See Ya Later Ranch | The history of the wines of Hawthorn Mountain

by Sipping through the Okanagan, Wine & Food

Okanagan Falls


Hawthorn Mountain offers a unique aspect for grape growing and has put Okanagan Falls on the wine map for more than 35 years. The high, cool plateau — known for its quality Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Noir — is home to the first VQA winery in the area, opened as LeComte Estate Winery in 1986 by owner Albert LeComte.

A group of investors headed by Harry McWatters and Robert Wareham took ownership of the historic winery in 1995, paying homage to the locale with a name change to Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards. Located 600 metres above sea level, the property is one of the highest elevation vineyards in the Okanagan Valley.

For more than a decade, Harry guided the wine production, remaining as president until 2008 following the 2000 sale of the vineyards to Vincor Canada (now Arterra Canada). 

The new owners captured the winery’s colourful history and its fun personality with a rebrand. At the heart of See Ya Later Ranch are a playful angel dog character and a love story. 

Wine industry pioneer Major Hugh Fraser purchased the lands in 1920, and his son Bill planted the grapes and oversaw the vineyard. Despite its beauty, the location was too remote for the Major’s English bride; she departed after a few months, leaving a note signed “S.Y.L.” for “See you later.” The Major stayed on, his many dogs keeping him company. 

The tasting room and wine shop are located in the original 1900s stone home. Stepping out to the patio one is greeted with a stunning view of the surrounding valley, vineyards and lakes. Dogs are welcome.  

For the past five years, the award-winning portfolio has been crafted by winemaker Dave Saysomsack. His first vintage of 2016 Ping Meritage earned gold at the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival; his 2017 Ping took a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco Wine Awards. 

Hester Creek Trebbiano

Hester Creek Trebbiano  2020

Hester Creek Winery, Golden Mile Bench

Italian grape variety planted here 52 years ago. Old vine block. Tropical aromas, citrus, wildflower honey. Great acidity. Easy drinking, versatile and a food lover’s dream.


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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