Lightning Rock, started in 2017, is a relatively new kid on the block with a new vision for Summerland wineries. When a husband and wife duo, Jordan Kubek and Tyler Knight, decided to launch their own winery, they knew exactly what they wanted. Having been involved in wine making since 2011, they knew it was really important for them to farm their own fruit using organic practices. A big focus is placed on soil health; they focus on diversity of insects and cover crops on the vineyard. Composting is also a huge focus, especially for Tyler who farms the vineyards. The skins, seeds and stems of their fruit, as well as treechips, manures and kitchen composts are recycled and renewed back into the soil. The result is always very clean and deliciously crafted living wines.
Jordan was drawn into the wine industry when she was still young. She once studied and aspired to be a sommelier and came to the Okanagan to complete her training in 2010. She soon fell in love with the harvest and winemaking side of things. She joined Okanagan Crush Pad, a newly launched winery. The winery sponsored Jordan to study at Washington State University and gave her time off during Canadian long winters to spend time in the Southern Hemisphere. She assisted with harvests and learned about growing and harvesting while in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and South Africa.
Tyler grew up in the Okanagan and studied biology and entomology at UBC. He was still trying to figure out what to make of his career when he and Jordan met at a music festival in Salmon Arm. Jordan introduced him to the wine industry and they have been happily making wines together ever since.
By the time they decided to open their own winery in 2016, they had seen and traveled the world and had gained a lot of winemaking experience. Their new project was backed by Jordan’s father, Ron Kubek, who willingly moved back from his early retirement in Pennsylvania and lent a helping hand. Together as a family, they have purchased three vineyards; namely, Elysia Vineyard, Canyon View Vineyard, and St. Katharina’s Vineyard. Their dream of growing their own fruit and making the wines exactly the way they want has finally come true.
“When we first bought the vineyard, we were told by our neighbor that we had bought the Lightning Rock Vineyard. There is a large granite rock that is split perfectly in half on our land. Local rumors say it was hit by lightning during a spring storm.” Hence the winery name and the label. With the fruit of their hard labour, 20% of the vineyard will be certified organic by the end of this year.
“Summerland is one of the easier places to grown grapes organically with little rain and cold winters. It also has very unique geographic origins. A lot of the Okanagan is a big sandy bench but in Summerland, with a little higher elevation, there is a ton of micro climates, different rocks, and soils to explore. We have 3 unique sites that we can play with, each of them expressing very distinct terroir through the wines.”
Since their first vintage in 2017, Lightning Rock is known for their terroir-driven sparkling wine, claiming Jordan’s title as a “bubble queen of the valley.” All their wines are unfined and unfiltered with just a tiny hint of sulphur. So much love and care has been put into growing healthy fruit that it is not hard to taste happiness and healthiness in their wine that lights up your senses.
10 QUESTIONS with Lightning Rock Winery
Q1: How was your summer 2021?
Jordan (J): “It was hot, too hot! It was also dry and smoky! But our grapes are super hardy. We gave our grapes some seaweed spray so it helped them survive through the heat.”
Q2: Climate change is one of the most pressing issues today. How have the recent wild fires affected your business or your approach to winemaking and farming?
J: “With all the negative things that come with the forest fires, our approach to farming hasn’t changed because there are lots of positive sides as well. Ashes are actually good for the soil. A lot of plants in BC need a fire to grow. The harder one for us this year was the heat dome when it reached to 46℃ here. We will see how things will go with the climate change, but for us, it is about adjusting to a new normal and learning as much as we can from other places that go through similar things.”
Q3: On top of the climate change, there is a pandemic. How do you see your winery evolving through the pandemic time and in a post pandemic world?
J: “We started in 2017 as a winery and we didn’t sell our wines until December of 2018. 90% of our business was with restaurants in Vancouver at the time. We didn’t even have a tasting room or a big wine club. With the pandemic, we had to make a huge pivot and switched to direct consumer sales. With zoom tastings and so much social media, we really grew our wine club; it is a quarterly shipment of 6 wine bottles. I don’t know how much of that is the pandemic or us growing as a business but now we are selling out more wines than pre-pandemic times.”
Q4: What is the biggest joy working in a winery?
J: “We work so hard, share our wines with people and watch them experience it. That is just amazing. We are not trying to please a huge range of palettes, but people we do connect with, they are really strong supporters of us. Their excitement really fuels what we are doing.”
Q5: If you were not in the wine industry, what would you be?
J: “I almost joined the circus once….(She was a dancer for 17 years!) Maybe a diving instructor. Something outdoor, adventurous and chill. Tyler and I enjoyed lots of diving in between harvests when we were working in the Southern Hemisphere. The Galapagos was so cool!
Q6: What is your current favorite wine and how would you like to enjoy it?
J: “I have to choose a favorite from my babies? I can’t! But, just because it is a little bit cooler today, I would say Cannyonview Pinot Noir, and I would pair it with barbecued morel mushrooms with lots of butter. Fresh tomato pasta with basil and Manchego cheese would be really good too.”
Q7: “Where is your go-to-spots when you are off work?”
J: “Detonate Brewing is probably where we hang out most in Summerland. And, we love going to Pizzeria Tratto and Neighborhood Brewing in Penticton. For outdoor, we love going to Skaha Bluffs for climbing.”
Q8: How can people enjoy the Okanagan in the fall?
J: “Fall is the best time to visit the Okanagan! If you want to experience a harvest, you can contact your favorite winery and see if they need help. That would be fun. It is the time when all the food is ready. So bountiful. People are doing harvest dinners and restaurants are cooking with fresh harvest of the season.”
Q9: How is this year’s harvest looking?
J: “This year’s harvest is looking early because it was hot! Everything is ripening really well and we see very little disease pressure this year. I am excited for this harvest!”
Q10: In a few words, how would you best describe Lightning Rock?
J: “We are a truly independent, family owned and operated winery, making electric living wine!”