The Okanagan Valley:

Where Business Meets Pleasure

Agribusiness and technology are key drivers of Canada’s economy, often overlapping while each injecting robust earnings to the national GDP.

  Agribusiness generates over $112 billion annually – or 5.8 percent of total GDP – and regularly attracts local and global events related to agricultural production, innovation, and technology.

  Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Research Centres manages 20 research centres across the country, aiming to find better agricultural practices and market opportunities through research and innovation while FoodTech Canada is a network of leading innovation and commercialization centres committed to turning research and development into innovated products for the food and bioproducts industry.

  The technology sector contributes $89.4 billion to the national economy, accounting for 4.8 percent of total GDP. More than 41,500 technology companies make their home in Canada, spanning sub-sectors like artificial intelligence, digital media and interactive entertainment, and cybersecurity.

  The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia holds the unique distinction as a major player in both industries, with agribusiness and technology not only existing harmoniously, but often integrating and inspiring the other.

  Over the past few years, the Okanagan has become a magnet for entrepreneurs and start-ups ready to scale,  as well as a world class destination for agribusiness and technology business events, welcoming conferences seeking direct access to industry expertise and influencers.  A notable example is the invitation only Metabridge Retreat, a high-level networking experience that facilitates connections between Canadian tech CEOs and North American business influencers. The event has been hosted for the past several years in Kelowna, where technology is the fastest-growing economy thanks to an influx of gaming development, animation, medical technology, agricultural technology, and software as a service (SAAS) studios and companies. Indeed, the city has seen year-over-year growth of 15 percent over the past eight years.

  Situated in the heart of wine region, Kelowna is key to the Okanagan’s technology and agribusiness success. Home to thousands of tech, animation and digital media professionals who gravitate to the city’s stunning mountain, lake and vineyard surroundings, the city made waves with the opening of the $35-million Innovation Centre, which unites startups, innovation firms and technology providers with an eye towards building Canada’s most entrepreneurial technology community. Kelowna is likewise an agricultural oasis, housing 794 agri-food businesses, 185 licensed wineries and a cluster of agriculturally focused research facilities like the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, Summerland Research Centre and the newly opened BC Technical Access Centre for fermented beverages. These institutions, working with industry associations like the BC Tree Fruits, BC Cherry Growers and Certified Organic Associations of BC, have positioned the region as a leader in areas as diverse as tree fruit and wine research, pest management, and precision technologies tracking crop growth and nutraceuticals.

  “While many visitors are aware of the dynamic culinary scene, sweeping landscapes and world-class wineries in the Central Okanagan, they may not be aware of the region’s entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are changing the face of agribusiness and technology,” says   Krista Mallory, manager of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission. “From winemakers leading the charge in regenerative viticulture to cutting-edge research through the University of British Columbia that improves sustainability in agriculture, the region is driving innovation across the country and the continent.”

  While agribusiness and technology are major pillars of the Okanagan Valley, viticulture is particularly prevalent. Sprawled over 155 miles (250 kilometres), the acclaimed wine region – which boasts 84 percent of BC’s vineyard acreage – stretches across a multitude of ecosystems, each with distinct soil and climate conditions suited to growing varietals ranging from sun-ripened reds to crisp whites (indeed, the Okanagan Valley is warmer and more arid than Napa Valley, soaked with nearly two hours more sunlight per day during peak growing season).

  The Okanagan is home to over 182 licensed wineries, as well as 72 beverage companies manufacturing kombucha, mead, spirits and cider, which collectively contribute $2.8 billion to the provincial economy. The majority of these businesses embrace sustainable, biodynamic and innovative winemaking, with spectacular settings adding to the area’s allure for business and leisure travellers alike.

  One example is Tinhorn Creek in Oliver, Canada’s first carbon-neutral winery and one of the first Salmon-Safe certified vineyards in BC. Part of its carbon-neutral efforts includes running winery trucks and tractors on biodiesel, and using organic leftovers from the winemaking process and onsite restaurant Miradoro to fertilize the vines. 

