Last week, I talked about nailing the basketball hoop above the barrels to complete the winery dream, but when a zap of wine inspiration hatched the plan , I wasn’t envisioning an industrial garage wrapped in a barbed wire fence.
The picture above was my ACTUAL Okanagan dream from back in 2009, a rented 10 acre patch of pasture along the Okanagan River. This image is two months into my lease, after an assortment of coerced friends helped me to fence, prep, irrigate, and plant the land.
I knew exactly what the future farm would look like: pinot noir interspersed with potatoes, cantaloupe vines weaving throughout the cherries and nectarines, and bees zipping around pools of echinacea. A farm like no other.
Here’s what I didn’t know though. Untested romantic notions do not a business make.
The only creatures buzzing were the deer and marmots marauding the produce. My insistence on doing things by hand with zero spray meant that the land was unworkable. I didn’t do market research; the kale bunches sat wilting at the farmers market.
Worst of all, at the end of that first year the landlord had money problems and backed out on me. The farm lost its home.
It was a sad ending, but it’s probably best this idea was crushed early. This is what I learned: your business dream stinks, it happens, but a failure clears the way for a new opportunity. Plug back into the dream bank you built.
I dragged the farm around with me for a few years from Okanagan Falls to Oliver to Penticton to Summerland, and I was still holding onto pieces when I opened the winery in 2011.
Upstairs in the mezzanine of my unit, I adjusted the banks of lights to accommodate them for my plant starts, giving the chard, bok choy, and lettuce a headstart on the season. Downstairs I built propagation boxes for my grapevines, where errant basketballs increased the mortality rates of the Pinot Noir cuttings.
I got rid of these farming vestiges during the first years of business. The basketball hoop moved to Unit #2 when we absorbed that unit, but it too disappeared. The adults took over, the focus shifted to running a winery, and things shaped up.
In the last year of the winery though, we did make a secret garden behind the cement blocks in the yard. It was about the size of my tasting room, and the irrigation materials were from a decade before. The tomatoes were exceptional.
The dream land pictured above, considered marginal for all uses but grazing in 2009, was converted to a vineyard a few years back.
See you next Friday,
Sign Up For Our Newsletter
Keep up to date on the latest wine releases, events, and industry news.