Passport to Andrew Peller’s Best of the West

All Good on the Okanagan’s Main Street

By David Lawrason

This feature was commissioned by Andrew Peller Limited.

The WineAlign team recently tasted almost 40 wines from Andrew Peller’s British Columbia wineries to compile the Andrew Peller’s Best of the West curated mixed case now on offer. It was like a walk down main street of the Okanagan, and I am happy to report that it was a very pleasant and sometimes surprising stroll.

I use this main street metaphor because the Andrew Peller properties are all well established, indeed historic, and very much a part of the fabric of the Okanagan. They are names known to anyone in B.C. that walks into a BCLDB government store, or over 600 private shops.

There are almost 300 wineries in the Valley now, many being very small, niche driven and trendy. Some bottlings are heading to the $100 mark in what feels like a Napa gold rush. It’s hard to keep up with the frenzy and rapidly advancing quality.  So, when Canada’s largest family wine company rolls out its portfolio, it is a rare snapshot of the Okanagan heartland. And the heart is healthy.

Although now headquartered in Niagara, Andrew Peller has its roots in B.C., opening the first Andres winery in Port Moody, Vancouver in 1961.  In 2005 it acquired Calona Vineyards in Kelowna, B.C.’s oldest winery, then soon after created terroir based and small lot single vineyard wines Sandhill Wines, made at the Kelowna winery by Howard Soon. Along the way they created the Wayne Gretzky brand in both B.C. and Ontario, but there is no Wayne Gretzky winery in B.C., yet.

Sandhill Wines

The same year Peller started to expand regionally within the Okanagan with the purchase of Red Rooster on the Naramata Bench. Then in 2017 Andrew Peller shocked the Canadian wine establishment by purchasing three well established wineries at one time: Tinhorn Creek in Oliver, Gray Monk in northerly Lake Country and Black Hills, an ultra-premium boutique on the Black Sage Bench.

The talented Craig MacDonald is Vice-President of Winemaking for Andrew Peller Ltd., but each of the B.C. wineries has its own head winemaker. All but one are women and all but one are home grown B.C. women who have worked within the organization, and often their respective properties, for several years. The exception is Black Hills winemaker Ross Wise, a New Zealand bred and trained winemaker who has earned his considerable reputation on Canadian soil in Niagara and now B.C.

This home growing of winemakers is likely the reason that the wines have maintained distinctiveness from winery to winery. But of course, it also has to do with grape sourcing within the Okanagan, which is well known to have dramatically different climatic conditions from the cooler north to the hotter south.

In Lake Country north of Kelowna, Gray Monk, under former proprietor George and Trudy Heiss, had long been known for making vibrant, aromatic white wines. And the style remains true to form under winemaker Jen Oishi who began working in the Gray Monk cellar in 2011. I was really impressed by the aromatic precision and balance of the Gray Monk offerings. The Pinot Auxerrois and Siegerrebe are excellent.

Gray Monk Estate Winery

Located in downtown Kelowna, Calona Vineyards has recently ceased to exist as a brand but SandhillTerroir Series and Small Lot Single Vineyard selections are made at this property – as well as a new Andrew Peller Reserve portfolio launching August 2020.

Not having tasted Sandhill for a while I was most impressed by the quality and value in both tiers.  The Sandhill Terroir Syrah, Osprey Ridge Viognier and Vanessa Vineyard Syrah received unanimous praise from the WineAlign critics.  Kelowna-raised Sandy Leier was appointed head winemaker for Sandhill two years ago after working over a dozen years with Andrew Peller, including a stint as the winemaker for Wayne Gretzky Wines.  With her promotion to Sandhill, another Kelowna-raised woman, Sydney Valentino, has taken the helm at Wayne Gretzky, working with Ontario Wayne Gretzky head winemaker Craig MacDonald.

About halfway down the valley Naramata Bench sits in a more moderate climate, producing a broader mix of white and red varieties. Winemaker Elaine Vickers only joined the team at Red Rooster in 2019 after one stint at Black Hills, but she has been making wine in the Okanagan since 2009. This winery has long been known for pinot gris, B.C.’s lead white variety, and the 2018 in the mixed case is a fine example. I also liked Elaine’s 2019 rose. (WineAlign published a full profile on Red Rooster a few months ago.)

Red Rooster Winery

Down in the South Okanagan the desert-like climate can be downright hot. But on the evening shaded western benches south of Oliver, in what is now called the Golden Mile sub-appellation, the temperatures are moderated. This is home to Tinhorn Creek with its range of richer whites and reds, including top end collector wines like the Oldfield Reserves (named for former owner Sandra Oldfield) and a terrific red blend called The Creek. Winemaker Korol Kuklo has worked the Tinhorn cellars since 1998.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

Almost directly across the valley on the eastern Black Sage Bench, sits Black Hills Winery, arguably the jewel in the crown. It gained fame with the release of a super premium blend called Nota Bene in 1999 (full story here). It remains one Canada’s most collected wines but others in the portfolio are gaining notoriety as well, notably the Syrah and Addendum blend in this case. Although “big” I found the wines to be notably well balanced with quite fine tannic structure, a trend I expect to see continue as Ross Wise settles in after his inaugural vintage in 2019. Ross, by the way, recently became the 7th person in Canada to earn his Master of Wine accreditation.

Black Hills Estate

All in all it is a rare treat to be able to present this curated mixed case to WineAlign readers, and we hope you enjoy the journey. The case will ship in late August.

Wine List

Red Rooster Pinot Gris 2018


Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2019


Sandhill Single Vineyard Viognier Small Lots Program Osprey Ridge Vineyard 2018


Gray Monk Pinot Auxerrois 2019


Black Hills Alibi 2018


Black Hills Rosé 2018


Black Hills Syrah 2017


Sandhill Syrah Terroir Driven Wine 2018


Black Hills Addendum 2018


Sandhill Single Vineyard One Small Lots Program Vanessa Vineyard 2016


Tinhorn Creek The Creek 2015


Sandhill Sangiovese Small Lots Program Sandhill Estate Vineyard 2016


This feature was commissioned by Andrew Peller Limited. As a regular feature, WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our writers independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted on WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the feature. Wineries and wine agents pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, and its content, is entirely up to WineAlign.