  Another is Frind Estate Winery in West Kelowna, owned by Plenty of Fish founder Markus Frind. Eager to combine his passions of technology and agriculture – and with 500   years of family farming history – Frind leverages cutting-edge technology to craft truly distinctive wines. The first beachfront winery in the world, Fritz Estate Winery regularly stages showstopping events, including festive brunches or high teas in translucent domes that overlook Lake Okanagan.

  Alongside production, wine tourism is becoming increasingly popular, with many wineries offering exceptional dining opportunities, farm tours and tasting adventures for groups of all sizes.

  One of these is Indigenous World Winery, the brainchild of Robert and Bernice Louie, descendants of the Syilx First Nations. Located near Okanagan Lake, the winery is an ideal spot for meetings and events with 2.5 scenic acres showcasing fruit from the land that has supported the Syilx people for 10,000 years.

  Prior to opening the vineyard in 2011, Robert and Bernice joined forces with notable winemaker Jason Parkes to craft wines that could compete at a world level. “The goal was a big award winner,” says Ryan Widdup, sales manager of Indigenous World Winery. “They wanted to open the doors with showpiece red wines.”

  And so they did: in 2015, Indigenous World Winery’s small-batch Simo red won two medals and the first Double Gold Medal. Since then, the awards have kept coming: the 2014 Simo received Double Gold in the 2019 All Canadian Wine Championship, beating out 1,378 entries, and the winery’s elixirs regularly earn gold at international competitions in the US and Europe. In 2020, Robert and Bernie launched an Indigenous Spirits craft alcohol line that incorporates locally sourced botanicals and ingredients with a medicinal history in the Syilx culture.

  Close by, Summerhill Pyramid Winery is a leader in organic wine, incorporating practices such as biodynamic agriculture, permaculture and organic viticulture that have inspired fellow agribusinesses across the region. Owner Ezra Cipes is part of the winery’s second generation; his father arrived to the Okanagan in 1986, where he found the perfect conditions to produce intensely flavoured small grapes – the ideal base for sparkling wine. After entering the organic certification program in 1988, Cipes Senior produced his first vintage in 1991, and the winery received Demeter Biodynamic certification in 2012.

  “My parents helped build the modern wine industry in BC, and were founding members of the BC Vintners Quality Alliance and the BC Wine institute,” said Ezra. “Today, we’re a mid-sized winery, though we have a large team, mostly because of the extensive hospitality we offer.  Event organizers love us, because we have a beautiful restaurant and banquet room, both overlooking the vineyard, lake, and mountains.”

  Summerhill’s event offerings extend beyond farm-to-table catering and tantalizing wine pairings to fully equipped meeting venues, helicopter access and a professional team with extensive experience running large-scale events.

  Whether winery, hotel or dedicated conference venue, Kelowna boasts 110,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as 4,500 total guest rooms. After long days in he boardroom, delegates benefit from a myriad of after-hours pleasure, including five distinct wine trails, three ski resorts and the longest golf season in Canada. The region is ideally suited to meetings with a focus in viticulture, agriculture, technology or manufacturing. Planners also benefit from alluring team building opportunities, robust options for pre- and post-meeting activities, and venues and natural surroundings certain to boost attendance.

  “When organizations choose to meet in the Okanagan, they get to experience more than our dynamic culinary and wine scene and area attractions. They also gain access to local industry thought-leaders and innovators shaping what we eat, and where and how it’s grown,” says Mallory. “There’s a real buzz to the region. We’re looking to the future, and we know that no one wants to miss out on what’s happening in the Okanagan.”

  In Canada, agribusiness leaders will find support from federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as academia and innovation investors. Further simplifying the business process is the pool of destination and sector experts provided by Destination Canada’s Business Events team.

  The team’s specific knowledge of this vast land makes Destination Canada Business Events team an organizer’s first stop for tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size.

To learn more please visit…

Lake Erie Northshore:

Ontario’s Lesser-Known VQA Appellation

By: Alyssa Andres

While Ontario wine from the Niagara region continues to grow in popularity on the international market, a lesser-known appellation in the province with an equally rich history of winemaking is going virtually unnoticed. Lake Erie Northshore is a VQA appellation in the southern-most part of Ontario that boasts a unique microclimate, diverse terroir and some of Canada’s oldest vines. Winemakers here produce bold and expressive wines that sell for an incredibly reasonable price point compared to their Niagara counterparts. The appellation is even the home of Canada’s first commercial winery, yet the region is relatively unknown.

