Sumac Ridge: A New Look At An Old Winery

In British Columbia’s young wine industry, 33 years is a long time—so if you think you knew the grand dame that is Sumac Ridge Estate Winery,  you might want to think again. A recent $225,000 investment in property upgrades ushers in a new era of customer experiences, and Sumac Ridge isn’t the only Okanagan winery to tidy up the homestead.

In what could be a result of our local industry growing up, more BC wineries are foregoing quaint tasting rooms for modern customer experience centres. Last year, Painted Rock Estate Winery  opened a visionary tasting room and event centre. Black Hills Estate Winery  took an ultra-lounge idea and built on it to launch their new Wine Experience Centre. Poplar Grove  moved from a kitschy farm garage and into a spacious, light-filled architectural focal point on the side of Penticton Mountain. Days ago, Arrowleaf Cellars announced a new modern tasting room and cellar. Is our industry growing up, or are consumer expectations evolving?

A peek at the 2012 Zinfandel to be released in June-2
A repurposed barrel cellar becomes a special event space-2

Left: Black Sage limited release. Right: A repurposed barrel cellar becomes a special event space

Sumac Ridge is all grown up

The new Sumac Ridge

At Sumac Ridge, the renovations are tasteful and elegant. An at-home feeling remains and is still welcoming, yet surfaces have just enough polish to make one look for an entry mat to wipe one’s shoes. The changes go deeper than mirrored tiles to display sparkling wine or an artfully weathered harvest table in a repurposed barrel cellar (with chandelier); they’ve thought about how a visitor experiences the site, from easing guests into the open retail space to inviting visitors to the bubbly cave. Wine touring is no longer about squishing as many people as possible along a tasting bar—this is multiple consumer interaction points and value-added offers. More retail strategy, less farm-gate.

On a sneak-peek media day, guests of Sumac Ridge were treated to expertly paired bites by Joy Road Catering, tours of the Stellar’s Jay Sparkling Cave, and barrel samples in the new Black Sage Vineyard Experience room (for private and special events). As customers have several places to engage with the Sumac Ridge, Black Sage Vineyard, and Stellar’s Jay brands, a typical winery visit is elevated from transactional to experience, something more BC wineries seem to be embracing. Will everyone be treated to Joy Road’s gourmet eats and winery barrel samples? Probably not, but the idea is that visitors will depart feeling special, either way.

A spicy tribute to Thailand to pair with the 2013 Gewurztraminer

Spiciest tribute to Thailand to pair with the 2013 Gewurztraminer

Not all wineries in our province can remain small producers making 1,200 cases of wine a year in little more than a shack. We have small-lot winemakers and we love them. When wineries produce thousands of cases per annum, the more engaging they can make the on-site consumer experience the better, because people come for the story, and Sumac Ridge has it. With their new digs, maybe they can share that story a bit more easily.

 

Stellar's Jay Sparkling CaveWines To Watch

Black Sage Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel:

made from 10-year-old vines on the Black Sage Road and as ripe as can be. To be released in June, 500 cases, winery only.

Sumac Ridge 2013 Gewürztraminer:

everyone in BC should have a few bottles of this on hand for guests—consider it your new house wine. Versatile, easy on its own, and ideal for spicy dishes (like Joy Road’s tribute to Thailand).

Written By:

Jeannette is EAT's Okanagan writer. With her rural Canadian roots and love of grand experiences, Jeannette is equal measures country and city. Since moving from Vancouver to the Okanagan in 2007, she quit her day job ...

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