Spotlight on Virtual Wineries

What happens when you want to make wine but don't own a winery? You don't have the millions to cover the startup costs or the years to invest. Maybe you have a friend with a winery, but things are pretty cramped around there these days and, well, you seem a little messy. If you have access to a few tons of beautiful fruit— maybe you met a grower with Pinot Noir grapes for sale and have always dreamed of making wine—these could be real questions.

One answer is a custom crush facility. This is a fully operating winery with all the fancy equipment, gadgets and expertise that you pay to use. Canada's most successful and highest profile facility is Okanagan Crush Pad, which opened up in Summerland in 2010. They essentially assembled a super group of industry professionals from every sphere of wine (vineyard consultants, winemakers, as well as people in branding, marketing and sales). They brought aboard global consultants like Alberto Antonini and Pedro Parra and homegrown great Michael Bartier to oversee winemaking. Recently, it was announced that Bartier would shift into more of a consulting role to give him time to work on his own project, Bartier Brothers, and New Zealander Matt Dumayne would take over as chief winemaker.

Many great wineries with ties to the Okanagan Crush Pad, including their own label Haywire, are available on My Wine Canada. Check out the offerings from Bartier Scholefield, Bella Wines, and Perseus Winery.

Phasion Estates Winery (pronounced like fashion) is another new producer with no physical home. Jenn Triggs founded Phasion with the idea of integrating wine with fashion. The wines are made by consultant Mark Simpson out of his Okanagan Falls winery, BC Wine Studio. Phasion currently has labels: 'Tres Chic' 2012 Chardonnay, 'Haute Couture' 2011 (a Merlot-heavy blend with Cabernet Sauvignon), and 'Glitterati' 2012 (blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc).

The Haute Couture 2011 is a value pick for under $20 and will satisfy those looking for a juicy Bordeaux blend. It's bright and brambly and packed with dark berry fruit.

The Glitterati 2012 is a step up in complexity and elegance from the Haute Couture. Each grape variety seems to contribute something to the blend—spicy plum, subtle coffee notes and a faint forest floor character. It's structure hinges on bright acid and ripe medium tannins.


Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.

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