A vision of sustainability and the stunning home at Sage Hills Winery
Words Natalie Bruckner
Photography courtesy Peter Wingfield
The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built.” Reflecting on these words by the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s as if he was referring to this property in Summerland—the one I had the privilege of exploring on yet another blue-sky fall day here in the Okanagan.
Nestled gracefully on the mountainside, a breathtaking panorama unfolds, revealing Okanagan Lake stretching majestically below. To the north, Peachland graces the horizon, while to the south, Penticton beckons with its rustic charm. Here, the melodies of the infinity pool harmonize with the sweet notes of birdsong, creating a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of life. This is Sage Hills Winery.
Established in 2006, this property seems to share an ageless connection with the land, seamlessly integrating with its surroundings—an integral part of the natural poetry that has unfolded for centuries.
It’s no surprise that the current owners, Rick Thrussell and his wife Toby, attribute the design of this architectural masterpiece to the influence of the aforementioned Frank Lloyd Wright.
“When we designed the home, I wanted everything to be very modest. Even the façade deliberately avoids the ostentatious. It’s a philosophy of ‘hide the elephant,’ avoiding grandiosity to embrace understatement, a subtlety that, to me, exudes even greater sophistication,” says Rick.
The couple’s journey since acquiring the 10.36-acre parcel has been nothing short of extraordinary. Their vision extended to cultivating vineyards, creating a sustainable, certified-organic winery with state-of-the-art wine-making equipment, an inviting tasting room and, eventually, a spacious outdoor patio.
“Our goal was to nurture grapes perfectly suited to the unique character of our site,” Rick explains, encapsulating the essence of their daring venture.
Turning such a dream into reality required a profound vision and two years of construction. Even the house underwent numerous design iterations to ensure every aspect aligned seamlessly with the envisioned future.
“We crafted a 3D model, subjecting it to rotations to guarantee that its bedrock orientation allowed for optimal light penetration without succumbing to excess solar gain,” Rick shares.
In its essence, the home exudes timelessness, yet, as Rick points out, practicality takes precedence.
“I love Alucobond, for example, as it’s very low-maintenance—rain actually cleans it. And as for the driveway, I can clean the entire thing with nothing more than a leaf blower,” he adds with a hearty laugh.
Strolling along the driveway—its stamped concrete artfully mimics granite—and past the helicopter pad on the left toward the residence, an enchanting union of architectural brilliance and natural grace unfolds. The unassuming front door serves as a harbinger of the inviting warmth that characterizes the interior.
“Modern contemporary homes often risk feeling cold, so I sought to infuse warmth into every corner,” says Rick, sharing his design ethos.
Stepping inside, an instant feeling of “home” wraps around me. The acoustics, almost magically muted, weave a soothing ambience that harmonizes with the feng-shui-inspired lines of the space and the soft, muted colours. Despite its generous 4,576 square feet of interior living space, it feels remarkably cosy. Turning to the left I find a snug den—a tranquil sanctuary offering a peaceful retreat with a captivating view that unfolds over the expanse of the lake.
Emerging from the den, a grand kitchen stands before me. It’s a culinary haven with a sprawling preparation area that embodies the essence of clean lines and simple-yet-exquisite design. Every element is meticulously flush and understated, contributing to the creation of a space that exudes harmony. Overhead, flyovers in the ceilings elevate the aesthetic appeal and imbue the acoustics with a comforting warmth. I imagine, as the seasons shift, the floor-to-ceiling glass doors in the kitchen graciously yield to the allure of the pool area and deck.
To the left of the kitchen, steps lead to an elevated dining area adorned with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Here, a double-sided fireplace is enveloped in Banff rock from Mount Rundle. Beyond the dining area is the lounge, cantilevered daringly over the rock below, presenting a panoramic theatre of almost 230-degree lake views. I can envision this space not only as the perfect setting for capturing mesmerizing sunsets, but also as a stage for an auditory symphony, thanks to its flawless acoustics, enhanced by the presence of carpets featuring a luxurious combination of rubber underlay and organic wool.