  Lake Erie Northshore is quite a small operation compared to the booming wine industry in the Niagara Peninsula. There are currently only 16 wineries in this burgeoning wine region, with an annual production of 19,218/9L cases, according to VQA Ontario. These wineries are producing both red and white wine, as well as sparkling offerings. Riesling is known to thrive here and is made in both sweet and dry styles. With approximately 1,500 acres of vineyard in the appellation, most wineries use estate-grown grapes. Small batch, family-run businesses are common, and there is a lot of experimentation with different grape varietals. Many wineries have a longstanding history in the region, despite being relatively unknown.

  Although currently inconspicuous, early winemakers did not have trouble pinning the Lake Erie Northshore region as an opportune location to produce wine. The first winemakers to travel north and make wine in Canada settled off Lake Erie’s coast in the early 1860s, on an island known today as Pelee Island. The 10,000-acre island, with sprawling forest and a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna, was an idyllic location to start a winery. The three Kentucky farmers planted 25 acres of vineyards in 1866, establishing “Vin Villa” as the country’s first commercial winery. The original building still stands for tourists to visit today, but the island has evolved dramatically.

  Today, Pelee Island is home to Lake Erie Northshore’s only sub-appellation, South Islands VQA. It features the most extensive planting of European vinifera in the country – all owned and operated by a single winery. Pelee Island Winery established themselves in 1979, and, in 1980, over 100 years after the original vines were planted, they replanted the vineyards with premium Vitis vinifera. The terroir on the island is well developed and fertile, with highly calcareous soils and intense biological activity. Today, the winery has over 700 acres of vineyard growing an array of white and black varietals, including unexpected, late-ripening grapes such as Tempranillo and Chambourcin. The winery also grows Zweigelt, Lemberger and Tocai Friulano (Sauvignon Vert), to name just a few of the 18+ varietals on the island. Their expansive vineyards make Pelee Island Winery Canada’s largest private estate winery, with an annual production of 8,278/9L cases.

  Pelee’s Island’s best vineyards sit at its center, where the soil is deepest. President and Head winemaker, Walter Schmoranz, practices sustainable winemaking using 100% island grown natural fertilizer made from sorghum grass. He is known as one of the Canadian wine industry’s pioneers, hailing from Ruedesheim, one of Germany’s finest winemaking regions, and joining Pelee Island Winery in 1986. Since taking on the head winemaker role, Pelee Island Winery has won hundreds of national and international awards for their wine, including the Citadelle de France Gold Medal for their 2002 Cabernet Franc Icewine. Their award-winning Vinedresser series is a spectacular example of great value wine at only $19.95 a bottle.

  Pelee Island is located 32 kilometers south of the mainland and is the most southerly point in Canada, similar in latitude to Madrid and the French Riviera (N41°45’). The island has the longest growing season of any other viticultural region in the country. For this reason, it is the best location in Canada for late-ripening varietals. The island is extremely flat, with the highest elevation only 12 meters above the lake, allowing for even ripening of all the grapes. Lake Erie, the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, warms the vineyards early in the spring and throughout harvest, extending the growing season by more than 30 days in certain vintages compared to vineyards on the shoreline. The soil is sandy loam and clay over limestone bedrock, similar to the mainland.

  The mainland of Lake Erie Northshore appellation is a bow-shaped peninsula, surrounded by Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. Glacial lakes that used to reside in the area caused large amounts of stone matter to deposit along the shoreline. While water levels retreated in most areas of the Great Lakes, levels in Lake Erie remained high, and the continuous washing of waves over the rocks created large amounts of sediment that now make up the terroir along the shores. This means the soil here is quite complex, with sandy loam, gravel and small stony ridges that overlay shale limestone bedrock. A large ridge, known as Colchester Ridge, formed along the peninsula as the ice age passed through the region.

