For those looking for that perfect gift this holiday season, look no further than your own backyard. Next week marks the first official Buy Local Week in British Columbia, and as a proud member of LOCO BC I am all about supporting local businesses.
On that note, here is the story I wrote for the wonderful Skinner family of Painted Rock Winery, a family-run estate vineyard in Penticton, B.C. I know from experience that giving, and receiving, a bottle (or case!) of Painted Rock wine brings sunshine to even the rainiest of Vancouver days.
So sit back, relax, and sip away on a glass of their signature Red Icon as you read the story of this amazing local business:
Painted Rock is more than a winery; it is an extension of a family. The Skinner’s dream of having their own vineyard was born after spending time exploring wineries in the South of France with their family.
As a child, John remembers digging for artifacts with his father near their home on Vancouver Island. John’s father had a passion for archeology and when he passed away, John wanted to find a way to honour his memory. Recently, John came across an article from 1972 that featured his father after finding Indian artifacts buried in the Comox Valley. For John, this symbolized the relevance of history and the importance of place, and it has played a significant role in the philosophy, as well as the naming, of Painted Rock. Painted Rock refers to the ancient pictographs that were found painted on the rocks behind the vineyard bluffs. When John discovered the pictographs, he knew that they were significant not only for his family, but also for the community. John contacted the local First Nations band to understand their meaning, and when he learned that they were symbolic of a spirit walk, or a coming of age, he knew that he had found the name for his winery.
Painted Rock embraces the traditions of the old world and the imagination of the new world. Set in the Okanagan Wine Country of British Columbia, Canada, Painted Rock has arrived at an opportune moment in time. The Skinner’s knew that the Okanagan was starting to gain international interest, and they recognized it’s potential to produce serious wines. The Okanagan’s combination of hot, dry summers, cool mountain air, and unique microclimates makes this a spectacular place to produce wine. Painted Rock sits on a spectacular bench overlooking the eastern shore of Skaha Lake in Penticton, B.C. This 60-acre property has a unique microclimate that is particularly suited to the production of premium wines. Since the early 1900’s, this orchard harvested apricots until the orchard was felled due to a gypsy moth infestation in the late 1980’s. The property, known locally as “The Blackhawk”, laid fallow while under the ownership of another winery until John Skinner and his family acquired and contoured it in 2004, and then began planting in 2005. This family-owned estate winery aspires toward a single vision of excellence that maintains the integrity of the wine and never homogenizes the brand.
When the Skinner’s and their team first began assessing the property, they noticed the unique air movement on the site. Because the land lay fallow for 17 years before being acquired by Painted Rock, they were able to contour the entire property, promoting the air movement and ensuring that there were no undulations in the landscape or inconsistencies in the soil. To fully exploit the site’s potential, the Skinner’s brought in renowned viticulturalists and wine consultants from California and France who helped devise the 2004 planting strategy. Recognizing the success of Bordeaux varietals, they prepared the soil for the finest vinifera from Bordeaux. Along with the primary red components of the classic Bordeaux blends, they included a small planting of Malbec and Petite Verdot to provide spice for their blend and to broaden their blending options. They also planted a single block of Chardonnay.
The primary influence on the Painted Rock grapes is the cool air that flows down from the mountains. This wind ensures that nothing sits still, creating an active site that reduces rot and infestation in the vineyard. The cool mountain air then collides with the lake, making for warm days and cool nights, a perfect recipe for ripening grapes and retaining bright acidity. The amphitheatre of rock cushions the land, creating another formidable site influence that encourages heat retention. With the sun bouncing off the lake, Painted Rock reaps the benefits of being on a sloped hill so close to the lake. When the sun goes down in the West, the reflection and glare from the lake impacts the fruit, especially the Malbec and Petite Verdot varietals that gain complexity and colour from the magnified light. This reinforces the saying that great wines are produced near great waters. With more sunlight hours than neighbouring wineries, Painted Rock is literally drenched in light.
Young wineries, like Painted Rock, are also challenging the industry to change their environmental practices without compromising the quality of the wines. With a strong message of sustainability and a primary focus on quality, Painted Rock is set to become a leader in the industry. Their initiatives include crafting their bottles from a light eco glass that has reduced their shipping weight by more than 20%. They are also looking to biodynamic agriculture to understand new ways that they can minimize their carbon footprint when harvesting grapes and producing wines. Painted Rock is also exploring initiatives like geothermal energy, wind power, and solar heating as they plan on building a sustainable resort development.
Great wines reflect the quality of the land, the climate and the people that bring everything to fruition. Working with some of the world’s top winemakers, Painted Rock is quickly achieving a cult status within B.C.’s wine community. It is through collaboration that Painted Rock is stepping out from the crowds. Working with a diverse and skilled team, Painted Rock encourages each individual involved to add their own experience to the collective. The Okanagan has been producing good wines, and now there is an opportunity to produce great wines. Painted Rock is extremely optimistic about the potential for the Okanagan and particularly optimistic about their role in this exciting winemaking community. John and Trish Skinner are not only making wines for their family and friends to enjoy, they are intent on making iconic wines that will be savoured for generations to come. www.paintedrock.ca