Wine Culture Magazine

B.C.’s first wine lifestyle brand is fragrant with sage and pine and infused with rosé vibes

The “Birch merch” is designed to capture the distinctive Okanagan scent
of sagebrush and Ponderosa pine. Photo courtesy of Birch Block Vineyards

Any modern shopper is familiar with the now-ubiquitous upscale boutiques found in any urban centre, sparely but beautifully curated with unique fashion and accessories, maker goods, perhaps some locavore treats and a sprinkle of home décor—including divine-smelling scented candles and other products. They’re known as lifestyle stores, and we all love them. 

But are you ready for a B.C. lifestyle winery brand?

The style maven behind this made-in-B.C. innovation is Sarah Bancroft, co-founder with her husband Murray Bancroft of Birch Block Vineyard, located on a former llama and sheep farm in Kaleden. A former fashion buyer and editor, Sarah soon transformed the A-frame house on the property into a farmhouse-chic vacation rental with polished concrete floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and views of vineyards and wild horses in the distance. Murray, currently the vice-president of innovation at vegan food company Big Mountain Foods, helped design a true chef’s kitchen, complete with Italian appliances. 

All the Birch Block Guesthouse needed was a final touch of ambiance, something that captured the spirit of a family-owned and operated vineyard where the couple has put in plenty of sweat equity. “You want to walk into a room or a house and get a feeling,” Sarah says. The feeling she set out to capture was an end-of-day moment in the South Okanagan, with a whiff of sage coming from the warm earth, perhaps the smell of Ponderosa pine needles clinging to your bare feet, as you relax  with a glass of wine. 

She knew that pine and sage were the iconic, nostalgic Okanagan scents she wanted to capture under the winery brand, “but I had to find the right suppliers, and the right wine.” Birch Block is primarily known for its rosé and pét-nat, but it’s the earthy Pinot Noir, with subtle smoky tobacco and white pepper, that inspired her. She hand-foraged South Okanagan sage, a scent that lingers in some of the fine wine from the region. “Sage has so many natural properties,” she says, acknowledging its ancient Indigenous uses. “I knew it had to be in a bath soak.” 

End of day in the Okanagan has a special mood. Getty Images photo

Bancroft took the sage leaves to Kristen Lambourne at Forest Etiquette, a Vancouver-Island-based maker of wildcrafted body, skin and wellness products (@forestetiquette on Instagram, and available from an Etsy storefront and at various B.C. boutiques). The resulting collaboration is a pairing like no other: the aromas of the Okanagan Ponderosa Pine Candle and Okanagan Sagebrush Rosé Bath Soak (with pink salt) delicately echo notes found in the wine. Like any great pairing, they’re best enjoyed together. 

“People want to be intentional about their wine consumption now, and one way to do that is to ritualize it,” Bancroft says. She describes the Birch Block Guesthouse’s vineyard-view tub as an ideal spot for a restoratively scented soak and sip—and a moment that can be recreated at home.

A bottle of the wine and a jarred candle and bath soak (so headily fragranced, it’s almost a room fragrance in itself) come packaged together in a Birch Merch Collection limited edition pack that’s perfect for gifting. Each product is also available separately ( 

Coming next is the upcoming release of a unisex sage fragrance, inspired by the local tradition of so-called “cowboy cologne,” a scent that Bancroft says morphs with the character of each wearer. “Perfume smells different on everyone, which makes sense, because wine tastes different to everyone, too.”  

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