Photos courtesy of Painted Rock Estate Winery
John Skinner is a man about the world—at the time Crush caught up with him, the wine proprietor was en route again, this time to London, England.
“Canada is going to show its stuff off at [the Canada House Tasting]. I’m just off the charts about it!” says the owner of Painted Rock Estate Winery in British Columbia, a vineyard known for its signature red Bordeaux blend and single varietals, including Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “[London] is the belly of the beast—the epicentre of world wine.”
And he’s not going it alone. Joining Skinner is representation from 13 fellow B.C. wineries, the highest number of provincial attendees to date.
“We have a very excited B.C. wine community right now, and we’re anxious to get our show on the road,” says Skinner, a former broker turned avid wine enthusiast. “We’re pretty confident in our product; we’re producing some wonderful cool-climate wine.”
The story of Painted Rock Estate Winery began in 2004, when after an extensive search, Skinner and family found their perfect 10—a 60-acre plot of land, just south of Penticton near Skaha Lake. In the past, the plot served as the centre of the largest apricot orchard in the British Commonwealth, Braeside Farms, though at the time of purchase it sat as a fallow vineyard.
Admittedly, Skinner’s plan for his piece of paradise was ambitious and aggressive, as he aimed to turn this untapped splendor into an international wine contender.
2004 continued with site preparation (consultants from California and France were brought in to assess the area’s air movement), as well as the development of a planting strategy and the sourcing of varieties and specific clones. Planting began in 2005, the inaugural harvest following in 2007.
“We just have one simple plan, which is to compete with the best in the world,” he adds. “It’s very deliberate. We don’t cut any corners.”
This past year, Painted Rock welcomed the addition of a new 1,700-square-foot tasting room, a popular event venue. The team will also continue to incorporate new techniques—the most recent being in pruning.
Skinner cites 2011’s introduction of a new (and expensive) pruning methodology as a win. The process—which involves rating each of the vineyard’s 55,000 plants as 1, 2, or 3, and then pruning plants accordingly—aims to stress the more successful plants as opposed to the less successful.
“I’m always looking for different ways we can raise it another notch. My labour costs skyrocketed in the spring, but when it came to the green harvest in August, we didn’t do one. We were carrying a perfect curtain of fruit—about three tons an acre,” he shares. “The balance in the vineyard was staggering. And you could taste it in the wine. So again, that really validated [what we’re doing].”
Suffice it to say, with the nod as the InterVin International Wine Awards Winery of the Year for 2014/15, Skinner has further evidence that he’s hit his mark.
Previously published in the 2015 issue of Crush magazine.