Hester Creek honours its divine Italian roots

by Sipping through the Okanagan, Wine & Food

1983 [Vineyard 1968]
Golden Mile Bench – Oliver

“For his time, he was quite a renegade,” says public relations coordinator Lori Pike of B.C. wine pioneer Joe Busnardo. “He believed you can plant vinifera grapes, the proper classic noble grapes.”

Finding a site reminiscent of the northern Italian hillsides of his youth, Busnardo began planting dozens of varieties in 1968, including some from his native Italy, like Trebbiano, which today is one of Hester Creek’s most popular single-varietal white wines.

Located at the base of Mt. Kobau and 100 metres above the valley floor, the well-draining alluvial soils offer a select site for grape growing. The estate is part of the escarpment southwest of Oliver that runs near Highway 97 known as the Golden Mile Bench.

The mostly southerly aspect provides a warm climate for growing while the mountains shade the grapes from the intense heat of the afternoons. The distinct terroir was recognized in 2014 following an in-depth analysis by scientists from the Summerland Research Centre.

Original plantings of Trebbiano white wine grapes

Busnardo built Divino Estate Winery on the site in the early 1980s, which he later sold in 1996. Ever the entrepreneur, he relocated Divino to a new 39-acre property on Vancouver Island under the same name, where it remains today.

New owners renamed the winery Hester Creek, after the creek that borders the south side of the property. Charmed by the scenic location and convinced of its potential, Prince George business-man Curt Garland bought Hester Creek in 2004; the original plantings have thrived in the years under his investments.

Building on the Italian legacy, Garland invested in a Tuscan-inspired restaurant, Terrafina, now led by chef Adair Scott.

“I grew up on a small farm and feel there’s a huge responsibility to respect the bounty of the South Okanagan,” says Adair. “There’s such a fantastic variety of wild treats, artisan farmers, and amazing wine here.

“At Terrafina, I get to work closely with the local producers and our winemaker and taste with them the fresh produce and wine. It’s this storytelling that you’re able to do table-side, that creates the best dinner table experiences.”

For outstanding reds, look to the estate-grown Bordeaux blends, The Judge (Merlot-dominant) and the small-lot Garland (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant.)

Feature: 30 Years of BC VQA

About The Author

Yvonne Turgeon

A published columnist and features contributor, our publisher Yvonne Turgeon has an editorial career spanning three decades. She loves writing, wine and all things Okanagan (but hasn't given up her Rider green). She is the founder of Thompson Okanagan Trends Magazine and new publisher of Orchard & Vine Magazine. Subscribe to the print magazines.

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