The wines of See Ya Later Ranch celebrate the lively legacy of Major Hugh Fraser, a colourful character who purchased the property high above the Okanagan Valley in 1919.
Born in Montreal in 1885, Hugh Fraser graduated from McGill University in 1912 and was an accountant until the outbreak of war in 1914. He enlisted immediately and was stationed in France until he was captured by German troops in 1916. When Armistice was signed in 1918, Major Fraser was released from his prisoner-of-war camp. He returned to Canada and accepted an invitation from a friend, Naramata playwright C.C. Atkins, to visit the Okanagan. He loved the wild scenic valley - it was a perfect fit for his outgoing personality - and he soon purchased the Hawthorne Ranch.
Here, near the town of Okanagan Falls, he planted vines and seeded a legend. The ranch was his home for more than 45 years, each year adding to a rich mix of truth and fiction involving elaborate gatherings, plenty of dogs, and a wife from Ontario, who remained on the ranch for three years. The Major was a prolific letter-writer, and the story is that he signed his correspondence with the light-hearted note, "See Ya Later".
Known to all in the valley as a single, childless man content to spend most of his life with his canine companions, the Major became a favourite among the locals. He had a kind nature, threw lavish parties and loved dogs of all shapes and sizes, although according to locals, Scotch Collies were one of his favourite breeds. His many four-legged friends were given free run of the ranch and were ultimately laid to rest in a doggie cemetery that today's visitors can explore.
The Major lived at the ranch until 1966 before moving 24 kilometers (15 miles) north to Penticton, where he became active in community projects. He was a patron of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and served as its president for five years, and was also a director of the Penticton chapter of the Red Cross for 10 years.
The Major passed away in 1970 at the age of 85. Unfortunately, with no immediate family in the area, most of his possessions and treasures did not remain in the valley, although some of his prized belongings were donated to the Penticton Museum.
These days, visitors love See Ya Later Ranch for its well-crafted VQA wines served in an unbeatable setting. The tasting room and wine shop are located in the Major's 1900's home - made of original hand-split stone - while the patio is the perfect perch to enjoy a bottle of wine and take in the view of the surrounding valley, vineyards and lakes.
In a nod to the Major's lifetime of canine companionship, the winery welcomes four-legged family members, with a Barking Lot for them to play in. Dog lovers will also get a kick out of the Major's pet cemetery, where each of his favourite pets was given a grand burial and headstone to celebrate its life. The oldest headstone marks "Jimmy My Pal", who lived from 1917 to 1921. There are 12 headstones in total, noting the passing of Ping, Rex, Nelly, Spud, Haggis and Eulita to name a few. His favourite pets, including Ping, Jimmy and Rex, were given engraved headstones. The last headstone is marked Rover, who was buried in 1962.
The small golden dog with wings on the See Ya Later Ranch labels pays homage to Major Fraser's beloved pets.