Our latest visit to Bottleneck Drive in Summerland

8th Generation Winery proprietor Stefanie Schales with Stacey
8th Generation Winery proprietor Stefanie Schales with Stacey

Our first stop at 8th Generation Winery began a pleasant tour of "Bottleneck Drive", the marketing handle given to a route in Summerland, BC. It begins at Highway 97 and travels up a pleasant country road with a few turns to get to all your stops. On this day we visited one of our favourite stops – Thornhaven Estate Vineyards – and finished up at the lovely Silkscarf Winery.

8th Generation took us by surprise at the quality of winemaking, the smart pricing and the hospitable folks at their facility. 8th Generation refers to the eight generations of winemaking experience proprietor Bernd Schales – a native of Germany who has moved to the Okanagan – has in his family lineage. His wife Stefanie (seen above with Stacey) also runs the winery. She took time out to tell us about how they acquired an eighteen year-old planting of Riesling grapes in the Okanagan Falls area, eventually acquiring the Summerland winery formerly known as Adora.

8th Generation have definitely put their mark on this location. They're winning awards for their wines, including their exceptional "Classic" Riesling, produced in a dry German style (we picked up a few bottles). They had help from Brandever, the marketing and branding company headed up by Bernie Hadley-Beauregard. Stefanie said, "We already had the story – we knew it would be about eight generations. We just wanted labels that would stand out. We're very happy with the use of the numeral eight on all our labels."

After our 8th Generation visit we continued on to have a picnic lunch on the patio at Thornhaven winery. Proprietors Jack and Jan Fraser were working the counter that day, an unusual site as they're usually working in the vineyards. I took some time to speak with Jack about where Thornhaven is today, and what he's most proud of.

Most widely known for their whites, including a gold medal Gewürztraminer, Fraser was proud of their recent success with red wines. He also described the feeling I heard from many wineries this year – anxiety over the cool, damp spring we've had this year.

Speaking of branding, one of the things that I think Thornhaven has struggled a bit with is their labeling. It seems that there has been as many new looks to the Thornhaven bottles as I've taken visits to their winery. Last year I felt they got it with the simple white label featuring their iconic "T" wrapped in the thorns. This year they're trying some new ideas on the red bottles I felt confused that original vision. It doesn't take away from what's inside the bottle, but I hope that they sort it out in the year ahead.

Our final stop for the day (visiting only three wineries during a day trip keeps the palette fresh) was Silkscarf Winery. The always charming Roie Manoff was behind the counter and as usual very proud of his wines. I asked Roie about the Bottleneck Drive marketing and he said it was an unqualified success. "Some travelers used to think that Summerland was only a gas station before," commented Manoff. "Now people are drawn to us with better signage and directions. It's been a real success."

Silkscarf's wines have a signature of quality. From their simple yet elegant packaging, to the bold taste of their Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, I always highly recommend that wine travelers make this a required stop.

– post by Mike