Compared to the rest of the world, the Okanagan is a new wine region. Yet it has accomplished a lot in just a few short decades, including establish a handful of iconic wineries from the beginning. One of which being St Hubertus & Oak Bay. The past few decades has been enough time to identify a multitude of micro-climates, each of which can produce varying styles of varietals. It’s been enough time to bolster some friendly competition amongst wineries all while maintaining a community based on support. It’s been long enough for producers to dip their toe (or jump in entirely) into organic and biodynamic practises. And it’s been enough time for the world stage to recognize that BC can produce some pretty stellar wine. It’s been a busy few decades!
An Icon from the Beginning
In amongst all of this, one winery has been a mainstay, St. Hubertus. Since the beginning of the Okanagan boom, they’ve sustained their reputation for creating world-class wines all while being family run, community driven, sustainably focused oh, and did I mentioned they’re super friendly?
Located on the east side of Okanagan Lake in between giants like Summerhill and Cedar Creek on Lakeshore Drive, St. Hubertus is a very comfortable and approachable place to visit. I drove up at 9am on an overcast day at the beginning of May. While it wasn’t warm or sunny, and the mist hadn’t even lifted off the lake or above the vines – it felt distinctly Okanagan to me.
All Alone in the Vineyard
I pulled out my phone and started taking photos. I didn’t see anyone around so I just roamed for a bit – just me and the vines. To be honest, it was something I’d never experienced before. Most of my winery visits have included some kind of accompaniment through the vineyards. I was quick to savour the moment.
I soon met up with Andy, winemaker and co-owner. He and his brother Leo took over the winery in the mid-80’s, growing and selling their grapes to larger wineries in the region. It wasn’t until the early 90’s that they started to develop their own wine and establish two different labels: St. Hubertus (wines aged in stainless steel) and Oak Bay (for wines aged for any length of time in oak). From the get-go, Andy was friendly and welcoming – he took me for a short tour around the property before opening up the tasting room, and subsequently every type of wine they sell, just for lil’ ol’ me!
Now, about the wines!
Everything I tried was fresh, vibrant, dynamic and unique to St Hubertus & Oak Bay. They’re creating lively wines like Chasselas, charismatic blends like their Great White (Pinot Blanc, Gewurtraminer/Chasselas) and lustrous reds like their Gamay Noir and Merechal Foch. They do grow Pinot Noir, and decided to feature it as their ode to Canada’s 150th Anniversary in their Canadian Red signature bottle. Andy was kind enough to send me home with a bottle to open on Canada Day.
I walked away from my tasting with Andy feeling grateful. It’s not every day you get the full attention of a wine-maker. Let alone one that was so welcoming and excited to share his passion for the property and the wine he makes.
Step 1: Make Good Wine *check* – > Step 2: Sell Good Wine *also check*
The wine-making industry has slowly and confusingly become muddled with the wine-selling industry. I’m not naïve, I know the two go hand-in hand. But first, one must make good wine before they attempt to find a consumer. All too often you’ll find wineries that will attempt to sell every bottle of every varietal they make, whether it was a good vintage or not. And it was so nice to visit St. Hubertus and be reminded that there are winemakers out there that know their strengths, know what they want to accomplish and know that fans will find them based on their quality and reputation – something that has taken decades to build.