Play Estate Winery, which is perched on a hill overlooking the Penticton airport, has benefited significantly from its management and winemaker changes during the past year.
The winery’s 2019 white and rosé releases are a clear step up from earlier vintages. As wine touring and tastings reopens, visitors to the Penticton wineries should not miss Play.
For some background, here is an except from my recent book, Okanagan Wine Tour Guide:
Everything about Play Estate Winery is theatrical, from its perch on a hillside overlooking Skaha Lake to wines with names such as Improv and Ad Lib. The winery is owned by Calgary hotelier Stagewest Hospitality which includes dinner theatres in many of its hotels. The company is managed by Jason and David Pechet, third generation members of a family that got into the business by building hotels along the Alaska Highway. Both are graduates of Cornell University’s renowned hotel management school.
Both are also wine lovers. The winery was conceived Jason and Mohamed Awad, a former hotelier and winery manager in the Okanagan. On land leased from the Penticton Indian Band, they arranged to plant a 4.8-hectare (12-acre) vineyard and build the winery on a slope surrounded by an elegant residential development and close to Penticton’s airport. The winery, which opened with wines from the 2014 vintage, now produces about 5,000 cases a year, with triple that capacity. The winery also includes a year-round bistro, in line with the Stagewest philosophy of including multiple attractions in its properties.
The estate vineyard is planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Orange Muscat and Muscat Ottonel. Play also leases a three-hectare (eight-acre) vineyard in Kaleden which has Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier and White Muscat.
The style of Play’s wines is still emerging. The original vintages were made by Mohamed. After he left Play, the winery early in 2019 recruited Stephanie Bryers, formerly the assistant winemaker at Culmina Family Estate Winery. Born in Ontario in 1988, she acquired a passion for wines while working in a wine shop and taking sommelier training.
“I decided I did not want to work in restaurants and pour wine,” Stephanie says. “I liked the idea of making it. We always had a couple of days [in sommelier training] where we would go to a winery and do a couple of punch downs for the fun of it, or help on the bottling line. I liked that so much more, so I went to school.” A 2015 graduate of Niagara College, she made wine in New Zealand, Portugal and Ontario before coming to the Okanagan.
Here are notes on the wines.
Play Teatro Moscato Frizzanté 2019
($22 for 238 cases). The wine is delicately effervescent, with aromas of spice and fruit. The fruit flavours echo the aromatics of the Muscat varieties in the wine. Residual sugar of 16.4 grams per litre, nicely balanced with acidity, enhances the fruit. With alcohol just under 12%, the wine is refreshing. 90.
Play Sauvignon Blanc 2019
($22 for 100 cases). This wine was matured in 75% stainless steel and 25% new French oak. It begins with aromas of herbs and grapefruit, which are echoed on the palate. The oak adds a note of spice to the flavours and the finish. This is a complex wine, reminiscent of a good white from Sancerre. 91.
Play Viognier 2019
($24 for 240 cases). About half the fruit had 23 hours of skin contact. The wine was matured in 69% stainless steel, 31% in new French oak. The wine has aromas and flavours of apricot wrapped around the classic firm spine of Viognier. The wine is crisp and dry on the finish. 90.
Play Gewürztraminer 2019
($24 for 100 cases). The wine, which had 15 hours of skin contact, begins with classic spicy aromas. On the palate, the wine is fleshy in texture, with flavours of citrus mingled with hints of ripe raisins. The lingering finish is dry and crisp. 90.
Play Rosé de Syrah 2019
($24 for 100 cases). The wine presents with an appealing rose petal hue. It has aromas of raspberry. On the palate, there is an explosion of fruit – cherry, red plum and strawberry. The wine finishes crisp and dry. 90.
Play Saignée 2019
($25 for 67 cases). The wine, made with juice from Bordeaux varieties, presents with an appealing light pink hue. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and plum. The finish is dry, even slightly robust for a rosé. This is a serious food wine. 90.