Rick, sharing insights into the interior, remarks, “The wood, weathered by time, comes from old-growth comb-faced material—a remnant from previous projects. It infuses the space with warmth.”
His vision was clear—to craft an architectural masterpiece that transcends personal taste, where modesty becomes the linchpin of its allure.
Accessible from these spaces is the seamless connection to the pool deck—a retreat where an outdoor kitchen and an infinity pool elevate the sensory experience.
As Nate Cassie, partner at Hall Cassie Real Estate Group, aptly remarks, “It doesn’t get any better than that.” He makes a valid point.
Retracing my steps toward the front door, I veer left, discovering a discreet powder room and then the grandeur of the master suite. This private haven features a spacious walk-in closet and an exquisite bathroom with a rounded shower room—a design gem visible from the exterior.
The stairs to the lower level boast floor-to-ceiling glass, offering 15-foot-high views of meticulously manicured gardens. Venturing further, the first nook reveals a practical mudroom and three-car garage. Beyond lies a cedar-scented wine room and then, the beating heart of the home, a mechanical area showcasing the geothermal system.
Across the hallway lies the home theatre room with an adjoining bar area nestled seamlessly into the rock. Three additional bedrooms, named The Vancouver Room, The Okanagan Room and The Arbutus Room, offer distinct yet spectacular views, with each adorned in muted hues reflecting their names. On this level, a shared bathroom and an en suite for The Arbutus Room provide a unique shower experience with views extending over the lake and vineyard below.
As expected of a home of this caliber, there is a state-of-the-art Crestron smart home system, orchestrating everything from security to a curated musical ambience.
The house may stand as a centrepiece, yet Sage Hills offers much more—a captivating organic winery and accompanying structures. Upon entering Sage Hills Winery, I discover an elegant building housing wine operations and a chic tasting room, adorned with solar panels that make Sage Hills the district’s largest solar energy generator.
Outdoors, an inviting patio emerges, offering wine and charcuterie delights. Across the horizon, a newly erected 80-by-40-foot two-storey outbuilding beckons with versatility, designed for accommodations, storage and expanded winery operations.
The vineyards, a testament to organic farming principles, steer clear of synthetic chemicals.
“It was thanks to my youngest son, Keenan, who became a winemaker in 2018, that we ventured down the natural-wine-making path,” says Rick.
The 10 acres of Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris grapes benefit from drip irrigation for precision. Sage Hills pioneers as one of the first net-zero wineries in the Okanagan Valley, crafting 100 per cent vegan wines.
While this property stands as a paragon of perfection for those with a discerning eye, its allure extends beyond its boutique charm. It beckons visionaries to seize the opportunity to expand operations and imprint their unique identity upon it.
As Rick and Toby get ready to embark on a new chapter, the legacy they leave behind is a true testament to their vision and commitment. I joke with Rick that he’s done all the hard work, now someone can just come in and reap the benefits.
“You’re not wrong,” he says.
Sage Hills stands not just as a home but as a living ode to the organic harmony between architecture, nature and the art of winemaking.
Further details on the Sage Hills Winery listing are available through Nate Cassie, Hall Cassie Real Estate Group, Angell Hasman & Associates Realty Okanagan, 250-869-7995
- Architect: DGBK
- Interior design/cabinetry: Redl Kitchen Studio
- Structural engineer: Eric Karsh
- Contractor: Brian Moberg
- Windows: Competition Glass
- Plumbing/HVAC: GPH Mechanical
- Electrical: Canyon Electric Company Inc.
- Masonry: Shaun’s Masonry
- Roofing and siding: Premium Roofing Ltd.
- Countertops: Custom Granite Works Inc.
- Light fixtures: ROBINSON Lighting & Bath
- Tile supply: Stone Tile Pacific
- Concrete: Scott Concrete and Scottsdale Concrete
- Hardscape: Toby Thrussell
- Solar: Swiss Solar Tech
- Geothermal: Geotility
- Vineyard tanks: Ripley Stainless Ltd.