Wynnwood Estates Winery is one of those small enterprises that many wine lovers just can’t drive past without stopping in to check out. And with the steady stream of summer tourists driving on Highway 3A, en route to or from the Kootenay Lake ferry or summer cottages on the shore, it is already gaining popularity with travellers.
I made the 15-minute drive from Creston on a recent sunny afternoon to visit with co-owner Dave Basaraba, who also doubles as vineyard manager and winemaker. He loves working in the wine shop. And that’s a good thing, because he and his wife Margaret (who also works in the shop) live in a house a stone’s throw away.
Dave poured us each a glass of Pinot Noir and we took advantage of the afternoon sun to sit on lawn chairs, chatting while we looked out on the patchwork quilt of farms to the south, the Creston Valley spread out below us and the Selkirk Mountain range providing a backdrop to the postcard scene.
The 12-acre property, just north of Wynndel, has undergone a dramatic change since last year. The small Cat bulldozer sitting nearby serves as a reminder that Dave grew up on a farm and is rarely happier than when he is working on the land. He has filled dips and cut down hillocks to create a gentle slope for new vines that will supplement the 10-acre vineyard further north, on steeper slope that borders on Duck Lake.
Dave is a carpenter, too, and has done much of the work on the winery and tasting room. The cast-in-place concrete window frames and other little details give the place a sense of permanence and old world charm.
We were enjoying our sips of very silky Pinot Noir when our reverie was interrupted by the arrival of three visitors. Dave remembered them as members of a little hiking group who had visited last year, and soon he was entertaining them with wine samples and stories, easily engaging all in conversation. I joined them in a tasting that included Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir, all of which were well received.
A half-hour later, just as the group was about to make its purchases and move on, another car pulled up, this one with four women out for a tasting adventure. There are three more of us and they’ll be here in a minute, they announced. Seven is a crowd in the small tasting room, so I exited for a walk around the property before heading homeward.
Those moments in the warm sun allowed me to reflect on how Dave’s passion for wine has evolved to this point. A decade ago, he and Margaret hosted our wine group in their partially underground home in Canyon. Out in the large garden were rows of grapevines that Dave babied to help them survive each winter. His experimentation served him well after he partnered with sawmill manager Michael Wigen to create a vineyard on the limestone-filled hillside above Duck Lake.
Temperatures at that location are typically a couple of degrees warmer than in Erickson, where the Creston Valley’s first two wineries are located. And the late afternoon sun reflects off the lake in the summer and early fall, helping to ripen grapes and form higher sugar content in the fruit. Early plans to build a winery on the hillside were abandoned when Dave and Margaret bought the Wynndel property and Wynnwood Cellars Estate Winery has been evolving ever since.
The first few vintages indicate that Basaraba and Wigen made a great decision when they decided to team up, and they got incredibly lucky because the Duck Lake property was already owned by the Wigen family’s business. A new vineyard in an untested location involves lots of risk and experimentation and it’s been fun to watch it develop and produce wines that are bursting with promise, ones that will only continue to get better as vines mature and roots tap deeper into the limestone base, drawing up minerals that add complexity to the fruit flavour.
The Wynnwood story is really only in its first chapters, but it is already turning into a real page-turner.
Lorne Eckersley is publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. His website, www.lorneckersley.com, features a collection of columns, stories and photographs about wine, beer and spirits, food, travel and arts.