Anthony Gismondi: South Okanagan’s District Wine Village is an idea that’s time has come

District Wine Village is the brainchild of two Okanagan Falls, born and raised childhood friends, Max Brock and Matt Kenyon.

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District Wine Village in the south Okanagan is another first for B.C. wine. While it is early days, it is clear to me the circular, village-like layout of wine, beer and spirits producers and food outlets might be one of the best new additions to B.C.’s wine country scene.


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The site is just off Highway 97, about a kilometre south of Gallagher Lake and some seven kilometres north of downtown Oliver. Fittingly, its northwest backdrop is the historical dividing line between the north and south Okanagan, iconic McIntyre Bluff. The quirky modern buildings have sprouted up from the desert scrubland on the westside of the Osoyoos Indian Band’s Senkulmen Business Park.

The village is the brainchild of two Okanagan Falls, born and raised childhood friends, Max Brock and Matt Kenyon. Kenyon is the general manager of Greyback Construction, the company that built the village and some three dozen-plus winery projects throughout B.C. Sadly, Max Brock died unexpectedly during the early construction. However, once the decision was made to carry on, Kenyon teamed up with Mike Daley, a former wine executive who has become operations director, bringing a wealth of wine knowledge and wine culture to the project.


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Against all odds, the construction began one month before COVID-19 descended upon the world, yet Phase 1 is only weeks from completion. It is already offering a soft opening for visitors with a full-on launch planned for early August.

The idea of building a cluster of wineries in one spot is hardly new to the wine business. Still, it is a timely project meant to offer a path the many locked out of the wine business due to massive startup costs. It is also a better way to conserve resources and energy by sharing the land. The quick startup also allows tenants to start earning income much sooner than traditional land-based wineries.

The first phase is all but sold out, and despite the soft opening, visitors have been many. It’s not all wineries. A brewery is already in place and open, as is a restaurant. A distillery is ready to go in should be in place before the end of the year.


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There is an real vibe to the site. The circular layout of buildings sits three steps above the main amphitheatre home to entertainers and visitors relaxing between winery stops or having a bite to eat. It’s all artisanal, including a Wednesday Market that will run through Sept. 15, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with local Okanagan artists, growers, crafters, culinary artisans and entrepreneurs.

Each vendor has a licence, production area, and retail/tasting space. The buildings are all different in exterior design and cladding. Each has a large patio with high-top tables and chairs for additional outdoor service areas. Designers have thought of everything, including hookups at the back of the building to accommodate mobile bottlers for on-site product bottling.


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As for the producers — the list is long and varied. Folks looking to get an extra presence on Highway 97 include Eau Vivre, a small Similkameen Winery, NK’Mip Cellars from Osoyoos and Silhouette Cellars, a Naramata Bench-based winery that will produce a Charmat style sparkling wine at DWV and sell other still and sparkling wines under Therapy Vineyards and Boyd labels. Newbies and wineries with a brand but no facilities include Gneiss Wines, JoiRydeWinery, Vintners Cove, Winemaker’s Cut, One Faith Vineyard, Wapiti Cellars and Valley Commons.

Beer is made at Trading Post Brewing. The restaurant is the Trading Post supporting seasonal ingredients from local farmers, foragers, cheesemakers, and other artisan suppliers and purveyors in the community.


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But, if you don’t make it to District Wine Village this summer or fall, pack your ice skates and prepare to blade the amphitheatre floor when temperatures drop. I said they thought of everything.

Weekend wine picks

José Maria da Fonseca Albis 2019, Setúbal Peninsula, Portugal

$9.99 I 87/100

UPC: 600470120002

Albis is produced and bottled in the Setúbal Peninsula, the source of the Moscatel de Setúbal and arinto varieties. Its barely off-dry floral notes, ripe pear and peach fruit entice while the juicy, savoury minerality lights up a bright finish. Serve well chilled with raw seafood or vegetarian dishes and enjoy its simplicity. The price is unbeatable.

