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.

Lang Vineyards Farm Reserve Riesling

Farm Reserve Riesling 2018

Lang Vineyards, Naramata Bench

Award winner, bright golden hue. Lemon zest and delicate terpene notes with great acidity. Honeyed complexity and well balanced. The fermenting must is traditionally enjoyed with onion tart in Alsace.

Feature: 30 Years of BC VQA

About The Author

Yvonne Turgeon

This communications consultant loves writing, wine and all things Okanagan (but hasn't given up her Rider green). A published columnist, features contributor and established editor, she's our founder at Thompson Okanagan Trends Magazine. Subscribe to the print magazine.

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