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than can be used in the tasting building, so John diverts some to the production facility. Glycol is heated as it is

pumped through the thermal collectors.

In turn, the hot glycol heats water in a tank which through a heat exchange system heats the water in a second tank from which hot water is drawn.

oldest in the valley. We still have a few of the original blocks,” John said.

Orofino vines are grown in

sandy loam with no rocks for at least two feet. Beyond that, it is all river rock and gravel.

The water in the second tank can be heated by electricity from the grid during the winter months when snow covers the collectors. “The ministry requires us to report on our energy savings. Roger is helping us with that,” John said.

John thinks there are at least 80 wineries in British Columbia alone that could benefit from the hybrid renewable energy system custom designed for Orofino.

Energy and eco-efficiency have been top priorities for the Webers since they purchased their six acre property over a decade ago.

“The conception of our winery was in the spring of 2003. After months of researching and discussing alternatives, we decided to build Canada’s first and only straw bale winery. The design incorporated function and eye-pleasing detail,” John said.

The straw bale buildings, an 800 square foot tasting room and a 1,500 square foot production facility, are efficient to operate and give excellent temperature control.

The 21 inch thick walls are rated up to R-60.

Once the posts and beams were up it took just five days for 20 friends and family members to place the 850 bales. The straw bale buildings were not only relatively inexpensive to build but have also proven to be an excellent marketing tool.

John and Virginia left their jobs as a teacher and nurse, respectively, in Southern Saskatchewan when they decided to purchase their vineyard. Before the Webers spent time in Europe, the closest they had ever come to wine production was the jugs of chokecherry wine John’s parents made in their basement.

The couple proved to be fast learners. John bought a grape production guide and took the previous owner up on his offer of advice.

20 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2013

Orofino is Canada's only straw bale constructed winery. The tasting building, left, is run on 100 per cent renewable energy. Production facility on right.

Within a week of opening in 2005, Orofino’s Merlot Cabernet took the gold medal at the All Canadian Wine Championship, the oldest and biggest wine competition in the country. Through the years, Orofino has continued to win many prestigious awards, including its 2009 Syrah being awarded the Gold Medal at last year’s Canadian Culinary Championship held in Kelowna.

“Our vineyard was first planted in 1989, making these vines some of the

In early years, John and Virginia made the decision to reduce the amount of irrigation water; a practice known as water deprivation, which results in smaller, more flavourful grapes.

“We wanted our grapes to be in the ultra premium bracket, so it’s important not to over-crop,” John said.

Quality in this case means an approximate 50 per cent reduction in grapes harvested.

Orofino produced 5,000 cases last year, a dramatic increase from its first year of 550 cases.

The Webers have no plans to expand. “We’re a hands-on, low-tech artisan winery. Getting larger would mean less family time and the need to hire a fleet of employees,” John said.

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