Retirement and remarkable wine

What does a winemaker do when he retires after 37 years with the same company?

He pulls the best bottles out of the cellar and throws a party, of course.

That’s exactly what Howard Soon did when he hosted his final soiree before retiring from Sandhill Wines at Oak+Cru at the Delta Grand hotel in Kelowna.

Guests mingled with Soon at Oak+Cru restaurant’s private lagoon-side patio to start and enjoyed Sandhill’s 2016 rose paired with a spot-prawn appetizer.

From then, there was a steady flow of wine and small plates from the 2016 Pinot Gris with seared sablefish and 2016 Chardonnay accompanied by roast chicken to 2014 Merlot matched to beef tenderloin and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot with little lamb chops served in a martini glass.

The group then ambled over to Oak+Cru’s wine-experience cellar for vertical flights of 2012 and 2012 Sangiovese and 2008 and 2009 Peitit Verdot paired to chocolate deserts.

The Grand’s executive chef, Iain Rennie, custom-designed the menu to match Soon’s wines.

Soon started with Calona Wines in 1980 and has been with the company through its ownership change to Andrew Peller Estates, which includes the Calona, Conviction, Peller, Wayne Gretzky, Red Rooster and Sandhill.

With 37 vintages on his resume, Soon was the longest-serving winemaker in Canada.

Along the way, Soon won many awards for his winemaking and wines and innovated in the vineyard and winery.

The day after officially retiring, Soon took off on a trip to England with his wife, Wendy.

He expects to travel and garden more, put some miles on the Porsche and spend more time with his family and grandkids in retirement.

He’s also open to some wine side projects and getting involved with wine education.

The celebration of Howard isn’t over.

Another invite-only reception is scheduled for Aug. 17 at Sandhill.

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