Wine Culture Magazine

As the restaurant hits its stride, attention turns to food-friendly Pinot

The Legacy is Poplar Grove’s flagship Bordeaux blend—and gold medal winner of the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards. Photos courtesy of Poplar Grove Winery

As far back as 2007, when he and his wife Barbara bought Poplar Grove Winery, Tony Holler was already dreaming of Pinot Noir. At the time, the most purchased wines tended to be big, jammy reds, but he remembers thinking: “The Canadian wine consumer is going to get sophisticated so quickly and we need to go where they are going, not where they are now.”

Where we were going, he believed, was toward wines that were more complex, better structured, more elegant. In other words, Pinot Noir.

Now, at last, his dream is becoming reality. The Hollers recently bought some land at the south end of the Naramata Bench, and leased some more. “We’ve got a total 16 acres of Pinot Noir. Nine are in third leaf and the rest are in second leaf,” says Holler, the winery’s president. “There won’t be any Pinot Noir for a few years, but I’m really excited for the Pinot Noir vineyards.”

From its prime location on the slopes of Munson Mountain, Poplar Grove Winery enjoys stunning views over the
Okanagan Valley..

Meanwhile, the winery has become known for its luscious whites and robust reds, its Syrahs and Bordeaux varieties, including The Legacy, the powerful but refined blend that won the the gold medal (96 points) for The Legacy 2016 at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards. All four of the Hollers’ sons work for Poplar Grove—it’s truly a family business—and the winery has cemented its place among the very best in the province.

More recently, the Hollers took the winery restaurant over from the previous operator and, with the leadership of food and beverage manager Michael Ziff and executive chef Rob Ratcliffe, aim to make it one of the best in the entire valley.

Of course, reopening during a pandemic hasn’t been easy—Ziff calls it “a year and a half of challenges”—but, Holler says, “Like everything, when you have these frustrations, they always have a silver lining, and one of the silver linings is that you have time to train your staff, and the staff you get really want to contribute.”

The entire Holler family takes part in the success of Poplar Grove Winery.

Chef Ratcliffe, previously the senior sous chef at Hawksworth Restaurant, has introduced what he calls his “refined nostalgia” menu, based on the kinds of internationally flavoured foods he grew up with in London. There’s his delicate curry sauce for the halibut, his modern take on prawn toast and his burger, whose “American” cheese is made in house. “We’ve had lots of feedback from guests that ‘That’s the best burger I’ve ever had,’ ” Ziff says. “The restaurant is doing fabulously. And now with fall coming we’ll have time to apply a little more creativity to the menu.”

Integrating the restaurant with the winery “has been a huge benefit to the property,” Ziff adds. “Wine is priority number one. Everything is in an ambassadorial role to showcase the wine. People love memories of where they tasted a bottle of wine, and I want people to come here and have a glass of Poplar Grove wine with one of Rob’s signature dishes and say, ‘That was an amazing experience.’”

Soon there will be food-friendly Pinot Noir to elevate that experience even further. “It’s beautiful that there’s a wide variety of foods that work with Pinot Noir,” Holler says.

But we’ll have to wait just a little longer to try it. The winery has a rule that they won’t release a wine for three years, so even if they do their first crush in 2021 as planned, it won’t be released until 2024. And that, ultimately, is in Holler’s hands: “I’m primarily responsible for the Pinot Noir vineyards,” he says. “My sons said to me, ‘Dad, you wanted it, you’re going to work on it.’ ”

He laughs, and adds, “We’re really looking forward to it. You can’t sit on your laurels. You’ve got to keep going.”


Poplar Grove Winery
425 Middle Bench Rd N, Penticton
For more information, visit

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