This month we take a look at a wine pioneers who have
invested in the land.
The Casoro family are wine pioneers dating back to the early 1900s. Generations later, Ann Sperling operates the 45-acre family property in Kelowna known as Pioneer Ranch, where she produces her Sperling Vineyards wines. The vineyard features plantings of Pinot Gris & Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Marechal Foch, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Gray Monk winery was Canada’s first producer of Pinot Gris. Founded in 1972 by George and Trudy Heiss, they chose to focus on Alsatian varieties as well as cool climate Germanic style wines. Their vineyard started with a mere 50 Pinot Gris vines brought from a nursery in Alsace. Today they farm 75 acres of vineyard throughout the Okanagan.
Tantalus Vineyards in Southeast Kelowna are breaking ground as “new pioneers.” Riesling vines were planted by the Duluk family in 1978, followed by Pinot Noir in 1985. When new owners purchased the property in 2005 and renamed it “Tantalus” they gained national & international acclaim for their Riesling. The focus continues with Riesling as well as Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.
Lock & Worth Winery, on the Naramata Bench, was started in 2011 by Matthew Sherlock and Ross Hackworth (also of Nichol Vineyards). Their home vineyard, planted in 1995 was Poplar Grove Winery’s original vineyard. Quality fruit and low intervention winemaking are at the heart of this winery. Wines usually see no oak and are quick to market keeping costs low.
Le Vieux Pin, named for an old-growth pine that sits on the property in Oliver is gaining a reputation for their traditional French winemaking. As BC’s leading Syrah producer, they are making elegant, premium wines and competing in a world market. The Syrah grape thrives in BC and makes exceptional wines on certain sites. Syrah plantings have greatly increased in the past years.
The first grapes were planted in British Columbia in 1859 at a Mission in Kelowna, but not until the end of prohibition did a serious attempt at grape production take place. BC’s wine industry really didn’t emerge until the 1990s.
In 1921 the Growers’ Wine Company of Victoria used loganberries and then labrusca (American grape varietal)
grapes for wine production. These grapes were hardy but produced a “funky” style of wine that was generally accepted as not being very good. During the depression there was even an attempt at making wine out of apples. Vinifera x labrusca hybrids such as Marechal Foch were introduced in 1962 but did little to change the quality of BC wine.
The Becker Project, which ran from 1977-82, was a turning point in the BC wine industry. The project experimented with Vinifera vines (traditional grape varieties from Europe) and determined that they could be grown in BC. The real turning point though was due to GATT. As trade negotiations opened with world markets in 1988, the government saw the threat to Canada’s weak wine industry. It stepped in and subsidized the removal of 2400 acres of labrusca and hybrids and the planted vinifera in place.
The first grape vines may have been planted in 1859, but BC’s wind industry really didn’t start until the 1990s.