  Many of the region’s best wineries have set up their businesses along the ridge of the peninsula where higher than average winds reduce the risk of disease, and the soil is well-drained.  Elevations here vary from 172 to 196 meters above sea level, with a maritime climate that sees lots of sun. Lake Erie Northshore has the highest number of heat units of all Ontario VQA regions due to its southerly location and the lake’s insulating effect. Harvest can start as early as August in some vintages, and late harvest varietals are usually at their peak by the end of October. Limited frost and lake-effect snow help protect the vines through the winter months.

  In 1980, Colio Estate Wines became one of the original wineries to establish themselves on the north shore and take advantage of these prime growing conditions. Late winemaker, Carlo Negri, was a leader in the region from the start and extremely confident of its potential. Today, the 200-acre winery is known internationally, with over 400 awards for its wines. Negri won Ontario Winemaker of the Year in 2005 before passing away in 2014.

  While Colio Estate and Pelee Island Winery are both examples of thriving large-scale producers in Lake Erie Northshore, most of the wineries there are small-scale, family-run businesses producing small-batch wine. Many of them also experiment with innovative techniques and unique varietals.

  An exciting example of this is the Hounds of Erie Winery, located in Lake Erie Northshore, just 2.5 kilometers from the shoreline. Here, husband and wife duo Mat and Melissa Vaughan have started a boutique, dog-friendly winery that offers unique French vinifera plantings. In 2012, the couple started with a small test vineyard but have since expanded their operation, specializing in modern hybrid grapes including Frontenac Blanc, Marquette, Petite Pearl and L’Acadie Blanc. Since opening their winery, the couple has continued to experiment and expand, testing new trellis systems and adding more French vinifera to their 23-acre farm. In 2019, the couple started a test vineyard of Crimson Pearl, and 2020 brought even further vineyard expansion with the addition of Petite Louise to the Hounds of Erie portfolio. The Vaughans also grow a selection of heritage apples used for their lineup of hard ciders.

  As Ontario wine continues to gain popularity and more wine lovers and connoisseurs take notice of VQA wine, it is the hope that Lake Erie Northshore will start to gain more notability and popularity in the world of wine. The combination of location, topography, and terroir, alongside the passion of the winemakers who reside here, results in rich and robust wine. Old vines, lots of sun and a long growing season produce bold and intense flavors with complex aromas and a lasting finish. With such a rich history of winemaking in this part of Canada, there is no doubt that Lake Erie Northshore will continue to grow and develop a name for itself. For now, this lesser-known appellation remains a hidden gem in Ontario VQA.

PerCarb® – Dual Mode of Action for Effective Disease Control Management on CA Wine Grapes

EAST HARTFORD, CT – PerCarb is an EPA-registered contact foliar bactericide/fungicide with residual activity designed to treat and control plant pathogens on a wide range of crops. Its formula consists of odorless, sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate granules that provide superb coverage on a crop’s surface. PerCarb kills foliar pathogens on contact while inhibiting fungal and spore development through changes of pH and osmotic pressure of microbial cells. This dual mode of action is especially useful when combating powdery mildew commonly found in vineyards.

PerCarb is also an excellent component of any well-rounded IPM program. For vineyard applications, it is recommended to rotate PerCarb and OxiDate® 5.0 for complete foliar disease control. Both formulas work harmoniously to completely eradicate pathogens, ensuring healthy and flavorful grapes with every harvest.

For any questions or where to find PerCarb in your area, call BioSafe Systems at 888.273.3088.

About BioSafe Systems, LLC

BioSafe Systems, LLC are innovators of environmentally sustainable practices and products since 1998. We provide solutions for protecting crops, water and people. Customers, researchers and regulatory agencies have remained at the forefront of our success and willingness to adapt to the ever-changing world around us. BioSafe Systems is a family-owned company whose products are proudly manufactured in the United States.

 22 Meadow Street
 East Hartford, CT 06108
 Phone: 860.290.8890
 Fax: 860.290.8802

Handling That First Crush

Closeup of wine grapes being dumped from a truck into crusher

By: Tracey L. Kelley

The anticipation of your first wine crush is a different kind of love story. Waiting for this moment to come to fruition requires years of planning, plotting and production. If you’re a grape grower, your pulse quickens with vérasion as the potential presents itself. If you’re a winemaker relying on partnerships to provide you with grapes, the sweat on your brow is both excitement and a little anxiety until you know everything is just right.

