Inspiring New Winery & Creamery Now Open in Penticton

It all comes down to living life with passion and not letting even the largest obstacles cloud your vision, a great lesson learned through the creation of Upper Bench Estate Winery & Creamery in Penticton.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to sit down with Shana Miller, Cheesemaker and part owner of the newly opened winery & creamery in Penticton. Shana’s husband Gavin is the winemaker, Wayne & Margareta Nystrom are part owners and grow grapes for the operation, and their daughter Tessa is in charge of marketing AND will be organizing and producing Tessa’s Tree Fruit Stand this summer. Plus her beautiful photography is showcased in the tasting room!

Gavin & Shana Miller met each other while Shana was living at Poplar Grove Winery in the 90’s. That Gavin Miller has quite the following in the industry, they all know who he is and just what he’s capable of producing. Throughout the years he’s created award-winning wines at places like Painted Rock and Poplar Grove. It’s long been a dream of theirs to open their own family operation, but of course finding land on the Naramata Bench and kicking the whole thing off the ground ain’t no walk in the park!!

King Cole, the boldest of the blue cheeses produced by Upper Bench Estate Winery & Creamery

In January 2011, a foreclosed Holman Lang establishment was up for auction so Gavin and Shana viewed it, it was perfect! But hold on… after more number crunching they realized they were just not going to be able to scrape the money together to launch the business the right way, and there is no such thing as doing a half-ass job in that family. Dismayed and downtrodden they felt it all sliding away…

A peek into the cheese locker!

Until one fateful day Gavin found himself standing in line at the grocery store with an old friend he hadn’t seen in ages and the pair got to talking; catching up on years past. Gavin filled his friend in on what life’s hand was dealing them, feeling so close but so far away to building their own piece of the wine industry pie. The very next day they received a phone call from that friend in line at the grocery store, saying that his wife had recently been talking about opening their own winery (they already grow grapes on their property at Margaretta Vineyards), and they were ready to make partners. Instantly the bond was formed, they created their partnerships and got right down to business. Gavin and a realtor friend made the trip to Vancouver to fight for the property. The anticipation was fierce, but in the end the Miller’s bid was the highest. THEY WON! THEY WON! Oh how their heads were spinning, they were about to live out their dreams! The years and years of each of them perfecting their craft was about to be realized in starting their own company in the sunny Okanagan! One year later, viola! Upper Bench Estate Winery and Creamery is now open for business!

 Here’s a list of the goods they have on sale in their tasting room right now:

Wine:

Riesling (2011)

Pinot Gris (2011)

Pinot Blanc (2011)

Chardonnay (2011)

Upper Bench Winery's 2011 Rose

Rosé (2011)

Pinot Noir (2010)

Merlot (2010)

Upper Bench Estate Winery supports the “Put a Cork In It” recycling program. Cork is a 100% recyclable and renewable resource that can be used to make building materials such as cork underlay, cork flooring, acoustical cork wall tiles, and

cork fabrics which all qualify for LEED points in sustainable building practices. For more information on “Put A Cork In It” check out their website at putacorkinit.ca

Cheese:

Gold (washed rine, firm, many ‘eyes’, pairs with Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc)

Gold French (firm, brine washed, mad with basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, lavender, fennel, tarragon herbs, pair with Riesling)

Gold Italian (firm, brine wash, made with sundried tomato, onion, and garlic herbs, pair with Pinot Gris)

Okanagan Sun (mild, soft, brine washed, pair with Pinot Noir)

U & Brie (buttery, creamy, pair with Rosé)

King Cole (12 wks old, full flavoured blue cheese, pair with Merlot)

Grey Baby (mild blue, veins throughout, pair with Pinot Noir)

Moody Cow Coming Soon!

Artist Johann Wessels paints the mural on the side of Upper Bench Estate Winery & Creamery

When it came time to start re-designing the drab building, the owners threw around the idea of having a mural painted on the facade of the building. Next thing they knew an artist walked through the door and pitched the idea of having a mural painted on the side of their building. “Oh really? Funny… we were thinking the same thing!!”

Johann Wessels is the artists name, originally from South Africa he was used to seeing great wineries cloaked in beautiful murals and just felt something was missing from the wine country in the Okanagan – there was no large-scale art. On a hope and a prayer he approached the Upper Bench owners and pitched the idea of having the murals on their building. That project went off without a hitch and Johann would love to see more being created throughout our area.

He’s been a part of the Re-Imagine Festival which is an event hosted by the Downtown Penticton Association. The organizers get artists together and disperse them throughout the downtown core to places graffiti (artists?) would target, and create a mural there instead. As a graffiti (artist?!) would not likely paint over someone else’s art it is a great way to beautify and preserve the downtown core. You will have to keep your eyes open the next time you’re in our beautiful little city!

Please check out Johann’s website at johannwessels.com

I would definitely keep this stop on your list of places to visit this summer!

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