Monte Creek Ranch Winery is located in the Thompson Valley – just 10 minutes east of Kamloops city limits. It was started in 2009 by blueberry farmers looking for new viable land. The 1,200 acre ranch now includes 65 acres of vineyards on both sides of the Thompson River. The south side (where the winery sits) is home to their Foch, Pinot Noir and La Cresent (amongst others). The north side, called Lion’s Head Vineyard, is where their Riesling, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, Chardonnay and Marquette reside.
Back in 1906, the area was a railway hub and it grew infamous when the notorious train robber, Bill Miner, robbed his last train there. Known as ‘The Gentleman Bandit’, he would always say “Hands Up” to train patrons indicating that he would do no harm to them. The phrase was included in the tale for generations and is now the name of the winery’s red and white blend. The Hands Up Red even includes Bill Miner’s mug shot on the label. The image is also on display at the winery in the centre of their stairwell mural (left). Monte Creek Ranch Winery loves the land’s history and has incorporated it into pretty much everything they do. A true terroir focused winery, in more ways than just wine making!
They Do Lots of Other Stuff Too!
Monte Creek Ranch Winery does so much with their land! The ranch is home to grass fed black angus cattle who were grazing near the entrance as we drove up. 2 acres of the vineyard is dedicated to growing the Haskap berry, a berry that looks like an oblong blueberry and tastes fairly similar as well. And then there are the bees. Enough to make up to 4,000 litres of honey every year! You can find all natural, unpasteurized honey in the wine shop for purchase.
What’s In Their Future?
Oh not much, just an 1,800 person amphitheatre!!! The winery is working with its neighbours and the people who hold the coveted ‘approved’ stamp to create an amazing music experience – right smack in the middle of their vineyards. There’s a natural clearing that would be an epic location.
Have I Even Talked About the Wine Yet?
The tasting bar offers 4 selections per person so I got 4, my husband got the other 4 and we shared in order to be able to taste all 8. Here’s how it went down along with some highlights:
Hands Up White 2016
Hands Up Red 2015
Cabernet Merlot 2015
Frontenac Gris 2016
Blueberry Fruit Wine
A nice surprise. Chardonnay is definitely not my go-to wine, but I actually ended up ordering it with lunch afterwards. The light oak (think butter and vanilla) weren’t overpowering and the medium body paired perfectly with our to-die-for charcuterie plate.
I’d tasted this one before and knew it was stellar. Their 2016 Riesling hit it out of the park this year with a Gold Medal (95 points) by the LA International Wine Competition and a Silver Medal from the National Wine Awards of Canada. It’s acid driven with some nice light lime and pear flavours. If you see a bottle, buy it. It’s the perfect wine for these last days of afternoon sunshine.
2015 Hands Up Red
Ka-Pow! Did this one ever blow me away. A unique blend of 36% Merlot, 23% Marquette, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Frontenac Noir and 6% Cabernet Franc. There was so much going on in this small glass. Super fragrant aromas, lots of red fruit and spice. Vibrant flavours – from raspberry and cinnamon to plum and coffee. Medium bodied, great with a grilled meal or for sipping on its own like we did later that night after buying a bottle.
I’m going to be honest, I’ve never met a fruit wine that I liked. Not even remotely. I don’t understand them, and granted I’ve never tried to, so I get that I’m being a little unfair. But Monte Creek’s blueberry wine is the closest I’ve ever come to having an appreciation. It’s floral, not fruity. It’s balanced, not stringent. They sold out in 8 weeks last year and doubled their production this year to meet demand. That’s when you know it’s good!
To Wrap Things Up
My marketing spidey-senses gives them an A+ for embracing the winery slash ranch lifestyle and integrating the area’s rich history into their day-to-day. Part of me knows the years of conceptualizing that went into it and they manage pull it off with such an organic and casual authenticity.
If you’re in the area, its worth a stop to visit. Spend an hour or two and enjoy lunch on their amazing patio restaurant. The views are impeccable and continue inside the tasting room. The wall to wall windows face the valley and the elegant and streamlined interior design showcase the natural beauty of their products and the surrounding environment.
I’d like to thank Ashley for the wonderful tour, she was truly an encyclopedia full of knowledge, answering question after question about the area’s history and the vineyards. I’m now a true fan, look forward to visiting again one day, and will seek out their new vintages for years to come.