New owner Curt Garland and his team have transformed Hester Creek from a winery on the brink of oblivion to one of the Okanagan Valley’s up-and-comers
Curt Garland says he wasn’t really looking to buy a winery. The Prince George entrepreneur was thinking of an Okanagan Valley escape, maybe a five acre lot. But with an eye for a bargain, in 2004 when he noticed an winery in receivership for sale, he couldn’t resist and wound up with 75 acres!
Six years on, the new team has brought Hester Creek from the brink of oblivion to be one of the Golden Mile’s up and comers.
Walking in the vineyards with winemaker Rob Summers, looking at some of the 40 year old Cabernet Franc vines, you have to hand it to Joe Busnardo, the pioneer winery owner who first planted here in the 70s—when the government didn’t want him to plant vinifera, period.
We also can’t help thinking about the time we were here with Frank Supernak, the onetime Hester Creek winemaker who died trying to save Victor Manola, of Silver Sage, who was also overcome by fermentation fumes. It was Supernak’s vision in the vineyard that kick-started the Hester Creek revival that, after a few detours prior to the new ownership, has finally come to fruition.
Summers, who hails from Niagara and has worked for Hillebrand, Henry of Pelham, Cave Spring and Peller) has whipped the wines into shape. His lifted fruit, luscious apple and mineral-toned 09 Pinot Blanc is one of the best examples of (much under-appreciated) BC Pinot Blanc around. The intense, smoky and earthy, anise toned old vines Reserve Cab Franc 06 continues to be the star of the 10 wine line-up—although Summers has ‘retired’ the single varietal Cab Sauv. Ultimately those grapes will likely appear in a moderately priced Meritage (Bordeaux blend). And don’t overlook Hester’s other unique, long time favourite, the floral and honey topped, zesty Trebbiano 08.
Hester Creek has weathered some tough times but the new team and capital plan have the winery firmly back on its feet with a new winery and striking visitor centre, that sits on geothermal pillars, with summer cooling from being built into the hillside. Interestingly, although you would think the steep slope would be ideal to build a gravity feed winery, that feature wasn’t included in the new design.
Summers says he’s not against using gravity but preferred to spend the money elsewhere, on French oak, for instance, and on $60,000 custom-built, Italian, stainless steel red wine fermenters that work on collected natural gasses, which break the cap without mechanical intervention.
For the visitor, Hester Creek has all the bells and whistles. The capacious tasting room and state of the art wine bar makes the most of the impressive view across the valley—and an intimate private dining room and demonstration kitchen add up to perfect venues for hosting groups of up to 14.
And, if you’re in the mood for a truly luxurious winery weekend, book in to one of the stunningly appointed Tuscan-styled villas, which overlook the winery, with sweeping valley views all around.
Our wine picks:
Hester Creek Trebbiano 08, from the winery $18.99
Hester Creek Pinot Blanc 08, BC $15.99
Hester Creek Reserve Cabernet Franc 06 BC $25.99
Hester Creek Estate Winery
13163-326th Ave., Oliver, BC