For grape growers, harvest may be the culmination of the year’s work, but for vintners, it’s actually bottling the wine that those grapes are crushed to create.
It’s when all the events of the previous year, from extreme weather to delightful surprises, are remembered as the wine is poured into bottles, capped, boxed and bundled for shipping, comments Jillian Wong as she and her partners watch bottles of their Intrigue wines clatter by on the bottling line.
“It’s very rewarding,” she adds with a smile.
Intrigue Wines is one of the newest wineries to open in the Central Okanagan and it makes a group of four in Lake Country, with veteran Gray Monk Estate Winery, Arrowleaf Cellars and Ex Nihilo.
Partners Roger Wong, the winemaker, who is also one of the winemakers at Gray Monk, his wife Jillian, who is in business, internet entrepreneur Ross Davis and his wife Geri Davis, who began in the wine industry working for Cascadia Brands and Calona Wines in 1998 and is currently controller at Gray Monk, started Intrigue Wines in 2008 with a small vintage of 500 cases.
They increased that by 400 cases every year and last year Ross completed a small wineshop on the corner of Goldie Road and Okanagan Centre Road E. in Lake Country, furnished with heritage wood and bricks from a heritage building they had to dismantle on the property.
“This way, people can see the grapes and we can tell the story of our wines, from beginning to end,” explains Roger Wong.
Although Roger is from Coquitlam and Jillian from New Brunswick; Ross and Geri grew up in the Rutland area, just two blocks away from each other—but they never met until later when they were in their 20s.
Their passion for wine is something the two couples have in common, so they enjoy doing the ‘research’ together.
Both operate small Lake Country vineyards that supply their winery, and they source some grape varietals from other parts of the valley.
The name for the new winery came out of a conversation Jillian and Roger had about their outlook on wine: how they enjoyed the story behind the wine; but also how it goes with food; and they agreed there’s something about wine and the recollections it often brings—and the word intriguing came out.
“Wine is intriguing in the bottle. Everyone looks for something different,” commented Roger.
It’s part of the allure of winemaking, they say.
“There’s a year’s work in each bottle,” he notes as he watches the mobile bottling company’s efficient operation, pouring tanks of finished fine wine into clean bottles, quickly capping each, then boxing and shrink-wrapping them in bundles, ready to ship.
With the help of family and friends, it’s a very quick finish to what has been a lengthy process, from tilling the ground and putting in supports, to planting vines, praying for good weather, tending them every year until they came into production, pruning, testing, tasting grapes until the right time to harvest, then picking, crushing, performing the winemaker magic in the cellar, sometimes blending, tasting, aging and finally bottling.
There are no paper labels on their bottles. Instead a friend of Ross’s, Margaret Kyle of Vernon, designed the label to be painted onto the bottles, with a swirl that represents a tendril from a grape vine, and the name of the winery and the wine.
This way there’s no fuss with labels when bottling and there’s a side benefit: the pretty bottles make great vases once the wine’s been drunk. And, that’s exactly what Routes in Lake Country does with them, comments Roger, with a grin.
This year, Intrigue Wines will open a picnic area adjacent to the winery where customers can sit in the sun in the vineyard and sip a glass of wine with breads and baked goods supplied by a neighbour, along with sausages, pate and cheeses.
The wineshop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week at this time of year, and the website’s always open: www.intriguewines.ca