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Between the Vines

Christine Coletta says of the Okanagan Crush Pad’s approach to helping new wineries get off the ground: ‘We’re parents with strict behaviour standards.’

JUDIE STEEVES Crush Pad provides positive push

Lessons learned developing their own wines have helped others avoid steep learning curve. By Judie Steeves


nder the experienced hand of a veteran of B.C.’s wine business, Summerland’s Okanagan Crush Pad continues to innovate and prove it is thinking outside the box, pushing the boundaries of an industry that has gone from 14 wineries in British Columbia to more than 260 during the past 25 years.

When they built their facility, Christine Coletta, along with her husband Steve Lornie, not only created an official launch pad for new wineries , they’ve also built their own award-winning brand, Haywire, and have more-recently added the Narrative label, as well as a distillery to the mix.

Since they opened the Crush Pad, 26

overlooking Okanagan Lake on their Switchback Vineyard, in 2011, they’ve launched more than 12 wineries, producing wines on contract for other growers and ‘virtual winery’ owners, or those wishing a specialty product. They include Harper’s Trail in Kamloops, Single Tree in Langley, Platinum Bench in Oliver, C.C. Jentsch and the Bartier Bros. For some, it was just for the first year or two, while for others, it will be a long-term relationship. Whichever situation, Coletta is happy to be able to help new wineries start off without having to go through the steep learning curve they did in their first few years.

She admits she finds herself behaving as any new parent with each young winery they take under their wing, hovering and stressing, but she says they’ve honed in on the process and they have a good contract agreement that works for both the clients and themselves. “We’re parents with strict behaviour standards,” she laughs. Even their first winemaker, Michael Bartier, has left to open his own winery, with his brother Don, and now Matt Dumayne is the winemaker for OCP.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2016

They launched the Narrative label just last year, and it’s under that name they produce a gin, fortified wine and a vodka-like product, says Coletta.

During these first few years, they have become certified organic by the Pacific Agricultural Certification Society or PACS, and they’re now producing 17,000-18,000 cases of wine under their own two labels. In addition to the Switchback Vineyard, with eight acres in grapes, they now also have a 300-acre property in the Garnet Valley, with 20 acres planted at present. They expect to harvest 15,000 to 20,000 tons from there this vintage. Ultimately, they expect to plant 60-70 acres in vines in that unique spot.

They’ve also increased the number of concrete ‘eggs’ they ferment in from six to 17, with some as large as 5,000 litres.

Now that their first five years are over, Coletta says she feels 10 years older, but there’s now a light visible at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s a lot of work; and we couldn’t have done it without our fabulous team,” she comments, adding, “We did a fair bit of fumbling around at first.”

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