August 29, 2014

Sandhill Wines, Peller Estates and Calona Vineyards

The photograph over a doorway in the impressive sales and tasting centre in downtown Kelowna is one of the few reminders of an amazing past for this group of wineries. That the three notables in the picture might look a wee bit suspicious is not a concern.

Calona is the oldest continuously operating winery in British Columbia with roots going back to the 1930s. Financially it was backed by the Capozzi brothers and became famous for its imitation of the successful Gallo Brothers in California, right down to the gallon jugs. Thankfully that image changed over time, though memories, and some labels, persist, including Schloss Laderheim, once Canada's best selling white wine.

The Capozzi family, including the shades, sold the winery in 1971 and several owners came and went until Andrew Peller Limited bought the operation in 2005.

Since 1997 the diamond in the operation has been the Sandhill brand under the direction of winemaker Howard Soon. Sandhill wines are all single vineyard wines and while blends are made, they are only made from grapes of the same vineyard. All the wines are good with the Small Lots program being excellent.

The labels on the bottles, and the picture wall of notables hanging in the tasting room, prominently show the winemakers and the growers; the owners being somewhat less important.

Soon's influence and expertise has probably influenced the other brands too and the Peller Estates range provides some excellent values.

The tasting room is large and breezy and showcases Sandhill wines of course, but other "rooms" offer tastings of the two other brands, and they are worth the visit if only to discover a surprise, like the 2010 Syrah from Peller Estates at an exceptional price. We should have bought a case.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

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