Announcing the 2023 Best Performing Small Winery of the Year

Deep Roots Winery

by Geoffrey Moss, MW

The National Wine Awards of Canada is thrilled to announce that Deep Roots Winery on the Naramata Bench is the 2023 Best Performing Small Winery of the Year.  

Deep Roots had the best-scoring top five wines in the competition among wineries producing 10,000 cases or fewer. Their 2020 Reserve Chardonnay earned a platinum medal, one of only three Chardonnays to do so, joined by four gold medals across an impressive range of categories. 

This is the culmination of years of hard work for the Hardman family, who have — you guessed it — deep roots on the Naramata Bench. Winemaker Will Hardman is part of the fourth generation farming the property. It was his dad, Bryan, who transitioned the family farm from apples to grapes beginning in 2003. Today, they steward 19 acres across two Naramata vineyards, using almost exclusively estate fruit. 

Winemaker Will Hardman (left) and father Bryan at their Naramata winery overlooking Okanagan Lake

The plan was never to start a winery. Bryan originally sold fruit to CedarCreek and Lake Breeze, among others, planting varieties that were in demand. That changed when Will started to show an interest in the wine business. They broke ground on the winery in 2012, giving them the ability to “control some of [their] own destiny,” according to Bryan. The first vintage was produced in the corner of a neighbouring winery. From nine barrels, they’ve grown their production to 4,500 cases, which are largely sold through their tasting room and wine club. 

Walking Hardman Vineyard, adjacent to the winery, which slopes towards Okanagan Lake,  benefiting from the lake effect.

The Hardman Vineyard, located at the winery below Naramata Road, is largely planted to merlot, malbec and gamay. The latter has become one of their signatures, in part because the 3.5-acre block is one of the largest plantings on the Naramata Bench. “No one else has got anywhere near that amount,” says Bryan. It has consistently done well at the National Wine Awards — including a platinum medal in 2015 that propelled them to number five among small wineries in Canada — and this year earned a gold medal

Further north, past the village of Naramata, is Rayner Vineyard. It is a stunning property that shows the Hardman’s commitment to winegrowing. There are four distinct blocks of Chardonnay, Malbec, Pinot Gris, and Syrah, each individually fenced, where the undulating hillside and ravines relent to allow a few acres to be planted. Granite rock overlooking the vineyard radiates heat through the day. “On a fall day, it’s about three to four degrees warmer,” says Bryan.

The view towards Penticton from the southern edge of Rayner Vineyard.

It is not easy to farm — just ask assistant winemaker Paul Rhodenizer — but is clearly worth the effort. The fruit garnered a following among Okanagan winemakers before Deep Roots started using it all themselves. This year, it was the source for the platinum 2020 Reserve Chardonnay and gold medal 2020 Syrah. The Parentage Red, a Syrah-dominant blend named in honour of Bryan’s Mom, also draws from the property. 

The Syrah block at the north end of Rayner Vineyard.

Indeed, there is a clear sense of family that runs through all of Deep Roots. Look no further than the Sauvignon Blanc, which Will started making in 2015 for Bryan, who loves the grape. Both rightfully deserve a lot of credit — not just for the Sauvignon Blanc’s gold medal, but for the winery’s entire performance this year. Hats off to them, and the entire team at Deep Roots. 

Here are Deep Roots highest scoring wines:


Deep Roots Reserve Chardonnay 2020


Deep Roots Parentage Red 2020

Deep Roots Gamay 2022

Deep Roots Syrah 2020

Deep Roots Sauvignon Blanc 2022


Deep Roots Rhododendron Pinot Gris 2022


Deep Roots Viognier 2022

Deep Roots Unoaked Chardonnay 2022

Deep Roots Reserve Chardonnay 2021

Deep Roots Malbec 2020

NWAC 2023 Sponsors: