Markin: Oliver winery has three decades of innovation

Oliver winery saw an opportunity to not only be energy efficient, but to give consumers a chance to see solar energy in action.

If you count the first five years of evaluating vineyard site, grape varietals, and rock removal, it’s been 35 years since Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery has been a fixture in B.C. wine.

But the first vintage was released at Expo ’86 in Vancouver, making this year the 30thanniversary of Gehringer producing award-winning wines.

How are they celebrating? By installing solar panels by another Okanagan company, Swiss Solar Tech. The two companies connected at a home show in Penticton, and the winery saw an opportunity to not only be energy efficient, but to give consumers a chance to see solar energy in action.

Read more: Tapping into the sun

“We can retrain the consumer,” says winemaker Walter Gehringer. “Solar roof structures no longer need to be an afterthought.”

The largest winery to have this system in place, the panels won’t take the winery completely off the grid, but serve as an adjunct to hydro electricity, and have a lifespan of 35 years with maintenance that simply involves regular cleaning. So, when Gehringer doubles in age, they will still be soaking up solar energy.

“Solar is totally environmental, and the level of technology is just about perfect,” says Gehringer.

And speaking of perfect, will the panels do anything to the wines produced? The answer is a resounding no, as Gehringer now counts 56 platinum medals in its awards roster, making the winery the “King of Platinum”, most recently winning a handful of medals at the invite-only Wine Press Northwest Best of the Best Platinum Judging.

Winners of note? Auxerrois, a favourite wine of winemaker Walter, which was determined to be the best white wine in those first five years of testing sites and varietals. A wine with a very slight sweetness best served with seafood or creamy dishes.

Ehrenfelser, another white with a touch of sweetness, is a frequent award winner, alongside drier whites like Riesling, and Merlot and Pinot Noir on the red side.

After three decades of vintages, there’s “not much” Walter would change – the exception perhaps being the solar technology. After levelling out the vineyard by removing a lot of rocks, thus lowering the ground by three feet back in the days of planting, “the terroir created is just fabulous.”

Save the date:

Nov. 13, Quail’s Gate, West Kelowna: Sugar Plum Fair. A festive afternoon of artisans and holiday cheer. Discounts in the wine shop and at the Old Vines Restaurant. Bring donations for the Central Okanagan Food Bank.

Nov. 16, Legend Distilling: Colours and Cocktails. Under the guidance of artist Jenny Long, create your own landscape painting while sipping a cocktail. $50

Nov. 18 and 19, Front Street Brasserie, Penticton: Upper Bench Winery and Creamery Wine and Cheese Dinner, a six course wine and cheese extravaganza. Limited seating, $100 per person.

Nov. 19, BC VQA Wine Info Centre, Penticton: Annual holiday open house. Complimentary wine tastings, food, music, and giveaways.

Nov. 19 and 20, Okanagan Falls Wineries: Enjoy Holiday Cheer from 11am to 4pm as the wineries of Okanagan Falls host their open house.

Tuesdays, through December, Miradoro Restaurant: Communal Table Dinners take place Tuesdays at 6:30pm, each one with a special theme. $35 per person

Friday and Saturdays, Dinner features, BRODO:  Each Friday and Saturday night, BRODO in downtown Penticton features a special dinner, rotating through perogies, gnocchi, ribs, burgers.

Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News. She can be reached at and on Twitter @OkanaganTaste.