Okanagan Crush Pad (OCP) in Summerland, BC, has not yet been around for a year, but has already has an impressive list of up and coming wineries using their custom wine making services. On a recent Media trip to visit OCP, we were introduced to their winery clients, and learned more about OCP’s vineyard and wine making philosophies. One of the wineries that I talked about in my previous post, was Rafter F. You can read about my Rafter F experience here.
What Okanagan Crush Pad Does
Starting a winery is an expensive business. After finding land suitable for grape growing, you need to select the grapes that you think will best grow in it’s particular terroir, then plant the vines, stalk by stalk. And wait. For at least 3 years. The first two years, the grapes are not suitable for proper wine production. The third year is when you can make your first harvest. All the equipment costs money too, from destemmers, presses, fermentation tanks, bottling machines, etc.
This is where Okanagan Crush Pad come in. They have invested the capital into the equipment that a winery would need to produce their wines. Besides equipment, they also have their own wine maker, Michael Bartier, to produce the wines for you from your grapes. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, his experience includes making wine at Township 7, Stag’s Hollow, and Road 13 Vineyards in the Okanagan. For their first year in business, they have 9 clients in total. It helps that Michael Bartier is a seasoned wine maker, who is familiar with the Okanagan, our grapes, climate, and how best to produce wines from them. OCP also has another secret weapon: concrete eggs!
What are concrete eggs, and why would you use them in a winery? Okanagan Crush pad is the first winery in Canada to use egg-shaped concrete fermenters from Sonoma Cast Stone in California. They purchased 6 of these eight foot tall eggs to use in the fall of 2011. On this trip, I believe they have added more concrete as each fermenter is numbered, and I saw at least #15. OCP researched into purchasing these unique fermented at the urging of Alberto Antonini. Concrete has been used for centuries in wine making. The egg shape (which has temperature control tubing within the concrete) allows the flow of the fermenting wine to follow a circular circuit meaning the skins and pulp stay submerged by the must pumping over naturally (giving your continuous lees stirring). Concrete also is slightly porous, letting the wine breathe, like oak barrels, but not impart any oak flavour. The result of these two features, the result is wines with brighter and higher fruit notes, more creaminess (from the lees stirring), and pretty secondary aromas that would not not find in wines fermented in stainless steel.
OCP’s Current Winery Clients
We were introduced to the following new wineries that use Okanagan Crush Pad’s facilities to produce their wines. If you have not heard of these wineries, you soon will as I’ve tasted some very good wines from them.
- Bartier Bros.
- Bartier Scholefield
- Covert Farms Family Estate
- Di Bello Wines
- Harper’s Trail Estate Winery
- Platinum Bench Estate Winery
- Rafter F
I will go into detail for each of these wineries, and review some of their wines for you in my next post. I don’t want to make this post longer than “War and Peace”. So for now, I am going to tell you a bit more about Okanagan Crush Pad and their vineyards. You can click on the above winery links to visit their websites (but do that after you finish reading this article 🙂 first.)
Okanagan Crush Pad in the Vineyard
Before trying the wines from these wineries, we were taken out to OCP’s vineyard, by vineyard manager Theo Siemens, and his trusty whippet dog. In the vineyard, you will see the winery’s dogs wandering about, as well as chickens. There is also lots of “weeds” growing between the vineyard rows. What’s this all about? OCP is moving toward becoming a biodynamic winery. As part of that, traditional methods of applying herbicides to keep down the weeds, and spraying pesticides to kill of insects (including beneficial ones), has been stopped.
Natural methods will now be employed, such as planting vegetation that has natural insecticide that will kill the bugs, but leave people, and their pets, healthy. The chickens are also part of the plan. Chickens will eat some of the grasses and other vegetation between the vines, and they also eat insects. To add to this OCP is bringing in baby doll sheep from New Zealand. They are a very short variety of sheep that cannot reach high enough to eat the grapes, but will have all the vegetation between the vines to enjoy. In this vineyard they are growing Pinot Gris. Here is a link for you with further information about biodynamic farming methods.
The work in the vineyard is far from complete. How do you know that you planted the most appropriate grapes for your vineyard? What kind of soil do you have? What kind of rock is beneath the soil? Limestone? Granite? All these questions can help a winery select the grapes that do their best in a particular type of environment. In OCP’s case they have talked with Alberto Antonini from Italy and Chilean terroir consultant Pedro Parra about their soil. Scattered throughout the vineyard you will see pits dug down several feet to expose the structure of the soil. These are the first steps to “mapping out” the type of soil and stone in the vineyard. To get a more complete picture OCP is going to get their entire vineyard soil mapped out and information stored in a Geographic Information System (GIS). This is an excellent tool to help visualize the soil information, plus can also be used to track each vine within the vineyard, monitoring watering, any pests that have been attacking the plants, etc. I congratulate OCP for being so forward thinking.
Check back soon for Part 2 of this article, where I will talk about the wines and wineries using the services of Okanagan Crush Pad. Cheers.