  How can you speedily process grapes while enjoying the journey of this process? Choose the right equipment, craft a solid contingency plan and ask the right people for help. Every year provides a chance to reassess, but in most cases, each crush will be better than the last when you know what works for you.

What Crushing Process Works Best for You?

  In some business plans, scaling your equipment to a larger level at startup is often the recommendation so you’re prepared for projected growth. However, if your winery goals require you to stay small, at least until expansion possibilities solidify by demand and profitability, there’s no need to have volunteers for foot treading or hand-cranking grapes—unless that’s part of your marketing and promotions efforts, of course.

  Many small and mid-sized producers benefit from automation. Leo Birdsall is the inventor and owner of FASTRAK Cider Press, based in Springfield, Oregon. He developed a press powered by an air compressor that handles destemmed or shredded fruit. He said he got the idea from talking with producers at trade shows who wanted a motorized method for crush with a lower price point. The automation also helps reduce labor.

  “You can have one person operating the destemmer, feeding the clusters into it. Then another person can collect the pomace in a bag and put it on the press. Once the press is activated, it takes 2.3 seconds to get about three–to–four gallons of juice,” Birdsall told The Grapevine Magazine. Depending on your flavor profiles, you choose how much pomace set aside and add to the juice during fermentation.

  The average price of mechanized destemmer crusher is approximately $3,800–$5,500, especially if you want features such as variable speed control and hookups for must pumps. A wine bladder press is often two times that amount. If your operation is processing about one ton of grapes at a time, as an example, averaging 120–150 gallons of wine per ton—or roughly 60–65 cases of wine—it’s easy to see why even a small automated system makes a speedy difference during crush season.

  FASTRAK retails for $2,500, so paired with a hand-powered or motorized destemmer with an estimated price of $350 might be a more comfortable entry point for some small producers.

  Other producers may find high-quality destemmer crushers at auction, then learn how to rebuild and repair the equipment and save costs that way. Michael and Kelly Amigoni own Amigoni Urban Winery in Kansas City, Missouri. Winemaker Michael specializes in dry wines crafted from Barbera, Cinsaut, Sangiovese and Tempranillo grapes. Although the couple once had a vineyard, Amigoni now receives 70–90 tons of whole clusters from their partner growers in Lodi, California. They crush, press, ferment, barrel-age and bottle at their winery in the revitalized Stockyard District of Kansas City’s West Bottoms neighborhood.

  Amigoni’s initial production started with 300 cases. Twelve years later, the winery produces more than 4,000 cases a year of award-winning cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, chardonnay and viognier.

  “We have a rebuilt French crusher destemmer that we bought at auction, and we rebuilt the motors—one that propels the destemmer, and one that propels the crusher rollers. We tore the guts out and rebuilt it all,” Amigoni said. With this machine, he can crush about three tons in an hour.

  Machines with gentle overlapping lobe roller crushers continue to be the most prominent choice for small–to–mid-sized producers. Ultimately, a winemaker has to choose a machine that allows for more control over color and tannin. Equipment with variable speeds might enhance the process not only for production but also final quality.

Get Your Equipment and

Supplies in Order

  On average, you have a day—maybe two—to crush grapes. Checking all equipment now is critical to ensure efficient process flow. Inspect, repair and prep:

•    Destemmer, crusher, press, pumps, bladders and hoses—make sure to only use food-grade grease, paint, and cleansers for oiling, metal coating and sterilization. Check seals, bearings, paddles, clamps and hose integrity. You’ll also need a special bladder cleanser. Double-check that you have all the necessary lubricants

•    Buckets, bins, hold tanks, must chillers, fermenters and barrels—pressure wash as needed and sterilize. Check tank fittings and valves.

•    Crush pad and winery—fill cracks and low spots, sanitize for mold and other foreign material.

•    Forklift—even if it’s a rental, run the machine a few days before crush and check the operation. You’ll also probably need extra gas canisters, so call the gas company and have them on hand.

•    Refractometer—use distilled water to recalibrate it to ensure proper brix reading levels.

•    Brooms, mops and other cleaning supplies—have two or three sets so workers don’t have to wait to use them.

