Last Monday, I happened to be at our house in Oliver, on Fairview Road just down the hill from Fairview Cellars, when I saw this message from winemaker Bill Eggert on Facebook:
“Well, I dodged the frost this morning. Lost a quarter of the crop to hail, another couple of tons to birds, deer and bears, but holy crap, what’s left is frigg’in awesome. I’ll start the final push on Tuesday.”
It was harvest time in the Okanagan Valley and since I happened to be in town, I decided to go and take a good look at the Fairview Cellars harvest.
Next morning, I drove up past the old ghost town of Fairview and into the Fairview Cellars property where it took me a while to find anybody.
When I finally found Bill, he was steaming. “Five pickers didn’t show up!” he said, as he dialed numbers from a list in his log cabin tasting room. I offered to help even though I admitted I wouldn’t know what I was doing, but he waved me off with permission to photograph the process.
I didn’t have to go far to find French Canadian pickers harvesting cabernet franc grapes in the 10-acre vineyard.
Piles of blue-black grapes are wheelbarrowed to bins scattered among the rows where they’ll be picked up by a tractor.
Pickers often work in pairs, snipping quickly down the row of vines, dumping the wheelbarrows when they get full.
The grapes are as ripe and juicy as they appear and I have to shoot fast before the bunches are taken down.
No leaves please, since these grapes go straight into the crusher. This is what you might call a picky picker.
Bill stacks the bins on the forklift before racing off to the winery. I don’t think he even saw me shooting, and if I hadn’t dived under the vines, he might have run me over seconds later.
Pickers use their break time to call their friends to come and work at Fairview Cellars.
Meanwhile, someone has to keep working. They’re picking grapes that face east since the other side of the vines were damaged by hail.
I follow the forklift-driving Bill to his new winery, a level below the vineyards.
Grapes go into the press, and the seeds and skins drop from below.
From there, the juice goes into this tank on its way to becoming a wine.
Pumice from freshly-pressed grapes makes good compost later.
Having the Fairview Mountain Golf Course next door is handy for times when the pressing becomes too much and you need to take a swing at something.
A pile of freshly picked oak barrels wait in the sun.
Even though he is stressed by his shortage of help, Bill keeps his sense of humor by telling me labeling stories about the Liquor Board. They’re always good for a laugh.
I wish the internet could transmit the heady aromas of fermenting fruit, ionized cellar air, farm mud, and decomposing leaves I smelled, but that part you’ll have to conjure for yourself.
The Fairview Cellars wines I’ve loved in the past are Cabernet Franc, Two Hoots blend and The Bear blend, but they are all good. These red wines are available at private wine stores and finer restaurants around the lower mainland.
What’s your favourite Fairview wine?If you liked this story, please Like it on Facebook, Tweet it on Twitter, and Pin It on Pinterest. And, don't forget to Subscribe!