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Back Door Winery
March 28, 2022 | Back Door Winery

Back Door Winery embraces prohibition and banking history

News Release: March 21, 2022

Back Door Winery embraces prohibition and banking history

(SUMMERLAND, B.C.) - The crow has left its nest at Back Door Winery.

A new chapter begins under owner Jesse Gill, who is creating a new story for the Okanagan winery established in 2015, focused on unlocking the region’s prohibition era from the roaring 1920’s and its banking history. 

Gill knows the banking industry well as he was a commercial and agricultural banker, who financed several vineyard operations in the Okanagan prior to purchasing Back Door Winery in December 2020. 

Back Door Winery was built as a farmhouse during prohibition and the banking system at the time, Gill said, was a lot different where “risk” was assessed based a lot on individual character and loans approved by the local banker. Prohibition and banking were connected at that time. 

“As prohibition ended, there was a ‘boom’ of liquor related establishments that were founded and in turn funded by bankers,” said Gill. “Summerland has a rich banking history during this period and there is a historical attachment with the Back Door Winery building and property.  With my banking background, the seed of the rebrand started from here and it just all came together to rebrand and recreate Back Door Winery.”  

During the prohibition era, which ended in B.C. in 1921, there was an impact on the economy, specifically the liquor service industry/manufacturing sector.  For Canada, prohibition was enacted one province at a time between 1900 to 1918 and took effect in B.C. in 1917. Prohibition proved difficult to enforce and led to corruption - for example, Walter Findlay, B.C.’s prohibition commissioner, was caught smuggling a trainload of rye worth an estimated $1M in today's money from Ontario,” said Gill. “British Columbians quickly soured on the experiment and in 1921 the province became one of the first to rescind the law and introduce a system of government liquor stores.

“To work around it, individuals received prescriptions from their doctor and filled their alcohol requirement from the pharmacy,” continued Gill. “Some people just skipped the prescription and opted to purchase alcohol from suppliers from their ‘Back Door.’”  

As the prohibition era, especially rum running, was popular in the Okanagan, Gill’s great grandfather immigrated to Canada and started his family’s agricultural roots by owning and operating a peach orchard for a few years before moving to Vancouver Island.

Working with Okanagan vineyards, Gill saw an opportunity in 2008 and bought land in Oliver. A vineyard was planted and slowly evolved into Okanagan Hills Estate Winery Corp. In 2014, where they have Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. In 2020 Back Door Winery was acquired and Muscat, Merlot and Pinot Meunier grapes were added to the portfolio. 

“I was up here and I looked around and I thought, this is a model that I see growing,” said Gill. “The vineyard, winery sector, I saw as a potential for good growth.

“It was something that I felt that I wanted to be a part of,” Gill continued, as he has 50 acres of vineyards between Double Barrel Vineyard in Oliver and Back Door Winery.

The rebranding of Back Door Winery includes new names for existing wines and new vintages being made by award-winning winemaker Lee Holland.

“The winery and labels are about giving our clients the historical experience and perspective of the prohibition era and banking in Canada,” said Gill. 


About Back Door Winery: Located in gorgeous Summerland alongside Highway 97, Back Door Winery has been making award-winning wine since 2015. In that time, the winery has received seven awards including from All Canadian Gold and Bronze, Wine Align and BC Wine Awards. Back Door Winery offers a great selection of White, Rose, Red, Sparkling and Dessert wines. In 2020, Back Door Winery was purchased by Jesse Gill, who owns the Okanagan Hills Estate Winery Corporation in Oliver. Gill grew up in an agricultural family in Abbotsford and is looking to take Back Door Winery products to another level, which starts with new award-winning winemaker Lee Holland.



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