Painted Rock Estate Winery in Penticton, BC

September 2015 – Matt Steeves

On September 20, 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting with John Skinner, proprietor at Painted Rock Estate Winery.

From the moment you start climbing the long and winding hill to reach this beautiful winery perched up on the Skaha Bench, you gain an appreciation for the elevation that this winery is situated and just how picturesque it’s going to be.  Passing through the impressive gated entrance you climb higher until you reach the impressive ultra modern tasting room which sets the stage for what’s sure to be one of the best tasting experiences you’ve ever had.  Exiting your vehicle and looking past the tasting room, through the vineyard, and down to the impressive Skaha Lake, you’re immediately taken by the breathtaking view of this sun-drenched vineyard, conveniently when I was there, full of ripe juicy grapes.

Painted Rock’s ultra modern tasting room nestled up high overlooking Shaka Lake

Passing through the doors, you’re presented with floor to ceiling views of their vineyards, the beautiful lake, and the rolling hills on the west side of the lake.  Everything in the tasting room is white, ultra modern, with crisp and clean lines – clearly designed with impeccable attention to detail to create an exceptional guest experience, and certain to complement their award winning wines.  Nothing has been overlooked, no corners cut, and no expenses spared to create this impressive tasting room in the heart of their estate vineyard.

Painted Rock’s ultra modern and super chill tasting room and patio

A walk through the vineyard with John Skinner describing the lengths they’ve gone to in their pursuit of excellence, you gain a greater appreciation for what it takes to produce some of Canada’s finest wines – an unparalleled commitment to excellence in every single thing they do. They’ve embraced leading science and technologies to the greatest extent to maximize the quality and complexity of the fruit they produce.  Not that it’s necessary as their vineyards are already blessed with ideal terroir including the perfect aspect that results in each vine enjoying long sun baths with lots of air movement between the lake and the big rocky hill the vineyard is situated on (the Skaha Bench).  From their patience in taking years to select the optimal winery location, to the studies and research invested in determining what and where to plant, and how to get the best fruit from their vines, John and his team (including world renowned Bordeaux-based consultant Alain Sutre) are striving to produce nothing short of the best wines imaginable and from what I witnessed they’re well on their way and the future looks bright for this proudly Canadian winery.

Painted Rock Winery Vineyards – aka The Blackhawk

Tasting through their portfolio of wines I was thoroughly impressed with each wine from their chic 2014 Rosé, their elegant 2014 Chardonnay, 2012 Syrah (aha!), 2012 Merlot, 2013 Red Icon, and 2013 Cab Franc.

Here are a few of my tasting notes:

  1. Red Icon is the award winning premium Bordeaux blend from Painted Rock Winery, one of Canada’s leading wineries, located in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. A Right Bank blend of 33% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 21% Petit Verdot, 12% Malbec, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from their estate vineyards, this is a serious wine, built for the long run, which will continue to evolve for many years in the cellar. The nose of this youthful wine shows sweet and mouthwatering layered dark fruit, cassis, roasted beets, and charcoal. Dry and tightly wound, with an abundance of extra fine tannins, this would be enjoyed best with charcoal grilled premium cuts of beef, and cellaring is certain to pay-off as this young wine has yet to reach its great potential. Drink 2018-2028+. Tasted September 2015. 92 points. Matt Steeves –
  2. Painted Rock’s 2012 vintage Syrah is one of the finest Syrah’s to come out of the Okanagan Valley.  Deep ruby red in colour, is loaded with rich dark berries, roasted beets, sweet spice, and savoury smoked meat notes.  The palate is round and silky smooth, packed full with ripe berries, and velvety smooth tannins.  An incredible wine to enjoy now or cellar and enjoy until 2022.  Tasted September 2015.  93 points. Matt Steeves –
  3. Following their successful inaugural rosé in 2013, Painted Rock’s follow-up from the terrific 2014 vintage is another work of art.  A blend of 39% Merlot, 29% Cab Franc, 23% Malbec, and 9% Petit Verdot, this Bordeaux blend shows all the hallmarks of a fresh and well structured rosé.  Layers of sweet field berries, candied orange, peach, nectarine, with floral and herbal notes, the layers of flavours are balanced with refreshing acidity.  The palate is soft, gentle, layered with complex fruit and herbal notes.  One of the finest rosés I’ve tasted in the Okanagan to-date.  Incredible alongside charcuterie or autumn harvest meals.  Serve slightly chilled.  Tasted September 2015. 92 points. Matt Steeves –
  4. Painted Rock’s 2012 Merlot displays a deep ruby red colour with blueberries, dark fruit, sage, baking spice, and charcoal on the nose.  The palate is big and bold, tons of meaty dark fruit, dusty cacao, and spice on the long finish.  Decant two hours prior to service and enjoy 2015-2025.  Enjoy with Seared Scallops and Steak with Manhattan Sauce.  Tasted September 2015. 91 points. Matt Steeves –
  5. Painted Rock’s 2014 Chardonnay is a blend of three micro-harvests that were conducted over a seven day period to capture the best characteristics of the grapes during that final week of grape maturation.  80% oak aged, 20% stainless, to achieve a fine balance of aromatic and textural elegance.  The nose shows citrus fruit, honeydew melon, ripe pineapple, sweet corn, butter, and lees.  The palate is soft and refreshing with crisp yellow apple, tart pineapple leading the long finish.  The winemaker has produced another gorgeous wine from their high-potential estate vineyard.  Tasted September 2015. 92+ points. Matt Steeves –
  6. Painted Rock’s 2013 Cabernet Franc – Painted Rock’s Cabernet Franc is a deep ruby red, with plum, black berry, black currant, cedar, and scorched earth on the nose.  Full bodied and smooth on the palate, with a long sweet dark fruit, black cherry, and cedar finish.  Fine tannins linger reminding you that this big wine has the structure to let it age gracefully for several years.  A fine example of BC Cabernet Franc.  Drink 2016 to 2022.  90+ points. Tasted October 2015. Matt Steeves –

Painted Rock has invested heavily to get  where they are now and provided they stay the course and keep managing and auditing every aspect of their winery/vineyards to ensure the best quality product possible (as they’ve done since day one), then there’s no reason why they can’t, one day, become one of the world’s iconic wineries. Given John Skinner’s investment in getting his wines showcased and sold around the world, Asia and Europe in particular, he’s raising the awareness of international buyers and fine wine lovers, around the world, that Canada is capable of and is producing truly world-class wines. Surely this will only help the Canadian wine industry prosper and reach that level of maturity that more storied wine regions have (or are perceived to have).  The future looks bright all around.  I look forward to watching them grow and prosper and I’d recommend their wines as great candidates for verticals in your personal or restaurant cellars.


Matt Steeves