What’s a vineyard? Starting out at Wild Goose

by Sipping through the Okanagan, Wine & Food

[Vineyard 1984]
Okanagan Falls

“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.

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“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.

wild-goose-winery-tastingThe 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.

Hester Creek Trebbiano

Hester Creek Trebbiano  2020

Hester Creek Winery, Golden Mile Bench

Italian grape variety planted here 52 years ago. Old vine block. Tropical aromas, citrus, wildflower honey. Great acidity. Easy drinking, versatile and a food lover’s dream.


Feature: 30 Years of BC VQA

About The Author

Yvonne Turgeon

A published columnist and features contributor, our publisher Yvonne Turgeon has an editorial career spanning three decades. She loves writing, wine and all things Okanagan (but hasn't given up her Rider green). She is the founder of Thompson Okanagan Trends Magazine and new publisher of Orchard & Vine Magazine. Subscribe to the print magazines.

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