Sitting on the patio of Liquidity, looking out at the hills above Vaseux Lake, one could chalk up the view as just another stunning landscape from another Okanagan Falls hillside winery. That is, until the eye catches, in the foreground, a man-made addition—a standing, almost anthropoidal, piece of metal.
Even by eclectic Okanagan standards, Liquidity is no ordinary winery.
Besides the sculpture by BC artist Martha Sturdy, the winery grounds are home to other unnatural yet complementary works. Inside the tasting room and bistro, the walls are regularly hung with pieces by guest artists.
The wine, the bistro, and the art all reflect the taste of owner Ian MacDonald.
A businessman with a passion for art and design, MacDonald has realized his vision in one stunning location—two, if you count his magazine-cover-ready house on the Naramata Bench.
The bistro/gallery space itself is marked by clean lines, minimalist interiors, and a concrete patio with an infinity pool and panoramic view of the surroundings, including the Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
If it were known only for its art and design, Liquidity would be a worthwhile destination. But its wines are among the region’s best, the food award-winning.
The grapes, including pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, viognier, merlot, riesling and dornfelder, are grown on-site and are hand-harvested. Winemaker Alison Moyes, originally from Southern Ontario, is a certified sommelier with a degree in Oenology & Viticulture (from Brock University), and a winemaker who loves her pinot noir.
(Among other awards, Liquidity collected a silver medal for its 2014 Pinot Noir Estate at the Mondial des Pinots international competition in 2016.)
Menu items are sourced locally, from the on-site chef’s garden and area farmers. Exec Chef Simon Bouchard, formerly of Mission Hill Winery, Bearfoot Bistro, and The Vineyard Kitchen at Black Hills Estate Winery, heads the bistro.
Whether in the tasting room, dining area or patio, MacDonald is the consummate host. He’s also eager to greet visitors to his home, a marvel of design and engineering (a guesthouse sits cantilevered against the hillside) that overlooks Lake Okanagan. The home—which, like the bistro, MacDonald designed himself—is alive with contemporary artworks, including a piece by a former plastic surgeon who cuts up Marvel comics to create abstract 3D collages.
At Liquidity in September, visitors could soak in the detail and colour in portraits by Brooklyn-based Tim Okamura. The work melds traditional portraiture with urban, street-art flair—the kind of art one might expect in an East Vancouver gallery, not in the Okanagan.
MacDonald has known Okamura since the Liquidity owner’s Calgary days.
“I like people who have some technical skill,” MacDonald said of the artist. “People who have honed their craft, somebody who has found a place for their art. They might have technical skill but not know where to take it. Tim decided 30 years ago that he was going to paint portraits. He’s evolved dramatically since then.”
Born and raised in Montreal, MacDonald worked as the Marketing Manager for Salomon Sports, then became the vice-president of of sportswear-maker Sunice at the 1988 Winter Olympics. He fell in love with the Games and formed his own company, Moving Products Inc., to supply non-athletic uniforms to the event. He was still with Moving Products when he and his partners purchased the land that would become Liquidity; for the last five years, however, he has been devoting himself to the winery and bistro full-time.
Though he credits his outsider status for the perspective he brings to Liquidity, MacDonald is an enthusiastic supporter of Penticton. For this story, he ensured that the writer stayed at the new addition to Lakeside Resort, a local landmark since 1982. “The town hasn’t had any new additions in a long time,” he said.
He notes that the wine industry has invested millions to (successfully) develop a world-class level of wine-tasting. So far, though, the region has—by accident or luck—staved off busloads of tourists. Visiting the Okanagan “is a more relaxed and personal experience” compared to visiting other wine regions, he says.
It takes a little more effort to reach Liquidity, along with the other 21 wineries in Okanagan Falls. But it’s worth the trip, whether the visitor is an oenophile who wants to sample the product from the sub-region’s distinct terroir, a foodie who’s heard about the vine leaf-wrapped Haida Gwaii halibut, or an art lover with a taste for the unusual, like portraits styled with butterflies and graffiti.
“It’s hard to get people to stop and think about things,” MacDonald said. “After awhile, we all start to run on autopilot. I see Liquidity as a way to let people reconnect with their inner child, to get them to stop and take a look around and enjoy the moment. It’s why I’m in this business. People walk through the door and light up.”