Tony Lewis serves up a cornucopia of arts in his garden with his brother Phil’s vibrant imagery decorating his wine shop and enough music on tap to keep feet stomping all afternoon.

Kelowna winemaker’s rockin’ good story

Normally, when a person becomes a parent, story time replaces those hours once spent enjoying a glass of vino on a patio with friends, at least for a few years.

Normally, when a person becomes a parent, story time replaces those hours once spent enjoying a glass of vino on a patio with friends, at least for a few years.

For 31-year-old Anthony Lewis, this transition to the sleepless nights of parenthood had just the opposite effect.

“I had my daughter and I went for a short tour and decided I didn’t want to leave her anymore,” explained the former Storytime drummer who says fatherhood inspired an about-face from a rock-and-roll dream life to East Kelowna wine making.

Clearly one who walks to the beat of his own drum, Lewis says he will never regret ditching music, and going on road trips to open for the likes of Blind Melon, for a quiet family life; although he’s the first to admit oenophilia was not exactly a natural fit.

“My dad showed up to my house with a vineyard management magazine and a winemaker magazine and said how would you like to move to Canada and start a vineyard and winery with me? And I was like: ‘No, you know. I don’t drink wine.”

It took Lewis and his wife three weeks to get their heads around the idea.

One long, cold winter into their new venture, with 30 to 40 wine kits underway in their basement, the road to their new life didn’t get any less rocky once he made the leap to Canadian soil. Though his first big break came in solving the rocky soil problem.

After spending six months battling the stones in East Kelowna’s famously gritty earth to get his first vineyard in, the musician invented and patented an above-ground trellis support that won him the attention he needed from the wine industry’s bigwigs.

“We were just basically like wouldn’t it be great if there was like a Lego way of doing this? Something that just stands up on its own,” he said.

The trellis support is the world’s first above-ground, fully patented grape growing system and it works with a Geneva Double Curtain—among the best trellis systems in the business for those in the know.

Using a little do-it-yourself marketing know-how from his days in the music industry, Lewis started making funny videos of himself screwing up in his vineyard to showcase his solution and sending them off to winemakers and vineyard owners all over North America and Europe.

“I kind of worked my way in the opposite way as I did with the music business,” he said.

Sharing the glory in Storytime with his two brothers, Phil and Peter, Lewis had paid for his end of the rock lifestyle by working as an audio mastering engineer, helping bigger musicians with their leg-work as a means of promoting his own band and name.

And, odd though it may seem, Lewis believes those sound-mixing roots are exactly what prepared him for growing and mixing great grapes.

With the help of his new-found wine making friends, he gleaned enough theory to put technology to work, just as he would have as an audio engineer. He uses iPhone apps like iWinemaker and Cellarhand to work out his crop yields and molecular sulfur dioxide levels to prevent the wine from going off as it ages.

Just like making good music, making good wine is all about the art of stripping away unnecessary clutter, he says, and he’s learned to apply the same principles.

“Once you take away the weaknesses, you expose something for what it really is. You get the real sound of the drum rather than the noise you’re making,” he explained.

“All grapes are good. There’s just a bunch of crap in there with ‘em. If you remove all the bad stuff, you’ve got what the grape was in the first place.”

So far those grapes, he added, are “not too shabby.”

With six top-notch retail wines on the shelves in this, his second year as a winemaker, he uses his brother Phil’s psychedelic, three-dimensional cover art to market his winery, Vibrant Vines, as a fun, yet accessible window into the wine world.

“We used to slap it on CDs, now we slap it on booze; I mean bottles of wine,” he jokes in a characteristically, if a little well-calculated down-to-earth style. “It’s all the same. It just keeps going.”

In the very best showman’s tradition, so too does the music.

Lewis has found a way to bring the music back into his life by hosting live music on Saturday in the winery’s garden.

Every Saturday afternoon, he pours wine from his outdoor taps as friends from the music business take to a tent-covered stage on the grass.

“I want to build a community with this product,” he said. “We want to make this like a social meeting place.”

Vibrant Vines is hosting a pyjama party Oct. 15 to raise money for children in a Haitian orphanage. Pyjama Jam will help Lewis’s father-in-law, an orthopedic surgeon who founded, provide 68 pairs of pyjamas for the kids in its orphanage.

Simply bring a pair of pyjamas to donate, all sizes are welcome, and come watch the local music community jam at the winery from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Stay tuned for more information through the fall wine festival guide or drop by the winery for its regular Saturday afternoon music sessions to find out more.



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