•    Hot and cold water options—you’ll need to check your microwave or kettle to make sure they’re working to warm up water for optimal yeast temperature. Check all nozzles, faucets, and sprayers.

•    First aid kit—plan for every medical emergency, from a minor bee sting to a slip and fall, and stock accordingly.

  Amigoni is a careful planner. This technique, he said, helped reduce the pressure of crush. His checklist is quite extensive, and he adheres to it. “I used to panic before harvest,” he said. “Now, I don’t. I’ve seen it all over the years, and realize preparation is everything.”

  Proper gear such as boots, raincoats, and pop-up tents, Amigoni said, make it easier to crush outside. Have a few extra sets of gloves, safety glasses, and masks beyond the number of workers you’re expecting to prepare for any contingencies or additional people stopping by to watch the process.

  “Make sure you have enough covers for open bins and tanks, too—even heavy-duty cardboard is fine. I get extra cardboard from a local brewery. Also, be sure you have enough tape. You never have enough tape,” he said. “If it’s windy or there’s a hose problem or whatever, tape solves a lot of problems.”

  Order about 10% more cleaning and lab supplies than you think you might need—many will keep for a full year. For example, Amigoni said, get a few extra packets of the highest-grade yeast to have on hand.

  “You order yeast according to your variety, but there are times when you have high brix, and normal yeast will die at 16, and maybe you had something come in at 28 or 30 brix,” he said. “Make sure you have high-quality yeast that will go to 17, just one or two packets sitting by, because if you need to have yeast overnighted, it’ll cost a lot more.”

  “Additionally, if you’re doing a cold soak technique, make sure you’ve lined up your dry ice. If you’re using a jacketed tank or chiller, have plenty of glycol available in case there’s a leak or if you need to add some to get down to a certain temperature.”

  Like many winemakers creating different styles, Amigoni has a staggered crush season: a hurry and wait on each varietal’s arrival over the course of a few weeks. He’s learned proper preparation before each crush is essential. “If you’re not prepared, you’ll implode. You have to be precise. I’ve seen times when we’ve spilled things or hit things because we’re in a hurry. This rushing causes a ripple effect, and it’s detrimental to your whole operation. Preparation helps the whole process run more smoothly.”

Create an Environment of Joyful Work

  Crushing is often at its best when it’s done “in kind,” Amigoni told The Grapevine Magazine. “Along with a couple of regular workers, we also have quite a few people—typically 12 people—who volunteer. We have some people who come back each year, and actually, have a waiting list of others wanting to help. They get paid ‘in kind,’—kind words, kind people and a kind smile when you say ‘here, take this home’ as you hand them a bottle of wine.”

  However, he recommends being discerning with who does what. “My biggest challenge is sorting through people and putting them on the right task. Only certain people go on the crusher, for example, or only a couple of people can operate the forklift. Maybe others are marking bins, or putting together little buckets of stuff for me, taping stuff. They like helping, and everyone has a purpose.”

  His advice for getting through your first crush, and others, is threefold:

1.   Pace yourself. “You’ll have a tendency to think ‘I need to do everything at once!’ and rush through everything. Most of the time, though, grapes can sit for a day or so.”

2.   Take the proper amount of breaks. “You might want to push through the whole day—12 hours or more without any breaks—but it’s better to tell your crew to stop, have no equipment running and sit down. Have burgers or pizza or whatever and talk for a while. Your productivity goes through the roof afterward. I used to have a bad habit of not stopping—it took me a long time to find the value in that. It’s not right to push everyone so hard. So make a point to say, ‘Okay, that’s a half-ton done. Here’s your next one waiting when we come back. Now let’s all sit down and eat.’ You can time it—a half hour or so to rehydrate, eat and relax. It may take some volunteers a little longer to get up than others, but they’ll get up to speed eventually.”

3.   Always remember to have fun. “People say, ‘What do you think about your job?’ and I say, ‘I don’t have a job.’ In the early years, yeah, it seemed like a little more of a struggle, especially when I wasn’t prepared. You’ll run into a sweet spot eventually—your budget will increase, you’ll get better equipment and continue to keep yourself motivated.”