About Us

Dark Horse Vineyard has a storied pedigree as a pioneer of Okanagan viticulture and winemaking. 

This 23-acre vineyard was first planted with hybrid varieties in the 1970s before owner Alan Tyabji uprooted them during the 1988 great grape pull out, instead planting vinifera Bordeaux varieties that some thought would never survive.

Since those first plantings, Dark Horse Vineyard has been producing internationally-awarded wines with depth and poise. Nearly 40 years later, nothing can reign in our determination to create the most authentic articulations of our single vineyard wines.

The Climate

The vineyard sits on the west side of the valley, at a 350m elevation or 65m above the valley floor, keeping it frost-free with natural air drainage.

Exposure is east-south-east providing light but less warmth early in the day, carrying the subtle heat through to the late afternoon as the sun sets. This combination of factors is ideal for fostering full bodied, rich and ripe expressions of the noble varieties planted here.

The Soil

In a hot, dry, irrigated location, soil composition is critical for providing the desired levels of drainage and water retention for the varieties planted. Soils are comprised of alluvial fan material (rocks and gravel) with silt, resulting from glacial activity about 10,000 years ago.

This combination provides slow drainage with some water holding capacity. Berries from this site are small and with thick skins, delivering wines of concentration and tangible texture.

Derek Kontkanen

Derek Kontkanen’s love of science and his parents’ penchant for fine wine sparked his interest in winemaking from an early age in the small southern Ontario town called Wyebridge. This, combined with his fascination with biology and chemistry, fueled his desire to learn the art of winemaking. In 1997, Kontkanen moved to St. Catharines to complete an Honours Bachelor of Science degree at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University. Spending his summers working as a vineyard assistant at Inniskillin’s Niagara Estate Winery, he then decided to undertake graduate studies in this field, where he focused on Icewine fermentation. Kontkanen’s work has been published in scientific papers and earned him the Dessert Wine Trophy at the International Wine and Spirits competition three out of the past 10 years. Kontkanen was awarded an Alumni of Distinction award from this Alma Mater for his contribution to the wine industry.

Strategic Row Orientation

The row orientation creates natural air flow channels, running a cool evening breeze from the northern edge towards Hester Canyon, allowing the vines to rest and complex flavours to develop in the grapes.

NEstled in the Golden Mile Bench

Dark Horse Vineyard optimizes the ripening potential of its climate and natural topography. The land gently slants towards the southeast, accentuating the intensity of the morning light and warmth. Rows were planted parallel to the natural slope which provides sun exposure on both sides of the vine, enabling an even ripening.

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