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Crush Pad offers unique service

Summerland facilities available to grape growers who’d rather not have their own winery.

By Judie Steeves I

f you want to own a winery, but without the bother and expense of a winery building and license, look no further. The new Okanagan Crush Pad Winery in Summerland is owned by Christine Coletta and her husband Steve Lornie and is also home to Haywire Winery, which produced its first wine in 2009 from grapes on the 10-acre site on Switchback Road. They also lease a vineyard in Oliver.

“We never intended to go into the wine business. We know it’s a lot of work,” comments Coletta with a rueful grin. She has worked in the wine industry for more than 20 years, beginning with the B.C. Wine Institute, which developed the province’s VQA program.

Today, she has her own marketing company, focused on wine industry clients, including wineries and wine regions around the world.

It all began when the couple bought an old 10-acre orchard in Summerland in 2004, with romantic ideas about blossom time and picking their own fruit.


But, while they loved it, and the birds and deer that visited it, they quickly discovered orchards are a huge amount of work, and the fruit they produced didn’t even taste that great, she relates, so it wasn’t even satisfying work. So, in 2006, they ripped out the trees and planted grapes instead, with the idea they would sell them to a winery. For that reason they planted all pinot gris, clone 52. But one day, winemaker Michael Bartier came along on his bike and asked what they planned to do with their fruit. “He said, ‘You need to make wine from this fruit,’” Coletta recalled.

That was the birth of Haywire Winery, with Bartier as head winemaker, Alberto Antonini as consulting viticulturist and winemaker and David Scholefield as wine adviser and industry relations.

Lornie gave up a 35-year career and his own construction company to become the general manager and he’s busy building the winery this year.

It’s a 7,750-square-foot concrete and glass structure wedged into the hillside in the top corner of their Switchback Vineyard and in phase one it will be capable of producing 12,000 cases of wine. Ultimately, capacity can be increased to 25,000.

Their goal is to make wines that express the terroir of the land, so they plan to use natural yeasts from the vineyard to ferment the wine, but it’s essential the facility be very clean for that to work. On the advice of Antonini, they are also making the transition to organic, as he doesn’t like synthetic fertilizers.

The winery won’t be open to the public, except by 30

Christine Colleta and husband Steve Lornie have created the Okanagan Crush Pad as a spin-off of their Haywire Winery.

appointment, but the wines will be available at retail stores and restaurants, said Coletta.

This year, they’re embarking on a new venture, opening the winery up to others wishing to make small lots of wine expressing the terroir of their place, in a

collaboration with OCP. Legally, the wines becomes the property of OCP, so there has to be some trust involved, explained Coletta. “We need to know our clients well and have the same standards,” she said. All would have to be certified VQA. They will then cut cheques for the client based on wine sold. They already have some clients signed up, including Rhys Pender, a Master of Wine who does wine education and consulting and planted a small vineyard at his home in Cawston a few years ago.

Bartier loves to collaborate and their vision is for the winery to be “a welcoming place where ideas are exchanged.” It’s a unique idea in the Okanagan, but will provide an opportunity for those with a small amount of grapes to get into the wine business without a huge initial expense. Another innovation that’s unique in this valley is their use of concrete eggs in which to make wine, instead of stainless steel tanks.

Each of their six eggs is eight feet tall and incorporates temperature-control tubing embedded in the concrete walls to provide an even temperature throughout the tank, but with no parts coming in contact with the wine except the porous concrete.

That permits the wine to breathe, much as wooden barrels do, but without imparting any flavour to the wine. The use of concrete in making wine is centuries old, but these have some modern additions, like the imbedded temperature controls.

The egg shape means more of the cap stays submerged, resulting in wines with brighter fruit flavours. Coletta is excited about both ventures and particularly about working with other vineyard owners to produce their wine.

OCP can provide all the winery services at a single stop, from vineyard management and crushing grapes to promotion of the finished product and distribution. No other single company offers it all, notes Coletta. “It’s easy to make wine more pretentious than it is. We need to relax and just enjoy it.”

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2011

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