Painted Rock
Part 9 of a series on the Okanagan Valley, a remarkable wine region in British Columbia, Canada

I've been to Painted Rock three times now, so it's about time I gave it a proper write-up The dynamic, detail-oriented John Skinner founded this property after an extensive search for the perfect vineyard site in the Okanagan, and carefully planted it with a mix of Bordeaux varieties, and also added in some Chardonnay and Syrah. His first career was in banking (he was a stockbroker in Vancouver for 25 years), but it was another Okanagan property, Burrowing Owl, that convinced him to take a step sideways into wine when he tasted their Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines.

John Skinner, Painted Rock 

'My biggest advantage is bot being in the industry,' says John, 'so I hired good people.' After identifying the perfect spot following a four year search, he still had a lot of work to do. It's a 56 acre bench on Skaha Lake, near Penticton, and had previously been an apricot orchard which had been fallow since the 1980s. 'This site was a raw prospect,' he recalls. 'It had 800 tree stumps. We took each one out, and it took a year.' During this period he was logging the climate using a series of weather stations. This meant that when he planted, he could be deliberate about his choice of which varieties to plant where. It's a warm site, surrounded by an amphitheatre of rocks, so in the end he went 95% red.

Skinner had sound planting advice and put the rows in East-West. The vines went into the ground in 2005, and now they are beginning to show the potential of the site, as the roots have begun to interrogate the subsoil. The top soil here consists of glacial silt, clay, sand and volcanic ash, sitting on top of gravel deposits. Soil pits showed that the roots had begun to get down to the gravel in 2013, and there was a corresponding uplift in quality in the blocks where this had happened. Currently 25 acres are under vine, and Painted Rock is an entirely vineyard-based project.

In the 2010 vintage they lost a third of a crop to black bears, and so the perimeter of the property is now electrified!

Lauren Skinner and Gabe Reis 

Production is 7000 cases annually, and Skinner has no plans to expand this family legacy project (his daughter Lauren is now working with him). 'It's not about getting bigger, just getting better,' he says.

From the beginning, Alain Sutre has been hired as a consultant winemaker (he also works at Culmina and Poplar Grove in the Okanagan, among other clients). Gabriel Reis is the on-site winemaker. The wines are very polished. Skinner is serious in his intent to make the best wines possible, and has invested in the resources needed to meet his aims. They fall somewhere in between the New World and Old World. I like them, but the alcohol levels can be a little high (hovering around 15%, with pH levels of around 4).


Painted Rock Chardonnay 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
80% spends 6 months in oak, 40% new. Bright with pithy grapefruit and lemon notes. Focused with nice direct fruit. Clean and appealing. 90/100 (07/16)

Painted Rock Chardonnay 2017 Okanagan Valley, Canada
80% spends 6 months in oak, 40% new. Partial malolactic, pH 3.76, TA 6 g/litre. Clones 76 and 548. Spicy and a little bit nutty with pear and almond characters. Rich and smooth with a soft mid palate and notes of cream and bread. 90/100 (07/18)

Painted Rock Merlot 2013 Okanagan Valley, Canada
18 months in French oak, 30% new. Sweet, textural, rich and bold with a polished character. Some tar notes alongside the blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with a fine-grained, chalky structure. 90/100 (07/16)

Painted Rock Merlot 2014 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Clones 181 and 347, 18 months in French oak, 30% new. pH 3.75, alcohol 15.3%. Rich and textured with smooth, sweet black cherries. Lush with good depth and a slight saltiness. Very polished and carries the alcohol well. 92/100  (07/18)

Painted Rock Syrah 2013 Okanagan Valley, Canada
This has 80% French oak, 20% American, with around one-third new. Rich, bold, ripe and a bit peppery with black cherries and plums with some spiciness. Some sweet oak notes. Modern in style. 90/100 (07/16)

Painted Rock Syrah 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Clones 99 and 100, pH 4.02, TA 6.2 g/l, 14.9% alcohol. Floral and expressive with black cherries and pepper on the nose. Sweetly fruited and expressive. Sleek and smooth with some definition. Nice purity here. 93/100 (07/18)

Painted Rock Red Icon 2014 Okanagan Valley, Canada #
33% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 19% Malbec, 16% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 18 months in French oak, 30% new. Fresh and supple with lovely ripe, sweet blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. Nice focus here: pretty, expressive and pure with floral cherry notes. Modern but really appealing. 93/100 (07/16)

Painted Rock Red Icon 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
45% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec, 11% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 18 months in French oak, 30% new. pH 3.92, TA 6.3 g/l, 14.6% alcohol. This has lovely ripe, sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with a seductive personality and some spicy warmth. Seamless. 92/100 (07/18)

Painted Rock Malbec 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Second vintage of this wine. 15.2% alcohol. 30% new oak. This has lovely spicy, peppery detail alongside the lush ripe black fruits. Smooth and seamless with nice depth. Luscious, polished and balanced. 93/100 (07/18)

Painted Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
18 months in French oak, 30% new. 14.6% alcohol, pH 3.97, TA 6.6 g/l. Fresh and detailed with good depth and concentration. Sleek blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with a seamless quality. Fine grained with some spicy structure. 91/100 (07/18)

Painted Rock Cabernet Franc 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
18 months in oak, 30% new. 15.3% alcohol, pH 3.97, TA 6.3 g/l. This has great concentration. Sleek and smooth with sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Has a softeness and very smooth tannic structure. Lush and expressive with a slight saltiness. Real finesse here. 92/100 (07/18)

Here's a short film from Painted Rock:

Mission Hill
TH Wines
Cedar Creek
Blue Mountain
Painted Rock
50th Parallel
Okanagan Crush Pad

See also:

Visiting Ontario's wine regions, Canada (series)

Wines tasted 11/16  
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