“Behind the Wine” is a new summer series taking you behind the scenes of the South Okanagan’s iconic wine industry. Watch for it every Sunday.
Black Widow Winery is a 100 per cent family owned and run winery located along the Naramata Bench that uses 100 per cent Naramata Bench grown grapes.
“My parents started winemaking at Black Widow in 2005, but had purchased the property in 2000, 21 years ago. We’ve had grapes being grown for 26 years on our property,” says Shannon Lancaster, assistant winemaker for Black Widow Winery.
“During that time, I was still in high school in Langley. My parents would run back and forth in between. After I graduated high school, I attended business school, and in 2011 I joined the business full time as an assistant winemaker,” Lancaster adds.
Winemaking is something that has been in Lancaster’s blood from an early age.
“My dad, Dick Lancaster, has made wine every single year of my life. From around the ages of two or three my brother James and I would begin to help. I was always involved in the winemaking process. He would order in grapes from California, because the BC industry was just beginning, and we would do it all. Winemaking has always been a part of our lives,” explains Lancaster.
Her favourite aspect of winemaking is hard to choose.
“I love everything about it. I love that it’s super hands-on. It’s a mix between science and art and cleaning. I love the flexibility in it, and how different it can be while still reapplying the same principals. I love working with a natural product, and making something people can enjoy with their families. Like I said, I love it,” Lancaster says with a laugh.
The wine varies, but every wine Black Widow creates has a quality focus.
“We do a maximum of 3,000 cases a year, and everything comes from about 5km from the winery. We have seven acres on site and three acres in Naramata we’ve begun working with. We work with other growers but have a long relationship with them. We’ve worked with them for about 16 years now, and they know what we want and are very consistent, so we get that high level of consistency. We have no plans to expand because we know if we expand, the wine will change. We like to produce wines that remain familiar to people. That if they have drank it before they will recognize it each new vintage,” says Lancaster.
Another unique element to Black Widow Winery is its consistency of leadership.
“We have been working with the same grapes and growers for 16 years, but also with the same winemakers, my dad Dick, my brother James and myself, and the same ownership,” explains Lancaster, something that is quite rare in the wine industry.
The best part is that those people are her family, something Lancaster loves about her job.
“Working with my family is awesome, I know a lot of people would be scared of that, but it works so well for me. We all have input in every aspect of the business. We all have opinions and we just give and take,” Lancaster adds.
Lancaster is proud of all of the wines her and her family produce.
“I can’t choose a favourite. It’s like picking a favourite child. Our rosé is stellar every year and it still blows my mind. But the sparkling is just so fun to drink and enjoy. But if I had to pick one style that I could drink forever it would be Merlot. See? I can’t choose,” Lancaster laughs.
“My favourite to make is the rosé. It's a different process and you never 100% know what you’re going to get in the end. You can have an idea but it can totally change in fermentation. You have
to make quick decisions and you kind of get what you get, but you work at taking educated guesses. It’s a really fun process,” explains Lancaster.
They have limited tastings available but it is definitely worth calling in to book one.
“We have bottled our white, rosé, and sparkling from our 2020 vintage. Our reds get extended barrel aging for 17-24 months after harvest, but whites are really fantastic this year. We had really good quality but limited quantity. We were down about 30% from former years but the grapes we did get were really exceptional,” says Lancaster.
At Black Widow, all tastings are uniquely done in the cellar of the winery, and the majority of the tastings is done by one of the winemakers themselves.
“Either my dad, my brother or myself do most of the tastings, so it's a unique experience because we have been involved in every step of the process. It’s a great place to ask questions and learn more. I love that we are part of the wine making experience from the grapes being grown to the actual tasting of it. During Covid, we did a renovation on our tasting room which I think really heightens the tasting experience and was a big upgrade in service.”
After 20 years, Black Widow is still a unique, fun and friendly family owned business that is working on producing some of the Okanagan’s best wines.