On September 28, Okanagan Crush Pad (OCP) will celebrate its fifth anniversary. What started as a plan to operate a custom crush wine facility capable of producing 20,000 cases has evolved into a vision that includes organic farming and the production of wine that embraces a minimal intervention winemaking style. This style results in pure and natural wine and spirits. A record 725 tons will be processed at OCP this year.
During the last five years the winery has evolved to produce wines that are the benchmark of the natural, wild beauty of the Okanagan Valley’s wine growing region. The winery has received many prestigious awards, including two Lieutenant Governor Awards and has garnered international recognition for the wines and the custom crush business model.
Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie leapt into the wine business in 2009 when they crafted 200 cases of Haywire Switchback Pinot Gris from their now organic ten-acre Summerland, B.C. vineyard. This started a chain of events that included the construction of a state-of-the-art wine facility and visitor center at Switchback Vineyard in 2011, the launching of Canada’s first purpose-built custom crush business, the addition of a 320-acre parcel, and an increase in their own production of labels Haywire and Narrative to 15,000 cases annually.
The custom crush model was a novel idea in 2011 that other B.C. wineries have since embraced. While it was commonplace in other wine regions, it was done on a very small scale and not openly, due to restrictive provincial regulations. Okanagan Crush Pad’s team found a way to comply with the regulations and has seen their custom crush business grow to 25,000 cases annually.
“Custom crush is a great cost-effective model for small or emerging wineries. They get to have their wine made in a facility that has the very best equipment and winemaking talent and enter the competitive marketplace with premium wine quality,” noted Coletta. Since opening five years ago, OCP has graduated 14 new wineries from their cellar.
In 2012, OCP pur-chased the 320 acre Garnet Valley Ranch (GVR) that had 60 acres of fallow hayfields. Since then the team has planted 20 acres of high density vineyards on the surrounding slopes, added 8 acres of vegetables and incorporated livestock. The ranch was certified organic this past spring. The long-term goal will see an additional 40 acres of grapes planted, a move towards biodynamics this year, and the addition of cattle.
The most significant change has occurred in the cellar. With the arrival of Matt Dumayne in 2013, the wine portfolio has evolved to focus on minimal intervention winemaking. The team places their efforts on viticulture in their organic vineyards to ensure delivery of super premium grapes come harvest time. The aim is to craft wine fermented and aged in concrete tanks with zero additives, free from oak and commercial yeasts, and with some of the wines being produced in clay amphorae.
“The last five years have been a whirlwind of activity with little time to rest and reflect,” said Coletta, “OCP is very fortunate to have a passionate team all pulling in the same direction to the same end game. The next five years will bring many new firsts. When you love what you do you, it is an exciting ride.”