Hidden Chapel Winery
Hidden Chapel Winery combines a unique setting with tasty wines
Back in 1994, Paul Rivard lived on the coast and was vacationing in Manning Park. He saw a little church going by in a couple of pieces on a truck.
“I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool. I wonder where it’s going,’” he recalls.
Little did he know that a couple decades later, that church would become an important part of his life.
Rivard now runs Hidden Chapel Winery, a small boutique winery on Pinehill Road north of Oliver. The little church, which only seats about six people, is tucked back in a wooded area behind the wine cellar.
The wines, which include white, rosé, and red, are all playfully named on a religious theme, sometimes with wedding connotations. Indeed, Hidden Chapel has hosted small weddings.
“The last one was for a lady who got married,” he said. “We brought a harp in. It looked like it was going to rain that day, so we set up a couple of tents. It went over really nice. They went on to the reception in Penticton. I don’t do full service. It’s basically just a wedding and then pictures in the yard and a toast to the bride.”
The story of how Rivard’s life came to intersect with the little chapel is so unusual that it hints at divine intervention.
Born and raised in the Lower Mainland, he learned steel fabrication at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He worked 13 year for Canadian National Railway as a steel fabricator, ending up in Vernon working as a bridge builder for Rapid-Span.
“Then I went back into goldsmithing because it wasn’t so dirty,” he said, adding that he worked for a few local jewelers, running his shop in the basement of a jewelry store.
That’s when he met Deborah Wilde, who had bought the Oliver property in 2005 with her ex, establishing the winery in 2009. Rivard and Wilde became a couple, and he moved to Oliver to become a winemaker.
Sadly, Wilde died in October 2021. Until her will is probated, he’s “just a caretaker.”
Rivard celebrated her legacy by introducing a bold rosé, Angels Gone Wilde, “in loving memory of Deborah Wilde, founder and the spirit of Hidden Chapel.” The small batch – just 20 cases – is now sold out.
The chapel, it turns out, was built for the previous “really religious” landowner by her son-in-law on Vancouver Island. When he told her he was bringing her a chapel, she thought she was getting a birdhouse, Rivard said.
It gives the property a unique setting, with a little stone staircase through the woods, a fireplace, a guesthouse, and several charming picnic spots.
Visitors are drawn to the atmosphere, the friendliness, and of course the fabulous wines.
“I have a very good consultant, Christine Leroux,” said Rivard. “She’s trained in Bordeaux, France. She comes in and sniffs it and tells me what to do.”
As a small boutique winery, Hidden Chapel only produces about 1,500 cases a year. Still, it’s enough to keep Rivard very busy.
He grows the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on three acres, and sources the other varieties from different Oliver-area growers.
“You never know what you’re going to get from year to year,” he said. “You build your blends accordingly depending on the volume of juice and wine that you have.”
Most of the wines are blends. Two popular exceptions are Holy Smoke, a Malbec, and Shotgun Wedding, a Cabernet Sauvignon – both reds.
Asked about wines that are unique and popular, Rivard mentions a few favourites.
Blushing Bride is a dark rosé with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Riesling. Rivard said he left it on the skins for three days to get the colour he wanted.
St. Nick, a Malbec rosé, was created similarly.
White Wedding is a very popular blend, he says. It’s a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Riesling.
Most of the wine is sold to walk-in customers at the winery, but for a while Rivard sold it through a Vancouver restaurant and a private liquor store.
He has a wine club that he was shipping to twice a year, though that’s been on hold since Wilde passed.
“I think one reason we’re popular is we don’t push it,” says Rivard. “The wine speaks for itself. It’s all very good. You don’t have to [push it]. You just make friends. People come in, you talk to them, you have a good time, and they come back and then walk out with a box of wine.”
It's about the experience as much as the wine.
Hidden Chapel charges a fee for wine tasting, but visitors can take away their etched Hidden Chapel wine glasses.
And, as Rivard points out, visitors can always go up to the chapel for a little prayer.
“The fact that we have a chapel here that people can visit is nice,” he said. “When people come in, if there’s 20 people in the tasting room, I can send them up to the chapel and they can get a faith lift for a little while. And then come in and try the wine.”
Future plans are up in the air until Wilde’s will is probated, but Rivard hopes to continue running the winery.
“What else am I going to do other than goldsmithing?” he responds.
“I do want to do a little bistro here and I want to get a food trailer set up by the entrance to the cellar,” he adds.
And he may put in a showcase for his gold jewelry that people can admire as they sip their wine.
Story and photos by Richard McGuire
Hidden Chapel Winery
482 Pinehill Road,
Oliver, BC V0H 1T5