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B.C. wineries get creative after brutal winter

From Swifty movie nights to badminton leagues: B.C. wineries explore creative strategies to weather winter woes.
Okanagan grape growers are seeking solutions after cold snap decimates crops.

After a devastating cold snap came through and wiped out much of the crop for the Okanagan wine industry this winter, wineries are left wondering how they’re going to make ends meet next year.

“There’s been a lot of reports that have stated the situation as fairly dire as far as the polar vortex we saw for that week-long stretch in the winter,” said Steven Lane of Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery in West Kelowna.

“I think it’s still unknown for sure if it’s going to be a zero per cent crop or a 10 per cent crop or maybe up to 20 or 30 per cent on certain varieties that were maybe a little more winter hardy. So we’re hedging as best we can as far as our vineyard pruning and our vineyard management."

"But without a question, it’s certainly going to be pretty lean as all expectations indicate.”

Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery was smart to benefit off of Taylor Swift Mania, hosting swifty movie nights as an alternative way to bring in revenue.

Lane tells Castanet they’re keen to come up with more ideas for the community as it's a win-win situation for both the winery and the people that come through it.

He says it's important for Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery and the Modest Butcher Restaurant to push the boundaries of creativity, giving their customers top notch experiences while trying to move as much wine as possible.

“That’s going to be something we really need to ramp up in the next little while... We just love to be a little renegade, be a little cheeky, and if there’s something in the community we feel people are connecting with, we are totally open minded to jumping on it and having a little fun with it.

Just down the street from Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery and along the West Kelowna Wine Trail, Quails Gate Winery is also coming up with creative ways to attract customers, including the return of hosting summer weddings, as well as the kick off to their new badminton league called Up at the Lawn.

“The (idea) was really based around how we can get people to enjoy being outside, enjoying wine and being active... We know the new bike trail opening along Boucherie is one way to do that. Ride your bike, pop in and have a glass of wine or visit us at the Market. Up at the Lawn League is just another way to do that and really take in everything that’s great about being here at Quails’ Gate.”

The new league will be operating in the spring and summer months and will be open each and every Tuesday for at least an eight week period, and sign up and registration will be made available on the Quails' Gate website in the coming weeks.

While wineries prepare for the summer months ahead, it won’t be until spring when wineries can really start to assess the damage left behind by the winter cold snap.

Grape growers held a series of meeting last week to discuss solutions. Some wineries have already started calling on the provincial government to allow the import of out-of-province grapes to ensure there is a 2024 vintage.