Pioneers Small winery, big reputation

With his decades of experience and innovation, Bill Eggert has contributed to the success ofmany others in the wine industry.

By Susan McIver I

n 1989, Bill Eggert, an acknowledged leader among Okanagan wine growers, purchased six acres of undeveloped land on a plateau above Oliver’s Fairview Mountain Golf Course and transformed it into Fairview Cellars, a small winery with a big reputation.

At that time the land was without a water source, which decreased its market value. After four years of hard work to get water from nearby Reed Creek, Eggert was finally confident enough to plant grapes.

In addition to its relatively low price, Eggert was attracted to the property because it lacks pure sand and has excellent exposure to sunlight and no frost.

“Sand is less forgiving than the heavier soils with their large buffering capacity which are found here,” Eggert said.

Earlier in his career, as manager at Covert Farms, Eggert had experience farming sand-rich soil.

Born in Ottawa, he grew up on a farm in Beamsville, Ontario where his family grew grapes, among other fruits. His first job after earning a diploma in agriculture from the University of Guelph, was for an uncle who owned a vineyard on the Niagara Peninsula. As a young grapegrower, Eggert was exposed to many progressive thinkers of the Canadian wine industry. “A turning point came when I realized the labrusca vines growing in my uncle’s vineyard could not produce good wine,” Eggert recalled. Unable to convince his uncle to replant with vinifera, he left Ontario in 1983 headed first to ski hills in the west and later to work in Okanagan

vineyards, including Paradise Ranch (now See Ya Later Ranch) and Covert Farms.

In 1993, Eggert planted his vineyard, almost entirely in Bordeaux style reds — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

“My land is some of the best for reds. There are more heat units than almost anywhere else in Canada and more, perhaps 50 to 100, than even in Bordeaux.”

Eggert produced his first vintage in 1997 and opened his winery in 2000. “I started producing 2,000 cases a year, which wasn’t profitable,” he said. Current production runs between 3500 and 5000 cases.

Eggert has always said that wines are made in the vineyard. “Bill is a very good grower and it shows in the consistent high quality of his wines,” said wine guru and consultant Gary Strachan. Today, Fairview Cellars attracts visitors from around the globe. “Recently, we’ve had people from Denmark, England, South Africa and Germany, plus Canadians and Americans,” tasting room manager Susan Baumeister said. Many of the visitors are wine aficionados who have done


Bill Eggert says his Fairview Cellars vineyard in Oliver is some of the best land in Canada for producing red wine grapes.

considerable research and come specifically for the big bold reds. Cabernet Sauvignon continues to be Fairview’s workhorse varietal. It is predominant in two popular blends — Two Hoots, a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend and The Bear, a blend of four other classic Bordeaux cultivars with 50 to 75 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon.

Other Fairview wines include Madcap Red, a Merlot-based blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Bucket O’ Blood, a Syrah- themed wine and Pinot Noir, grown on recently purchased land.

Iconoclast is Cabernet Sauvignon kept for an additional year in the barrels to produce a softer, bigger and rounder wine.

Fairview also offers a white, Sauvignon Blanc, made from its own grapes and those purchased from Bruce and Susie Iverson.

Eggert is always looking for better ways to do things.

“Bill is very innovative. He built his own concrete forms to create a vaulted ceiling for his below-grade wine cellar,” Strachan said.

Currently, Eggert is engaged in a long-term study on the oxygen permeability of seals under screw caps.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall-Winter 2017 21

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