What’s a vineyard? Starting out at Wild Goose
“It was a 10-acre barren plot of land,” recalls Roland Kruger, remembering when he and his brother Hagen answered the call to invest in their late father Adolph’s retirement plan to create a little extra cash.
“It was 1983. I was only 19 at the time and I asked my brother just two questions: what’s a vineyard? And what’s invest?”
The site and timing couldn’t have been more serendipitous for the Kruger family.
“My dad saw a southern slope and said it would be a perfect place to grow Riesling. Riesling needs all the sunshine it can get.”
Soon after preparing the land at Okanagan Falls, they sourced cuttings of Riesling and Gewürztraminer from Sumac Ridge Winery, propagating them at an Oliver nursery. Three years later, Mission Hill was thrilled to source such high-quality viniferous grapes.
At the time, talk swirled about a free-trade agreement with the United States. For growers like Adolph, that meant competing with low-cost imported American grapes. Making his own wine on-site could make a difference in his bottom line.
“We looked at the regulations at the time and there was nothing for small wineries,” says Roland. “You needed 7,500 cases, 20 acres of land, and a half-million dollars of investment.”
His father would become the spokesperson for the farmgate movement, joining forces with Hillside’s Vera Klokocka and Guenther Lang. They found a sympathetic ear with then-premier Bill Vander Zalm.
“Being from Europe, he understood the concept of small grape growers producing a few bottles of quality wine,” says Roland.
The license was granted in 1990 and (as licensee number two) Wild Goose Vineyards made history as the first B.C. farm to both grow grapes and produce wine on-site. As a charter member of the BC Wine Institute, they began producing wine under the new standards of the vintner quality assurance (VQA) program.
The late 1980s were a pivotal time for growers, points out Roland. “The pilot program came in where growers we’re paid to pull out their grapes and replace with high-quality viniferous varieties, such as Riesling, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Farmgate wineries licenses were introduced, the BC Wine Institute was introduced and wine standards for wine were introduced. All these things came together and it was the beginning of a new industry.”
Working with partner growers and expanding their acreage, the award-winning Wild Goose Vineyards has grown from its original 500 cases of wine three decades ago to producing upwards of 25,000 cases today with grandson Nikolas Kruger helping with winemaking.
Wild Goose Red Horizon Meritage 2018
Wild Goose Winery, Okanagan Falls
Showcase wine of three generations of great winemaking. Complex melange of dark cherry, tobacco, plum, clove and cassis. Fruit forward, subtle and sensuous. Fabulous with your favourite meal.
Feature: 30 Years of BC VQA
Generational change in a business brings hurdles, so the Stewarts have taken purposeful steps to keep it all in the family at this historic BC winery.
Charmed by the scenic location, Prince George business-man Curt Garland bought Hester Creek in 2004; the original plantings have thrived in the years under his investments.
Hawthorn Mountain offers a unique aspect for grape growing and has put Okanagan Falls on the wine map for more than 35 years. The high, cool plateau — known for its quality Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Noir — is home to the first VQA winery in the area.