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N 49˚ 06.890’ | W 119˚ 32.485’

There is no wine-growing region in the world quite like the Black Sage Bench.

Located at the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert, with scorching mid-summer temperatures, the rugged bench was thought to be good for little more than growing scrub and grazing cattle in the early 1900s. When partners Harry McWatters and Bob Wareham — then-owners of Sumac Ridge Estate Winery in Summerland — purchased a fallow vineyard site on the bench in 1992, intending to plant grafted vinifera vines imported from France, they raised more than a few eyebrows. Many thought it would be an expensive mistake.

The partners named the 115-acre site Black Sage Vineyard™, after the road it fronts, and planted it with the late-ripening premium grapes that thrive in hot, arid conditions. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc represented about seventy percent of the planting. White varieties included Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

The reds were the first classic Bordeaux varieties to be planted in the region, and when the vines began to produce juicy, intensely flavoured fruit, other growers soon followed suit. Since 1993, the Black Sage Bench has become renowned for the quality of bold red wines it produces.

Crafted by the experienced hands of winemaker Jason James, the exceptional wines have a bold new label that matches their confident personality. This new family of wines will showcase what happens when the right vines are planted in the right location.

Ideal for late-ripening reds, the vineyard continues to host the 20-year-old Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc varieties. White varieties — not as suitable for one of the hottest vineyard locations in Canada — provide excellent grafting opportunities with their well-seasoned rootstalks; if the soils dictate, new varietals will be introduced.

The soil, the climate, the light, and an intangible magic combine to create what the French call terroir, loosely translated as “a sense of place.”

For years, the terroir of this exceptional growing region was expressed in Sumac Ridge Estate Winery’s award-winning vineyard series. We believe the wines from the Black Sage Vineyard™ are a true expression of their terroir. The tenacious vines dig deep in the parched Canadian landscape to produce intense flavours. Bold and juicy, they are planted in the right location, the right soil, and get the right amount of sunlight; they are wines worthy of distinction.

The Soil

Laid down by a glacial-era lake, the bench is made of sand. Water drains quickly and vines are forced to send roots deep into the subsoil for water and nutrients. Instead of expending energy on foliage, Black Sage Bench vines produce lower yields of intensely flavoured fruit.

The Climate

There’s not much precipitation either. Receiving an average rainfall of less than 20 centimetres per year, the area is Canada’s only “pocket desert” — part of the Great Basin Desert, connected to the network of deserts that extend southward to the Sonoran Desert in Mexico.

The Light

Most unusual in a desert region though, is the light; the Okanagan gets more hours of sunlight than any other growing region in North America, and the west-facing vineyards on the Black Sage Bench get the best of it.