As I stated in my last blog post, I was done whining about the state of affairs in the BC wine industry. Carry on the “crank fest” without me kids. I got into this business with my eyes wide open, so to start moaning about the rules now would be hypocritical.
Instead, I am going to share with you how it all came to be, so you can avoid falling into the same hole I did. Alice in I-wonder-what-happened-to-my-life land…
Part 1: We Feel the Magic
It was an innocent beginning that produced diabolical results. One winter day in 2005, my brother Mike, a born explorer, said, “Hey, let’s drive down this road,” to Steve and me. So down Matsu Drive we went, looking out west across the lake to the Naramata Bench. Summerland is a quaint place but in winter it has a kind of stark beauty and lacks the charm that spring and summer bring. So off we go, and discover a magical little part of Summerland, and low and behold: property for sale. It’s an old orchard on Fosbery and Switchback roads that spurs us on. This area just feels right to me, with the mix of new and old high-density orchards and even an alpaca farm. We walked the 10-acre old apple and apricot plot. We feel the magic. We returned with the local realtor in tow. (It seems like this whole adventure was beginning to spin out of control.) ‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘we make a low ball offer; if it’s refused, Steve and I can breathe a sigh of relief, whew, and return to Vancouver’ – a pair of city slickers who managed to avert a major real estate disaster.
The listing agent went on about how this property would make a great vineyard. I imagine they use that line with every “outsider”. But I am not starry-eyed with visions of a winery and oblivious to the dollar signs flashing behind the charming scenery. I know the process: mortgage your house, borrow from your kids’ university fund, sell an internal organ or two and even then, after years of building inventory and waiting for wine to age, a few dollars starts to trickle back into the bank account. With an air of authority I stated, “I am in the wine business myself and fully understand the work involved and the low monetary return on a vineyard. We are keeping the orchard as is.”
'How did this happen so easily?' Steve and I wonder. When it comes to real estate, aren’t people supposed to put up a fight, especially those who are selling property? Our real estate agent said the owner was away in Las Vegas but she called him (old friends since high school days) and he took our offer immediately without countering or waiting for any other offers. Maybe he was losing heavily at the blackjack table and needed the extra cash. Fast. So it was off to the bank to figure out how we were going to pay for our little piece of paradise.
Summerland is a town we love. A modern day Green Acres minus anyone with the fashion sense of Eva Gabor. We drive by the local church daily and take a photo of the ever-changing inspirational display board and email it to our kids. My favourites: “If you’re losing the game, switch to God’s team” or “Take a leap of faith; bungee jump with God.” I can relate to these sentiments.
In Summerland, everyone knows everyone’s business. We walk from the lawyers office to Nesters Market and are greeted by folk yelling out, “Heard you just bought the Old Baker Place.” They walk off laughing and shaking their heads. Months later they arrive again and like everyone else we meet, are all too eager to hand out advice. The intriguing thing is no one agrees on anything. The old saying, ‘Ask seven farmers and get eight different answers’ comes to mind.
So this is how it all started. It became apparent that we had the worst trees possible for actually bearing fruit for eating. Red Delicious apples that are too pulpy and Perfection apricots that are too watery. Was this some kind of cosmic agricultural joke? Meanwhile friends in the industry are pointing out what a great vineyard site this would make.
More will follow...