By Keith Powell
We sit on the patio of Creston’s newest estate winery and gaze out over their undulating vineyard’s greenery. The twirling vines are loaded with ripening grapes, which will soon be ready for harvest. We sip samples of pinot gris and pinot noir and soak in the ambiance, the view and the warm sunshine.
“You’ve got to try our piquette,” says Melaine Rheault, our host. Melanie pours another round of wine samples. She works the audience with stories about how Red Bird came about, and the awarding winning success the little winery has enjoyed.
We are enjoying a beautiful Creston afternoon relaxing at the new tasting room at Red Bird Estate Winery in Creston. Red Bird is owned and operated by Remi and Shannon Cardinal. The new 2,500 square foot building has allowed the entrepreneurial couple to move their tasting room out of their garage and basement into a brand new free-standing space. The spacious new building also houses Red Bird’s wine production and storage facility.
The new tasting room has allowed the Cardinals to hire several tasting room hosts like Melanie Rheault. “We love being an ambassador for Red Bird. We meet so many interesting people, and have an opportunity to let them sample some of the region’s best wines,” Melanie said.
“It has allowed Remi and I to spend more time with our kids. The new facility separates our business from our day-to-day household activities, so it is easier on our family as a whole. With a couple of employees helping out in the tasting room, we can look after many of the tasks that need to be done around the winery,” added Shannon
The Cardinal’s bought the property in 2014 and planted their vineyard in 2015. In 2017, Remi and Shannon harvested the grapes from their own vintage for the first time, and soon produced their first vintage. Today they vint a core lineup of estate wines, including pinot gris, rose, and pinot noir. They also produce, in limited quantities, specialty products like piquette and cider.
What about the winery’s name? “My last name is Cardinal,” explains Remi, “so my name led to Red Bird – it kind of all went together.”
Having a bigger winery building and an accompanying tasting room has been a dream of the Cardinals since the inception of the business. “It’s a big step for us,” says Shannon. “We came here with little money, so we’ve been building our dream as we grow. We originally thought we would have a new building in 2021. Though it has taken a little longer, we are loving the fact that we have the new building open and operating.”
The Cardinals originally envisioned opening a winery in the Okanagan Valley, but high land prices and a crowded winery market quickly had them looking elsewhere. Their search led them to Creston. Soon they purchased a plot of land and were busy transforming the former bed-and-breakfast into a home and winery.
The Cardinals love to interact with their clientele and receive direct feedback from wine lovers. That is one of the reasons you will find them at various Farmers Markets throughout the Kootenay region.
One of the most popular marketing innovations that Red Bird has introduced is their members-only Wine Club. “There are two club shipments of twelve bottles each year. One in May and another in October,” says Remi. “Wine Club members receive 10% off any additional wine they purchase, plus they have access to new releases and products, as well as limited production wines.”
A cool breeze wafts across the patio as our wine tasting tour is about the wrap up. Melanie has a surprise waiting for us. “I’ll give you a tasting of our refreshing hard cider. It’s a brand new, limited production run for us. We usually only let Wine Club members sample the cider.” says Melanie, with a smile.
While it may be easy to think of Red Bird Estate Winery as an overnight success story, Remi and Shannon know that their success comes as a result of over a decade of hard work and persistence, which has made their dreams become a reality. Be sure to add a stop to Red Bird Estate Winery’s new tasting room to your next visit to the Creston Valley.