First Look: Platinum Bench Vineyard


The spectacular landscape is just one of the many draws for visiting the legendary Black Sage Bench in Oliver. There are dozens of established wineries with a proven history of producing outstanding wines, and many smaller producers worth seeking out and discovering. One of the newest additions to the elite group on the Black Sage Bench is Platinum Bench Vineyards, established in 2012 by Fiona Duncan and Murray Jones.


As you drive onto the property and exit your car, you may be approached by Wally the winery dog, who after lathering you with an affectionate greeting, will probably lead you in the direction of where you need to go.


The charming and rustic cottage style tasting room is one of three original houses on the property, built in the early 1970’s. It offers a panoramic view of the neighbouring Golden Mile Bench, effortlessly lulling you into the comforts and splendours of your well deserved Okanagan wine tasting experience.  Pause, relax, breathe, and drink deeply. Repeat.


Your hosts Fiona and Murray first visited the Okanagan Valley a decade ago. They made the choice that you’re no doubt contemplating right now, realizing that it is indeed possible to leave the city grind behind and simply stay here, shifting to a lifestyle that is by no means physically any easier, but intrinsically and soul satisfyingly much more appealing.


During this trip your hosts made a stop at Road 13 Vineyards, and tasted a game-changing Cabernet Sauvignon. Crafted by Okanagan winemaking star Michael Bartier, Fiona and Murray got a sample of the calibre of fine wines being made here. Ones that due to their small production and local following have an extremely rare chance of being exported to their native home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. So they formed an idea. “Let’s drop everything, pack up, start a winery in the Okanagan, and create some wines that rival the best of what this region has to offer. And oh, let’s not forget to hire Michael Bartier to make our wines for us.”


The Black Sage property Fiona and Murray secured in 2009 was an existing vineyard. With 14 acres planted to an 18 year old mixed bag of high quality Vitis vinifera varietals, the pair decided they needed to elevate their knowledge of viticulture and vinification and spent a year studying the finer points at Pentiction College. With the help of Bartier, they made their first vintage in 2010 at the Alto Crush Pad in Summerland.


They produced single varietal bottlings of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, along with a Bordeaux style red wine with a Burgundian twist, containing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Gamay Noir. “Wine should showcase where the grapes are from. These grapes were grown next to each other, and blending them together creates something magical. There is something special about this property, let it speak for itself” says Fiona.


They now have their own winemaking facility and are producing wine in their own backyard.  The 2011 Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are already on the market, a single varietal Gamay Noir will be released later this summer, and the big Bordeaux style blend will hit the shelves in the fall.


Take the time to visit this small overachiever, say hello to Wally, drink in the surroundings with the fantastic wine, and remember that this too could all one day be yours.



Platinum Bench Estate Winery

Black Sage Road

RR1 S52 C30

Oliver, BC

V0H 1T0


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