Play Estate a New Winery in BC

I’m not sure if you (my readers) know this, but I work in the wine industry for a wine import agency. I like the title Territory Manager, but really what it means is I am a wine representative. And, yes that means I try lots of wines, but they aren’t always the ones I represent! And so you know, because I am a wine-geek at heart, I write about wines I discover and enjoy, whether they are ones I represent or not. Okay? Okay good. Now that I’ve got that out of the way ;)…

So let me share what I recently got to taste. I sipped through the line-up of wines from a brand new winery in the Okanagan Valley, in BC, Canada. Called: Play Estate Wines. Prior to this particular tasting I had tried just 2 of the 7 wines they make. I liked them, they were approachable, food friendly and well priced. Simple, done. But there was something missing for me. The story. There is so much more to gain from meeting the winemaker, visiting a winery, learning their story, where the grapes were grown (vineyard, soil, etc) and their intention behind the wines they create. Once I know this, I have a deeper appreciation for wines, as I do now for Play Estate. The wines are made to be enjoyed by everyone, much like theatre – which is why every label depicts theatre and the arts in the picture and/or the name.

I first met Mohamed Awad (the winemaker), just before our first appointment with a retail wine store one morning. I was sitting in Starbucks waiting for him, but I didn’t have a clue what he looked like, so of course I eyed every single man who walked through the door! I wonder what they were thinking?!!

Soon enough, in walks this tall, smiling guy, who for a moment I thought: “he’s energetic and smiling, this guys the winemaker?” ha ha. I would soon learn that this down to earth, gentle, optimist guy was not just a fun human, but a winemaker with intention and integrity. His wines reflect his taste and his character. If this is what he’s creating at a 1-year-old winery, then this is definitely a winery and winemaker to watch ( as Tim Pawsey from the once said ).  We have to watch the newcomers in the industry as much as the veterans, as they bring fresh ideas, styles and smarts to the art of winemaking.
All the wines are VQA, and here are the wines I got to enjoy… click here: Cork Affairs – to read about all the wines!


Natural Wine in Naramata, BC Canada

Nichol Vineyards Old Vine Syrah

Hopefully you know where Naramata is, especially if you are from B.C. But, if you don’t – then here is a little map to give you perspective. It is located just 4-5 hours east of Vancouver on the East side of Okanagan Lake in the Okanagan Valley. The entire Naramata Bench sits along the lake, getting full sun exposure on a mix of soil from granite, clay, sand, etc. I’ve written about my adventures here before, however, this time I want to concentrate on two wineries that focus on Naturally made wines.

I know “natural” might make you think “organic” which might make you think “expensive” and “not good”. BUT, I’m here to tell you, that is just not correct! Naturally made wines are absolutely delicious and unique when you’ve got good winemakers who are passionate and know their stuff. And you should know, it’s been going on for centuries in Europe. As well, in the wine world, ‘natural’ wines are trendy. We (wine nerds) love exploring the uniqueness of what they offer.

So, let me introduce you to Nichol Vineyards and Lock & Worth Winery.

naramata map

Let’s start with Nichol. Did you know they have the oldest Syrah vines in Canada, planted in 1989 (no I didn’t make a mistake typing!)? It started when previous vineyard owners toured Europe to understand which vines would do the best back in Naramata’s climate and soil, and Syrah was their winner. It’s also the flagship wine for the winery, but they produce and grow other varieties too.

Their wines are a range from Syrah, Pinot Gris with skin contact (just 2 wineries in BC started this style – Nichol being one of them), Cabernet Franc, to one of my favourites because of it’s uniqueness the Pinot Noir & St. Laurent blend.


Nichol Vineyards

This is taken from the wineries website (because I can’t explain it better):

“Our Vineyards and About That Syrah: Our vineyards are situated at the northern most tip of Naramata, abutting the Kettle Valley Railway, and surround the winery on all sides. The Syrah vineyard was the first to be planted in Canada and consists of 17 rows planted on granite in the north-eastern part of the vineyard. All of our vineyards are west and south-facing and range from 1400-1500 feet in elevation. The vineyard is also own rooted/un-grafted.

Farming: We spend a huge amount of our time and resources farming our vineyards. The majority of our vineyard work is done by hand with minimal tractor use. We pick by hand into 10L baskets to ensure the integrity of every bunch. Our yields are very low for Okanagan and international standards. We are very close to being dry farmed (without irrigation).

In The Cellar: With all of the effort we put in to growing grapes that best represent the cool climate site and specific terroir of Naramata we do as little as possible in the winery to obfuscate the inherent qualities of our raw material – or put another way – we try our best to grow great grapes and stay out of their way. From a wine making perspective we are far more interested in our grapes being the star of the show instead of our wine making influence. Our wine making is about limiting intervention, not exploiting it. To that end we neither fine nor filter our red wines, use almost entirely used French barriques (neutral) and eschew the use of colour fixers, acidification techniques or ‘flavour’ and alcohol enhancers. Our wines are technically vegan.”


Having met both Ross and Matt (winemakers), I understand their slogan “true to our roots”. They not only believe whole heartedly in making wine that speaks of the land and the area but they believe in what they do. Are they just farmers? No. They are both “wine nerds” who appreciate trying wine from around the world and learning continuously while farming honestly. And most of all, they run a very un-pretentious winery – yet make some award-winning, industry respected wines.


Lock & Worth Winery un-filtered Cab Franc Rose

The two of them also co-own Lock & Worth Winery – which again focuses on naturally made wine, but with a modern wine nerd twist. They play more with Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (this one is killer good!), Cabernet Franc Rose ( I have a bottle that is unfiltered from 2013) and Merlot. They are all simply delicious.

I have much admiration for a winemaker. They are not only viticulturists – they are artists, and their canvas is their palate. We are just appreciators of their art.


the view from Lock & Worth Winery

So the next time you are heading out for a weekend getaway, consider a wine tour, and visit Naramata and all it’s wineries but especially these two fantastic ones!


Nichol Vineyards

visit their tasting room or enjoy their wines all over B.C. in restaurants and retail stores

Lock & Worth Winery 

visit their tasting room + buy Poplar Grove Cheese and picnic outside.