Photo: David and Melanie Flotten (left); Christy and Daniel Bibby
2735 Green Lake Road,
Okanagan Falls, BC
Seven or eight years ago, Daniel and Christy Bibby spent a
weekend at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery and came away wanting to be in the wine
business as well.
Columbia’s burgeoning wine industry, that’s a
familiar story. It just took time to realize the dream of Nighthawk Vineyards,
which opened this summer on a vineyard a kilometre or so past See Ya Later Ranch
In fact, there is a Nighthawk sign on the See Ya Later
Vineyard; and visitors to Nighthawk often are referred by See Ya Later.
“They have been fantastic neighbours to us,” says David
Flotten, a partner at Nighthawk with his wife, Melanie.
“One of the nice things about the Okanagan wine industry is
that there are so many small wineries,” Daniel adds. “They really work together
and help each other out. We have had everything from viticultural advice to
loans of equipment … all kinds of different things. It is a great community.”
Who would not want to be part of a community like that?
Born in Edmonton
in 1968, Daniel has come into the wine industry by way of the hospitality
“I was an executive chef for a number of years,” he says. “Then
I became a director of food and beverage; then a director of operations; a
hotel manager and a general manager. Christy and I and the kids have
transferred back and forth.”
Currently, he is the general manager of the Delta Grand
Okanagan, one of Kelowna’s
major hotels, and the ninth hotel at which he has worked.
Christy was born in Brampton, ON, and grew up
The mother of four grown-up children, she is an education professional,
specializing in special needs and behaviour. She also looks after Nighthawk’s
wine shop and the accounting.
David, their partner, was born in Edmonton in 1969. He was in the same Grade
Two class as Daniel. Later, the two worked together in several restaurants.
“When I left that behind, I became an electrician,” David
says. With that skill, he now installs diagnostic imaging equipment for the
medical industry in western Canada.
Melanie has had a career in government and currently is the executive assistant
to Agriculture Canada’s
regional director in Summerland.
“We have complementary talents,” David says. “Dan is a very
good businessman, a good spokesperson, a good sales person. I am excellent at
keeping equipment working, and at production.
But we all cross over: this is a huge team effort here. We all do a bit
“We have always loved this valley,” Daniel says, referring
to the Okanagan. “At the hotel, we started to have more and more visitors and
clients who would ask to be taken to wineries. We had to find different pockets
of wineries all the time. We ended exploring the whole valley from top to
bottom. Eventually, we started falling in love with it.”
Then came the weekend at Burrowing Owl.
“We woke up in the morning and said, how can we make this
our lifestyle?” Daniel recalls. “On our drive back, we started to see a few
vineyards for sale. We started to do some research. We happened to be looking
on line and we found this place.”
Nighthawk Vineyards is a charming place, with a log house
and another building now the wine shop, perched on a plateau. It looks out over
the vineyard which slopes toward Green
, an alkaline but
Daniel and Christy’s initial offer for the vineyard fell
through. The capital they needed was contingent on selling their home in Kelowna and, at the time,
they could not do it. But the vineyard nagged at them for years.
“We would come up here every year for five years, driving
past the gates, looking in,” Daniel says. “Eventually, the owners called us
The situation had changed by this time, which was 2014. The
owners had an urgent reason to sell. Daniel and Christy had partners, and both
couple were able to sell their homes.
David and Melanie, also wanting a lifestyle change, had just
moved to the Okanagan in 2014 from Nanaimo
“We had been talking about this dream for quite some time,”
Daniel says. “Dave and Melanie are very good friends of ours. As the dream started to come together, we
said, let’s work together.”
The 10-acre vineyard is planted to three varieties: five
acres of Gewürztraminer, three of Pinot Noir and two of Chardonnay. Some of the
vines are 15 years old.
The previous owner had been selling the Gewürztraminer to
Desert Hills Estate Winery and that winery had been winning awards with that
wine. When Daniel and David acquired the vineyard, they also arranged to have
Desert Hills make some of the initial Nighthawk wines. In the 2015 vintage,
they turned to Matt Dumayne, the chief winemaker at Okanagan
Crush Pad Winery
“We are doing part of the winemaking here, but under Matt’s
Daniel says. “It is a great learning process for us.”
It is likely it could be all in the family one day. Daniel
and Christy’s son, Dakota, who worked the 2015 crush at a major winery, is
studying viticulture and enology.
“We always plan on remaining a farm gate winery,” Daniel
says. “I always want to be in touch with our guests. What is a real charge with
us is to be able to walk the vineyard with people and talk about what makes the
grapes grow; and to taste them off the vines.”
The goal is to grow the winery to a production of 4,000 or
5,000 cases, using their own grapes and purchased grapes, including a long term
contract with a grower near Oliver.
The winery name, and the vineyard name before that, is
rooted in nature.
“It was named for the nighthawks that come and nest in this
valley,” Daniel recounts. “They are a unique bird to Canada; usually a warm climate
bird. They come here because this is the northern tip of the Sonoran dessert.”
The labels are by Kelowna
artist Alex Fong, reflecting the enchanting views of the vineyard that inspired
him to paint two canvasses for the partners.
Here are notes on the wines.
Nighthawk Pinot Gris
2014 ($18.90 for 56 cases). Forty-eight hours of skin contact contributed
to this wine’s cleanly focussed aromas and flavours … melon, apple, citrus. The
finish is crisp and refreshing. 90.
Gewürztraminer 2014 ($19.90 for 112 cases). This wine has the intense
aromas and flavours – lychee, spice and ginger – for which this terroir is
noted. The wine has a lingering dry finish. 90.
2014 ($21.90 for 112 cases). The winery describes this as “decadent” –
which I take refers to juicy, fleshy texture. The aromas of apricot and peach
are intense, lingering on the long finish. 90.
Nighthawk Merlot 2011
($24.90 for 56 cases). This wine had 18 months in French and American oak
barrels. It has aromas and flavours of black currant, plum and black olives.
Sauvignon 2011 ($29.90 for 112 cases). Ths wine spent 20 months in French
and American oak. It begins with aromas of toasted oak, vanilla and cherry. It
has long ripe tannins but with a firm, ageworthy texture. 89.
Nighthawk Syrah 2011
($31.90 for 56 cases). This wine spent 20 months in oak. Big and bold, the meaty and berry flavours
are bracketed by pepper on the nose and on the finish. 91.