The Big 5-0 of Hester Creek vines
By Roslyne Buchanan
Given the relative youth of British Columbia’s wine industry, to hear the estate vineyard of Hester Creek Estate Winery celebrated 50 years in 2018 is remarkable news. No wonder its wines get better and better!
A quick look in the rearview mirror to 1968 reveals Italian immigrant Joe Busnardo planted the historic vineyard with European Vitis vinifera varietals with select blocks of Pinot Blanc, Trebbiano, Cabernet Franc, and “Italian Merlot”. He recognized the sunny, east-facing bench with sloping hills south of Oliver offered perfect conditions. Despite only a smattering of small BC vineyards growing vinifera, “over 80 European classic vinifera grapes were planted on the then 76-acre property”.
Flash forward to 2018 and his Pinot Blanc, Trebbiano, Merlot and Cabernet Franc thrive on Hester Creek’s 95-acre property. The winery transitioned starting as Busnardo’s Divino Estate Winery, 1983 to 1996. Divino was relocated to Vancouver Island and the Oliver property sold with its name Hester Creek taken from a vineyard creek named for the daughter Hester of Judge J.C. Haynes.
In 2004, Prince George, BC born and raised businessman Curt Garland first visited Hester Creek and was compelled to buy it a few months later in May. While his connection to BC’s beauty ran deep, it was through his extensive travel he saw similarities between the Mediterranean and Oliver and couldn’t resist becoming part of the wine industry. Garland appointed Australian born and raised Mark Sheridan as President to oversee all aspects of the winery’s business.
Vineyard Manager Iqbal Gill started in 1995 and is Hester Creek’s longest standing employee. In 2006, winemaker Rob Summers was recruited, with his wealth of experience instrumental in raising the wines to the high standards now lauded. To enhance and broaden the team, Okanagan local Mark Hopley was added as winemaker in 2013.
Beyond its wine portfolio, Hester Creek offers a comprehensive experience curated by Director of Hospitality Roger Gillespie. The stunning tasting room features its wines plus an array of complementary items such as wine accessories, food and wine books and cookbooks, and locally produced delicacies such as preserves.
Villa and Restaurant
Onsite is the Mediterranean-style Villa managed by Melissa McLaughlin. Those fortunate to stay, consistently rave about a wine country sojourn of their dreams. There are just six stunning suites packed with luxurious amenities overlooking the winery and vineyards so book early for this special stopover.
A partnership was forged with RauDZ Creative Concepts Ltd. welcoming Terrafina at Hester Creek by RauDZ to its impressive Kelowna line up of RauDZ Regional Table, micro bar bits, and Sunny’s Modern Diner. Nestled among Hester Creek’s vines, the Tuscan-style architecture showcases the true essence of Okanagan’s seasons through the view and elevated cuisine. As I write this, Communications and Bench Club Manager Sarah Lefebvre advises the Villa and Terrafina are closed for the season. Both will reopen February 14 in time for Valentine’s Day.
Wine Flights and Charcuterie
On the other hand, the good news she shared is that the winery remains open daily, 10 am to 4 pm, and is only closed on December 24, 25 and 26 and on New Year’s Day. Wine flights and charcuterie boards for $12 per person are available throughout the hours of operation.
Watch, too, for the first cooking class of the year around Valentine’s Day. Around then, the full schedule will be released with details on one to three cooking classes per month for the season. An intimate gathering featuring various talent demonstrating technique and local cuisine paired with the wines, these classes sell out quickly.
Having attended one led by author and charismatic chef of That’s Amore: From Ricardo Scebba’s Mediterranean Kitchen, I can attest firsthand the value, fun and flavour.
Year of Celebrations
Naturally, 2018 was a year of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the vines. Special dinners, media coverage, presentations and events like the 6th Annual Garlic Festival marked the milestone.
Perhaps the most significant was the commemorative Garland wine release on May 12. Owner Garland is not one to shine a lot of light on himself. It was a rare occasion for him to agree to have an estate red wine named after him. The tasting notes tell it best: “From a superior vintage, this gorgeously elegant, old vines Cabernet dominant blend was crafted from beautifully ripened estate fruit.” Sold out at the Wine Shop, “A limited edition Bordeaux-style blend, this inaugural vintage features Hester Creek old vines Cabernet Franc Block 3 and old vines Merlot Block 2, along with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.”
It showed exquisitely at the May release as testament to the Golden Mile Bench terroir. It was crafted to cellar, however, after tasting it, I bought a bottle and will struggle with the dilemma of whether to enjoy it now or hold it. It was awarded Gold at the Northwest Wine Summit and at Spring Okanagan Wine Festival, Best of Varietal Awards, 2018, and a Silver at All Canadian Wine Championships, 2018.
Taste Hester Creek wines
I’m a big fan of Hester Creek wines and urge you to try them or taste them again if it has been awhile. The winemaking team lets the vineyard and fruit do the talking so you’ll find great expressions of your preferred varietals. Every time I open a bottle, whatever grape or blend, I find another favourite!
For details: www.hestercreek.com
Featured photo: Hester Creek Director of Hospitality Roger Gillespie in winery kitchen. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.