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Interview with Pentâge Winery Owner - Julie Rennie


Image provided by Pentâge Winery

Located south of Penticton, on the eastern side of Skaha Lake, is a charming winery named Pentâge. The road to get here is narrow and winding, with sections wide enough for only one car to pass by. It feels as if you're embarking on an adventure as you make your way to this destination winery. Once you reach the property, you will be greeted by a million-dollar view that overlooks both Skaha and Lake Okanagan.


The name Pentâge is a play on the Latin word for “five”. This name was chosen by winemaker and owner Paul Gardner, due to the five red varieties he originally planted to make the flagship red, which is also called Pentâge. Paul, and Julie Rennie fell in love with this Skaha Bench location and purchased the property in 1996, which at the time was an abandoned orchard.


Before their dream began to unfold by starting a winery, Paul was a marine engineer for 20 years and was away from home quite often. He got tired of going to sea and decided that it was time to build a business that would allow him and Julie to work together as a team. His love of wine, combined with passion and determination is evident when you look around the winery. He does not shy away from a project and will see any task, big or small through to the end. This is a great story about having a dream, and making that dream become a reality.


For those who are intrigued by cave cellars, Pentâge has an incredible one.


The winery opened its tasting room in 2014. It took Paul nine years to plan and carve out the massive 5,500-square-foot cave from the crown of hard rock the winery is located on.


Visitors can appreciate the underground cellar just by peering through the massive glass doors at the front of the cave. “Cool and spacious, this cave accommodates barrels and tanks of wine in a feat of engineering unlike anything else in the Okanagan, except perhaps the Mission Hill cellar"(Okanagan Wine Tour Guide p. 338-339).


The unique tasting room and incredible rock wine cellar allow visitors to fully immerse themselves in the Skaha terroir and natural beauty of this property.


Now, Paul spends most of his time at the winery’s two Skaha Bench vineyards and is very hands-on from managing the vines, to bottling the wine. He is much more interested in making small lots of interesting wine than producing large quantities. In the past, he has experimented with different winemaking styles by mimicking Amarone and drying out Cabernet Franc grapes for almost one month before fermenting them.


Pentâge has limited their annual production to 5,000 cases a year, which allows them to craft exceptional small lot wines and maintain a meticulous hands-on approach for quality control.


Julie has many years of business and administration experience. She manages the operations side of the winery including sales, marketing, the employees and accounting. It's not uncommon for her to be found in the tasting room pouring wine for guests, charming them with her warm and friendly personality.


I had the pleasure of sitting down with Julie to ask her a few questions and learn more about Pentâge.



Q: How did you and Paul come up with the idea to start a winery?


A: Paul and I were living in Vancouver; he was a marine engineer, so he used to go away for two or three weeks at a time. I wanted to drag him away from the house in Vancouver for a holiday since he was working all the time. So, one weekend we came up to the Okanagan and since Paul is a project guy, he likes to have a mission. He said, “Well, if we’re going to the Okanagan, let’s look for land for retirement”. So, we came up here during Easter in 1996 and had a realtor show us around a few properties. Both of us ended up settling on this beautiful 23 acres here on Skaha Bench. At that time, it was bare land. Seriously. It was full of dead cherry trees and bits of cars and dishwashers. It was pretty run down, but Paul had the vision and he’s like, “I can see it”. Once he said that, the dream started to become a reality and that was the start of Pentâge in 1996. We both love space, and this was a nice change for us moving from Vancouver.



Q: Where do you source your grapes from, and how many different varietals do you grow?


A: We have two properties. The Vista Ridge Vineyard is where the winery is located and has seven acres planted. 10 years after we purchased this property, we bought the Dirty Dozen Vineyard, which is 12 acres, just two properties north of us towards Penticton. Between the two properties, we grow 21 varieties and produce very small lot wines. 95% of the fruit needed to produce our 5,000 cases comes from our vineyards. Vista Ridge has Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Gamay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Viognier. On the Dirty Dozen property, we planted some beautiful Rhône varietals such as Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. Then we planted some Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Petit Syrah and a little bit of Muscat just to name a few. Also doubling up on some Syrah, Cabernets and Merlot over there.



Q: When were the grapes planted for these vineyards?


A: Vista Ridge was planted in 1997 and the Dirty Dozen was planted in 2007.



Q: What separates you from other wineries that you would like consumers to know?


A: I think what separates us is that we produce a wide variety of wines and grow some unique varietals in the Okanagan Valley, like our Roussanne Marsanne and our GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) which is our Rhône red. I believe there’s only two other wineries in the Okanagan that produce a GSM. Also, our small lots are really small ranging anywhere from 20 cases to 150-200 cases. One other aspect that separates us is the fact that we bottle age most of our reds and some of our whites before we release them. Most will age anywhere from a year to two plus years prior to release.



Q: The 2022 season is right around the corner, what are you most excited about?


A: I’m really excited at the thought of running the wine shop like we did two years ago. We are still going to distance groups and customers in the wine shop, but I’m hoping we will have bar stools again like the good old days.



Q: What is your flagship red and white wine?


A: The flagship red wine is our Pentâge Red. It’s our take on a Bordeaux blend. Generally, it uses the five Bordeaux varietals, although, if we need to add a little bit of something else, whether it's Tempranillo or another varietal to make a better blend, we will do that. But we aim to make it a true Bordeaux blend. Our white flagship would be the Roussanne Marsanne Rhône blend. It’s a beautiful, fuller bodied white wine. We are currently selling the 2015 and 2016 vintage.



Q: What’s a fun fact about you and Paul?


A: When Paul isn’t drinking wine, he is enjoying local craft beers. As for myself, if I’m going to drink anything other than wine, it would definitely be a gin and tonic.



Source:

Schreiner, John, and Luke Whittall. The Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. 6th ed., TouchWood Editions, 2020, p. 338-339.

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