Famille J-M Cazes L’Ostal Rose, Vin de Pays d’Oc, Languedoc, Sud de France


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$16.99 I 87/100

UPC: 3760082819903

L’Ostal is a pale pink affair with hints of strawberries and citrus. It finishes with a supple texture and light floral notes. Simple, soft, and ready to drink, this is one for a warm summer’s day. If we ever get back to block parties, this would be the bottle to take to the celebration. Good value.

Spearhead Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard 2020, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$20 I 89/100

UPC: 626990441175

Golden Retreat Vineyard is in Summerland, and like Naramata and perhaps the Similkameen, these are the star sites for Pinot Gris. Winemaker Grant Stanley prefers the tighter, sleeker style of Gris, although I find this wine very accommodating in 2020 with its ripe citrus touched with honey and lees. It is all hand-harvested and a whole bunch pressed, and only 10 per cent of the fruit is fermented in two-year-old French oak barrels adding a touch of texture and weight to the mix. A good year for Gris, and this one over-delivers. Perfect for richer seafood dishes.


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Amalaya Malbec 2019, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, North, Argentina

$21.99 I 90/100

UPC: 07798104763039

When I see this wine at retail or on a restaurant wine list, I know that no matter what else happens, I’m going to be able to secure a solid bottle of wine at a bargain price. Perfect under screwcap, it consistently tastes like it smells: an alluring mix of red and black fruits with a dusty, stony, mineral underside. It is wonderfully dry and fresh, the palate juicy and round, and the tannins light but structured. The esperanza por un milagro (waiting for a miracle) Amalaya is grown at some of the world’s highest vineyards (1,800 metres), and it is an absolute bargain at $21.99. Back up the truck.

Altesino Rosso di Montalcino 2018, Tuscany, Italy


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$29.99 I 91/100

UPC: 662255300337

In the case of the Altesino Rosso, the fruit is all Sangiovese only aged for seven months in Slavonian oak barrels, followed by three months in bottle before heading to the market three full years before its big brother Brunello will arrive. Bright red, the nose is wild and fresh with earthy scents of wild berries and cedar, and the palate is a mix of ripe plums and dark cherries with bright acidity and tame tannins. Simple but sophisticated is my take, with the always present elegance of Altesino. A classic Euro luncheon wine that is ready to drink.

Sriracha BBQ sauce from Legends Haul works well on meat, seafood and vegetables.

Recipe match: Sriracha BBQ sauce

This versatile BBQ sauce recipe, created by Alex Ploughman, a partner at Legends Haul grocery delivery, is sure to add a kick to your grilling. Suitable for use on meat or veggies, the sauce has a hint of sweet and a kick of spice.


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Sriracha BBQ sauce

1 cup (125 mL) ketchup

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup (60 mL) Sriracha

/4 cup (60 mL) brown sugar

1 tbsp (15 mL) smoked paprika

1 tbsp (15 mL) crushed black pepper

Pinch of chili flakes

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine vinegar

2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pot over low heat.

Whisk gently, while bringing ingredients to a light simmer Continue to whisk over low heat for approximately 5 minutes.

Once simmered, allow to cool overnight. This helps set the flavours and really makes this sauce shine!

Once you’re ready to grill, pour half the sauce into a small bowl for easy use. You’ll also need a small brush for optimal coverage. Season your meat or veggies and get them on the grill. Once 60 per cent cooked, reduce heat and glaze away. Revisiting every couple minutes — similar to painting, you want multiple coats. Be careful with the heat because the brown sugar will want to burn.


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Use as much sauce as you need! The rest will be good in the fridge until your next BBQ adventure. Enjoy!

Recipe match

Hot, spicy, sugary-coated beef requires a wine equally as strong, and we suggest B.C. Syrah.

Rust Wine Co. South Rock Vineyard Syrah 2018, Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley $44

Expect a fatter style with plenty of sweet black fruit, sweet vanilla, and meaty notes that will easily tame this dish.

Painted Rock Syrah 2018, Skaha Bench, Okanagan Valley $34.99

Expect a Barossa shiraz rich and hedonistic with ripe cassis and black raspberry fruit with a strong savoury undercurrent. Bring on the beef.



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