Wine Culture Magazine

Winemaker Kaylee Barss crafts small batch wines from Italian grapes and more, making Red Barn Winery at Jagged Rock Vineyard a destination of distinction for wine lovers 

Photo courtesy of Red Barn Winery

In the world of wine, finding a brand voice and wine style takes courage. In B.C.’s Okanagan Valley where land is pricey and labor transient, it takes a strong team and long term financial commitment to thrive. Throw climate change into the mix and it’s challenging to say the least. It is from this backdrop that a new winery steps onto the stage, pushing the envelope with a young winemaker, an organic protocol for vineyard and winery, and small batch wine production from grapes that’ll have you asking, “am I in Italy?” Curiosity is fuelling success for Red Barn Winery as wine lovers venture out to discover the tastes and styles of Red Barn wine. 

What’s the buzz? 

What began with vine plantings in 2000, on the sandy soils of the Black Sage Bench, in the Okanagan Valley’s most famous sub-appellation, is today Red Barn Winery at Jagged Rock Vineyard. Jagged Rock refers to the monolith that towers above the vineyard at 1000 feet. In what is already a hotspot, this monolith radiates heat and keeps the vines ripening long after the sun has set. Italian grape varieties which naturally retain acidity in this type of climate are making this vineyard viable and the wines unique for B.C.. After a recent renovation of the Red Barn, originally a farm warehouse, the new winery and tasting room delight as one perfect space for the guests and winemaker Kaylee Barss. 

Photo courtesy of Red Barn Winery

Vernon-born and Brock University educated Barss has exceptional sensory skills. She interned in Beamsville, Ontario and then returned to the valley as assistant winemaker at Checkmate Winery where she was mentored by the humble and very talented Phil McGahan. Her new assignment focuses on creating very aromatic, super fresh wine styles that are food friendly and easy to consume – maybe dangerously so. With grapes like Barbera and Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Barss has plenty of variety from which to create. One look at the bottle labels and the concept is clear, this is an artists’ studio focused on capturing each grape’s unique and vibrant expression. Using interesting vessels like concrete eggs from Italy, as large as 700 liters, stainless steel vats and ceramic jars, Barss is producing interesting styles of wine. From single variety Barbera, a common grape variety in Piemonte, soon to be released, to the Tuscan variety Sangiovese which features prominently in the 2021 Rosé, you might be asking if this is the new Italy? But just to bring us back to experimental B.C. she makes an interesting blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that is co-fermented with no barrel contact. Yes, she’s pushing the envelope.

Red Barn at Jagged Rock was certified organic in 2021 for viticulture and wine making practices. As climate change continues to impact farming in the Okanagan valley, the team is working to improve soil health through the use of organic matter and abstaining from chemical fertilizers or pesticides. It’s their commitment to growing healthy grapes and making good wine for the foreseeable future. Today wine lovers want more information about and in person experience with the wines they consume and Red Barn is ready. It’s unique tasting room, interesting wines, and a space for creativity that offers wine nerds and lovers alike a first hand look at the source of grapes and wine. One thing is clear, Red Barn at Jagged Rock is molto bene

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