstacle became an unforeseen advantage. The rocks were crushed and a special planting techniques employed. Suki Sekhon and John Welson began as grape growers and now, six years later, they are vintners. Their grapes are exceptional, characterized by their minerality. The reason: the rocks under the roots of their vines.

Legendary winemaker Howard Soon, who’s been involved with the winery since its inception, spotted the exceptional characteristics of its fruit early on. Intrigued by the possibilities, he came out of retirement for the opportunity to be part of the team. He’s responsible for crucial decisions such as the timing of the harvest and the method of pressing — the kind of decisions that define Howard’s celebrated style.

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