British Columbia Recent — 22 October 2013

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.

tasting cabin

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.

picker treetop

I didn’t have to go far to find French Canadian pickers harvesting cabernet franc grapes in the 10-acre vineyard.

bin pickers

Piles of blue-black grapes are wheelbarrowed to bins scattered among the rows where they’ll be picked up by a tractor.

four pickers

Pickers often work in pairs, snipping quickly down the row of vines, dumping the wheelbarrows when they get full.

red picker

The grapes are as ripe and juicy as they appear and I have to shoot fast before the bunches are taken down.

picky picker

No leaves please, since these grapes go straight into the crusher. This is what you might call a picky picker.

bill tractor backupHere comes Bill on his forklift, moving between the vines with the speed and accuracy of a parking valet.

bill tractor pickup

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 cellphones

Pickers use their break time to call their friends to come and work at Fairview Cellars.

picker wheelbarrow

Meanwhile, someone has to keep working. They’re picking grapes that face east since the other side of the vines were damaged by hail.

new winery right

I follow the forklift-driving Bill to his new winery, a level below the vineyards.

crusher

Grapes go into the press, and the seeds and skins drop from below.

juice tank

From there, the juice goes into this tank on its way to becoming a wine.

pumice

Pumice from freshly-pressed grapes makes good compost later.

winery golf course

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.

fresh barrels

A pile of freshly picked oak barrels wait in the sun.

bill eggers

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?

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About Author

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about blogging Blogsite Studio. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. Mari

    Really enjoyed your blog on the harvest at Fairview Cellars. I’ve shared many glasses with Bill over the years and have an unreasonable quantity of his wine in my cellar. Great Pictures and lovely story.

    You may know my name from my year at Everything Wine in 2009, after which we moved to Kelowna.

    keep it up

    John

    • Aw, thanks John. But how can any quantity of wine be unreasonable?
      And, yes, I remember you from Everything Wine. How are you liking Kelowna?

      Cheers!

  2. Great story, Mari, and I REALLY enjoyed all of the photos.
    Nanci A.

    • Thanks Nancy. I’m REALLY glad you dug it.
      Cheers!