Intersection Estate Winery (450 Road 8, Oliver)
The co-owner of Intersection Estate Winery, Bruce Schmidt, says he’s been in the B.C. wine industry since 1980. And it’s given him lots of time to reflect on what B.C. must do to move to the next level.
In a phone interview with the Straight, he says that France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal have been building wine into their DNA for five or six centuries.
“That provides an almost biological link with the country,” he said. “Many, many wines are just inextricably connected with the way they work with food.”
In Canada, on the other hand, people have only been making wines in a serious way for 50 years. And a fair amount of that has been done by immigrants from Europe who were keen to replicate wines from their home countries.
As a result, he said, Canadians still don’t think of Canadian wine as their most important beverage.
“Immigration is important to the country,” Schmidt acknowledged. “They should have their own wines, for heaven’s sake. But in order for us to succeed, we’re going to have to become connected in another way—in a very solid way and an enduring way.”
In 2005, Schmidt and a partner bought a fruit orchard and converted it into a four-hectare vineyard. Their objective was to create authentic wines that were a reflection of the region.
“If you’re not authentic, you’re rarely reproducible,” Schmidt said. “Number two, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be as dogmatic about our own identity as any other country is about theirs.”
That’s why he’s a big fan of Merlot in the Oliver-Osoyoos region and Pinot Noir in the Central Okanagan. That’s because these grapes express themselves particularly well in those terroirs.
“If you’re going to be producing Merlot-based wines, you have to make a decision as to whether you want to absolutely let that grape do its thing or force it to be something more average,” he declared. “We have taken the former. The same goes with Pinot Noir.”
Schmidt added that Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer can also thrive in different areas of the Okanagan.
Intersection Estate Winery derived its name from being on one of the more significant intersections on Highway 97. According to Schmidt, the winery produces about 4,000 cases a year.
At the end of April, Intersection will launch what he calls “the first public wine school”, called Vinstitute. The price hasn’t been set yet, but Schmidt revealed that it will be open for three sessions per day for visitors to the winery.
Signature wine: “Merlot is really important for us,” Schmidt said. “Cabernet Franc is really important. Our Cabernet Franc is the most popular wine in our tasting room.”